Pop Evil has had 15 years to perfect their concert showmanship and, as a 12 show veteran myself (I’m not biased or anything), I think they win the blue ribbon for “Best of Show.” Pop Evil is a hard rock band from Muskegon, MI formed in 2001 by lead vocalist Leigh Kakaty and guitarist Dave Grahs. They later added bassist Matt DiRito, lead guitarist Nick Fuelling, and just this year added U.K. drummer Hayley Cramer. They have released 4 albums, the most recent of which, UP, was released in August 2015. I have a list of reasons why you need to catch their sets on Shiprocked!
- They play all of their hit songs…
Pop Evil never fails to remind you who they are at every show, especially when they play their biggest hits at every show. I’ve heard people in the crowd say, “Oh, I didn’t know they played THAT song. I LOVE this song!” and I’ve watched as they instantly rock out, becoming engrossed in the live version of a song they admired on their radio. For the veterans to a Pop Evil show, they go crazy for the radio hits simply because they love watching the band rock it out live.
- … And surprise you with ones that they don’t play often
Their set list is comprised of radio worthy hits mixed in between their own favorites from each of their 4 albums. At the last show I attended, Leigh announced a song he swore he would never play live. “Sick Sense” from their album Onyx was played with such gusto, I was blown away that he wasn’t a huge fan of the song himself. My personal favorite song, “Behind Closed Doors” is played live with such a sobering reality that I feel the ache in my chest of what this song means to me personally.
- Matt DiRito’s flying hair
Pop Evil’s bassist is the most energetic bassist I have ever watched perform. He is well known for his long black locks (there’s even a Facebook Page dedicated to his hair) and his back bending moves. This part is better summed up in a collage of photos…
(Photos above are credited to photographers through watermarks. Top left photo belongs to Jordan Buford photography)
On top of his hair whips and twisting dance moves, he is very interactive with the concert goers. He points out those he recognizes and throws huge smiles to those who are rocking out in the crowd. There isn’t a person he misses if he’s seen you out before and he’s sure to give you out a smile if you wave!
- Leigh Kakaty’s stagecraft
Leigh has a flair for the dramatic on stage, his ever changing facial expressions and play acting during a song and when he’s addressing the crowd remains on point the entire night. He’s an easy focal point during the show, because you don’t want to miss his fervent smile and entertaining vigor for putting on a good production.
- Nick’s mellow groove
Lead guitarist Nick is well known among the Pop Evil community for being the shy and quiet one. What you end up witnessing is his amazing ability to play the hardest chords with the simplest ease. His laid back demeanor during his guitar solos are so mellow, I always wonder if he feels like he is just strumming his acoustic guitar on his own back porch. He exudes calm confidence while he’s performing and it’s a sight to see his fingers fly down his frets.
- Dave’s pick flips
Dave Grah’s is a focused and serious guitarist. He is the most concentrated out of the bunch, scanning the crowd carefully with a poker face that will put a seasoned Texas Hold ‘Em player to shame. On a rare occasion, you’ll catch a charming smile or an encouraging wink. What’s most impressive about Dave is his ability to throw a pick in the air, catch it behind his back and continue to play like he never did a thing. I have been to many shows and have seen him do this multiple times for every show, and he never once drops the pick. This is the guy I need in the crowd next to me to help me catch a flying pick, because that ability fails me miserably. Maybe it’s just me that’s impressed by this, but it’s certainly entertaining.
- Hayley Cramer’s skin slamming
Hayley is the newest addition to Pop Evil’s line up, and she was welcomed by the Pop Evil clan with open arms. She is a sight to see play as she’s the only blonde in a group of dark haired gentleman, and she rivals Matt in her ability to toss her hair around while never missing a beat. She feeds off of the other members, her clear rapport with them making them a stronger group than before. She is a beast on the skins, her exuberance to be behind the drums showing through the sly smiles she shoots the crowd. She is a breath of fresh air for the band and an excellent change.
- The energy of the entire production
All of these guys (and gal) together make a show that brings you back to see them again with excitement. As I mentioned before, I am a 12 show veteran and a lot of those shows were within a few days of each other. They don’t lose any of their energy, whether they play at a large festival with 55k people or they play in a small town bar with 60 people. Their dedication to their craft is commendable and they want to show it to you.
Here’s a link to their Facebook Page to see their upcoming tour dates. If you haven’t heard any of their music before (what rock are you living under?) here’s a link to their Itunes to listen to all 4 albums you’ve been missing for the last 15 years.