Photos & Story by Kevin Menendez
It's the middle of December, and for the fourth consecutive year, I find myself in the Queen City: Buffalo, New York. Most people would question my sanity, as I'm probably the only resident of Florida that vacations to Buffalo in December but I've made this an annual trip for one reason, and that's the Every Time I Die Christmas Show. This year’s edition marks the eleventh consecutive year that ETID has hosted this annual gathering of ETIDiots. Year after year, their Christmas shows attract fans from all coordinates, and as I mentioned, I arrived from Florida but I am, by no means logging the most miles on this trip. This being my fourth year of attendance, I've met people from Canada, California, Chicago, Texas and (I shit you not) even Japan. Many people come with family or close friends, and some fly solo just simply for their love of ETID, but the best part of all is that the show is in Buffalo. I know at first that doesn't sound all that extraordinary, but trust me, it truly is a remarkable city to visit.
Resting on the shore of Lake Erie, Buffalo is known for being the home of Anchor Bar, birthplace of the Buffalo wing and New Era Cap, just to name a few. But the reason these Christmas shows are so special in comparison to other bands out there attempting to replicate what ETID has done for the last eleven years is simple in the fact that this is not just about booking a venue, selling tickets, playing for an hour and leaving. This show is so much more to the members in the band and the surrounding area of their hometown. Prior to their show at Town Ballroom, over on Allen Street at Allen Burger Venture, there was a pre show/release party of Hop Damn, an IPA dedicated to ETID, and by the time things at Town Ballroom wrapped up and I made it back for the post concert party, the IPA was already sold out. If drinking isn't your thing, you could head over to Talking Leaves Books to meet vocalist, Keith Buckley and pick up a copy of his first novel entitled “Scale.” The personal connection between band and community is unrivaled by anything I've ever seen.
This year’s Christmas show took place at the Town Ballroom in the heart of downtown Buffalo, featuring three openers before the hometown heroes in Every Time I Die closed out the night. The first two openers, outside of being tremendous live acts, don't have many similarities. The first up was Revealer, who are an upcoming metal band from Buffalo, and received a great response from the hometown crowd that was still making their way inside. The fans that decided to be punctual and get inside on time got an early Christmas present, because I'm certain that this melodic band will be a name many hear about in the upcoming year. Following Revealer was a band from the total opposite end of the spectrum. Harms Way, the hardcore band who are riding high on the release of their first studio album in four years came out of the gate in an explosive fashion and didn't ease up at as they pounded through song after song. Vocalist James Pligge aka Hammers McPligue is built like a linebacker except instead of wearing shoulder pads he parades around shirtless, covered in tattoos, and looks like he has five percent body fat. He sings violently over heavy guitar riffs and pounding drums that the crowd instantly connected with as the once mild mannered pace that was seen during Revealer vanished and a new rapid and almost violent pace picked up. That was just fine with Harms Way, Buffalo, and the next band.
That aforementioned band was none other than Stick To Your Guns. The hardcore band from Orange County, California has been going almost nonstop since the release of their latest album Disobedient, but that's nothing new as they've built a reputation as being constant road warriors. They came out on this December night with guns blazing with, "Against Them All" off of what some would call their most impressive album Diamond, from which they also played (my personal favorite STYG song) "We Still Believe.” Throughout the night, vocalist Jesse Barnett was flawless as he ran side to side and even stood on the rail and let a sea of fans climb over each other to try and get a hand on the microphone to sing in unison. Once they broke into "Nobody" the hit single off of Disobedient, the crowd was in a pure state of disarray. There were bodies on top of bodies in a race to the rail as well as the biggest pit explosion of the night to this point.
"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times."
That's the only quote I can think of to appropriately describe the recent run of luck for the Buffalonians known as Every Time I Die over the last couple months. First, they were forced to cancel tour dates in the UK due to the terror attacks in Paris, and then, only a few dates into this current tour, vocalist Keith Buckley had to exit early to be with his wife and newborn child (which I'm happy to report that both wife and child are recovering and healthy.) Luckily for the boys in ETID, they didn't have to cancel any tour dates as they received help from Exalt frontman Tyler Brand and letlive. frontman Jason Butler to fill in. But when it was announced that Buckley would resume his duties as frontman to close out the year in his hometown, the emotional connection definitely got bumped up a notch.
Events like IPA releases and book signings wouldn't be possible if ETID didn't go out and deliver night in and night out on stage, and that's exactly what happened when they took the stage that was decorated with Christmas trees and wrapping paper. When the opening riffs of "Roman Holiday" hit, the pit opened up and the crowd started to move frantically as snow fell from the snow maker that was set up high in the rafters. It was a thing of beauty and it was also the beginning of a twenty song set that featuring classic ETID tunes like “Floater," "The New Black" and more recent ones off their latest album, From Parts Unknown, such as "Thirst" and "El Dorado.” Throughout the night, emotions ran high and one touching moment came when guitarist Jordan Buckley grabbed the microphone in between songs and said a few words about how great it was to have his brother Keith back on stage. The Buckley's aren't known for being a sentimental bunch but it was nice to see, especially in the spirit of the holidays.
As the show continued on, Jordan dove into the crowd over and over, the big man Andy Williams - while looking as imposing as ever - delivered riff after riff, bassist and madman Steve Micciche ran around like, well… a mad man, and drummer Daniel Davidson just never slowed down with his relentless assault on the drums. It was very inspiring to see that after the years of being on the road and touring, that whenever they return home, the shows go off without a hitch and the level of fluidity is unlike anything you could ever imagine. As the band broke into their last song of the night, "Indian Giver,” it was all hands on deck. During the song, the Christmas trees went flying into the crowd, the scene in the crowd from surfers to pitters intensified and Keith climbed a wall on the side of the stage only to trust fall into the sea of people that were happy to catch him. ETID exited the stage to chants of, "Let's go Buffalo,” which quickly turned to "One more song,” and after a few short minutes, they reemerged to oblige and give the sold out crowd one more song. They broke into “Wanderlust," and the sounds of electric sex came beaming out of the speakers one more time, as it was the perfect ending to a perfect show.
Every Time I Die pulled off their Christmas show for the eleventh consecutive year, and in the process provided examples of exactly what Christmas and the holiday season is all about. They manage to bring families and friends together, many of which only reconvene during the holidays. From the moment Keith and Jordan shared on stage, to all the ETID fans that came from out of town to be a part of this celebration, this to me was a pure definition of what the holidays should represent and I can't wait to do it again next December. Thank you ETID and thank you Buffalo! See you next year.