Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Pop Evil at the Gramercy Theatre

Leigh Kakaty
Leigh Kakaty was born in Kingston, Ontario, but grew up in North Muskegon, Michigan, a very white, conservative city. He enjoyed Tupac Shakur and Led Zeppelin and was not sure where he would fit in the rock world. Kakaty has been quoted as saying "I am too white to be a rapper and too dark to be a pop star." (He is biracial; his father was dark from India and his mother was white). His first job was as a studio tech, and he also worked as a studio engineer. In 2001, he set out to sing in TenFive, a band that would embrace radio pop and hard rock. That band evolved into Pop Evil, based in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Pop Evil presently consists of Kakaty, rhythm guitarist and co-founder Dave Grahs, lead guitarist Nick Fuelling, bassist Matt DiRito and drummer Josh "Chachi Riot" Marunde. Pop Evil's third and most recent album, Onyx, was released in 2013.

Often on tour as an opening act, Pop Evil headlined the Gramercy Theatre tonight. Grinding guitars played in the darkness, followed by the mid-tempo pounding of drums before the lights came on and the five musicians appeared on stage, all dressed in black. Kakaty began singing "Flawed" from the band's most recent album, a song addressing the feeling of not being enough. Harmony vocals filled the choruses. The sound was big, yet tame enough for mainstream rock radio. Theatrics were minimal beyond a few risers at the edge of the stage, helping the performance emphasize the nature of the songs and the identity of the band, that of positive-minded blue collar Americans surviving the odds. The set specialized in arena-style classic rock, but softened somberly for the slower power ballads "100 in a 55", "Monster You Made" and Kakaty performing solo on acoustic guitar for a stirring take on "Beautiful." Other slower tempo songs featured full thrust rock, including "Hero." For 15 songs and 75-minutes, Pop Evil did an excellent job marrying sweet melodies, badass swagger and fist-pumping rock.

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