The last year has been a whirlwind year for Texan sextet Crown the Empire. Having slowly worked their way up from the bottom, they now boast over 1 million followers on social media and last year released an encapsulating concept album in The Resistance: Rise of the Runaways. Last night, they took their brutal live show to the Melkweg in Amsterdam together with support from Set it Off, Dangerkids and Alive Like Me.
Oregon quintet Alive Like Me opened the evening with a short set of upbeat post-hardcore with a more alternative twist to it. Blonde-haired frontman Jairus Kersey was filled with energy as he jumped around stage during the likes of the anthemic Searching for Endings and upbeat Our Time Down Here. Although it doesn’t stand out as much as you’d hope, there are still elements to their music which are catchy enough to encourage a second listen. Live, the band, who are completed by guitarists Brandon Banton and Dakota Dufloth, bassist David Knox and drummer Joel Riley, are a very tight set of musicians, with their boundless onstage energy definitely helping the 500-strong crowd warm up for what was to be a long evening.
Dangerkids followed Alive Like Me, taking a more hip hop approach to their Linkin Park-flecked music. Dual vocalists Andy Bane and Tyler Smith bounced well off of eachother, interacting superbly with the crowd as they interchanged between clean rap and fierce screams, something which is not seen an awful lot in today’s saturated rock scene. The highlight in their short set, Light Escapes, encompasses a memorable piano melody and huge chorus, something which was complemented well by their onstage energy, particularly in that of bassist Jake Bonham. The rap element to their music helps them stand out more than Alive Like Me, something which will surely help them reach wider audiences within the broad rock scene.
Although Alive Like Me and Dangerkids did well in opening the evening, it was only once Florida-quintet Set It Off took to the stage that the crowd really went wild. Fronted by the energetic Cody Carson, their 45-minute set drew from songs across their two album back catalogue, focussing mainly on 2014’s Duality. Early set highlight N.M.E. saw the whole crowd bouncing, before Carson dedicated Ancient History to anyone thinking of hooking up with their exes. The set closed on a powerful rendition of Why Worry, which was preceded by Carson’s request for different parts of the crowd to sing different parts of the song. Once they rounded up their extremely well received set, the whole stage was cleared in order to make way for Crown the Empire’s more elaborate production. This included two powerful C02 machines, a backdrop depicting the album cover from 2014’s Rise of the Runaways and two separate fabric screens depicting mechanical cogs.
Arriving on stage 20 minutes early, the sextet immediately kicked into the slow and pulsating Oh, Catastrophe. The band took to the stage one by one, with vocalists Andy Leo and David Escamilla commandeering the audience with effortless ease. Breakthrough track The Fallout proceeded to incite the first large pits as chugging riffs and screamed vocals intertwined with double-bass drumming and a large chorus. Initiation proceeded to keep the pace sped up as a pounding drum beat and pre-recorded vocals made way for a chaos-ensuing riff which was underpinned by siren noises. The verses hit you like a freight train, before Escamilla asked “where will I turn when the world gives up on me?” Leo’s vocals, unfortunately not as in tune as hoped, were almost drowned out by the audience as guitarists Brandon Hoover and Bennett Vogelmann jumped around stage with cooperative intensity. The brief, piano led interlude The Wolves of Paris (Act ii) made way for an extremely fierce MNSTR which saw Escamilla lean into the crowd whilst screaming “I am a monster”. It may not have been as fast as Initiation, but what it lacked in pace it made up for in ferocity as the first stagediver of the evening made his way onstage. Once he’d been pushed into the crowd by a crew member, it encouraged many others to follow suit.
A demented medley of Johnny Ringo, Johnny’s Revenge and Jonny’s Rebellion followed, as three songs from three successive albums were morphed into one compact summary. All three songs, when played together, not only show the bands progression through the years, but also the extent to which their music is theatrical and bombastic unlike anything else. Satellites (Act iii) saw the crowd all sing along to its catchy “eh eh oh weh oh” chant whilst forcing their fists in the air, before new single Rise of the Runaways featured Escamilla on guitar duties. Following a slow start, it builds up into a massive Radio FM rock hit which saw Leo dominate on vocal duties. “We were not born the enemy” shouted Escamilla over his own dark guitar tones as the whole crowd morphed into one massive moshpit. 2011’s Voices went a step further with gutsy growls and theatrical onstage antics, something which the brooding Machines countered thanks to its slow intro and massive chorus. Bloodline encouraged the first massive circle pit of the evening in what was by far the heaviest song of the evening, slightly resembling Of Mice & Men towards the end as Escamilla leant into the crowd and growled fiercely. The even heavier Children of Love ensured that the pit remained well in place, before main set closer Millennia made for the highlight of the whole show. It’s essentially a power-rock ballad with a Brian May solo, making it the one and only big hands-in-the-air moment of the evening which united the crowd. As the band left the stage, one roadie took a guitar and chugged along to a chant of “we want more”, before the band re-emerged for one last hurrah in the shape of Makeshift Chemistry. Fuzzy riffs and indecipherable vocals (which verged on death metal) preceded an epic, C02-filled outro that signalled the end of the show.
As the show properly came to a close, one thing was for certain – Crown the Empire are only just getting started, and they’re definitely here to stay.
All pictures by Brian Krijgsman.