Photo credit: James Shotwell
The challenge of entertaining any crowd that didn’t pay specifically to see you is great. That said, there is an added degree of difficulty in an arena setting. The excitement of being in a big room can quickly fade when performers realize the crowd is still filing in, with many too consumed by phones or concessions to give those on stage their undivided attention. It’s grueling enough to break some, but for Bad Wolves, it’s just another day at the office.
Serving as the second of three openers for the latest headlining run from Five Finger Death Punch, Los Angeles based rock band Bad Wolves understand the uphill battle they face on a nightly basis. Many in the crowd have no doubt heard the group’s certified platinum cover of The Cranberries’ hit “Zombie,” but far less know the band by name. After all, they just recently released their debut album, and only a handful of songs have even been serviced to radio. Still, with the odds against them, the band is leaving a lasting impact on audiences wherever their feet grace a stage.
On November 26, that stage was placed at one end of Van Andel Arena, the largest venue in West Michigan. With a set time shortly before 7 PM, the members of Bad Wolves entered to a fittingly warped version of the children’s song, “Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf.” Frontman Tommy Vext, looking every bit as intimidating as the music booming through the speakers sounded, wasted no time putting his all into pumping up the crowd.
“Grand Rapids,” he shouted through the microphone, “Let’s get fucking wild tonight.”
As Bad Wolves plunged into a forty-minute performance, the crowd quickly understand why so many in the rock world have pegged the band to become future genre headliners. The energy emitting from the stage was infectious, spurring rock listeners of all ages to thrust their fists and overpriced beers into the air. They might not have known the songs, but everyone in the room could immediately recognize the talent being showcased before them.
“I’m going to need more from you,” demanded Vext after the first few songs had reached their completion. “I know you can give me more than that.”
The audience reacted as all great audiences should. They gave more, with many doing their best to incite mosh pits on the floor while those in the stands began to wave their shirts like helicopters over their heads. When Vext asked for those on a date to hoist their partners on their shoulders, the crowd quickly followed suit. “I see a guy up in the air,” he said with a dash of surprise as if he expected only to see women sitting atop the shoulders of brawny men. “That’s pretty fucking cool.”
Bad Wolves have already developed a reputation at rock radio for their ability to bring a heavy edge to the most romantic or slow compositions, but what stood out that night in Grand Rapids was something different altogether. The band toed a fine line between commercial accessibility and unrelenting brutishness that kept people on their toes throughout the group’s set. They were always searching for the next thing to take listeners by surprise, and because of that, they held the room in the palm of their hands. They could have done or said anything and people would have gone along with it because the band is so confident in what they were doing at any point. It may have seemed like chaos to the uninformed, but for the five guys on stage, it was work as usual.
Get feel for Bad Wolves’ electrifying live show by watching their video for “No Masters” below: