BEARTOOTH and WAGE WAR August 27, 2021, at The Fillmore in Minneapolis

I had just attended a different show less than a week ago- my first concert since the COVID-19 pandemic- and I was surprised at the lack of turnout. (There were probably only 200-300 people there). I thought it may have been due to Minnesotians not being comfortable gathering in numbers yet and deciding to play it safe.  Well, my theory was clearly proved wrong when I next attended Beartooth’s “Below Tour” last Friday evening at the Fillmore in Minneapolis. I was in utter amazement as I saw the line to get in the venue wrap around the parking ramp several times and noticed “sold-out show” signs on the door.  What a crazy night!

The first band to open the night was supposed to be Dragged Under.  However, they had to cancel the show as one of their band members had tested positive for COVID last week. I did want to take a moment to let our readers know that this band is worth checking out. They found success with their debut album, “The World Is In Your Way” last year while the band was still unsigned to a record label.  I had reviewed this album back then and was disappointed when I heard the band would not be playing.  I do wish them a speedy recovery and that they can get back on the tour soon.

Since Dragged Under was no longer a part of the night, the crowd inside the Fillmore was waiting with even more anticipation for the Florida band, Wage War, to hit the stage. I have been listening to these guys since they started back in 2015, and have always loved their music, but I came to respect them even more after seeing them live.  They opened with their 2017 single, “Stitch” and the crowd went wild.  This five-piece continued to rock the venue with their hits like “Who I Am,” “Prison,” and “Alive.”

Wage War will be releasing their fourth album, “Manic” on October 1st and wanted to get everyone excited about their newest material.  They played their first single, “High Horse,” off the upcoming album. This song is particularly heavy and Wage War frontman, Briton Bond, used the song’s aggression to make sure no one in the crowd was standing still.  Minneapolis was also chosen to be the city where the band’s latest single, “Circle the Drain” made its live debut.  

One of the highlights of Wage War’s set was hearing guitarist Cody Quistad do all the backing vocals.  Many musicians can perform in the studio- they are able to do multiple takes on difficult parts- but when you hear them live, they just can’t hit the notes or play their instruments with precision.  That is not the case with Quistad.  Not only did he sing the melodic parts beautifully (I never heard him miss a note) he also did it while playing guitar. He is truly the real deal.  The band closed their set with their hit, “Low.”  

Next up was the tour headliner, Beartooth.  Since their formation as a band in 2012, they have been rocking audiences with their high-energy shows and tonight was no exception.  They started their set with “Below,” the band’s title track to their latest album.  As drummer Conner Denis pounded the opening beat on his kick drum, the room soon flooded with purple lights, fog, and the intensity of good ol’ rock ‘n roll.  

Beartooth’s setlist did an excellent job spanning their entire discography.  In order to support their latest release, they leaned into playing songs from that album quite a bit- nearly half the songs they played were from Below such as “Dominate,” “Fed Up,” “Hell Of It,” and “Skin.”  Long-time fans of the band went wild when they played “Beaten In Lips,” “The Lines” and “Body Bag,” from their debut album, “Disgusting.”  Fan favorites, “Hated,” “Sick of Me,” and “You Never Know” were also played.  One of the most memorable moments for me was standing on the balcony toward the end of their set and watching the band perform “Bad Listener,” while a large circle pit formed in the center of the crowd, and people went completely berserk. The set ended with “In Between,” but that didn’t stop fans from screaming for more.  After a few minutes, the band once again appeased the crowd with “The Past Is Dead” and the heavy instrumental track, “The Last Riff.”

This was quite the concert.  As a photographer, this was a tough show to shoot.  The security knew how wild the crowd was and wouldn’t let us pace the whole width of the stage to get good shots. It was also shocking to see how comfortable people were to gather in such large numbers in close proximity when the effects of the pandemic are still looming in our society. However, the last year and a half have been tough on everybody- physically, mentally, and emotionally and most people are ready to find new normalcy.  For music lovers- hard rock fans in particular- Beartooth was the perfect band to break the prison doors of lockdowns and social distancing.  When the show ended, the merch booths were selling out, thousands of ears were ringing, and the heavy smell of sweat was in the air. It was a night no one will forget.