Night of a thousand riffs: Pop’s to feature a revue of local metal talent this Saturday

Sacrifice the Sacred, At My Worst, Ending Orion, The Doubted, & Nowhere But Down | 1.21.23, 7:00pm | Pop’s, 401 Monsanto Ave, Sauget, IL | $8-10 |All ages

This Saturday, Pop’s Nightclub will host a showcase of local metal acts representing an array of styles: metalcore (Sacrifice the Sacred, At My Worst), death metal (Ending Orion), and alternative metal (Nowhere But Down, The Doubted).

Local showcases are a regular fixture for Pop’s concert calendar, with the nightclub/concert venue usually hosting at least two per month. Ticket prices for these local-only nights are kept to a maximum of $10, and sales are split equally between Pop’s and the performers.

According to Chris Coleman, front of house engineer and local booking manager at Pop’s, these showcases provide a cost-effective means of both supporting St. Louis musicians and bringing customers to the venue, especially during winter months when national and international artists typically take a break from touring.

Although Saturday’s show will exclusively feature local metal bands, past showcases have included artists from a variety of rock genres; local hip-hop artists are also frequently included in Pop’s programming.

“I tend to try and pick bands with similar genres, so that they can hopefully network, talk, and create some kind of connection that will keep them playing together and help them out down the road,” said Coleman.

Coleman has booked three of the bands performing on Saturday at previous local showcases (Sacrifice the Sacred, At My Worst, and The Doubted); it will be the first time Ending Orion and Nowhere But Down have performed at one of Coleman’s showcases. Many local bands consider Pop’s to be the best venue in the city to play, citing its commitment to advertising and promoting the local showcases, as well as the venue’s excellent sound and light engineering team.

Sacrifice the Sacred

Sacrifice the Sacred was formed in Collinsville, IL, in 2021. They describe their music as “progressive metalcore with hardcore and deathcore influences,” counting bands like August Burns Red and Lorna Shore among their inspirations. The band currently consists of vocalist Kurtis Mraz, drummer Jack Tripi, guitarists Joey Ramsey and Esteban Daniel, and bassist Mitchell Bailey. The band currently has two EPs, Re:Birth and Re:Origin, both of which are available for streaming. They recently released a new single, “The Price of Beauty”, which they are currently filming a music video for.

This will be their second time performing at a Pop’s local showcase. Other regional venues they have played at include Red Fish, Blue Fish in St. Charles, the Conservatory in Alton, IL, and the Sinkhole on South Broadway. Notably, they opened for California deathcore band Impending Doom at Red Flag in July of last year.

“We would describe the St. Louis [hardcore/metal] scene as inclusive and continuously progressing,” vocalist Kurtis Mraz told us. “We have all been part of the scene as concertgoers and fans for almost our whole lives. We first began playing live in early 2022 and were welcomed with open arms. There are so many talented artists here, and the scene will only continue to grow.”

At My Worst, live at Red Flag. Photos by Colin Williams and Erica Vining.

At My Worst is vocalist Devin Hayes, guitarist Jared Boyer, bassist Darren Pinson, and drummer Eric Johnson. The band describes their music as “some kind of -core”, taking influence from bands like Avenged Sevenfold, Atreyu, and Lamb of God. They released their debut full-length album, Vice Versa, in August 2022. They recently played at Red Flag on January 6th; you can read our writer Erica Vining’s glowing review of their performance here. Check out our profile of At My Worst and local thrash metal band Warheadd for more information about the band.

Ending Orion

Death metal band Ending Orion was conceived by guitarist Mike Kettlehake and drummer Ian Wanstall in 2011, who are both based in Overland, MO. The current lineup has expanded to include guitarist Logan Fields and vocalists Tylor Nye (who is Kettlehake’s stepson) and Taylor Bisping (who is Kettlehake’s daughter). The band’s lineup is notable not only for including two vocalists, but also for the lack of a bassist, which is relatively uncommon in death metal.

The band describes their music as technical/progressive death metal with an emphasis on melody and atmosphere. Their name brings to mind the cosmic imagery used by iconic progressive death metal bands like Atheist and Cynic, and they cite hyper-technical bands like Black Dahlia Murder, The Faceless, and Fallujah among their influences (Ending Orion opened for Fallujah at Red Flag in June 2022).

The band currently has four singles available on multiple platforms, with their most recent single “In Theory” available on Spotify (they are planning on re-releasing their debut single, “You Never Knew”, on streaming later this week).

“The broad metal scene [in St. Louis] is very much alive because of all the variety of awesome venues around town… DIY basement shows, dive bars, all the way up to large venues,” said drummer Ian Wanstall. “It definitely makes networking a breeze.”

The Doubted

The Doubted hail from Cape Girardeau, MO. The band was formed by high school friends George Kester (guitarist), Josh Morse (vocalist), and Jordan Stone (drummer) in 2016. The band relocated to Los Angeles, CA, in 2018, while Kester was enrolled at the Musicians Institute of Los Angeles. They later recruited guitarist Chris Melvin of Beaver, UT, who Kester met during his studies.

The band began playing its first live shows while residing in Los Angeles, most notably the iconic Hollywood venue Whisky a Go Go. They later returned to Missouri in 2020, and have played at venues throughout the Midwest since (Hi-Tone Cafe in Memphis, TN, Magnolia Bar in Louisville, KY, Forum Fifty Fifty in Poplar Bluff, MO). This Saturday will be their second time performing at a Pop’s local showcase.

“Our favorite spot to play is definitely Pop’s,” the band told us. “Chris Coleman is an amazing sound engineer and even better friend. Always taking care of us and making sure everyone sounds the best they possibly can.”

The band describes their sound as “somewhere in the metalcore spectrum,” citing influences like Avenged Sevenfold, Periphery, and Veil of Maya. The band released their debut album Surfacing in December 2020, which is available on streaming.

“The St. Louis metal scene is a whole lot of fun,” said the band. “It’s made up of incredible people and we are honored to be a part of it. We love every time we share the stage with our homies in This Is Me Breathing, Unknown and Sailing, At My Worst, Sacrifice The Sacred, and more.”

Nowhere But Down

Nowhere But Down was formed in 2019 by guitarist Mycle Steyen and bassist Jaysin Wood; they are currently joined by drummer Dustyn Hart. They take major inspiration from the great alternative rock and metal bands of the ‘90s, describing their sound as “if Melvins, Tool, Nirvana, and Helmet had a love child.”

The band has four singles available for streaming and are currently working on their first full-length album. They recently played at South City bar CBGB. In addition to working on their album, they hope to play shows at more local venues in the upcoming year, including the Duck Room and Delmar Hall.

“St. Louis has an amazing music scene. It is a mecca of culture with talent literally exploding everywhere you turn,” the band told us.

All performances at local showcases are held on the main stage at Pop’s, with each band playing a 30-minute set. The venue’s balcony seating is usually closed due to the lower-than-average turnout, but the rest of Pop’s will be accessible for all attendees, including the main floor and patios. Advance tickets can be purchased directly from Pop’s, via Ticketweb, or from the artists themselves. Check out our Spotify playlist for the showcase below, which collects all material from the bands currently available for streaming. | David Von Nordheim

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