In 2013, I attended my first live show. Since then, I have been fortunate enough to attend close to 95 more? I honestly lost count a while ago, but I know it’s up there in numbers. As someone who also spent about 15-ish months sitting at home and resorting to live-stream shows and whatever new release was hitting HBO-Max that week, getting back to shows was something I wasn’t sure would ever happen for me. That changed this month, and I’ve been able to see three shows so far. It is the most recent one that deserves the most recognition.
Beartooth has been my favorite band since 2017, and I have yet to miss a show when they’re in Kansas. Not only was it the first time I have seen them since COVID began, but they were my final show before the pandemic hit. This was true for a lot of people in the crowd, as was confirmed by the volume of screams when lead singer Caleb Shomo asked about it. I can only assume this was a factor in the new atmosphere of the show. This was also the biggest venue I was able to see them headline, so logically, it was going to be significantly louder than before, and it was also improved which I love to hear.
With songs on the setlist from the band’s most recent release Below (which was written, mixed, recorded, and mastered by Shomo from a room in his basement) that were purely meant to be played live added to the energetic pace of the show, it made for an experience like none I’ve had before. The band threw in some old tunes that they hadn’t played in years and created such a well-rounded set for a crowd who wanted nothing more than to rage. The band themselves never lost an ounce of energy the entire set, and there was a call and response at least four times that night, proving that they were just as grateful for us as we were for them.
The crowd was immense and ready to give everything they had. There was never a moment of stillness, just constant Moshing, headbanging, walls of death, and crowd surfing. As a fan, I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way. There was also a moment in the show where Shomo took a pause and made some people (me) cry over his honesty and transparency. He reminded us that without fans, they were nothing, that there were moments during the pandemic where it looked like they would never be able to play shows again, and that we as people, as fans, saved the life of Beartooth as we know it.
The fear that some of my favorite bands would never play shows again was a constant during the majority of COVID, and hearing that speech had me sobbing happy tears very quickly. With the familiar feeling of ringing ears, bruised arms, and a sore neck, that’s enough to make any metal fan cry their way to cloud nine. Out of all the times I have seen Beartooth, this one tops the list.
This show also took a pretty high spot on the list of all the shows I’ve been able to see. It reminded us that pure, heavy, rough rock isn’t going anywhere. There is a line in the band’s song “Bad Listener” that goes “I’ll be bangin’ my head ‘til my brain rots.” I am happy to say that COVID isn’t going to keep us from making that line a reality again and again.