In six years, The Power of the Riff has earned some notoriety as a music festival full of raucous fun and more great bands than you can shake a stick at. This year, POTR took place at The Regent Theatre in Los Angeles and as always was curated by Greg Anderson and Sam James Velde. It usually spans two days, though I suppose this year it could’ve been called three days if you count the pre-show/party at The Complex with Deth Crux, Despise You, and Excel – a show which I still have a mural of bruises from attending.
If you are unfamiliar with POTR but enjoy being exposed to a menagerie of punk, metal, and hardcore bands all at once, then this is definitely your scene. While I was excited to see all the bands, there were most definitely some standout performances this year that I was grateful to catch – one of which was the band that kicked off the entire weekend, Crypt Rot.
I’ve said it before and I will say it again, if you have not given Crypt Rot a listen, do yourself a favor. They really got the ball rolling at POTR and to be honest I was bummed that more people hadn’t arrived yet to see them play. Even leaving aside my long-standing affinity for corpse paint, these guys (& gal) packed a fast, gritty set that really left me anticipating their new album, which is set to drop sometime early this year on Southern Lord Records.
Gag was another band that slammed into the crowd. In a flurry, singer Adam Barnes stomped across the stage like a feral animal, throwing his seemingly pent up rage at the crowd. Although Gag had thirty minutes to play, they finished in just over ten, like a tornado that arrives without warning and destroys everything in it’s path.
Bloodclot had the room buzzing a bit. This group, featuring members of Queens of the Stone Age, Agnostic Front, and Cro-Mags, played their first official show that night. They packed in the old New York hardcore vibe and energy but kept it fresh with catchy and somewhat melodic lyrics. They have their first album dropping this year on Metal Blade Records and based on how well they were received, I’m sure many people will be grabbing a copy.
The final two acts to close out Saturday were Incantation and Wolves in the Throne Room. Incantation was a blast to see live and the energy in the room went up threefold. Given their long history, albeit wracked with lineup changes, they continue to maintain their position as one of the most notorious death metal bands on the scene.
Wolves in the Throne Room continues to be one of my favorite live bands, not just because I deeply appreciate their music but because they provide a refreshing challenge to photograph. Bathed in cool blue light with fog swirling across the stage and into the crowd, WITTR provide a rich ambience, cloaked in layers that are dizzying to get lost in should you wish to. As particular about lighting and presentation as Neurosis, they delivered a carefully crafted set, starting off with “Queen of Borrowed Light” and taking the crowd on roughly an hour-long journey.
Sunday’s schedule had one less performance on the lineup to give ample setup time for Neurosis to get prepped, but that didn’t mean it was any less heavy-hitting. Sunday saw the triumphant return of Nails, which was definitely a crowd favorite, and nearly the whole room was engulfed in a circle pit. Guitarist Todd Jones said after expressing immense thanks to the crowd and all involved, “God never came into my life but Minor Threat & Slayer did.” It stuck with me since I have always felt the same way about music.
Closing out the weekend was Neurosis. I’m not sure what I can say about Neurosis that hasn’t been said before, to be honest, and words just don’t seem to do them justice. But I will say, their presence on stage is powerful. It’s both weighty and intimidating,since they are incredibly stoic and approach their music with a silent resolve. Even so, you can feel years of pain and anguish flooding through their music, and that’s what originally made me fall in love with their work.
Check out the full gallery of all the bands below! (click on the thumbnails to open gallery)
And a huge thank you to Greg and James for putting together yet another incredible event!
Pre-Party at The Complex w/ Excel
The Power of the Riff at The Regent