Writer: Zachary Kolesar.
I’ll admit that it’s been a minute since I’ve attended a rock show. Though my high school years were spent in intimate bar venues obsessing over acts like Scary Kids Scaring Kids, there was a shift in my taste of music toward the rap spectrum once college rolled around.
I’ve noticed this trend among my friends and other high schoolers who go to college. It first became clear to me that the grade school angst relates more to rock music when I spoke with White Reaper vocalist and guitarist Tony Esposito a week ago. He has noticed the young, excitable crowds at shows across the country get progressively rowdier over the past few years, which serves as a rebuttal to the "rock is dead" cliche.
Even though there seems to be an age difference among the followings, rap and rock scenes in the 21st century are oddly similar. If you’re within a 20-foot radius from the act, there will be body-to-body moshing and relentless crowd surfers.
The exuberance from the rockin’ youth never lets up. Some rock shows in 2017 match those rockers who paved the path decades ago, as well as the newfound intensity in hip-hop.
Monday night was one of those shows. The intensively active scene during The Comos’, Post Animal’s and White Reaper’s sets at A+R Music Bar had me tranced with its authenticity.
First, 30 minutes after doors opened at 7 p.m., Columbus natives The Comos kicked things off. I soon became scared for my camera’s life. It seemed like a combination of a close-knit following and general attraction to The Comos’ energy opened the pit that pushed me against A+R’s see-through garage doors.
The stamina of the crowd never wavered, as Chicago group Post Animal continued to encourage the audience to crowd surf and let loose. The group, missing guitarist Javier Reyes due to an onstage stroke he suffered a few days ago during a New York set, (which he finished before going to the hospital), set up surprisingly quickly after The Comos, leaving the night wide open for White Reaper.
Shockingly coming on before 9:40 p.m., White Reaper opened up ready to tear down A+R. Observing from the photo pit for the first few songs, I noticed keyboardist Ryan Hater jumping in the crowd multiple times, causing others to, of course, follow suit. These actions led to some interesting anecdotes from Esposito between songs.
“The kid in the khaki pants, this is your phone,” Esposito announced kindly. Shoes, wallets and keys went missing throughout the night but were eventually returned after being consumed by a mosh pit that I felt too old and not daring enough to engage in.
Upon leaving the photo pit, I made my way toward the back middle of the bar to rest my tired body. “Eagle Beach,” one of White Reaper’s more laid-back tunes, off of the band’s most recent release “The World’s Best American Band,” was the track that greeted my shift. The dripping guitars still brought out the rage in people, but it was a satisfying live product and a spike in material from the new album.
One of the most extreme moments of the night happened to be the performance of the title and intro track to TWBAB. Although I lazily predicted that this song would lead off the night, it did give me a boost of adrenaline near the end of the set after a long day.
After a few more songs off the latest record, White Reaper brought it back like they did earlier in the show. With Esposito declaring a ladies-only circle pit for “Make Me Wanna Die,” respect and unity stuck out as common themes of the night. Even when bodies were flailing, fans were looking out for each other.
Leaving the stage at 10:30, White Reaper was coaxed back on for two more tracks, one of which being the raucous TWBAB album closer “Another Day.” Following a rousing encore, Esposito crowd surfed with bassist Sam Wilkerson to the bar to see who could take a shot first. Esposito won, which he admitted was not a common occurrence.
A+R Music Bar doesn’t fit many, but the venue was packed from the time the doors opened and took a while to air out, as members of the bands stayed to talk with fans and sign memorabilia. The rock scene in 2017 is intense and real, and Monday night was a nostalgic reminder that there are still groups out there like White Reaper that can both shred and mesmerizingly move a crowd without wearing down.