Live Review: MATG’s Shredfest 2016

Brought together to celebrate the one year anniversary of Metal at the Gates, Archiver, They Never Say No, Brock Betz Band, Circleswitch, and Assets tore down the house at the Metal Grill Friday night. Though it was worried that the show might be a bust, rest assured, Shredfest will return!

Taking the stage first was Wisconsin guitar prodigy, Steven Lesko. Playing over backing tracks of music he had put together under the moniker, ‘Assets,’ this young shred lord wowed the crowd with his incredible skill with the guitar. Following his performance I heard countless people talking about how awesome Steven played. Least to say, Assets was immediately invited back for Shredfest 2017.

The second act of the night was originally meant to be Minnesota’s Eternal Voyager, but due to unforeseen circumstances the band had to drop from the bill four days prior to show time. Fortunately, Wisconsin’s They Never Say No jumped at the chance to join Shredfest. What followed was an absolutely stunning show. Mixing post-hardcore with smooth soul, They Never Say No rocked the crowd and won themselves a great deal of praise and their fair share of new fans in what was a relatively new market for them. One of the most fantastic aspects of their show was despite a broken foot and going without his boot for the entire show, vocalist Tommy Edwards gave us an energetic and passionate performance.  Of course, an injured singer wasn’t the only out of the blue moment of the show – the band delivered a killer metal rendition of Taylor Swift’s ‘Shake It Off.” I’ll be honest, I never thought I’d head bang to Taylor Swift.

Following They Never Say No was the hometown heroes, The Brock Betz Band. If you haven’t heard of Brock Betz or the Brock Betz band for shame! One of the premier instrumental acts in the Midwest, Brock Betz Band shook the house with their flashy hard rock meets blues style. Known for his wild solos, technical mastery of the guitar, and improvisation, Brock Betz is one of those musicians that you can’t walk away from, and then there’s his band. Backed by just a bassist and a drummer, the Brock Betz Band’s big sound has no need for a singer; their music speaks for itself, especially my personal favorite tune ‘Underwater Banana.’

Second to last was Circleswitch, one of the hardest working hard rock bands in the business. Playing a slew of hits including ‘NSA,’ ‘Revolution,’ and ‘Daybreak,’ these guys kept the party going and hard. Danny Rodic’s guitar playing attracted quite the following, while vocalist Kenny James’ incredible highs and onstage charisma led to a deafening applause after each song. Making it all the sweeter, the band pulled off a couple of surprises including their rendition of Kiss’ ‘God of Thunder,’ and Billy Idol’s ‘Rebel Yell.’ – the latter of which they pulled in members of the crowd including myself, Zach Mayo of Archiver, and Andy Martin of Conniption for backing vocals. To say the show was electric up to this point is an understatement.

Taking the stage last was dark symphonic metal outfit, Archiver. These guys are one of those bands that you absolutely have to see. Inspired by horror films they took their slogan ‘let’s get evil!’ to a whole new level by performing alongside of the likes of Michael Meyers and Leatherface amidst a thick cloud of smoke illuminated in red. In short, it was like watching the emergence of hell to the sound of bone crunching heavy metal. Making their show all the better was the fact that the band’s show was made up almost all of the band’s new material, which touches on slasher villains such as Michael Meyers, Jason Vorhees, Pinhead, Pumpkinhead, and many more.

Going into Shredfest I was pretty damn nervous. I had never put on a show before and with the loss of Eternal Voyager and the last minute addition of They Never Say No pre-show stress was high. Fortunately as the night wore on a large crowd assembled, the bands put on a killer show, and everyone walked out satisfied. That being said, as the Editor-in-Chief and owner of Metal at the Gates I’d like to thank They Never Say No, Circleswitch, Brock Betz Band, Assets, Archiver, the Metal Grill, and the outstanding Metal at the Gates crew members, Ariel, Tom, and Kolin. For those who missed the show don’t worry, we’ll have a videos and photos up soon!

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