Live Review: Justin Symbol and Life Barrier Live at The Keys

Written by Shannon Reardon – Photos by Anthony Simone

Tucked away in a small shopping center, rock and metal bands Life Barrier, Justin Symbol, The Amatory Murder, Generation Empty, and Sucker transformed the back corner of The Keys, a bar in Scranton, Pennsylvania into a makeshift, yet fully functioning, stage and dance floor.

Gracing the floor first on their first out of state touring performance was progressive metalcore band, Life Barrier.

Life Barrier consists of lead singer, Brandon Woolrich, guitarists, Mike Rizzuto and Kane Buckley, bassist, John Halstead, and drummer, Adam Bretherton. Rizzuto and Buckley also play with experimental, electronic, hardcore rock band, The Bunny The Bear, whom will be touring the west coast in August.

“The whole Life Barrier meaning is [about] equality, not really towards religion, but more towards everybody coming together, because this world is the only place we have and we need to make it a good place,” said Woolrich. “It is also about how people try to live out their dreams, but have things that are holding them back like, family, school, money, transportation, and mental illness. My life’s barrier was me not focusing on a lot of things that I should have been focused on, and definitely not trying harder to be successful.”

The Buffalo natives unveiled themselves as Life Barrier earlier in 2016, and have been working towards releasing their first EP, “A Light to Guide This World,” at the end of August, with plans of a second one already in the works.

“We write about mental illnesses, like anxiety, about domestic violence, and a lot of motivational stuff, so that’s our first EP,” said Woolrich. “I’m going to take a pessimistic viewpoint in the beginning of [the second EP] and then [transition to] more of an optimistic view point, because I feel that both of those kinda make up my life,” says Woolrich. “I’m very bipolar with both so I can be [pessimistic]one day and [optimistic] the other day, it’s kind of a struggle, but that’s probably what the EP is going be about, but we’re definitely still working on it.”

The doors to the venue opened at 6 p.m., but to allow some time for exploring, Life Barrier arrived several hours earlier. Unbeknownst to Rizzuto, a huge fan of “The Office,” the nine season series was shot in Los Angeles, Ca., not Scranton, Pa., changing the exploration plan from finding the infamous Dunder Mifflin building to seeing what Pokestops and Gyms there were to conquer in the surrounding area.

As it neared time for the venue to open, the surrounding Gyms were, for the moment, claimed in the name of Team Mystic, and the other bands were starting to arrive as well, one of whom being “Star Daddy,” Justin Symbol.

“The King of Negativity,” “Spook Daddy,” and most recently “Star Daddy,” are all personas that the New York City native portrays on and off stage.

Drawing inspiration from David Bowie’s persona changes like Ziggy Stardust and The Thin White Duke, Symbol finds that reinventing himself keeps the creative process alive and also allows for personal growth.

With his most recent name change from “Spook Daddy” to “Star Daddy,” Symbol stated that his inspirations came from celestial energy and astrological symbols; especially the star symbol, seeing it as a way to focus his energy and a way to achieve goals.

“The celestial thing was a way to redefine my purpose,” Symbol said. “You do this for awhile, and you really put your heart and soul into it and you get beat up, worn out, and you start to lose inspiration. So for me, reinventing myself has been a source of inspiration and a way of making sure that what I’m doing stays true to who I am at that time, instead of me putting on a character and getting bored with it, because then I’m not being true to myself.”

As the doors to The Keys opened, a combination of locals and fans circulated in and out of the bar, and at 9 p.m., Life Barrier donned their gear and began to play songs off of their soon-to-be released EP. They performed the songs, “Machine Minds,” “For(Giver),” a song about domestic abuse, “Foster Child,” who’s subject is centered around social anxiety, “The Storm,” a song about the death of a close friend of the band, “DHG,” a song equality, and finally “Colonies.”

Once Life Barrier finished their performance, the band met and spoke with fans as Brooklyn natives, The Amatory Murder took the makeshift stage and played some of their well-known songs, like “Eleanor,” “Time,” and “A Haunting.”

Performing after The Amatory Murder was the golden cactus wielding, Justin Symbol.

Symbol, along with his band, composed of himself, Jabbath Kadabra on guitar, John Doll on bass, and Will Evil manning the drums, played songs off of their current EP, “VΩIDHEAD,” and the upcoming EP, “GΩDHEAD .”

Symbol began his set with the song “VΩIDHEAD,” and then continued to play songs, “Digital Penetration,” “Black Friday,” “Fuckboi,” “GodBomb,” “Blood, Tears & Cum,” “Godhead,” “Taboo,” “Shooting Stars,” and finished with “Control.”

Compared to the synchronized head bangs of the previous bands, Symbol’s style of performance involved a lot of body shaking, the usage of props such a mannequin head, a piñata dollar bill with Symbol’s insignia painted on it, rose petals and glitters stars, and a dog collar with a leash.

Though each band’s performances that night differed from one another, the messages behind their songs all overlapped, and that is one of finding who you are in this world and being accepting of who that person is. On and off stage the comradery between bandmates and members of other bands was very apparent and made the small bar feel like home.


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