Thursday night, I took a trip to the set of Breaking Bad - er, I mean the dusty, dimly-lit streets of Lancaster, California to see Every Time I Die obliterate a middle school auditorium.

Okay, so maybe it wasn't quite a middle school auditorium, but it definitely looked like one. The show was at the Cedar Center, a music conservatory building with a tiny stage, hardly the type of venue I'm used to seeing bands of ETID's stature.

Part of the fun of the evening came from people-watching. The crowd that filed into the tiny room consisted of high school kids in disgustingly neon-colored Blood on the Dancefloor shirts (ugh), dudes in Iron Maiden shirts, random kids on Razor scooters (yes, REALLY), bros in shirts with huge X's on them, and the like. Basically, it looked like the misfit toys from Toy Story come to life.

Due to the strange atmosphere surrounding the show and the "venue", as soon as I entered the room I had a feeling the night would be eventful. The addition of silky smooth reggae jams pumping through the room's PA system before any bands started playing only heightened the surreality of the night.

First up was The Sparring, a "local" band who said they drove 2 hours for the show. They were energetic, with the lead singer and guitarist choosing to spend the set on the floor rather than the cramped stage area. It was at this point that the hardcore dancing began, much to my horror. I found myself practically hanging outside the door to stage right, dodging the flailing arms and legs that go along with windmill kicks and the other general violence that goes in in hardcore pits. If the kids got this riled up for the opening act, I thought, who knows what will happen later?

After some technical difficulties, Howl hit the stage with their brand of slow, draggy sludge metal. I was surprised when they started playing that type of music, as I had assumed they were a more straightforward metal band, but their shortened 20 minute set was filled with aggression and chunky riffs.

Trap Them was up next, and they packed on more aggression. Apparently they sounded like Converge, as two of my friends told me so. Their set was punctuated by more windmills, hardcore lunging and circle pit action, which I stayed far away from.

After a brief break between bands, Buffalo, New York's golden boys Every Time I Die showed up and went right into After One Quarter of a Revolution. By the time they started playing the first note, fists, feet, heads, assorted debris and bodies were flying from the stage onto the crowd and back up onto the stage and back off the stage and so on. This repeated for the whole set.

Despite the fact that they were playing in a multi-purpose room, ETID sounded great; the guitars were clear, vocalist Keith Buckley's voice was audible, and the drums crunched accordingly. They slammed through a set of songs from across their entire catalogue: After One Quarter of a Revolution, We'rewolf, Ebolarama, I've Been Gone a Long TimeNo Son of Mine, Bored Stiff, Wanderlust, Apocalypse Now and Then, Roman Holiday, The Marvelous Slut, Who Invited the Russian Soldier?, She's My Rushmore, The New Black, and set-closer Floater.

It was Keith's birthday, and before the last song Jordan Buckley, his brother (and guitarist) informed us that "all day, Keith's been telling us how he wants to crowd surf out the venue after the last song". Since the ruffians in the crowd wanted to make their hero happy, we let that happen, and after Floater ended (and there was a party going on onstage), Keith was hoisted onto the arms of the crowd and surfed out the door right next to where I was standing. He had a gigantic smile on his face as he made his way out there, another life goal accomplished.

It was truly one of the more unforgettable concert experiences I've ever had. The shady location, the eclectic crowd of hardcore enthusiasts, the violent "dancing" going on in the pit all night, ETID's great performance (also the first time I've seen them play a full, non-Warped Tour set) made it a blast.

I'm not really a fan of most hardcore music, but Every Time I Die is an exception. Keith Buckley's lyrics, great sense of humor and showmanship, Jordan Buckley and Andy Williams' metal-rific guitar chomp, Josh Newton's sure-handed bass play, and Ryan "Legs" Legler's precision behind the drum kit make them a stand out in a cluttered genre of mostly copycat bands (at least from what I've seen in my life).

Last night was a real treat, and I can only hope to attend a show like that again.

Here are more videos from the night (and sorry it's so dark/grainy, this place didn't have much in terms of lights):

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