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Crown the Empire, Scorned Embrace, One After the Other, Look to the Sky, Message to the Masses, The Rock, Monday, April 14

Let's begin with headliner Crown the Empire's set. The Dallas, Texas metal band were the last to play, but for the most part they fulfilled the attempts of all the bands that played before them. While their dual vocalists took turns telling the audience to "get the fuck up," "if you don't get this circle pit going, then just get the fuck out," et al., they were neither threatening nor an exercise in self-parody. They were fun. Crown The Empire's unintelligible lyrics might hold meaning for their fans, but their M.O. was clear: Jump up and down, yell, and get the fuck up and enjoy yourself. Using the same tricks as dance club DJs, Crown the Empire only brought the energy down long enough to build it back up to hysterical levels. The band was shameless, using every trick available in their never ending quest to inspire mindless abandon. They weren't above playing songs that sounded like a boy band's version of metalcore in between passages of stock screamo beats, and while that might not earn them scene credibility, it was very enjoyable.

Message to the Masses and Look to the Sky, the first two bands that performed, both suffered from an unnecessary attempt at seriousness, but the main problem was musical. Both acts obviously put a great deal of effort into their stage presence, songwriting, and delivery. Ultimately, these groups' downfall was when the eight-string guitar is tuned as low as the six-string bass, which is tuned as low as the unrelenting double-bass drum that resembles a fully automatic weapon, everything turns into quagmire of shapeless mush.

One After the Other showed how much of a difference a grasp of dynamics makes. Their songs were clear and punchy, and the contrast of pretty melodies and brutal rhythms made the material, in particular "Dedication," indelible. It's not mandatory to be so whatever-core all the time, and that's what made One After The Other's set so memorable.

Scorned Embrace traveled a path similar to Crown the Empire, with an ingratiating sense of humor and boundless energy, and a cover of Michael Jackson's "Beat It" certainly didn't hurt.

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