“If you can find what makes you mad and defend it, you should be proud of yourself.”
Rock ‘n roll ain’t dead, but it sure is mad as hell. The No Apologies Tour- featuring grandson, Des Rocs, and BarlowLN- hit Arizona and California over the last few days and Atlas was there to witness the revolution.
Even though the sets contained the same songs, these two shows were totally different experiences. Phoenix was a contained madhouse, the audience moving, but not in full riot mode. Los Angeles was a new kind of beast, the mosh pit up and running from the openers to the end. As jaws started dropping at the sheer force behind this tour, it became abundantly clear that the future of rock ‘n roll is now.
BarlowLN opened the tour, his first experience on the road. BarlowLN is the latest project from Virginia native Evan Barlow, as he explores a spookier side of his sound. He mixes in elements of hip hop, stunning the crowd with his stellar flow before switching to a dark indie-folk vibe in both instrumentation and lyrics.
BarlowLN uses his extensive library of life experiences to craft songs that resonate immediately with the audience. Onstage at The Roxy in LA, he dipped briefly into his backstory with addiction, hitting rock bottom, and being saved by finding his strength in music. He’s only officially released three songs, but much of the crowd knew the words to even the unreleased material, as BarlowLN won the room.
Des Rocs (or the future of rock ‘n roll as he’s being referred to on this tour) provided the middle slot, immediately melting the crowd into a mess of awe and jubilation. Frontman Danny Rocco assembled his team and started making music to move the masses. Like BarlowLN, Des Rocs has only been releasing music for a short time, but his debut EP and handful of singles sure can rile a room. Phoenix’s Crescent Ballroom was packed to the rafters with fans who already knew when to scream along, while LA started a circle pit during the first song.
Des Rocs is taking rock through a genre revival, driving his guitars and lyrics into the hearts and minds of his audience. Both Phoenix and LA paused their moshing to stand open-mouthed as he proceeded to both play a solo atop his drummer’s kit, and swing his guitar around to play behind his back. “Out of My Mind” and “Let Me Live / Let Me Die” highlighted his incredible set, cementing that Des Rocs is quickly ascending to the throne of modern rock.
By the time we hit our headliner, the crowd was good and fired up. Grandson’s first headlining tour sold out across the country (and most of Europe), so he hit the stage firing on all cylinders. He opened with the one-two punch of “Stigmata” and “6:00”, as fans threw themselves toward the front of the room in their fervor.
A grandson show is about power, it’s about revenge, and it’s about justice (to paraphrase the man himself). Above all, a grandson show is about a feeling, and both crowds were swept up in it. Emotions ran red hot, none more so than in the people onstage. Grandson took things down a darker path for “Overdose” and “Dark Side” before the second part of the show began.
On the No Apologies Tour, grandson and his team chose organizations to highlight that help young people get connected to their community and to issues they care about. For each show, grandson paused to hurl his distaste for the government into the audience, speaking on gun control, unnecessary violence and the power of getting involved to make change. These moments led to “Thoughts and Prayers”, written after one of many mass shootings in 2018.
With just over an hour of music in his catalog, grandson shows are a sprint to the finish line, leaving fans winded and thrilled. California maxed out on energy as a rambunctious group in the middle of The Roxy refused to let the mosh pit die for “Best Friends” and “Bury Me Face Down”. Faces in the crowd ranged from shock to moments of cathartic rage as everyone screamed along to “Is This What You Wanted”.
At the end of the show, grandson spoke his truth to power, finishing strong for “Apologize” and jumping into the crowd during “Blood//Water”, the track that started it all. The No Apologies Tour was a powerhouse trio of upcoming rock royalty. The next generation is here, they’re angry and they’re ready to tear down (and rebuild) the establishment one note at a time.
Story and photos by Olivia Khiel