Review by Greg Maki
As all the members of Saint Asonia have said since the band went public in May 2015, frontman Adam Gontier (formerly of Three Days Grace) insisted on stage at Baltimore Soundstage that this is not a “supergroup” or a one-off deal. He said this band—also featuring guitarist Mike Mushok (Staind), drummer Rich Beddoe (formerly of Finger Eleven) and bassist Corey Lowery (Eye Empire, Stuck Mojo, Dark New Day)—intends to be around for a while. If performances like this one on a Sunday night in Baltimore are the norm, that shouldn’t be a problem.
There is some growing to do—evidenced by the relatively small club being only about half full—but that’s to be expected considering this was the band’s first tour and its debut, self-titled album was released only a month ago. The quality of the music is what’s important at this point (at every point, actually), and Saint Asonia excelled there, opening with the lead single “Better Place” en route to a 75-minute set that featured nearly the entire album and a handful of old favorites by the members’ former bands—”Animal I Have Become” and “I Hate Everything About You” from Three Days Grace, and “Mudshovel” and “For You” from Staind. It’s encouraging that the Saint Asonia material held its own against the earlier hits, which felt more like bonuses for longtime fans as opposed to the main attractions.
Highlights included “Dying Slowly,” “Fairy Tale” and the encore combo of “Trying to Catch Up with the World” and “Let Me Live My Life.”
The band brought a big rock show vibe to the club without losing the intimate nature of the small stage. Similar to the feeling I got watching Saint Asonia’s live debut in May at Rock on the Range, this show felt like the beginning of something big and special.
The first band of the night, Alice Drinks the Kool Aid, was an odd choice for the bill. Fronted by Tony Magee, the founder of Lagunitas Brewing Company, the Chicago trio played a bluesy style unlike anything else on the bill. Being different certainly is not a bad thing, but few in the audience had come for this more relaxed sound. Up next, the Baltimore-based Bad Seed Rising was a better fit, playing high-energy hard rock—at times bordering on metal—from its latest EP release, “A Placed Called Home.” The band members are all teenagers, and I’ve watched them grow and mature as a unit over the past few years. This was the best performance I have seen from them yet. Direct support came from Artifas, from Memphis, Tennessee, a band both Magee and Gontier talked up bigtime from the stage. Its brand of hard rock wasn’t too far from Bad Seed Rising’s, and frontman Scottie Sommerville successfully engaged an audience mostly composed of people who probably had never heard Artifas before. I think we will see more of this act soon.