Updated: Apr 15, 2020
"PUNK IS DEAD" A kid in front of me has it safety-pinned to the back panel of his denim jacket. He's got snakebites and Circa Survive lyrics tattoo'd on him. I'm not judging, just observing. As the thick air fills up the space around me I am suddenly hit with a wave of nostalgia, except only one thing has changed: Chain Reaction sells beer now. The return of the pop-punk movement is something I did not see coming. If punk is dead, surely it's less enthused, tamer younger brother would have been dead for weeks.
With the rise and fall of bands like A Day to Remember and All Time Low, we watched "the Scene" rise from the ashes of our tortured teenage dreams and make it to fame and success and major radio stations like KROQ where finally the public eye seemed to gain interest in the heavy, distorted, emotional music we related to so heavily, and then... suddenly, the interest seemed to fade away. A few bands have withstood the test of time, namely those who followed in the footsteps of wildly successful Bay-Area natives, The Story So Far, but, sadly, most of the "pop-punk" bands to emerge in recent years have been redundant, poorly written, cheesy, and for lack of a better term... crap (Save your tar and feathers, it's just my opinion). But tonight, something has me back in Anaheim at one of the first music venues I ever fell in love with. Chain Reaction, by the way, is basically a religious temple if you've ever had an emo phase.
Tonight, I'm here for the opener; and apparently so are a lot of other people who I've never met. Usually when I've come to see an opener at Chain, I'm one of about 12 people in the room who also grew up with the guys on stage. But this is an audience. A real audience. This audience is lively and fun, and they're reminding me what I loved about this scene. It's true, this audience is also here for Australian-based Hardcore/Alternative outfit Trophy Eyes, but they don't play til 9 o'clock and it's only 7. This is when I see the guys I'm here for walk out, and the audience makes some noise and keeps moving closer to the stage. And as the first guitar notes ring out, the audience becomes visibly excited. And that hot air hits all at once and the crowd begins to move faster and suddenly I realize something spectacular: this audience is here for the opener, too. This audience is here for Calmgrove.
Calmgrove is an alternative rock band from Southern California that is doing this thing their own way, a rare sight in a scene that seems to be chasing after the sounds of its younger days. Given that all of the members are seasoned musical veterans and fans of the genre themselves, Calmgrove hit the ground running from the get-go. Their marketing techniques and branding were easily recognizable and aesthetically gripping from the day the band announced its identity, and after just one release (the inaugural, 'Lifelong') the band already started gaining attention in a scene that was slowly making its comeback to an over-saturated market.
But Calmgrove's saturation is beautiful. The high energy of the music and singer Eric Guzman's deep and well-written lyrics bring me back to the days where Warped Tour reigned supreme. And even with the heavy influence from our past, Calmgrove remains aware of its niche and never fails to add a modern twist to their writing style. The energy, the tones, the changes in tempo or cleverly arranged bridges that shine through towards the end of each release have become part of what keep Calmgrove relevant in a sea of redundant bands that seem to be playing the same worn out songs to a new generation of fans.
Calmgrove remains creative while sticking to their genetic roots. Powerful guitar driven verses and chorus' with deep anthemic meanings will keep their fans listening, while the incredible stage presence the band delivers and the charisma Guzman offers his audience will keep people coming back to see them play.
Last week, Calmgrove released a new track, "Give & Take" which will presumably be featured on the bands highly anticipated forthcoming EP. The song is an emo-alternative anthem, taking a turn from the mostly upbeat and energetic path the SoCal musicians usually tend to showcase to deliver a more powerful message. The song starts off with a tenacious guitar lead that welcomes in lyrically profound notions about the balance it takes and the "give and take" in any relationship.
As the track picks up, personal experiences are recounted and you can hear frustrations beginning to mount. The music builds up to a point in which you are waiting for everything to burst and ascend, but instead Calmgrove slows it down for a second for a beautiful exit unlike anything we've seen from the band so far. The outro to this song begins with Guzman beautifully questioning where our minds go when we're away, and then as vocal layers swell and the instrumental picks up, suddenly we reach that ascension we had been promised earlier in the song for a powerful conclusion. If this is any representation of what we're to receive from the bands debut EP, then I'm all for it.
If you're looking for new music in an overly-saturated scene, and want to be wowed by an incredible live performance, I'd suggest saving Calmgrove's discography now while it's still young. This band is showing no signs of stopping and I'm sure once they get going with their debut EP we will receive plenty of memorable tracks from the quintet. Give & Take is just one more brilliant entry in the early days of an extremely promising alternative band from Southern California. Calmgrove is Eric Guzman, Tommy Maung, Nolan Hernandez, Daniel Alvarado and Sean Gonzales, and this is only the beginning for the young band adding volume to a scene rising from the dead back to the public eye. It's considered in your best interest not to sleep on it.
Check out give & take here: