Scream The Prayer Tour
7.28.09, San Antonio, Texas @ The White Rabbit
Review By: Corey Erb

Scream The Prayer Tour could not have been named more appropriately. This year’s bill includes 10 of Christian heavy music’s heavyweights, none of whom are afraid to make a case for Christ in a loud voice.

First up was Agraceful, a hardcore/screamo band from Dayton, Ohio signed to indie hardcore label Sumerian Records. They opened up the dual vocalist theme and the singing parts were in tune and audible, which would become more surprising in my mind as the night wore on. The crowd was just warming up, splitting their set between the indoor stage area and the outside circle of merch tables. The breakdowns were just beginning.

Up next was For Today, and the stage diving began. Like Agraceful, their music is very hardcore-influenced with minimalist instrumentation driving the sound at times. It makes for a different experience live when there are five guys onstage and the guitar and ride cymbal are the only sounds you’re hearing, along with watching the rest of the band bouncing along. They were by far the most outspoken about their faith in the short set, with songs like “Saul of Tarsus (The Messenger)” and frontman Mattie Montgomery’s bold declarations of God’s Kingdom.

Gwen Stacy, Spiderman’s first girlfriend… er… a hardcore band from Indianapolis signed to Ferret Records. They introduced Geoff, their new vocalist, saying he would be their last new vocalist, they promise. That’s good seeing as they’ve had about four. But anyway, he sounded good on “The Path to Certainty” and the crowd seemed to respond.

Oh, Sleeper was the first true metalcore representative, but also the first sign of second-vocalist trouble to come. It seemed like the monitor wasn’t loud enough because the clean vocalist struggled to find the right pitches, and it likely didn’t help that the second mic level was very low so it was hard to hear in the crowd as well as onstage. They brought out some new material from Son of the Morning, which will be out in August. The new stuff is more catchy like “Vices Like Vipers,” which got the first real mosh pit of the night going. They didn’t live up to the hype I’ve heard about their performance at Cornerstone, but opening their set with “Whoa, we’re halfway there / Woah oh! Screamin’ on a prayer!” probably biased me against them even before they started due to my Bon Jovi aversion. It’s good to see a couple guys from Terminal still making music anyway.

Andrew Schwab of Project 86 summed up the Orange County band’s set perfectly, when he noticed “Some of you are looking at the stage wondering, ‘where are the breakdowns?'” It took a bit for the metal crowd to embrace the veteran act. The intensity of “The Forces Of Radio Have Dropped A Viper Into The Rhythm Section,” “The Hand, The Furnace, The Straight Face” and “Sincerely, Ichobod” slowly built, but the crowd still looked like they didn’t know what to make of Project. Just as I was about to feel sorry for them playing a whole tour in front of metalcore kids, Schwab called for a circle pit on the fourth song and the band kept it going with “Stein’s Theme” from Drawing Black Lines.

After a new song, the gruff frontman shared that it was easy to get competitive about time slots with 10+ bands playing every night, but that the bands were becoming better friends and learning how to interact with each other in love. It was a moment of honesty that told a lot about the tour. When Schwab asked the crowd to shout on the count of three the last song they wanted to hear, a resounding “Spy Hunter!” rained back and the crowd moshed happily through the tough-guy band’s biggest hit.

Sleeping Giant continued the outspokenness, dedicating their second song “Descending Into Hell” as a challenge to fight against human trafficking, and telling the audience, “Your days matter. Your life matters. Give them to God because everything else is a waste of time.” At one point, a stage diver pushed vocalist Thom Green into the crowd and he got back up, playfully shoving a couple bandmates before they gestured toward the crowd, who otherwise engaged the set with upraised arms as the room turned into a place of worship complete with dominating metal guitars. The chugging guitars shook the ground, though the pounding of the crowd jumping up and down was overpowering. Green’s gripping personal testimony told in “Whoremonger” opened a heavy tension that ended in an emotional a capella sing-along rendition of “Oh Praise Him” as the band removed instruments one by one.

Describing The Chariot‘s chaotic set is near impossible, so this is where I wish I had a video to speak for me. But I guess that’s where YouTube comes in. The best word I can find is destruction. There’s a frantic mix of bodies flailing, limbs flying, strings bending – all belied by Josh Scogin’s baby face. Melody is largely abandoned in favor of bedlam. Energy coming from the stage matches the ear-shattering noise coming from the speakers. They were the only band to turn the house lights off and set up strobe lights and floodlights onstage to create a darker atmosphere, literally and figuratively. “Back to Back” opened the set and there was no letting up from there. The crowd was restless, adding a thudding soundtrack of feet on the floor to the ocean of noise. “Yanni Depp” stepped up the intensity to a level unreached in the previous nearly six hours.

Scogin threw his microphone twice, the guitarist climbed up on the stack of amps and hung from the rafters twice, and the set ended with the band piling up amps, drums, mic stands, lights and instruments in the middle of the stage and scraping their guitar strings across the edges of the pile. I wouldn’t have been surprised if they poured gasoline on the mess and lit it up.

Haste The Day had the impossible task of following The Chariot, though with every hungry, tired San Antonian present in the pit, they were warmly welcomed. The mosh pit formed for the final time, and it was apparent kids were insistent upon using up every last ounce of energy they had left after a long day of hardcore dancing, this time with a legit mosh pit. I was hesitant about Haste The Day closing the show, but I guess promoters knew what they were doing judging by the increased crowd response. Clean vocalist Michael Murphy suffered from the problem of the night: his mic and monitor were not loud enough and he struggled to stay in tune. Stephen Keech took over anytime the two sang together, and his screams drowned out Murphy almost entirely. Still, it mattered little on crowd favorites like “When Everything Falls,” “Pressure the Hinges” and “The Minor Prophets.” Keech got the crowd going in the biggest circle pit of the night on “68” and they also kept folks interested with a call-and-response of “We ain’t got no place to go / So let’s go to the punk rawk show!” a few times, even inserting the MxPx line into one of their songs.

Something blew up on the bass amp midway through a song with a shriek, which caused an uncomfortable delay after the song ended. However, Keech took the opportunity to wish their touring drummer Giuseppe (formerly of Once Nothing, who performed a stunningly fast drum solo before the encore) a happy birthday in song. Keech then delivered the last message of the night, stating “We don’t have to be afraid to approach God if we’re dirty because He knows that we are.” The crowd predictably called the boys back out for another last, final, last song, and “American Love” fit the bill nicely.