After a fairly embarrassing bout of procrastination, we are getting ready to head back into the ANB AWOL Picture Vault. We're looking for all of the greatest shots the Nation has snapped of the guys performing over the years. Yes, that includes any and all shows from 2010 - present. Whoa! That's a lot of awesome right there. And we want it all!!
By Joey Michel
While 2016 is considered the Year of the Monkey in Chinese Zodiac folklore, 2016 may as well be considered the year of the underdog in honor of AWOLNATION. “Underdog” is not necessarily a term usually used to describe a band with two studio albums and a 10x platinum radio hit to its credit, but after a headlining tour with hundreds of club dates to a nationwide tour playing stadiums supporting Fall Out Boy, switching gears to open for rock and rap supergroup Prophets Of Rage in venues all across North America, “underdog” may perfectly describe how the band felt when facing a crowd unfamiliar with its music and prepared for the craziness that was sure to ensue during this highly anticipated debut tour of Prophets of Rage.
The announcement of the “Make America Rage Again” tour was a bittersweet thing for us AWOLNATION fans as we understood Aaron was offered an opportunity he could not refuse, but how would the band fare surrounded by fans of a genre they aren’t really known for? Not that we had any sort of doubt, but we were definitely curious. It seemed like many moons passed before AWOL actually showed up on stage with Prophets, and in that time, we grew even more excited. What would happen? What kind of music would we hear?
Any apprehension we may have had was assuaged on August 19th, 2016 in Fairfax, Virginia. The first date of this 2 month, 32-date jaunt that set out to Make America Rage Again. The first glimpse the nation received of AWOLNATION’s position in this phenomenon was thanks to a live Facebook video backstage. Wait, was that THE Spaceman we just saw getting ready to alert the venue AWOL has entered the building? This robed silhouette complete with a lamp and an astronaut’s helmet has been a figure synonymous with AWOLNATION since day one and appeared most recently in their music video for the new single 'Run (Beautiful Things)'. Immediately the band burst into that exact song, and we were hooked. This was still our AWOLNATION. Little did we know that this small Facebook live posting would be a common occurrence throughout the rest of the tour! What a great way to give back to the fans who may have not been able to make it out to a show, and a great contest for the Nation!
'RUN's powerful breakdown ending proved to the audience that AWOLNATION came to play. Following this new and improved version of 'RUN' that encourages us to hope for a better future where people strive to achieve “beautiful things,” AWOL zipped through a quick 45 minute set of hit songs and fast paced dancing action. Aaron did not hold back as he encouraged us to jump out of our shoes during 'Hollow Moon' and 'Kill Your Heroes' and gave it his all on songs like 'Soul Wars' and 'Dreamers'. It's amazing how into it Aaron was throughout most of this tour. Even if the crowd wasn’t into it, he made it a point to give it everything he had. The band definitely did not let up during faster jams like 'KOOKSEVERYWHERE!!!' and 'Burn It Down'. Aaron, trying to prove to the crowd that he’s a sort of Renaissance man when it comes to music genres, ad libbed lyrics by bands that greatly influenced his early career and continue to influence him today. On some nights, 'KOOKSEVERYWHERE!!!' contained a jam that included lyrics to the song 'My Life' by hardcore punk legends Sick Of It All. Sometimes the end of 'Dreamers' would pay homage to the Beastie Boys with Aaron’s screamed lyrics of 'Looking Down The Barrel Of A Gun'. And on any given day, the ending of 'Burn It Down' could contain a tribute to Canadian new wave artists Men Without Hats with Aaron letting the crowd know the ways of 'The Safety Dance'. Aaron’s high energy and dancing kept the crowd mesmerized and focused on what they were experiencing.
A major highlight of the set was the thrill of experiencing drummer Isaac Carpenter’s amazing drum solo, which at times seemed to be very reminiscent of the intro to hard-rockers Guns N’ Roses song 'You Could Be Mine'. Isaacs high energy and explosive drum techniques proved to the crowd AWOLNATION knows how to keep a beat. Later into the tour, Isaac usually was joined by Marc Walloch on the bass and Aaron messing around with the pedal board for the guitars. I'm pretty sure we heard 'Breed' by Nirvana and 'The Immigrant Song' by Led Zeppelin in there at one point too, more major influences of the band.
