Concert review: Pointfest 2024 feat. Bad Omens, Wage War, and more | 05.18.24, Hollywood Casino Amphitheatre (with photo gallery)

Photo of Stephen Kluesener of Wage War by Erica Vining

To Whom It Concerns:

Consider this an open letter to Pointfest. You angered some of your long-term fans this year, and I loved every second of it.

Let’s take it back to the beginning, Hilary Duff-style. If you understood that reference, you were probably alive for the first Pointfest all the way back in 1993. Thirty years later, the festival has seen a consistent theme annually in their headliners: the acts that were new and exciting have become repeat offenders and steadily aged into the “Dad Rock” genre. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love the nostalgia of these older rock bands, but this has certainly alienated some of the newer generations who have longed for more modern and up and coming acts on the main stage. The lineup for 2023 tested the waters with acts like Bad Omens and Badflower, but we still saw headliners from the ’90s. Incubus and Coheed and Cambria were my middle school loves, but my daughters had never heard of either and they certainly aren’t trending on TikTok right now. Papa Roach, Shinedown, Shinedown again, LIVE, Seether, Alice in Chains, Korn, Deftones, Chevelle…these are your headliners and support the last decade. I say this with love, these are some seriously good bands and I would gladly see every single one of them in concert today, but they’re not necessarily inspiring overwhelming excitement because, frankly, we’ve all seen them before—many of them several times.

This year was different. This year we had a main stage packed with sexy, new age rock. Every band on the headliner bill was formed in the new millennium, with the headliner remaining a trending topic on social media for well over a year now despite being one of the newest bands on the bill. This year was not sold out, but I hope that doesn’t discourage those in charge from sticking with some new age stuff for next year, as the audience this year was excited and energetic, and honestly it made for a really pleasant experience despite the heat.

My day started around 1:30 with The Doubted on the Point White stage. Missouri natives, the foursome played to a surprisingly large crowd for that early in the day. The band wasn’t handed their spot on the lineup this year, they won it through The Road to Pointfest held annually at Pop’s in Sauget. I am not sure what genre the band identifies as, but I would consider them decidedly nu-metal, with a heavy foundation supported by rap and almost jazz elements at times. Check out their newest song, “This Is the End,” to get a great feel of this. The Doubted were only given around 20 minutes for their set, so there was little time for talk, but they made sure to include the crowd at every point they could.

After The Doubted I walked about 5 feet to the Point Black stage for St. Louis’ own Inimical Drive (ID). I need you to stop what you are doing right now and say that five times as fast as you can. Every time I mention this band I have to make a conscious effort to pronounce in-im-ical correctly—and, honestly, it’s genius marketing. You may forget some of the bands that day, but you’ll remember the one with the tongue twister of a name! ID was a band I was introduced to last year and remembered I really enjoyed their set. Pointfest was fresh off the release of their newest single, “Victim,” which dropped late last week. “Victim” opens with a vibe of Motionless in White, but I don’t see many similarities beyond the opening verses. Vocalist Joel Colby has an almost hazy quality to his voice which resembles AJ Channer of Fire from the Gods, who I adore. ID played through six songs, including their new release, and I stayed for the entire set not because I needed to, but because they were just that enjoyable on stage. Watching bands who are obviously enjoying themselves on stage is such a treat, and I hope we get to see them again next year!

I took a quick break from the sun after ID because it was miserable by this point, scorching all the brave concertgoers refusing to leave their coveted places in the pit. I seriously considered extending my break but ultimately opted to catch Oxymorrons and I was thankful I did. In terms of chaotic energy, this was probably the most fun set of the day. I was familiar with the band from prior festivals, but this was my first time catching a full set. Co-vocalists Dave Bellevue and Ashmy Bellevue came on stage wearing hilarious garb, with Dave sporting a spiked vibrant blue balaclava with his brother sporting a bunny costume holding a box of Trix cereal. Oxymorrons is a band without a genre. I cannot identify any one prevailing element that makes them rock, or nu-metal, or rap. They blend so many elements of music that they really can only be described as experimental. Each show is a performance of theatrical interaction and musical talent. The band played through nine songs, including their single “Look Alive” off their album Melanin Punk released late last year.

New Years Day followed Oxymorrons and I was excited to cover this set. Vocalist Ash Costello and I had a *moment* several years ago where we locked eyes at a state fair after their set as she snuck off for what I’m guessing was a funnel cake and one of those delicious fair gyros, and I’ve loved the band since. Costello is memorable with her signature split hair dye, vibrant red on one side and black on the other. I can imagine washing her hair is an art in itself as impressive as her vocals! The band has seen a wide range of members, with a current lineup of Costello with Nikki Misery on guitar, Brandon Wolfe on bass, Jeremy Valentyne with rhythm guitar, and Tommy Rockoff on drums. Misery, specifically, is a standout in the band as he has played every instrument including drums at some point in the band. New Years Day is an aesthetically pleasing band, with each member looking like they were plucked from Myspace at its peak scene era circa early 2000s. They played through hits including “Shut Up” and “Hurts Like Hell” while encouraging surfers and engaging with their crowd. Their live vocals were great, and their energy remained high despite melting under the sun in their all black outfits.

