The first significant area concert of 2016 began in a rocking way Jan. 15 at Alamo City Music Hall. And fans didn’t even have to wait for the headliners to hit the stage for that to be the case.
While Byfist and Seance took care of things on the local end, national support acts Meytal and Halcyon Way helped set the stage for Queensryche before a crowd that eventually swelled to 800-plus on a downtown Friday night.
Meytal, providing direct support to the veteran Seattle progressive metal band, satisfied the curiosities of those who strictly became familiar with drummer and namesake Meytal Cohen via her YouTube videos. It took a couple of songs from Meytal’s debut album Alchemy, which was released last August, for the band to get comfortable and adjust to playing in the Alamo City. By third tune “Everybody Hates You Now,” guitarist Doc Coyle, known for his time in God Forbid, took it upon himself to get the crowd pumped up a little extra. That’s because vocalist Eric Emery did not speak to the audience much, and Cohen focused primarily on her tasks behind the kit, using her radiant smile and impressive drum beats to do the talking for her until she met with fans at the merch booth afterwards.
Meytal carried on to the total of 70 percent of its debut album during a 45-minute set, also offering up “Shadow In Disguise,” “Immortal Exorcist,” “Tear Me Apart,” “Nothing,” “Killing Time” and saving the disc’s opening track for last in “Breathe.” But it was the group’s lone cover offering that really had the venue’s inhabitants take notice. Cohen especially demonstrated her seemingly effortless chops as the group was joined for guest vocals by Halcyon Way’s Steve Braun on Dream Theater’s 8 1/2-minute 1992 hit “Pull Me Under.” Queensryche vocalist Todd LaTorre got into the act for about five seconds, coming out on stage with Braun to encourage the crowd before getting ready for his own set to follow.
Halcyon Way opened for Saxon and Fozzy in Alamo City Music Hall’s parking lot in September 2013 when the venue was known as Backstage Live (see “Suggested” links below). In between this gig and then, the Atlanta group released Conquer, a monster of an album that should be on San Antonians’ radar more than it is. The band delivers live as well, but occasional sound shortcomings and mic problems during their 30-minute performance threatened to set back the quintet a bit. However, Braun and his mates — lead guitarist Jon Bodan and rhythm guitarist Max Eve, bassist Skyler Moore and drummer Ernie Topran — more than held it together.
Focusing on its latest album as expected by playing the title track, “Save Your Tears,” “Home” and “Hatred Is My Cause,” Halcyon Way dropped in 2011 tune “On Black Wings” to mix things up. Halcyon Way, with Braun’s clean vocals meshing with the death-metal growls of Bodan and Moore, is a group that hopefully will continue coming to town but would be better served in a venue with improved sound such as the Aztec Theater.
Byfist and Seance got the evening started for the earlybirds coming off of work, and they each provided a credible dose of 30-minute sets. Both groups had something in common, too. Or, rather, someone. Rhythm guitarist Nacho Vara pulled double duty, starting off with Seance.
Opening with “Midnight Mass” and following up with “Fallen Angels,” “Woman,” “Out of My Way” and “Prince of Darkness,” Seance of course had to deal with the crappiest level of lighting among the five bands. There were times when the crowd held aloft their smartphones, hearkening back to the days of power ballads and lighters, because the stage lighting often only shined on drummer Pheonix Sandoval. The group was also energized by vocalist Danny Fonseca’s high-pitched screams, the lead guitar playing of Bob Perez and the low end provided by bassist Reuben Hernandez.
Byfist had a strong family/friends contingent scattered throughout the venue in the group’s T-shirts, and they in turn were boosted by the efforts of vocalist Raul Garcia, lead guitarist Ernie B., Vara on rhythm guitar, bassist Jesse Rios and drummer Collyn Rios. Opening track “Universal Metal” lived up to its title in a bit of a literal sense for those who may have noticed that a portion of Ernie B’s guitar solo bore an uncanny resemblance to George Lynch’s ending riff on Dokken’s 1984 classic “Tooth and Nail.” From there, the band offered up “Ship Of Illusion,” “Mary Celeste,” “Scattered Wits” and “In the End,” representing the hometown in a favorable way to begin the New Year.
It’d be a shock if Seance and Byfist weren’t booked for several more shows around the city throughout the year, although the former band will have a slightly different look. Sandoval acknowledged to the SAMME afterwards that the gig was his final one in order to pursue other interests.
If this show was any indication, 2016 figures to be another fun-filled year of concerts, both from a local and national standpoint.
Let the rockin’ begin.
Stay tuned for coverage of Queensryche’s set. For related coverage and more metal, click on the “Suggested” links below.
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