Show review and photography by William Dibble of Panfocal Photography.
The Fillmore sits on the outskirts of Charlotte amongst a compound of restaurants and other buildings, across from the Avidxchange Music Factory buildings. The Underground sits in front of the Fillmore proper, a low but large building. There is a sort of antechamber as one enters the building where they scan tickets and take care of any necessary purchases or arrangements as needed, and then a set of doors that leads into the actual venue. One of the first observations that a person can make about this venue is how clean, well-lit, and immaculate it is.
Immediately on the right is an easily accessible merchandise section for bands, with lit screens advertising to the concertgoers. The Underground has a total of three separate bars. Two are accessible on the main floor. The first is immediately on the left, running along the wall, with a second in front of the merch section, set up like an island. In front of both of these is the main concert floor. The Underground is a general admission venue, but there is an elevated VIP lounge on the right with couches, reserved seating, and a fantastic view of the stage, at an extra charge.
Raimee, of Greensboro, NC, was the first band to take the stage. Raimee’s lead vocalist, Rei, boasts an impressive voice reminiscent of Evanescence’s Amy Lee, but with a heavier, more aggressive style. Backed by Kristy’s screams, their sound energized the crowd, preparing them for the upcoming bands in a huge way.
Raimee’s coordinated stage outfits, with its goth-inspired tones, contrasts heavily with Rei’s brilliant hair. When combined with the music, this provides an excellent visual stage presence that matches their energy and power. Their openers included a cover of Ghost’s popular “Square Hammer,” Rei’s vocals loaned the song a new feel, and it was clearly popular with the crowd.
Their set felt like it was over too soon, as they finished up to allow Vices & Vessels to take the stage, but it felt like the crowd was ready to listen to them all night long.
Hardcore band Vices & Vessels are native to the Charlotte area. They initially took the stage in masks with a backing track from the movie The Purge. As soon as the track ended, they played a short introductory track, before launching into an explosive, mosh-inspiring set. The type of crowd energy seen during a hardcore show is substantially different from other types of metal. You get some crowd surfing with both, but metal tends to inspire more traditional, shove-style moshpits while hardcore inspires fist-swinging and roundhouse kicks. Toward the end of their set, the mosh pit began winding down.
Max, of Vices & Vessels, implored the audience to split into two halves to perform the ‘wall of death’, one of the most infamous forms of a mosh pit. After this, Max, one of their vocalists, leapt from the stage into the audience, surfing across the top at the edges of the mosh pit. Despite the storm of mosh violence and emotion, the venue and the audience managed to survive V&V’s set.
Up next was SkinKage. Their brand of hardcore was blended with a little more metal than the previous band, focusing on longer songs as well. They offered shoutouts to both Raimee and Vices & Vessels, as well as Something Clever. Almost immediately, people were being thrown on top of the crowd as their songs assaulted the audience. The photographers in the pit had to duck for cover as the first of the surfers came down in front of the barrier.
As SkinKage’s set wore on, they did not let up with their energy or their songs. The audience gave as much as they could, as well. This is the type of energy one would expect from a nationally touring hardcore band like Dillinger Escape Plan or Car Bomb. Between them and V&V, it would be very difficult to say if either one had ‘more’ energy, as both bands were absolutely fantastic, despite being sandwiched between more traditionally metal bands Raimee and Something Clever.
Before the night’s headliner, Something Clever, took the stage, the projector was put to use again. This time, it showcased the interview video that covered the making of their new album, Season of Light. As the interviews wound down, the audience began cheering in anticipation. A countdown appeared on the screen, and the screen rose as it hit zero. Something Clever opened up with the new album’s first song, “Snake Oil”.
If the sound of Season of Light were to be boiled down to one description, it could be mid-era A.F.I. combined with a dash of late-era Slipknot, and influences of the metalcore movement. This shows in their booming stage presence, making heavy use of a LED-clad microphone stand, bottom-lit stage platforms, and other crowd-pleasing techniques. At one point, frontman Adam jumped out into the crowd, continuing to sing as he surfed over the crowd before returning to the stage to finish the set.
Every band of the night had a seasoned stage presence, commanding the stage and making use of every inch of it. Despite the show being a blending of two very different crowds and genres, the production came together very smoothly, filling the venue nearly to capacity early in the night and leaving the crowd wanting more. If nothing else, the overwhelming success of this show proves a testament to the strength, solidarity, and raw talent of the local and regional live music scene—something that will continue to flourish as The Fillmore Underground welcomes more local bands in the region to share its stage.