When news hit that TesseracT would be touring across North America in support of their newest album “Polaris,” I did everything in my power to leave my night open for them. My anticipation intensified when I found out that The Contortionist, Erra, and Skyharbor were supporting them. For those who don’t know of these bands, this is a massive lineup, containing some of the brightest, up-and-coming bands in the progressive metal genre. I was lucky enough to have been given an opportunity from Entertainment One Group to write about TesseracT’s latest stop at the House of Blues in San Diego on Monday. With so much enthusiasm going into this concert, I made sure to listen to every band’s discography a week before the show. Although I may have not remembered all of the lyrics or powerful moments of every band’s songs, I did enter through the venue doors with an idea of what to expect.
The House of Blues has been in San Diego for quite some time. I remember going to concerts there back in high school, watching bands that are quite different than my music taste today. Befriending someone in line before the show, we reminisced on our favorite bands, the upcoming Tool album, and progressive metal in general. It was nice to finally talk to someone with knowledge of the same type of music I listen to. I’ve learned over the years that finding progressive rock and metal fans in San Diego is like finding a Winn Dixie in… well, San Diego. I tend to stand on the elevated area near the back of the venue at the House of Blues, since you are able to look over the entire crowd. Being only 5’9”, this has helped me in the past, but I didn’t let my size hinder me from getting a little closer to the stage. It was quite a surprise seeing so few people in line waiting for the doors to open, and that tickets were still selling minutes before the concert started. But all that changed as time went on. As I looked around throughout the night, I noticed more and more people piling in. I hoped San Diego represented themselves well as the first band entered the stage, India’s own Skyharbor.
I’d heard Skyharbor’s newest album “Guiding Lights” in the past, since it was an album that TesseracT’s current singer Daniel Tompkins sang on. My listening experience to the album was mixed, since I normally played it low in an office setting. I always regarded it as a quiet progressive metal album simply because of the setting I forced it into. By the opening notes of their set, though, my opinion completely changed. The intimidating-looking Eric Emery, with tattoos covering the majority of his head, sang very well. Accompanying him were guitarists Devesh Dayal and Keshav Dhar, playing guitar arrangements back and forth, complimenting each of their rhythms. Overall, their set was great, since each member performed very well. After their performance, I feel inclined to reconsider their latest album and give them another listen. You can support Skyharbor by checking out their website and Facebook page for updates.
Next was Alabaman metalcore/progressive metal band Erra. Of all the research I did prior to this concert, I felt that Erra would be the one band I would enjoy the least. Although my hypothesis ended up being correct, it does not take away from their truly energetic performance on stage. Vocalist Ian Eubanks’ growls were terrifying, but were delivered with so much passion that I couldn’t help but move to their music. I also felt the drummer Alex Ballew had a memorable performance, especially during bridge sections of their songs. The double-stomp of bass pedals were felt throughout the room; there was no escape. I’m very picky when it comes to metalcore, and might not necessarily give Erra a listen after their performance. If that is your cup of tea, though, I would definitely recommend checking out their latest EP “Moments of Clarity.” You can support Erra by visiting their website and Facebook page for updates.
As The Contortionist made their way to the stage, I recalled the last time I saw them a few months ago. Opening for Between The Buried And Me, I remember being absolutely stunned by singer Michael Lessard. Not only is his range incredible on their recent album “Language,” he expands on his vocal talent in a live setting. His clean vocals are remarkable, but what makes him such a talented vocalist is his death growls and shrieks, always coming at unexpected and opportune times. Besides his vocals, many of the songs were played in their last set, which also included a similar stage setup. Having a little extra time in this set, though, they did play some older material off “Intrinsic” and “Exoplanet” which created a controlled chaos within a mosh pit. My only critique of their set was that the lighting, as last time, was too dim. Using mainly lights behind them, their bodies were visible like shadows, but it was hard to read their facial gestures. Were they having as much fun up there as I was down here? I’ll never know. Their performance was commendable, but I almost wished I hadn’t seen them so recently. I felt like the guy who goes into a movie having already read the book. Nevertheless, I enjoyed every bit of their set, and urge you all to support The Contortionist. You can find them on their website and Facebook page.
At 9:30, TesseracT graced the stage. My newly made friend and I were guessing which song would open the set. We both were not surprised when the opening deep notes of “Dystopia” started things off. The crowd immediately responded with mosh pits, headbangers, and audible singing. TesseracT did a very good job spreading their setlist amongst all of their albums, including “Concealing Fate” off their first album “One” and many songs off “Altered State.” The highlight of the set was easily their most well-known song “Nocturne,” which featured their former singer Ashe O’Hara on the album, but was performed better by Dan Tompkins. I was glad to see bassist Amos Williams up front and center, which made sense because of the band’s bass-heavy sound. Watching that man finger pick and slap his bass rhythms was absolutely mind-blowing, showing that not all bassists are the butt of band jokes. He even incorporated some death growls at key moments, which surprised me considering the lack of his vocals on their albums.
The verdict? A marvelous performance, but as much as I enjoyed the set, I do have one complaint. When I saw that TesseracT was coming to San Diego, I was most excited to see drummer Jay Postones live in action. Readers of my site will know my praise of him, but it was unfortunate to see his drumming not taking precedent in some of their songs live. Sitting farthest back on the stage, it was hard to see him behind Tompkins and Williams towards the front. Even the stage lighting seemed to pass over Postones numerous times, instead illuminating the other band members. I hope their next tour will utilize Postones’ incredible skill behind the drum set more. For those who haven’t listened to TesseracT, I highly suggest you check out their latest album “Polaris,” their most accessible album. Please support them by checking out their website and Facebook page for tour updates.