The production and staging on this tour was phenomenal. All of this musical energy seemed to be spilling from a stage reminiscent of a large ship. Warm blues, oranges, and reds highlighted the band against a backdrop of AWOL’s now famous logo. Complimenting this was what appeared to be searchlights on top of some sort of large vessel. To me the vessel and the searchlights epitomize the AWOL concert experience. The vessel - their powerful music. The searchlights - seeming to search for someone in the audience to connect with and possess, much like what Aaron Bruno attempts to do every show especially when faced with an audience who may never have experienced the pure raw power and emotion AWOLNATION brings to a live setting. The epitome of the “underdog.”
Thanks to one of Aaron’s new buddies, one Tom Morello of Rage Against The Machine fame, the nation got to witness Aaron step out of his role as mastermind of AWOLNATION and have some fun Prophets of Rage style. Morello suggested one night that Aaron help sing a much softer cover of the Bruce Springsteen classic 'The Ghost of Tom Joad' that had been famously covered by Rage Against The Machine. This incident blossomed into Aaron lending his voice to covers of RATM classics 'Bullet In The Head' and 'Freedom' all throughout the “Make America Rage Again” tour. Aaron’s vocals added a new element that could even give Rage frontman Zack de la Rocha a run for his money!
It must be mentioned that guitarist extraordinaire Christopher Thorn rejoined the Nation after a nearly four and a half year absence. Thorn joined the tour on October 1st in Tampa, Florida in place of Zach Irons who went out on tour with his band IRONTOM. I must admit that it was hard to keep up with who would be playing night in and night out as Zach would sometimes appear out of the blue to play a show with AWOLNATION. Christopher Thorn’s mere presence evokes the spirit of AWOLNATION’s underdog attitude as he was once a part of the band at a time when they were still out there laboring everyday trying to prove their worth! Thorn’s guitar playing was refreshing to hear after years of absence.
One final small detail that really kept the nation excited was getting to see the beautiful photography of Matthias Heschl, a longtime friend of the band. While some of Matthias’ work focuses heavily on the individual featured in the photo, other works seem to bend light and time all at once, evoking the question of “What exactly am I looking at?” More importantly though, it lets us wonder “How exactly does this make me feel?” Thanks to Matthias, we were able to feel as if we were on stage, backstage, and always with AWOLNATION as they trekked across North America.
At the end of each show on the Make America Rage Again tour, many people left talking about AWOLNATION. And isn’t that what really is important? Fans of the group are already familiar with its blending of many different musical genres. This tour has allowed newcomers to experience this innovative, original, and creative group of musicians and to be exposed to the sheer power the band brings to a live setting. I am sure that the experience has brought many more immigrants to the AWOLNATION. I hope to be able to join them at a concert again soon. And unlike the Year of the Monkey, we all won’t have to wait until 2028 to catch this dominant force again as we can expect them to be coming to a nearby venue sometime soon!
Did you know that we have a pretty sweet collection of AWOLNATION interviews here at ANBuilders? Along with some other goodies that should help you feed your AWOL cravings. You're welcome.
< Click the pic to watch.
Oh kids! Get 'em while they're hot! AWOL rockin' Halloween!!! Order yours at the AWOLNATION Merch Store.
We're never sure who is behind AWOL's Instagram on any given day, but somebody has been getting pretty creative with the #hashtaghumor lately.
The release of RUN (Remixes) was just one of the highlights of September. We'd love for you to share your thoughts with us. Do you have a favorite? Are you a remix fan? You can listen on Spotify.
Matthias Heschl, good friend of the band and one of our favorite photographers, is once again keeping the Nation happily supplied with great photos of the guys both onstage and off. Check out his Instagram too. Good and fun stuff.
Spaceman continues to take center stage at many of AWOLNATION's shows on the Make America Rage Again Tour. We think this is one of the best contests ever. Check your local radio station or venue to see if you too could join the lucky fans who have donned the helmet to bring the band onstage. (Photo: @mintaburst)
The #RUNMovement is definitely a thing! And it keeps growing!! If you haven't watched the Nation at it's most hilarious lately, you can catch up here.
Have you made your own #RUN vine?
Did we miss anything? Let us know!
Our intrepid reporter Laurie is in Tampa for the show tonight and she has exciting news for us! For the first time since 2012 the one and only Christopher Thorn will be in the lead guitar slot!
Zach Irons is on tour with his band Irontom and while exceptionally good at seeming to be in two places at once, something had to give. So the Nation gets to welcome CT back to the band. He will be filling in for awhile. And we are grateful for this!
We have kept up with CT's musical magic over the years. Whether with Blind Melon, Sonny Boy Thorn or at his studio Fireside Sound, he has been busy making music and splits his time between producing, writing and touring. We love this guy!
Follow him on Facebook, and Instagram.
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HERE COME THE RUNTS TOUR +
2/18/18 Rochester, NY
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