Visible Sin: Live and Loud

Show Review: HELLYEAH at Juanita’s (8.13.15)

    Body Heat, Barricades, and the Bad Fan


Hellyeah sold out Juanita’s in Little Rock.
I discovered that history really does like to repeat itself. When I wrote the show preview, I mentioned that the small barricade set up at the 2012 Rev Room show collapsed during the set, due to the pushing and surging of the crowd; everyone trying to get just a little bit closer to the band. So when I walked into Juanita’s, I was ecstatic to see a large metal barricade set up in front of the stage.

Juanita’s doesn’t always have those in place. I personally loved it because it meant there was a small bit of room for a photo pit so we could move around a bit and not be stuck in the same spot (openers and all) for the whole show. This was wonderful for the first two bands. Things got a little crazy during Hellyeah. I’ll get back to that…

Hellyeah at Juanita's Hellyeah at Juanita'sHellyeah at Juanita's

The show started promptly at 8pm, when California band Archer took the stage and completely took control of it. Their energetic, aggressive thrash metal definitely set the tone for the night. Archer consists of singer/guitarist Dylan Rose, bassist David deSilva, and drummer Kehan Moini. Their set was mostly their original work, which provided ample opportunity for each member to show off their technical chops. They even threw in a cover of Megadeth‘s “Tornado of Souls” for good measure. The crowd ate it up. This was my first experience with the Bay Area rockers, and I can honestly say I was very impressed. The sold out crowd at Juanita’s seemed to agree; their set ended with roaring applause and cheers from the room.


The Arizona female-fronted hardcore band Eyes Set to Kill was next. There was a bit of technical difficulty from the onset; during the quick line check before the start of the set, the strap locks on singer Alexia Rodriguez‘s guitar gave way in a rather non-discrete fashion. Oops. Once that speed bump was cleared, the band went on to charge through their set, which I completely find myself unable to remember. Nothing was bad; it was just unmemorable.

Eyes Set to Kill
Eyes Set to Kill

Note: Memphis band Devour the Day was scheduled to perform this show, but previous obligations left them unable to attend.

That meant one last band geared up to take the stage. The crowd was more than ready; as the techs uncovered former Pantera drummer Vinnie Paul‘s massive kit, the crowd let out a roar of approval. I found myself again thankful that Juanita’s had set up the big barricade for the show.

The lights went down, and Hellyeah took the stage. Having shot the band several times previously, I’ve always found it somewhat difficult to get good shots of the band. Vinnie Paul‘s drumset is so high up on the riser, the only time I can ever see him is when he stands up and admires the crowd. Singer Chad Gray, formerly of Mudvayne, is also a challenge, due to the ever-present red/magenta stage lighting, plus Chad‘s fondness for stage theatrics — namely, covering his face in fake red blood. A three-song (standard) shooting limit means you try for the best while you’re there. I didn’t have much luck when I shot their Verizon Arena stop last October, with Five Finger Death Punch, so I decided to get a bit closer to Chad this time, in hopes of getting better photos. The crowd wanted to get closer to Chad, too. They surged forward as he knelt at the front of the stage, causing that massive barricade to start closing in on those of us in the pit. Another photographer friend later posted a short clip of a video she shot while she was behind me. I saw that it was taken while I was dealing with the barricade issue the only way I knew how; I was totally off the ground, both feet on the lower rail, pushing it back as much as I could, while leaning against the stage monitor and continuing to shoot. I’m not a quitter! …My stubborn is stubborn. After our songs, I went back to the pit entrance, by the rail and the wall, where I’d been standing for the other parts of the show. Safe! …For the time being.

Hellyeah‘s set was on point all night; the band has a fantastic stage presence. Chad Gray‘s on-stage charisma and almost childlike enthusiasm is a huge part of this; he just seems genuinely happy to be there. At one point of the show, he specifically mentioned that he needed us (the audience) probably more than we needed him. I believed his complete sincerity when he thanked everyone for showing up, and for something else he said that really moved me during the course of the show. As an introduction to their single, “Hush,” Chad spoke of the song’s backstory, regarding his experiences growing up in a household marred by ongoing domestic violence. He went on to say that he knew the story struck a nerve with a lot of people, since so many people went through it. He then offered a simple, heartfelt “I’m sorry.” It really got to me, for a number of reasons…

The entire set was powerful, energetic, and very heavy. Hellyeah is metal, and they aren’t soon going to let you forget it. I only wish the sound mix was better; I always wear ear filters during shows. They protect my hearing, but they also make everything onstage easier to understand. Not this time. I couldn’t make out the lyrics to anything, even personal favorites “Moth” and “Hush”. That was a little frustrating, but the least of my worries. Hellyeah had several of their much heavier songs on the setlist. The energy in the stifling hot room was almost manic by this point.

Little Rock Setlist

Back to the barricade… Setup: There was a large roadcase on the floor, in front of the middle of the stage. Two security guards were stationed a little ways down from each side of it, to push back at the barricade when it would start to buckle. Over at the pit entrance by the wall, there was no security. There was only…me. My back had been against the wall, with my right side still mostly inside the pit, so my camera wouldn’t be damaged. Several people from the back moved up and started pushing; I saw that the end of the barricade was starting to cave in towards me. I’m not sure if I developed superhuman strength, or a particular form of adrenaline (known as “I Don’t Want to Die Like This”) kicked in, but I spent the majority of the rest of the show pushing back the barricade with all the strength I could muster to keep it at bay. It worked? I locked myself down solid and gave it my all. The barricade didn’t cave. If I’d slipped in any of the spilled beer on the floor, it would’ve been all over; thankfully it never came to that. Some guys started doing what they could to pull it back towards them. THANK YOU SO MUCH!! Also, hugenormous thank you to Hellyeah’s tech, who saw me struggling and ran over to give me a bottle of water. You, sir, are a life saver, and I could never thank you enough…

As all of that was happening, we were all still enjoying the incredible show happening just a few feet away. Hellyeah is a force onstage, and I’m sure the energy being fed to them by the packed out, sold out room just brought them to the next level. It was one of the best shows I’ve seen in awhile, and like everyone else, I was sad to see it come to its inevitable conclusion.

tl;dr: Go see this band. Get down front for the full experience.
…Just be prepared for whatever may happen.

Which Brings Us To THE BAD FAN

An Aside: The only downer of the night came after the show, when fans were down front, clamoring for guitar picks, drumsticks, and setlists. Someone decided to yank the band’s scrim cover, featuring the Hellyeah logo, right off of the riser Chad uses during the show. I saw it happen, but didn’t get a good look at who did it. The security guards couldn’t get to him in time, either. Chad later took to his Instagram to express his disappointment over what happened. The metal community is a family, and he obviously felt betrayed that one of his own would blatantly steal from him. Here’s hoping the dude realizes what he did was wrong, and comes forward; or if that doesn’t happen, I hope his friends see the message Chad put out on social media and rats him out. Chad and the rest of the band left all of themselves onstage at Juanita’s — don’t be a douche and take something just because it happened to be within arms reach. Be a man and do the right thing.

A fellow concert photographer and good friend of mine in front of the stolen banner before the show.

A fellow concert photographer and good friend of mine in front of the stolen banner before the show.

Rant over. Amazing show. So glad the band was able to make up the date they’d originally had to postpone. More of my photos from the show can be found here. Hope to see you again soon!

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