Charlotte-based hardcore band, Hopesfall, reunited for two shows this weekend - opening Ziggy's new location in Winston-Salem Friday and then taking a final bow in its hometown Saturday at Amos'. The group consisted of four of five original members and bassist Pat Aldrich who joined early on. I never saw this early version of the band (I lived elsewhere during much of its run), but Saturday's farewell show made me wish I had.
What I do remember is hearing about Hopesfall, who formed in 1998, almost from the time they started playing venues. Its rare for a local band to make so much noise and draw so well while still so new. The band eventually took that buzz to a national and international level, touring the US and Europe and releasing a string of albums that were critically acclaimed for seamlessly balancing intricate arrangements, heaviness, and melody. That's what impressed me so much Saturday was the juxtaposition of aggressive, screaming vocals and shifting rhythms against this longingly beautiful wall of guitars.
The other thing that really hit me was that Hopesfall made this mature music so early in its career. The group played mostly material culled from its first two releases "The Frailty of Words" and "No Wings to Speak Of" with former bassist/guitarist Chad Waldrup joining in for a track off the next disc in its catalog, "The Satellite Years." The quality of the material explained why the band was so popular initially. It must have clicked from the start. That seems rare. Plenty of bands work years toward that combination of chemistry, writing/arranging, and stage presence.
It had been ten years since this lineup (which included guitarists Ryan Parrish and Joshua Brigham and drummer Adam Morgan) performed together, but they were completely animated. Aldrich could easily work the crowd into steady rhythmic claps (I've seen artists at the arena have trouble igniting such enthusiastic participation). Vocalist Doug Venable appeared to be running on adrenaline. The crowd, which included smiling friends shouting along at side stage, was just as intense.
It was bittersweet when the group launched into its telling last song "The End of an Era." There were smiles and warmth, but no plans to move forward. Its era ended long ago, but as Morgan summed up later: "This was the closure we needed."
Thanks to photographer Matthew Benham for the photos. I also took a shot of the setlist.