Last night, Los Angeles rockers Badflower made their headlining debut in Nashville at The Cowan. Badflower are no strangers to Nashville, having been the first rock band to sign with Nashville based (and traditionally country) Big Machine Label Group, and this was a coming out party befitting of a rock band looking to upset the natural order of things in the Music City!
As I arrived about an hour before the doors opened, there was already anticipation in the air and a line around the building. Pockets of conversation that I heard all seemed to echo a lot of the same things- either people talking about how excited they were to see Badflower play for the first time, or people who have already seen them play tell everyone else what a treat they were in for.
As the nearly sold-out crowd filed into the 600 person capacity venue, fellow L.A. tour mates Fencer took the stage first, quickly getting everyone’s attention with up-tempo, no-frills rock & roll, supported by strong vocal melodies. For a 3 piece, they produced a big sound and proved to be a very solid opener for the night.
Up next was Sparta, New Jersey-based Deal Casino. I was unfamiliar with them coming into the night, but I really appreciated their eclectic and sometimes trippy songwriting. These guys are very talented musicians and very creative in their performance. They also know how to win over a crowd quickly, as they had at least a few hundred people who had likely never seen them or heard of them before singing along at the end of their set to lyrics that vocalist Joe Parella had just taught the crowd from the stage in a matter of about 45 seconds.
Following them was Dead Poet Society, from Boston, MA. They describe themselves as “a balance of the expected and the unexpected”. Having heard them, I have to agree! They opened the set with a very gritty, almost bayou/backwater type rock sound, reminiscent of The Toadies (which I loved, seeing as The Toadies are one of my favorite bands of all time), but as their set went on, a whole new element of emotional melodies both musically and vocally kicked in, and it reminded me of Muse (another one of my favorites). The way that this band was able to combine such a wide range of elements into their songs was a thrill to watch. And wow, does vocalist Jack Underkofler have some pipes! Even Badflower frontman Josh Katz made reference to his voice later on in the night, jokingly noting that no one else in any of the bands wanted to sing anymore after hearing Underkofler’s performance. They had the crowd completely into the show, and ready for the main event.
One of the things that makes a band great is authenticity and transparency. Throughout their lyrics, Josh Katz and the boys from Badflower make no bones about the struggles that they themselves, and people in general face. There is not a lot of deciphering necessary to understand what a lot of their songs are about. It certainly carried over to the live performance as well, as the show kicked off with a self-recorded running commentary about dealing with anxiety and depression set to the music of Eminem’s “Lose Yourself”, from the 8-Mile movie soundtrack. It was a very artistic and unique intro that was an impactful way to announce the band, rather than some arbitrary theme, which many bands pull off well, but without any deeper meaning. Once that was done, they launched into a super high energy performance of “XanaX” , the first track off of their debut full-length album Ok I’m Sick that had everyone captivated for the rest of the night. They quickly dug into their bag of early stuff for 3 in a row, throwing down hard on “Drop Dead”, their debut single “Soap”, and “White Noise”, before transitioning back to the new album with “Die”, and followed that up with a few consecutive tracks from the new album. As expected, nearly EVERYONE was singing along with their latest single, “Heroin”, which has one of the catchiest choruses of 2019 so far. Everyone was locked in, as they played their smash hit “Ghost”, and they finished the first part of their set with a Nirvana-esque energetic performance of “Let the Band Play”, which had Katz singing and playing guitar on his back, on the floor of the stage!
Now, I can’t fail to mention that throughout this performance, Josh Katz was very interactive with the audience. So much so that he erased the faux surprise of the encore by basically telling the crowd “yeah, there’s more music” early in the set. It was rather endearing, and really showed how much they appreciate their fans. They weren’t trying to act or trying to hype anything up. They just wanted to play for everyone. It definitely had the vibe of a shared experience between everyone there. There was not the great divide between artist and fan as is the case with so many other shows. In fact, The Fusion Press’s own Ben Neely was able to meet the guys after the show, get some pictures, autographs, and talk about music.
But going back to the show, the encore kicked off with one of my personal favorites, “Move Me”, featuring Katz coming out by himself to sing and play until the rest of the band joined in later in the song for a thick heavy conclusion to the song. “Promise Me” was next, with the super groovy “Girlfriend” closing out the show.
This show met every expectation that I had for a band that I’ve really gotten into over the past two years. This is one of the more high energy bands you will see anywhere. The live performance definitely lived up to the hype, and I’m absolutely thrilled that I get to see them in another two weeks at Sonic Temple Music Festival in Columbus, OH.
The momentum is still only beginning to pick up steam for Badflower. With intelligent and thoughtful songwriting and an amazing live show to boot, I expect that you will be hearing about them for a long, long time.