Concert Review: The Sounds of Animals Fighting w/ Concrete Castles & Hail the Sun | 01.16.23, Red Flag (with photo gallery)

Doors opened at 6:30pm, and I made my way into Red Flag to see one of my bucket list bands, The Sound of Animals Fighting (TSoAF). I love it here. It’s intimate but can hold 1,000 concert-goers; tonight, it’s full but not sold out. One of the musicians on this tour described it as “The kinda place where a Rambo movie begins” on their Instagram story. (Go watch First Blood if you want to catch the reference!) The DJ on this tour, Wstdyth, is on stage playing the most eclectic set I’ve ever heard, fitting for the bill.

Tonight, the upper level of Red Flag was reserved for attendees that purchased a VIP ticket that included a photo with TSoAF, Q&A session, and more. Since I was photographing the show, I got to experience the concert from literally every angle, spending the first three songs of each set in the photo pit, then moving upstairs to get a different perspective, and then finally making my way to the crowd to enjoy the show and snap a few more.

The DJ starts to fade and out comes Concrete Castles, an energetic three-piece everyone instantly starts vibing with. Based on their merch lines after the show, they either already had a great following here or they won the support of a lot of new listeners. Vocalist Audra Miller has a dynamic voice that doesn’t falter as she dances across the stage exchanging sides with guitarist, Matthew Yost. Every song has a catchy hook and danceable beat, courtesy of drummer Sam Gilman. Listen to “Wish I Missed You,” “You Won’t See Me Again,” and “Lucky.”

Another DJ set by Wstdyth is enjoyed as the frantic breakdown and setup begins. The lights dim and Hail the Sun takes the stage and doesn’t hold back. Frontman Donovan Melero has a massive vocal range and even bigger stage presence. This post-hardcore band hits a lot of different notes—screamo, progressive rock, and math rock. It gets the crowd going and we see our first mosh pits of the evening. Smooth rhythm and big riffs from the guitarists, Aric Garcia and Shane Gann, take your ears on a literal journey through a song. Melero is the band’s drummer and pulls double duty later in the set, but they have brought out producer Ahh-Ceh to play this run with them. We cannot forget bassist John Stirrat, hailing a fluorescent orange bass guitar; his lines fill the space between and gives Hail the Sun the warmth in their sound. Listen to “Human Target Practice,” “Rolling Out the Red Carpet,” and “Made Your Mark.”

Atmospheric synths begin to play as Matthew Kraig Kelly (The Autumns), Matthew Embree (Rx Bandits), and Keith Goodwin (Good Old War) take the stage at Red Flag and entrance the audience with the first song of TSoAF’s set, “Wolf.” With four vocalists that rotate and share the stage throughout the night, Anthony Green (Circa Survive, Saosin, LS Dunes) makes his debut of the evening with their latest heavy hitting track, “Apeshit.” Wielding a single bulb light in one hand and a mic in the other, Green is accompanied by Embree and Steve Choi (Rx Bandits) on guitar, Jonathan Hischke on bass, Chris Tsagakis on drums, and Rich Balling (Hospital Gown) on vocals. Green looks content and mentions many times throughout the set how surprised he is at the energy in the room. He’s delivering his signature vocals that solidified his spot in the scene over 20 years ago, but with a grit that only comes from a lifetime of overcoming personal adversity and fighting to do what he loves. As a longtime fan, it warms my heart and many of us in the room feel the same.

Not missing a beat, the crowd didn’t stop moving as TSoAF jumped into “I, The Swan,” “Chasing Suns,” and “All is Ash or the Light Shining Through It” before sauntering into “This Heat,” “My Horse Must Lose,” and “Another Leather Lung.” The connection each of these incredibly talented musicians share is palpable and reaches into the crowd, drawing us in. It’s an undeniable chemistry that most supergroups lack.

This band has no rules, it’s a playground for expression. At many points, Balling reads excerpts from an old Peter Pan book, while another vocalist is singing. Every detail of this show is part of a larger well-constructed concept for a truly unique concert-going experience. The show continues on with two more songs from their 2008 release, The Ocean and The Sun, before Kelly hauntingly delivers vocals on “The Heretic.” The crowd is fully engaged and couples can even be seen hugging and swaying together in this emotional display from TSoAF.

At this point, all eight touring members of the band are on stage for the final two songs of the set, “Modulate Back to the Tonic” and “You Don’t Need a Witness.” These songs are part of their popular 2007 release, Tiger and The Duke. Nostalgia is felt throughout the crowd, but it’s timeless in delivery. We’re treated to an encore of two songs off of their debut album Lover, The Lord Has Left Us, “Skullflower” and “Stockhausen,” and finally, “Sharon Tate, Despite Everything.” The last song of the evening is off of their 2023 release, Apeshit, which further solidifies TSoAF’a ability to transcend time through sound since their 2006 debut.

I would be remiss to not mention American rapper/producer/electronic pop artist, Kitty, who was joining the tour in St. Louis. The night before the show, their vehicle was broken into and their gear was gone. Sadly, the organized theft of touring musicians’ equipment has been an issue plaguing the St. Louis music community for over a decade. Although van break-ins are not unique to St. Louis, some artists have stated that they avoid bringing tours to the city. When Kitty posted about the incident on various social media platforms, there was a general consensus in the comments: “Of course it was St. Louis.” With Kitty being an influential figure with a large online following, it seems possible that this incident could depress further interest from national artists who were already skeptical about touring here. | Holly Kite

Check out a playlist of the songs mentioned throughout this article.

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