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Crafting an new album can be a challenge for some bands. Writing, constructing, and recording are all entire processes in and of themselves. Some bands can write a new album every year to bring new music to the masses. Other bands like to take a bit more time to fine tune every aspect of the album to make sure every song is crafter to the perfect degree. Though this makes the fans wait even longer for new music from their favorite bands, when the album is finally released, we could not be more excited! After six years, Nothing More finally put out their newest album since 2017 called Spirits, and to accompany it went on their Spirits Tour 2023. Bringing with them Crown the Empire and Thousand Below. It was time to enter the doors of the Belasco Theatre to prove we really want it.

Opening the Spirits Tour was a California native post-hardcore band called Thousand Below. Thousand Below got the night of hard rock started the right way opening their set with the song “Hell Finds You Everywhere.” Drummer Max Santoro kicked off the song with a grooving tom fill that built the energy of the song and crowd.  Lead Singer James Deberg came in with a perfectly balance layer of screamed/melodic vocals that you can just hear the passion in his voice. Guitarist Josh Thomas was the riff master of the night on his axe, while providing backing vocals that helped elevate Debergs. Bassist Josh Billimoria brought the physical energy into his performance along with his bass lines. It’s always great when an opening band connects with the audience, and Thousand Below did just that, as patrons across the Belasco Theatre could be seen head banging to songs like “Chemical,” “No Place Like You,” “Venenosa,” “Silent Season,” “Sabotage,” and ending their set with “Sinking Me.” By the time Thousand Below finished their set and transition music started playing over the speakers, the audience got a taste of live music they love and couldn’t wait for the rest of the bands this night.

Up next was Crown the Empire who just released their fifth studio album Dogma. Ready to bring their new music to the fans in the Belasco, they kicked off their set with the title track “DOGMA.” Before the notes of the opening track could even be played, the crowd could be heard screaming for lead singer Andy Leo Rockhold. As the track started Andy stepped onto stage wearing a floor length fur coat, ready to get the crowd moving. Andy celebrated his birthday a couple days prior to the show, and a fan bought a beer for the birthday boy, who proceeded to drink and spill the beer all over the stage. The fans screamed in excitement as they launched into their second track “The Fallout.” Guitarist Brandon Hoover not only brings some of the heaviest riffs of the night but would routinely douse himself in water between songs and then splashed the front row as he whipped his hair like we were at SeaWorld. Bassist Hayden Tree was grooving all night on his instrument while providing the melodic harmonies to backup Andy. Drummer Jeeves Avalos was rocking out shirtless in the back slamming on his cymbals. Crown the Empire got the fans so excited that they started crowd surfing to come over the barricade during their favorite songs like “Black Sheep,” “BLURRY (Out of Place),” “What I Am,” “Immortalize,” “Machines,” “In Another Life,” and ending the set with “Dancing with the Dead.”

Finally, it was time for Nothing More, and I could not be more excited personally. It’s been a couple years since I’ve seen Nothing More on a headlining tour, and I was ready for a full set of music to lose myself in. Starting off the night with the title track “Spirits” off the newest album, the song starts with a very soft intro that builds the excitement of the power that is about to come. As soon as the verse kicks in and vocalist Jonny Hawkins lets out his noticeable scream, the lights kick up and the Belasco Theatre is bouncing. Hawkins is one of the most consistently energetic front men I continue to see live. He is an unhinged madman running across the stage shirtless and shoeless the entire set, making the crowd feels the lyrics not just hears them. Bassist Daniel Oliver and Drummer Ben Anderson are a dynamic duo who craft melodic yet powerful rhythms to the songs. The bass line holds the rhythmic flow of the song, while the drums pack the power that can’t stop someone from rocking out. Guitarist Mark Vollelunga is just the icing on top of the Nothing More cake as he drives the songs with his guitar riffs that enhance Hawkin’s already roaring vocals. Nothing More creates an arena’s amount of energy by playing bangers like “Do You Really Want It?” “Tired of Winning,” “Ships in the Night,” “Jenny,” “Let ‘em Burn,” “Go to War,” “Turn It Up Like (Stand in the Fire).” and “Don’t Stop.” But the band also knows how to slow down the pace while keeping the crowd engaged. Some of the softer songs played that night included “Best Times,” “I’ll Be Ok,” and “Fadein/Fadeout.”  Ending their night with “This is the Time (Ballast),” every member jumped on their own drumhead to create a four way drum outro that left the fans crying for more even though this was the end.

As the echoes of music started to fade coming out of the loudspeakers, the fans adrenaline was still on high. People were not ready to leave as they screamed for more music; the security had to start clearing people out of the venue. As we all made our way out of the venue: out of breath from singing all night light, covered in sweat from moshing and headbanging the entire show, every fan had a smile on their face from how much all these bands mean to us. You could tell that Nothing More, Crown the Empire, and Thousand Below all hold a special place in each of our musical hearts, and seeing them live let our musical passion flow freely.


Matt Martinez

Editor - Orange County

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