Trapt In Cedar Rapids With A Four-Band Lineup

1st Avenue Live; Cedar Rapids, Iowa, USA; July 17, 2009

by Paul Hanson

As I walked towards 1st Avenue Live in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, the venue that hosted Trapt, Framing Hanley, Since October, and Inept on Friday, July 17, I was greeted by Since October's road manager. "Are you Paul?" He had caught me geeking out, carrying a Since October CD and a small notebook, and brought us inside to greet Since October's drummer, Audie Grantham.

audiegrantham_200Grantham is an intimidating guy. He's 6'4, around 280 pounds with tattoos up and down his arms and neck. Beyond that, he’s a humble, thoughtful, talented musician who is a member of a band that is on the upswing.

Since October has been touring behind their first CD on the Tooth and Nail label, though they are not a new band. "In late 2005,” explains Grantham, “we reached a point where we decided to make a go of it. We recorded some songs and put it out independently. When we signed with Tooth and Nail, they sent us back into the studio. We recorded four songs. Three made in on the re-issue, which is This Is My Heart. So, most of the songs are old songs that we’ve been playing.”

The next logical question is, then, when will fans see a new release? Grantham chuckles and says, “That keeps being pushed back. We’re on this tour until August 1st, and then we do festivals in August, and then another tour with Five Finger Death Punch. Maybe by early 2010 we’ll be in the studio.” Are there new songs written? “Yes, Luke is always writing and he’ll record things with a drum loop, then remove the drum loop and send it to me to put my part with it. With technology and all the ways of recording, there’s ways to make it happen. We have around eight or nine songs put together for the next record.”

Grantham then spins a story about how he started out in garage bands. “This was back when Nirvana came out and this band’s drummer played that same beat [mimics “Smells like Teen Spirit” beat] for all the songs. One day, he was sick. The band started playing “Smoke On The Water” and I knew the hi-hat part. The guys in that band told me ‘Hey, you know the songs’ and they got rid of the other drummer. I am self-taught. I never took lessons. I learned the rudiments and things like that and would watch other drummers to see what they did. There was a drum set in my family so I got that. My uncle showed me how to set it up and let me loose.”

Faith comes up next in our discussion. “Yes, we’re a Christian band. Christian rock has a bad stigma – people think of stuff like DC Talk but we’re nothing like that. We don’t care to hide the fact that we are Christians but we don’t preach from the stage. If someone comes up and says they’re not, I say I’ll pray for you and we move along.” One thing I’ve always wanted to know for bands that have faith is how they get to a service when they’re on the road. “We’ve woken up on a Sunday morning and found a church around 4 times. Every time we do, it goes bad. We’re up until three a.m. the night before and no matter how many showers you take, you still smell like bar. People have treated us like crap so we don’t have a desire to go back.”

Our conversation then turned to the band’s live show. “The way things have been, we’re the heaviest band on the bill. We’ve really grown musically since our debut came out and we’re still doing what we want to do.” Grantham reveals their set list (“My Heart,” “Beautiful,” “Guilty,” “Disaster,” “Follow Me Down,” and “Part of Me”) and when I ask about the ballad on the CD “Waiting,” he chuckles. “We haven’t played that song for a long time. We usually just go for the stuff that rocks.”

Not long after the interview ended, the first band, Chicago’s own Inept, took to the stage with a blistering high-energy set featuring "It's All In Our Head." The dual guitar attack of Kevin Singleton and Lucas Mountain played strong melodies and the tight rhythm section of bassist Ian Roberts and drummer Dan Scofield kept the music driving forward behind lead vocalist Anthony Lira.  Inept also took the time to meet and greet fans immediately after their performance, a welcome effort on their part.

The members of Since October set up their equipment next and kicked off their short six-song set with "My Heart." Vocalist Ben Graham’s on-stage persona is to release emotions straight from his heart and throw them on stage for the world to see. At times, he smiles during an instrumental interlude, obviously ecstatic to be in front of a crowd and singing the songs he helped create. Guitarist Luke Graham (Ben's brother) writes guitar riffs that are catchy and memorable, and drummer Audie Grantham shows no mercy on his drums and cymbals and hits all the fills and cymbal catches he recorded on their This Is My Heart release.

Framing Hanley came on stage next and set up their equipment. They did their own mic checks - the "1-2-check-check" routine, seemed satisfied with everything, and then left the stage, going outside. The stage lights went dark, their pre-gig music began, and they were led back to the stage with security holding flashlights, smiled as they took their positions on the stage. It was like they were a big rock act and a step above the previous two bands. Despite the implied arrogance of this staged entrance, I liked their energy when their music started. However, as their set continued, I really wasn't impressed when they finished their set. After the first couple of songs, their music began to all sound the same. Granted, you can really say that about all of the bands on this night, which is excusable because the same musicians wrote each song. I get that. What struck me about Framing Hanley is that they sounded too much like a band trying to break through their current material to a different level. The heavy parts needed to be heavier, the lighter parts needed to be lighter and the overall energy of the band didn't make up for it. I have their The Moment CD and I liked it. Live, though, I just wasn't sold on their performance, something was missing. They ended their set with their cover of Lil Wayne’s "Lollipop," and the crowd responded favorably when vocalist Nixon introduced their final song.

trapt_300The beginning of the end was when Trapt took to the stage, kicking off with “Still Frame.” They played all the songs I wanted to hear, including “Contagious” and “Echo.” At one point, the lead singer asked if anyone wanted a guitar pick. He threw it into the crowd. “Okay man, you have to go get me a Bud Light.” Sure enough, a guy came from the front of the stage area, negotiated the crowd until he reached the bar, and then struggled with two beers back to his original position. The lead singer smiled, accepted the beer and, from the back, looked like he was looking at the guy and said, “Thank you.” After leaving the stage, Trapt returned to play “Head Strong” as one of their final two songs.

This night in Cedar Rapids, Trapt capped a solid four-band line-up that left the crowded sweaty and satisfied. Hopefully Since October will return later this year with Five Finger Death Punch…

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