Syracuse marks the end to Pop Evil’s headlining tour at the Westcott Theater

Words by Joy Houle, Photos by Jim Gilbert

Syracuse was the last stop on Pop Evil’s most recent tour, which ended on Sunday, November 24.

95X turned the band’s final show into an all-day event that began with a private acoustic performance and finished with Pop Evil’s grand finale after a four-band rock show.

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Pop Evil’s lead, Leigh Kakaty, and guitarist, Nick Fuelling, arrived at Revolutions (Destiny USA) to meet, greet, and perform for a small group of lucky contest winners. 95X awarded 10 winners (plus their guests) the opportunity to watch Kakaty and Fuelling perform a couple acoustic songs. The quiet performance of “Torn to Pieces” and “Monster You Made” were enhanced by some light commentary. Leigh explained that he wrote “Torn to Pieces” after the death of his father. It was not intended to become a Pop Evil song, but according to Kakaty, the band was so supportive of it that they included it on their newest album, Onyx, and are now regularly performing it. Kakaty encouraged the small group to sing along to “Monster You Made”, from the 2010 album, War of Angels, sharing that it’s “amazing to see fans singing your songs back to you.”

Kakaty and Fuelling accepted some questions from the group before food was served — and, given that it was football Sunday — most of the talk turned to sports. Kakaty referred to Sundays at home as “Michigan blue-collar brutality” because Detroit Lions fans have had to repeatedly endure constant losses.

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After Kakaty and Fuelling left the stage they socialized and had photos taken with the guests. The private affair culminated with a bowling match between the band members and the ultimate contest winner.

After bowling, we sat down with Joshua “Chachi Riot” Marunde, Pop Evil’s energetic drummer, he is reminiscent of the famous Muppet drummer, Animal.  Marunde has contributed a lot to the band’s stage presence and attraction. It was Chachi’s “insane” drumming that kept my focus on the band at Rock on the Range back in May (2013). Unlike many other drummers, Chachi is not content sitting in the background. He is actively involved in the entire performance. He prefers to stand while drumming and only sits when he has to use his feet to work. He hammers his head as forcefully as he beats the drums, makes gestures, and (even though he doesn’t have a mic) sings along to every song. His madness is intoxicating and while all the members of Pop Evil are energetic performers, Chachi is a RIOT to watch. Needless to say, I was eager to meet him. In addition to being very down to earth, he is also very articulate and super motivated. He shared with us that the band is a very tight unit, working really hard to “make it” in the rock ‘n roll scene. Their hard work is paying off though; when “Trenches” hit #1 on the Rock Charts in June (2013) while they were touring in Nebraska, the band tour manager, Chris Iteen, suggested the band take an uncharacteristic break and celebrate with a night of karaoke. Upstate Metal asked about Pop Evil’s future and Chachi was about bursting at the seams because of their 2014 plans, but couldn’t share (yet). Instead, he encouraged us to keep a close eye out for an upcoming announcement.  

<Since the interview last week we found out the big news is an upcoming tour with Stone Sour.>

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After leaving Chachi and the rest of Pop Evil to get ready for their show, we went to The Westcott Theater near Syracuse University. Built in 1919 as a cinema, The Westcott was retrofitted into a live music venue in 2008. The small venue hosted four bands, starting with local band, Pacinello , followed by The Letter Black, then Eve To Adam and finally Black Oxygen before Pop Evil took the stage around 10:30.

Despite the “late” hour on a snowy Sunday, the crowd was pumped up and ready to take in the Pop Evil experience. The fans who had been spread throughout the venue crunched in to the stage to get a closer look when Pop Evil opened with “Deal with the Devil”, currently playing on Sirius’s Octane and local rock stations like 95X. I loved their clean and simple stage set, which allowed us to focus on the performers (I especially loved that that drum kit was elevated to get a better view of Chachi Riot’s raving performance). Next up on the set list was the song that sold me in Ohio, “Hero”, then 12 more songs before they rejuvenated the group with a partial cover of Survivor’s “Eye of the Tiger”.

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You might have expected after a long tour for the band to drag a little. Not Pop Evil. They gave the same energy and quality to the couple hundred at the Westcott in late November as they did to tens of thousands at Rock on the Range in May. The band has often said that their songs are meant to send a message to their fans; one of inspiration. Many of their songs deal with loss, failure and (here’s the message) working hard to overcome adversity. Their final song, “Trenches”, speaks to just that, and Pop Evil gave it everything they had. The band left the stage expressing gratitude to 95X for supporting them, and to the fans for being a part of the tour’s last show.

After their short 10 day break, Pop Evil will pick up the pace once again with at least 11 shows scheduled in the Midwest in December.

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Set List: Deal with the Devil, Hero, Flawed, Somebody Like You, 100 in a 55, Torn to Pieces, Goodbye My Friend, Sick Sense, Boss’s Daughter, Divide, Behind Closed Doors, Monster You Made, Last Man Standing, partial cover of Eye of the Tiger, and Trenches.