Sokol Auditorium is a gracious venue with a large stage and two stories of space to host a sellout crowd. Embellished with shiny wood floors and gold furnishings, it’s a perfect place for an extravagant event. It’s what lies in the underbelly of Sokol Auditorium that gives way to seedy characters and restless dreams. Sokol Underground is where our scene takes place. The dark, concrete filled space housing 300+ seedy characters there to see a rock show meant to remember.
Our opening act started with Bad Seed Rising. A band that ushers in our storyline with rising fame, they don’t fail to take your breath away. Francheska Pastor bounced around the stage with zero fucks to give, letting the hard hitting music of her band mates drive home her point. The abandon in which this band plays gives you a reason to relax your shoulders, trust the plot and follow the leader. I wanted to follow her lead as she dove happily into the crowd and surfed her way to the end of their chapter. Or at least, part of the way there, as this trooper was dropped unceremoniously onto the concrete floor. Ever the heroine, Francheska popped back up and strode off with confidence. Kudos, girl.
We come to our second act with careful steps, feeling the loom of danger nearby. Hotel Books appeared on stage with gentle faces and a quiet demeanor. Cam Smith began his front man duties like a jester at court. He reminded me of the jester described in Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, Feste, who was “wise enough to play the fool.” Only, there’s nothing foolish about this jester. While funny and entertaining between songs, he spoke only the truth and from the heart with his music. He told stories of heartbreak, loss and abuse. One song in particular, “Broken Love,” gripped me so tight I lost my breath. Tears sprung to my eyes. Then fell down my face. I didn’t care that I was losing my shit right in the front row. It was the first time I have ever felt such a strong, almost terrifying, emotional reaction at a show. As a self-proclaimed emocore band, I definitely give a bravo to their deep performance.
We have now reached our third act in our four act play. Sleepwave brought an effervescence to our crescendo. This act reminded me of two bands I dearly appreciate: Red Sun Rising and Screaming for Silence. If only for showmanship. Spencer Chamberlain commanded the stage with brutal force, a puppeteer to his fans. The rest of the band was woven cleverly into his wild antics. Among my favorites was “Paper Planes” that sparked a rowdy energy into the crowd. Bodies pressed closer. Arms rose in the air. Cheers escaped parted lips. New fans were made that night as they stared up in wonder at the dramatic rise of the set. Sleepwave guided us seamlessly into our Finale.
Nothing can prepare you for the blindsided ending. I got a rapid pulse when I neared the end of the story, in fear and excitement for how this will finally go down. Will I laugh? Will I cry? Will I be emotionally satisfied and find closure? I held my breath as Eric Vanlerberghe and Brian Burkheiser appeared on stage first. With an air of excited confidence surrounding both of them, my anxiety ebbed away and I found myself grinning. This was a finale to remember. They plugged in the lights to the Christmas tree on stage and suddenly the entire house was brought down by the challenging anthem of “Come and Get It.” You wouldn’t find anyone happier to be in that room than I Prevail. Ever the genuine group, they focused their attention solely on their fans. I’ve never seen a band interact so much with their people and immerse themselves in the energy of the group. A mosh pit formed the second “Come and Get It” started to play, and continued that way until the crowd slammed into each other with the wall of death on the encore song “Scars.” I Prevail ate it up, their enthusiasm pouring from every riff, every hook, every lyric. They didn’t fail to play every single song everyone wanted to hear. My personal favorite, “Lifelines” gave me a euphoric and cathartic feeling hearing it live. I felt full and happy in that exact moment. I was where I needed to be. I was where I belonged. “My Heart I Surrender” dragged me into the protected realm of my heart, “Alone” locked me in the cave within and “Crossroads” turned the key to my freedom. I found myself on a roller coaster of emotion, sweaty from the exertion and the exhilarating twists and turns. This is what finales are made of. I left there with renewed vigor and awe.
Find the “Rebels without a Clause” tour in your city. You’ll be pleased to find a playbill with four surprising acts. Shakespeare need not apply.