Saturday night saw the usual scene at the Emerson: energetic youths executing violent windmills and flailing roundhouses to the tune of some heavy hardcore. The bands all played vigorous sets that sparked the energy of the kids in the audience, but The Contortionist, who played third, unquestionably stole the show, breaking the hardcore mold by stealing a few tricks from the metal canon.
Contortionist lead vocalist David Hoffman, who has only been with the band for six months, displayed an impressive ability to switch without warning from low to high screams mid-phrase. Full-bodied keyboards neatly surrounded heavy, gritty guitars. Those guitars occasionally cut loose, harmonizing solos that invoked the power metal authority of Iron Maiden. This band maintained high energy levels that matched their obvious talent, and they were a pleasure both to watch and to listen to.
Arm Us All opened the show with melodic intros that were soon followed by the thrashing guitar riffs, driving bass and unrefined shouting that characterize their sound. With bulging eyes and a throbbing jugular, Arm Us All lead vocalist Jake Morris made up for his lack of skill with stage presence. At the end of their set, he announced that this would be Arm Us All's last performance, but assured everyone that they would still stay involved with the Indianapolis music scene.
Opponents followed Arm Us All with a high-energy set complemented by a blaring light show that would have been an epileptic's nightmare. This band is not afraid to use highly discordant guitar ring-outs and screeching feedback to accentuate their chugging riffs. The highlight of Opponents is undoubtedly drummer Derreck Koffeman, who sweated out some unbelievably fast and accurate double bass. The band mixed up their second-wave hardcore sound with an Agnostic Front-esque punk anthem that got the crowd moving in a circle pit.
Following the Contortionist, the Cliques climbed on stage to perform a very solid set. This band follows the new hardcore trend of featuring a screaming vocalist working in mid to low tones backed by throbbing bass lines, smart tom fills on drums and guitars that mix clean, high ring-outs and low, distorted runs and palm mutes.
At the end of the night, headliners Massacre at Roanoke took the stage to shouts and cheers. They had been out of commission for over a year and decided to get back together and play a single reunion show before merging into what they announced would be their new band: We The Hunters. Despite their liveliness, they played a rather predictable metalcore set. Vocalist Joe Harris offered unintelligible mid-level screams that merged with the no-frills riffs, deep bass and pounding breakdowns. The songs inevitably slowed into melodic, minor key interludes accented by cymbal crashes that offered the audience a chance to save their energy until the band broke back into the higher tempos. To finish their set, Massacre at Roanoke introduced a few songs under their new name that were noisier and less formulaic.