As another summer of Warped Tour passes, there are plenty of reasons not to get caught up in the persistent groans and guffaws of the scene police. Bands like the Wonder Years and Man Overboard are forcefully (and thoughtfully) putting the “punk” back into pop-punk while blessthefall and Bring Me the Horizon are breathing new life back into the tired, over-saturated metalcore genre. Truthfully, this year’s lineup turned out to be one of the more surprising and diverse lineups in recent memory, offering a little something for everyone and showcasing a slew of up-and-comers.
Yet one band on this year’s tour stands head and shoulders above the rest. A band with a message that will stop at nothing to grab your attention to deliver it. A band that embodies so much of what detractors claim that punk, and Warped Tour itself for that matter, is supposed to be all about. That band is letlive..
Sadly, you likely still haven’t heard of them.
My first experience of letlive. was in 2011, and although I was in attendance to see my favorite band, I spent the following week doing nothing but talking about the Los Angeles post-hardcore opening act that had put on one of the wildest performances I’d ever seen. They sounded like a new imagining of Glassjaw or At the Drive-In with the stage presence of the Chariot and the Dillinger Escape Plan. In a word, it was insane.
The only two things that have changed since then are that the band has gotten even better and has released the best album so far this year. The Blackest Beautiful is a firestorm of emotion and passion, with topics ranging from race to our obsession with Hollywood culture to the flaws of America’s healthcare system. Couple their raw and untamed brand of post-hardcore with one of the most wild and unpredictable live performances you’ll see, and letlive. is not only just the sort of jolt that Warped Tour needs, but they may very well change the course of the scene.
The band spent most of their summer playing on the Monster Energy Stage, which is where they performed for the Cincinnati date. Though they did not draw a considerably large crowd on this afternoon, it was a rabid bunch, filled with hard-core fans coupled with those curious to see what all of the fuss was about. No one left disappointed.
During my round of interviews at Warped, I like to ask the bands I talk to who they most enjoy seeing play on the tour. This year the consensus was overwhelming – everyone was talking about letlive.. Indeed, the crowd for letlive.’s set was sprinkled with a who’s who of Warped faces, some standing to the side of the stage with others littered amongst the fans. Perhaps most curious is that no one was trying to snag an autograph or snap a picture with the scattered band members. Then again, it’s hard to divert your attention when Jason Aalon Butler is on the stage.
As vocalist of the band, Butler takes it upon himself to play every show as if it is the last time he’ll ever have the chance to share his voice. Even after two long months of grueling summer heat and daily performances while traveling by van, Butler still performed as if his life depended on it. Today’s antics included hurling a garbage can across the stage, slicing open his hand while crushing an aluminum can and then smearing a bloody cross on his forehead, and grabbing a camera from a photographer and snapping shots of those of us standing in the photo pit. In other words, it was nothing out of the ordinary.
Yet behind all of the crazy exploits of their live show lies a true conviction. In a time where it’s difficult to know what most bands in this scene are even mad about anymore, letlive. delivers their message with a clear and purposeful punch, coupled with a an adamant belief that it matters. Along with Butler’s painful monologues, wherein he examines his own contradictory nature, there is also the band’s insistence that every single person’s voice is a part of the conversation and every experience is part of the greater human experience, for better or for worse.
The Blackest Beautiful examines this idea, choosing to embrace the flaws and pains that exist within the human condition and coming to terms with the frustrations that this acceptance results in. The live performance of letlive. embodies all of it and displays itself with a wild burst of pain, fury, and underneath all of it, joy. It is easily one of the most complex and emotional performances you will experience, not just on Warped Tour, but anywhere.
Hopefully, this is only the beginning of letlive. Like a boiling pot with a rattling lid, they are beginning to attract the attention of those within earshot and may very well soon blow the top off, in the best of ways. Warped Tour has served as an initial showcase of the band, for fans and other bands alike. It’s difficult to ignore the passion and sheer talent of letlive. and it would be foolish to ignore their message. With any luck, that message and passion will infect a whole new generation of bands and reignite the post-punk landscape.
In the meantime, let’s all enjoy what we have in front of us. This is letlive.