Sleep Theory was the last band on the side stages for the day, and I knew what to expect of their set because we recently covered them with Beartooth, catch that review here if you missed it. Sleep Theory rose on the charts rapidly after joining forces with SXM Octane as an “Accelerator,” and they frequent satellite radio with an impressive number of chart-reaching singles. Sleep Theory is a band that I personally prefer live, their recorded tracks often feature a noticeable amount of mixing and distortion where their live sets display singer Cullen Moore’s talent with raw vocals. Sleep Theory treated their crowd to hits like “Numb” and “Gone or Staying,” but also a fun cover of NSYNC’s “Bye Bye Bye,” which always gets a crowd going.

We headed to the main stage after Sleep Theory for the band I was most excited to cover that day: Avatar. If you have not gotten the chance to see Avatar live, I need you to immediately go find their next show, buy a ticket, and get yourself a flight because they are a joy to see live. Coming all the way from Sweden, Avatar is a metal circus show of theatrical prowess, with their music and performance intertwining into a spectacular show that was an absolute joy to photograph. Vivid make-up is accented by props saturated with color that make it impossible to look away. The show opened with a pleasantly plump shirtless individual wearing a leather balaclava carrying out a giant yellow gift box tied with a big red bow. He promptly sits this down on a metal cage, only for vocalist Johannes Eckerstrom to pop out holding his big red balloon. His band joins him as they launch into “Dance Devil Dance,” the title track of their most recent album. I’ve always considered the band more thrash metal, but it is difficult to categorize them as they are another band with such a varied genre. Eckerstrom engages in antics through the set such as drinking from a gas can, and there are frequent riffs featuring the entire band head banging their long locks in a synchronized swirl. It was easy to put my camera down after the first three of this set and just enjoy the artistry on stage.

grandson followed Avatar with his unique vocals that set him apart from many other modern acts. Vocalist Jordan Benjamin is known for his politically motivated tracks, and there was no shortage of politics during the set. The band experienced a few technical issues through the show, but this offered only a brief slow down before they were back in action. A backdrop featuring President Biden and former President Trump kissing was in stark contrast with his statement early in his set that he didn’t want that night to be about politics but rather about enjoying good music with fellow fans. Benjamin went on through the set to declare “Fuck the police, especially those ten miles away in Ferguson” as well as apologize to the women of the state of Missouri for the recent reproductive rights battles. He also made sure to shout out to the Free Gaza movement during his set. I really enjoy the music and I think Benjamin offers a unique style that sets him apart, and I admire his dedication to using his platform to be vocal about his personal beliefs. Doing so at a festival, though, really sets one up for pushback as the crowd has not purchased tickets specifically for your show knowing your beliefs, but rather to a day full of music. I was pleasantly surprised, however, that there were not many “boos” or walk outs during the set. grandson did not approve our publication for photo, but we have previously covered his headline show which you can see here if you’re interested.

Wage War was last up before the headliner of the night, and the brutal sun was finally setting giving us reprieve after a long, hot day. Pointfest was a special night for the band and the crowd in attendance as we were treated to a live debut of their new single “TOMBSTONE.” Wage War is a band that commands attention with their heavy tracks, and the light show we were treated to was an added bonus. Beautiful well-placed lasers accented each song in the right places, and made for some stunning photo opportunities. The band opened with “Stitch” off their 2017 album Deadweight. “Stitch” is a heavy song with several breakdowns that had the crowd forming circle pits within the first few minutes. The set list wove from heavy to softer and back through the set, with “Godspeed” and “MAGNETIC” slowing things down a bit mid-set before diving into “The River,” which is an ode to metal. They finished the night with “Circle The Drain” and “Manic,” which both received a considerable amount of radio airtime when they debuted.

Bad Omens returned to Maryland Heights for consecutive years, this year headlining the festival they were support for in 2023. With a rapidly amassed cult following, if you listen to modern rock radio at all you are familiar with Omens. Vocalist Noah Sebastian opened the set with “ARTIFICIAL SUICIDE” to a screaming crowd. I will forever be impressed by a full amphitheater of people singing every word to a heavy metal song. It’s easy to memorize the softer parts or choruses, but “ARTIFICIAL SUICIDE” is screaming from start to finish. The band certainly has the entertainment side of their show down, with confetti cannons and fog machines to accentuate their light show—it’s easy to see why their shows sell out in seconds sometimes. The set list was extensive with old and new songs, and it was my first time seeing “V.A.N” live, which was a treat. “V.A.N” was released early this year and is sung by Poppy with Bad Omens offering the instrumentals. Drummer Nick Folio is the most impressive part of this song, with blast beats that I can’t make my brain understand. The speed at which Folio drums is an art, and seeing it live was a delight. Bad Omens also played their newest single “THE DRAIN” off their upcoming album, CONCRETE JUNGLE. They closed the night with “Dethrone” off their 2019 album Finding God Before God Finds Me and swiftly exited the stage without a farewell to the crowd. | Erica Vining

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