The Last Stand of For Today (a Concert Review)

For Today, Gideon, Wage War, Rival Choir
Dirty Dog Bar, Austin, TX
October 7

It’s a great feeling to introduce someone to some really, really special music. Thus, it was great to bring my old friend and bandmate John Wilson (aka “Butch”) to see For Today in Austin on its farewell tour. It’s a shame that some people end up missing a great thing, but at least this buddy and several hundred people in the Dirty Dog Bar got to experience this phenomenal band one last time.

A couple local bands hit the stage first and, while sounding formulaic, they did nail the scream/hardcore sound pretty well. Then the official tour package came on and ratcheted up the metal a few notches. Rival Choir (fka Mouth of the South) showed off its slightly heavier, pummeling, incessant and more chaotic sound at full blast. It was great to see this unit tear it up.

Gideon came on next and about threw Butch’s jaw on the floor. Their flurry of double bass kick, blast beats and seriously fast guitar rhythms. I smiled as Butch expressed his amazement. Throngs of people were stage diving all night, moshing, standing, raising fists. There was clearly a ton of energy in the room and this band gave it right back with even more volume. It was intense, loud and non-stop. It was delightful and glorious for all of us that love the heaviness of hardcore and metal when they collide in the air.

Like most of you, I fell in love with this band on the first listen of their Strike First Records debut (Costs). Their short bursts seem precise enough to start or stop a heart and their breakdowns are just a hell of a lot of fun.

Wage War brought more double bass fury, showering a tight and powerful wall of sound over the audience. They sounded so good. And their drummer… Oh my gosh. He’s a beast!

For Today was a welcome sight and sound to the stage. The whole night had gone by fast (five opening bands is something I usually don’t look forward to and avoid like the plague if I can), just because it was so fun, energetic and fast. But seeing For Today for that last time made probably more than just myself wish that time could slow down. I made it a point to savor every moment.

Early songs in the set, like “Break the Cycle” set the tone that we’d all drown in drumming and breakdowns. It sounded so stinkin’ lovely. Chanting the chorus was like a prophetic prayer to break the cycle and destroy any shackles or chains that held us back. Emotionally, it was a great release. Things only got better as the next hour or so was filled with intensity and a room full of love.

There were no stop-and-get-sad moments. A newcomer might never know that this band was playing its coda right in front of us all. The band didn’t necessarily look like they had anything to prove. In fact, they look as relaxed as could be, though they were certainly working it hard. The music, however, came off as passionate and the crowd fed off that the whole time. People were barking out lyrics along with frontman Mattie Montgomery, but the mix was just too good and too overwhelming to be distracted by anything else than what was happening on stage.

Girls, guys, small and large folk all stage dived throughout the show. Tunes like “Molotov” and “Crown of Thorns” and “Pariah” showed why this band was such a force to be reckoned with and why they could hold their own on any bill in front of any crowd. They also feature a nice separation between drums, guitars and vocals with well-time and precision pauses.

“This is my final stand!” The irony sank in a little bit, but the music was moving so fast it was hard to get too sentimental.

The highlight for me and the song I spent the most time making sure Butch wasn’t buried in his smartphone, trying to document the moment that was going on live around him was “Seraphim.” Every time I hear those glorious chants of “TAKE YOUR FLAME – IGNITE THE WORLD!” I feel like doing just that.

This band was and still is (for the moment) a real shot in the heart for the believer. And the passion that oozes out of these words is probably so believable that a hard, uncaring atheist heart might just have to allow the light that is inside this band invade. There are moments of pure, beautiful yet powerful praise, like “We crown him with the crown of thorns.” You just have to experience it. I hope you all have.

“Fearless” capped off the set with another affirming metalcore anthem that would probably help any football team’s defense dig down deep to hold back the opposition’s offense in a goal line stand. I’d love to crank this baby up in a stadium full of rabid football fans and see if they don’t join in the chant – “we will not – we will not- we will not – be – a-fraid!”

Of course, they played an encore, which was another great tune off the Breaker album. If there was any energy left to spend, it was pretty much spent by last sonic blast from the band. “Tear it to the ground!” What a great way to end a great night.

For Today will be missed. I’m so grateful that their studio album output is with us.

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