Like all fans of live music, going without a show for over a year has been something I never expected. The anticipation, the energy, making instant friends with the fans around you, and feeling the music in every fiber of your being is an experience like none other. When XL Live in Harrisburg, PA announced their return to live shows, I was not sure how the new normal would change the aspects that compel us to attend.
Arriving at XL Live on their opening night, it was evident that the fan experience and safety were both important to the staff. After the security screening, walking back into an event space after all this time, felt new and like home all at the same time. Tables and chairs were spaced apart and masks were required while not seated. Two large garage-style doors were opened to the heated outside patio area, giving everyone the option of staying inside or outside without missing any of the action. Attendees were allowed to approach the stage as long as masks were worn. The lights dimmed and it was incredible to feel those same emotions return after so much time had passed.
The first band to take the stage was Ultraviolent, a four-piece Metal band from Pine Grove, PA. They did a great job welcoming everyone back into this space with their set of amped-up original music. I am encouraged to see the younger generation metal bands up and coming on the scene. The second band, Lasciate, is an alternative band from Hershey, PA. Their set was mostly high-energy original music as well, but also found a favorite with the crowd when they covered Limp Bizkit’s ‘Break Stuff’.
Next up was the Suicide Puppets, a six-piece Industrial Metal band (check out our recent interview with the band here). One might think that having an unplanned year off from the stage would negatively affect performances, but not so with the Suicide Puppets. They were fiercely on point and exploded with their mixed set of old favorites and brand new music from their latest release Tales Of Living And Dying On Slaughter Ridge Road (Unable Records). I have seen their shows many times, however, each one is better than the last as they always find ways to push the envelope to keep fans looking for more.
Headliner Defiant, a four-piece Hard Rock band from South Central Pennsylvania certainly had their work cut out for them having to follow such amazing high-energy sets, but rose to the challenge. They certainly did their part to announce to central Pennsylvania that live music has returned with a well-chosen set of fan favorites from their first EP, The Anarch-EP (Curtain Call Records), and new music from their upcoming release The Rent In Hell is Free (Curtain Call Records).
Thank you to all the bands and the venue, XL Live, for doing an amazing job assembling this talented lineup of local bands and for navigating an uncertain landscape to safely return live music to your stage and the appreciative fans.
WORDS AND PHOTOS BY KIM HANSEN