Concert review: Beartooth w/ The Plot In You, Invent Animate, and Sleep Theory | 03.10.24, Pop’s (with photo gallery)

Photo of Beartooth by Erica Vining

I went to Mardi Gras once. It was my twenty-first birthday and the celebration just happened to fall over that weekend so it felt like my fated destiny to be in New Orleans as I rang in the final stage of becoming an adult. When someone asks me how it was, I usually respond with the same one liner about how I’m from rural Illinois and I’d never seen that many people in my life; many times through the weekend, my feet were not on the road as I was being carried along in the masses. I thought I’d never experience another crowd so tightly packed into one space again in my life…and then Sunday night at Pop’s happened.

Pop’s in Sauget is a legendary venue, the locals all know and love it and even the out-of-towners recognize the history and significance of the place. Therefore, I was not shocked when Ohio natives Beartooth announced a stop on their North American Tour 2024. I assumed it would be a sellout, but I was not prepared for the sheer amount of bodies in one closed location that I experienced this weekend. Breathing was a luxury, moving was out of the question. I arrived to the venue around half an hour before doors opened to a line spanning the entire parking lot and wrapping into the road behind the building. Supporters of the billed artists were tailgating and enjoying the weather while speakers played rock hits and members of the opening band Sleep Theory made their way through the line interacting with fans. I don’t have many “favorite” experiences involving waiting in long lines, but this afternoon was an enjoyable exception.

Those in attendance were quickly shuffled into Pop’s right at 5:30 with the ones who attended the pre-show VIPs already on the rail waiting for the show to begin. I made my way straight to the barricade near security and that is where I remained the majority of the night as moving around the venue became difficult. Many shows I attend follow a pattern of people trickling in through the supporting sets to see the headliner, but this bill was so stacked that a majority of ticketholders were on their feet and ready when the first opener of the night, Sleep Theory, made their way on stage. The band formed in Memphis is 2020 and has seen huge success in the last year, even securing the title of first hard-rock band to be chosen by SiriusXM as Artist Accelerators. They went on to sign with Epitaph records in the summer of 2023 and continue to release singles that are loved by listeners. The foursome offered a seven-song setlist complete with singles “Numb,” “Gone or Staying,” and the acclaimed “Another Way,” which hit half a million streams within two days of its release on TikTok. The band had ample crowd interaction, with vocalist Cullen Moore even doing a gender reveal on stage for a fan and dedicating a song to the child (it’s a girl!). They finish up this tour on the 14th before heading back out next month with Veil of Maya, Nothing More, and Wage War. Sleep Theory is also on the bill for Pointfest, so if you missed out on this set, make sure you snag tickets for May!

Texas metalcore band Invent Animate followed Sleep Theory, and I’ll be honest, what I expected from their outfits vs. what I got when they began performing were very different—and I loved every second of it. The quartet came out in sparkling crocheted and color-coordinated clothing, giving ethereal vibes before launching into “False Meridian” off their most recent studio album, Heavener. The intro of this song immediately reminded me of Sleep Token, but the vocals are much heavier overall. The breakdown near the end of the song had me putting my camera down briefly to appreciate the moment—instrumentally and vocally, Invent Animate is a talented bunch. Vocalist Marcus Vik wove emotional melodies into heavy grooves and breakdowns through the six-song set, creating a hypnotic yet chaotic scene. A brief intermission to joke about the pronunciation of Sauget and playing the smallest stage of the tour bled into the last few songs of their setlist. Invent Animate closed their set with arguably the heaviest song of the evening, “Immolation of Night,” which also had some of the most beautiful lyrics. “The only peace I have found is in the stillness […] I am enough.” You absolutely are enough, Invent Animate, and I can’t wait to see where the next year takes you.

The Plot in You followed Invent Animate, and I was as excited for this set as I was the headliner. Another Ohio-based foursome, The Plot in You has been on my playlist for years but I had not gotten the chance to catch them live. Blending metalcore and alt-rock, The Plot in You is a healthy mix of the first two sets of the night with aggressive screaming and heavy riffs but also more singing than we saw with Invent Animate. The set opened—literally—with a call from vocalist Landon Tewers calling for the crowd to split into a wall of death before launching into “Divide” off their January EP Vol. 1. The album also features one of my favorites, “Left Behind,” which was a treat to hear live midway through the set on Sunday. There were no shortage of crowd surfers through the set, with security working overtime to catch bodies before they hit the concrete. The band closed with “FEEL NOTHING,” an emotional ballad about heartbreak that really showcases drummer Michael Cooper’s talent with the powerful guitar riffs of Josh Childress complementing.

Beartooth went all out for their set, complete with golden confetti to match vocalist Caleb Shomo’s sunny personality and fog machines to blast me in the face and keep me nice and cool. STL native Gabriel Osborn (Arkangela) is out with Beartooth on this run and was kind enough to give me the rundown on when to expect said confetti and fog, but that didn’t stop me from standing directly in front of the CO2 detonation that accompanied the third song of the night, “Bad Listener.” Oh, the irony. I recovered from the blast just in time to have a full circle moment as Shomo launched into “The Better Me,” a single from their late 2023 album The Surface. If you happened to catch my interview with HARDY in late April, you may remember he gave us some top secret intel—he was teaming up with an Ohio-based group to do a single for their album. I spent days trying to figure out who he could be talking about before settling on Beartooth, and hearing said single live was such a cool experience!

Shomo has been vocal about mental health with many of his songs reflecting this, and we were treated to an intimate moment after “Hated” when he disappeared for a bit before reappearing on a second stage near the back of the venue for an acoustic set. Bassist Oshie Bichar, guitarist Zach Huston, and drummer Connor Denis distracted the crowd in the interim leaving everyone curious what shenanigans were brewing. After taking his perch in the crowd, Shomo gave testament to the power of healing and the journey to be the best version of yourself before shouting out his wife. He then treated fans to an acoustic “Mr. Brightside,” the beloved hit by The Killers, leading into “Look The Other Way” before making his way back to the main stage. “The Lines,” “Devastation,” and “Doubt Me,” followed with an impressive laser show complemented with more CO2. Beartooth rounded out the night with “Riptide” (featuring more golden confetti plumes) and “In Between.” I’m not one to stay up late on Sunday nights, but I would do it again and again for the show I got to experience this weekend. The tour finishes up Thursday in Fort Wayne, IN before the guys head overseas for a few dates in June, come back to the states for the summer, then head back to Europe in October for a full length tour. | Erica Vining

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