Des Moines, Iowa’s The House of Bricks is a smallish venue, known in recent years to host more metal shows than any other music genre. It’s also the typical narrow venue, where people can congregate at the back and sit at tables, or head up front to stand by the stage.
When Parabelle played there on April 5th, they were supported by two local opening acts, As For You and Fatal Addiction. As the openers played, there were maybe 20-30 people standing by the stage. While many of them seemed to be fans of the openers and appeared to enjoy the music, it wasn’t until Parabelle started unloading their gear on the stage that the majority of the crowd huddled at the front.
Parabelle has played shows in the Des Moines area about every six months for the last few years, and they’ve built an impressive fanbase in a city that has struggled with encouraging people to come out to music events. On this particular night, the show pulled in a solid 100+ fans, a fairly remarkable number to be seen within the smaller venues in this area.
The lights went down and all four guys (excluding the drummer) turned their backs to the crowd, and as the music started, they all turned around and came to the front to open the show with the song Blisters and Bad Eyes.
At first glance, this band appears to have thrown in a few musician body doubles. There was a hairier version of Jared Leto (aka Darrick Caster) playing drums, sporting a faux hawk, a hairstyle we’ve seen on Leto in recent years, but Caster had much more facial hair than Leto typically does. Caster’s consistent super serious demeanor matched that of Leto’s signature personality. Fall Out Boy’s Pete Wentz (aka Kyle Mathis), was dressed skater-boy style, played guitar and handled some backing vocals.
Kevin Matisyn, the frontman of Parabelle, and former frontman of Evans Blue, was in his signature hoodie, jeans and baseball cap attire. You’ll often see him dressed similarly in photo shots, in videos and at shows.
Their dedicated fans stood close to the front of the stage, singing the words to every song, with a fist or “horns” up in the air.
While the bass player in many bands seems to be an afterthought, sometimes standing in the shadows, Parabelle’s touring bassist, Justin Baisden, is by far one of the most dynamic bass players you may ever see perform. He jumped all over the stage, offering up intense bass riffs, constantly throwing his bass up and down, matching the tempo of whatever song the band was playing.
Mathis and Baisden are by far the most energetic, with the other guitarist Aaron Burton trailing just a wee behind. The trio of guitarists were fun to watch as they were lively, animated and always on the move. Mathis incorporated several jumps into his performance, bringing his feet high up towards his chest, often swinging his guitar around his body as well. Mathis also had the most enthusiastic facial expressions. Mathis and Baisden seemed to have had a bit more fun than their other band mates while they performed.
Matisyn is vocally passionate, but while the band’s first three songs of the night (Blisters and Bad Eyes, Line of Fire and Let It Out) were intense rock songs, they all began to sound very similar to each other, and it was hard to decipher the words, particularly if you are not a seasoned fan of the band.
But when the band slowed it down with the song In the Shadows, it was a nice break. Playing a slower song offered an opportunity to sound clearer and potentially entice newer fans to listen if they were struggling with understanding the words of the first three songs.
Caster, the hairy Leto look-alike, was expressionless and almost angry at times, but it kinda worked, as he seemed to release his anger on the drums, offering some pretty explosive drumming. Green smokey stage lights shone on him throughout most of the set, and he looked like he could be part of one of 30 Seconds to Mars’ visually intense music videos. [Editor’s Note: 30 Seconds to Mars is Jared Leto’s band.]
Parabelle’s high energy song Tear the Blue is one of their most popular, and well-known. It was performed flawlessly.
They played a few Evans Blue favorites, including In A Red Dress and Alone, Cold, and Dear Lucid, Our Time Is Right Now. This was a great treat for fans who have followed Matisyn from the beginning. The best of both worlds as they still experienced some of Evans Blue, but also his newer work in Parabelle.
Screams erupted from the crowd as Parabelle played The Clocks, announcing it was their last song of the night. But as the band members started to leave the stage, the shouts from the crowd encouraged them back, and they finished their set with Kiss the Flag: The Widow and Anchors.
Matisyn was the least energetic of the group physically, and seemed a bit misplaced at times. Vocally, he was intense, and he what lacked in his physical energy somewhat came out in his singing, but there were many times you just wished he would attempt some mid-air scissor kicks or another daring physical feat to match the liveliness of his band mates.
The showmanship from the guitarists filled in the gaps left by Matisyn and his lack of spontaneity. While in most shows, the front man is the star and the focus, in this case the audience’s eyes naturally drifted to the musicians backing him up. Matisyn is lucky to have such a star-studded cast, offering him a good deal of support and carrying much of the show. While a dynamic front man was missing, much of the crowd didn’t seem to care. Parabelle played the show their devoted fans have come to expect, and based on the fans’ reactions, they were pleased. At the end of the day, if it works for them, maybe they figure, why fix it?
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