Friday Night: Whitechapel and Emmure at Fitzgerald's

Whitechapel, Emmure Fitzgerald's January 11, 2013

While Houston's past three generations of metalheads gathered at Warehouse Live for sludge supergroup Down's biennial stop through town, the youngest generation --throngs of deathcore fans -- packed Fitzgerald's to the rafters to see three of the biggest names in the genre.

Since doors opened at 6 p.m. and we refuse on principle to arrive at a metal show before 8, Rocks Off missed The Plot in You and Obey the Brave entirely and saw only the final songs from metalcore stalwarts Unearth, who played to an already-full house despite their 7:45 start time. 7:45? What is this, Utah?

"Are you guys taking care of each other out there?" Emmure lead singer Frankie Palmeri asked the audience Friday night. It was a valid question The young crowd, packed wall to wall, got riled up early into Unearth's set and never dissipated So packed was Fitzgerald's upstairs stage that the merch booth had been moved out onto the front patio to accommodate the crowd.

Rocks Off has seen both headlining bands on a handful of occasions, but never on a stage quite so small and certainly not at this, the certain peak of both bands' careers. Emmure is on a third round of touring in support of Slave to the Game, their second-full length in as many years and their third to receive moderate commercial success. This tour also sees Emmure and Whitechapel headlining a tour featuring Unearth, a band both almost certainly would have opened for less than 18 months ago.

Metal promoters and tour sponsors are clever in this day and age, though, and band lineups are often less a reflection of status or seniority than current album cycles and critical saturation. Bands across the deathcore and metalcore genres -- long known for grueling tour schedules and heavy cross-promotion -- seem happy to oblige this newer convention, often completing headlining tours only to circle back a few months later in an opening slot.

While many deathcore bands are quick to distance themselves from their nu-metal roots despite the ever-present influence, Emmure seems quite comfortable embracing the association. Since the band was playing to a crowd young enough to have missed out on the bulk of nu-metal's origin, rise and quick demise, Palmeri's windbreaker and fitted cap Friday probably didn't have nearly the connotation it had for those of us in the crowd over 25.

The associations are more than skin-deep, though; Emmure's chugging rhythm section, frequent breakdowns and rapped lyrical interludes cement the connection. The distinct style, along with content inspired by comics and video games and titles like "She Gave Her Heart to Deadpool," for better or worse, serve to separate and distinguish Emmure from a very crowded field of contemporaries.

While Rocks Off couldn't help but flash backs to Family Values '97, the crowd's only concern -- especially once Emmure launched into their third song, "Demons with Ryu" -- was keeping their footing as the entire mass of people crashed and staggered around the room.

From then on Emmure rarely broke between songs for more than a moment to fiddle with equipment, or for Palmieri or guitarist Jesse Ketive to provoke the energetic crowd. The encouragement was probably largely unneeded as the undulating sea of bodies sent wave after wave of crowd-surfing kids crashing up and onto the stage only to have them hurdle back off into the masses.

Considering Emmure has probably spent entire tours on elevated stages and festival settings, they did an admirable job of dodging and ducking the ever-present interlopers looking to join them onstage. Only when one concertgoer lingered in front of a monitor for what seemed like an interminable period -- after at least his fifth trip to the stage in a matter of minutes -- did guitarist Mike Mullholland gently remind him to exit stage right with a solid shove of his foot.

As Emmure packed in their 11th song of the 40-minute set, we expected the crowd -- which had not stopped churning, even during the 15-minute interlude prior to the band -- to begin to tire. It's a pattern we've seen time and again at these early 6 p.m. shows: the crowd is often winded before the last band even sets foot onstage.

Friday it was not to be, and the crowd continued to hurdle themselves at the stage during "R2Deepthroat." At the end Palmeri implored us to "ask your girl what my dick tastes like," and we knew that our earlier Fred Durst allusion was more than a passing thought.

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Joshua Justice
Contact: Joshua Justice