Review: POP EVIL Rises from Trenches at ROTR

Photos by Jim Gilbert, JTG Photo

Day two of Rock on the Range started off quietly, with a bright cloudy day and an empty stadium with the exception of the security in front of the barricade at the Monster Stage. Then the clock stroked 11 am, allowing the Rangers to enter the stadium, filling up the front of the barricade very quickly. Finally after 45 minutes of waiting impatiently, the outdoor music ended, hinting it was Pop Evil’s time to rock the stage. However, before the band arrived, the sponsors brought out the U.S. Army to salute the American Flag. Once they left, it was time to officially begin day two.

The first to enter the stage was Chachi Riot (drums), second, Matt DiRito (bass), followed by Nick Fueling (guitar) and Dave Grahs (guitar). The last to make an appearance was the one and only, Leigh Kakaty (lead vocals). Pop Evil started their set with their hit single from the 2008 record, Lipstick on the Mirror, “Hero”, and from their latest record, Onyx, “Deal with the Devil”. Despite the name, the band was anything but evil. “Pop Evil was kind of just derived from where we were from; we kind of never fit in. At the time the band was originating, a lot of Michigan bands were starting to blow up and do well; some of them were hardcore, some were more alternative, and nothing we were doing seemed to quite be ‘pop’ enough to be mainstream but we didn’t fit in with the metal bands because we weren’t hard enough, so we weren’t really evil,” said Chachi Riot to Upstate Metal’s Kate Drexel, later that day in the Media Tent, explaining the meaning behind the band’s name. “So the two kind of contradicted and we just labeled ourselves, like we were the ‘anti-pop’ but we were too ‘poppy’ to be evil so it just kind of stuck. We started rolling and got a following and though some of us hated it, once you label it at any amount of  success, you stick with the name.”

After the performance of “Monster You Made” from their previous record, War of Angels, Pop Evil continued their majestic set with the song from their latest record, “Sick Sense”, showing the change in their music style. “We were carrying a lot of stereotypes like being a party band, being wild and fun which is fine but we’re ready to be taken seriously, so we kind of put a halt to that. We got really serious, we challenged ourselves, we worked hard, and it’s been a different ballgame,” Chachi explained to Drexel, when asked about inspirations used in the new record. “As far as musically, we’re five different individuals that really listen to different music, and you hear that in the song writing, because everyone in the band writes, so we have songs like ‘Sick Sense’, that carries more of a Nine Inch Nails vibe and you have ‘Silence and Scars’ has been referred kind of like The Pixies I heard earlier, and we’ve gotten a couple of songs that sounded like Rage Against the Machine, and those are three bands that have nothing in common, but somehow we have managed to make it work in one album, so I really like the diversity in the band and what we’re expressing. It’s fun,” he added excitedly.

The second to last song on their set was “Last Man Standing” and it was during that number when Kakaty did a different form of crowd surfing that took the Rangers by surprise, he walked on the hands of the fans, impersonating Iggy Pop. The final song was their dark, awe-inspiring single, “Trenches”, the song that strongly proved their determination of becoming the successful rock band that they have become. “‘Trenches’ is just like that for us, the whole album; it was like the perfect lyrical description of the album. And we felt like we’ve been waiting for so long to get out of the trenches and it’s just like we’ve been grinding and we’ve been working and we’re all from Michigan, which is not the most economically successful state, obviously, and everyone out there like in the Midwest, they get it and nothing is ever easy, nothing is ever handed out or free, and we’re just ready to work hard and overcome the obstacles,” explained Riot to Drexel about the story behind the song. To end it all, Leigh thanked the crowd for their continued outstanding support while DiRito smashed his bass guitar.

All in all, an excellent setlist, the whole band was very interactive with the Rangers, their performance was simply superlative. Be sure to check out their recent album, Onyx and to catch one of their shows. It is one band that you do not want to miss.