Story and Photos: Spencer Fleming
Omaha was shaking with the sounds of the legendary Soulfly Tuesday night (3/7) as Max Cavelara and his crew of thrashers blew the roof off The Waiting Room.
Before we get into the show, let's back things up a bit. It was the year 2000. I had been on my live music journey for a little over a year at this point, but most of my experience centered around club shows at the Ranch Bowl and a few arena concerts at the Civic Auditorium. At the time I was trying to date a girl way out of my league. She had killer style and knew about all the cool bands before I even had a clue, She turned me on to Deftones and soon after Soulfly!
Well that summer her mom was nice enough to drive a bunch of kids three hours away for Ozzfest. A sprawling complex of music and mayhem with little parental guidance? Now was my chance to move out of the friend zone!
We stayed concert buddies for a few more weeks, but I eventually won her over. Fast forward 23 years and we're still going strong!
Over the years we got to see Soulfly at various venues throughout the Midwest including the Ranch Bowl, Ozzfest, and the Royal Grove (back when it doubled as a strip club). So when I heard Soulfly was coming to Omaha I was super pumped.
Alright, fast forward to the show on Tuesday. We arrived at the Waiting Room just before the 6:30 showtime only to be told we weren't on the list! Oh no! This happens from time to time. Have no fear, I have my trusty email with confirmation. I show my phone to Dave and he checks with some of the touring crew but no luck. He said we needed to go through Gloria, Max Cavalera's wife and tour manager. Luckily Dave let us stay and got us some wristbands. So at the least we were still going to see Soulfly. The night wouldn't be a total loss.
I emailed my contact to see if she could coordinate with Gloria and get a photo pass approved. While I waited I was relegated to the iPhone if I wanted to get any pictures. They say the best camera is the one you have with you. I made the best of it and shuffled my way to the front to catch the opening band, Omaha's own When Towers Fall. I was familiar with When Towers Fall through their lead singer Derek who plays in one of Omaha's best tribute bands Chop Suey! (System of a Down). Heads up, Chop Suey! will be playing with Hybrid Theory (Likin Park) tribute on Friday April 7. Get your tickets now, there's a very good chance that show will sell out.
When Towers Fall is more prog rock with a nod towards old school metal like Iron Maiden or Helmet. For thirty minutes Derek and company thrashed the Waiting Room leaving us in a haze of guitar riffs and soaring vocals. Thanks for kicking the night off Derek!
Up next was a rock group from LA called Drift. These guys had a flair for the theatrics, showing up in full riot gear and dreadlocks. They had a bit of a hair metal sound with some hard driving riffs and bombastic drums. The lead singer looked like Judge Dredd with a helicopter helmet, a keyboard on his wrist and lights on his gloves. If you can't win people over with your tunes at least give them a wild show! There were a lot of people at the merch booth after their set so I think the crowd was digging it.
Last up before Soulfly was the hardcore outfit Bodybox. These guys were definitely the most heavy band up to that point. I had seen Bodybox open for Spite back in June last year. Their sound is straight cave man. No clean vocals, heavy riffs that punch you in the face, and pounding drums. Several times the lead singer thanked everyone for coming out and spending their hard earned dollars. If you like getting hit over the head with heavy tunes Bodybox is in your lane!
After Bodybox it was time for the legendary Soulfly!!! I was super excited, but also nervous about getting permission to shoot photos. Gloria was going to get me a pass sometime before the band started so I waited patiently by the backstage door next to the stage. The time counted down and soon the band would be going on stage. Just before the intro music started, the door opened and Gloria handed me a photo pass! Whew, talk about cutting it close. I quickly applied the sticker to my jacket and made my way between the stage and the barrier. As the tribal drums kicked in I steadied myself in the center and waited for the metal maestro himself.
As Max and his band walked on stage I was so pumped. I gave Max and his guitarist a fist bump and with the biggest smile I got ready to shoot some photos. The band kicked into "Primitive" and the room exploded. I absolutely love this song. So the fact that they opened with it was just too perfect. Though the song is 23 years old it still rings so true today. It's essentially saying we need to forget all the politics, go back to primitive ways, confront negativity and focus on the positive. "Who feels it knows it, and God will guide me!" That's just my interpretation anyway. Be less divisive and more positive.
Soulfly is one of the heaviest bands around, but many of their songs preach a message of positivity and unity. A lot of their sound is derived from Max's background growing up in Brazil, so while they're pummeling the crowd with thrash riffs and crushing drums there's also a hint of reggae, a tribal flavor if you will. It's something that's set the band apart from the pack and always had my interest.
Max and his band treated the Waiting Room to a varied set, pulling out a few songs from their latest release Totem, and also serving up the classics like "Boom", "Fire", and "Ritual". Max made sure to call out to the "Soulfly tribe", motioning to the crowd "everybody put your claws up!" With the metal claws in the air a call of unity was made. The crowd thrashed forward and sang along with their tribal leader. Max went on to explain that the metal community needs to stick together. "We need to be positive and help each other", "Let's pick each other up". Wise words from the metal shaman.
As the night was coming to a close Soulfly brought the heat, providing banger after banger including their first single from 1998 "Bleed" and "Eye For An Eye". Before the band walked off stage Max said "You gotta bring the Soulfly chant for some more". It took a few beats but eventually the crowd found their rhythm and shouted for more. After a short break Max and the guys came back for one of their biggest songs to date (and their most streamed) "Jumpdaf@ckup". Of course a song with jump in the title would elicit a wave of jumping and sloshing around from the already hyped crowd. From front to back the room was bouncing. As Nick Hexum from 311 would say "One organism in celebration". I left with my ears ringing and my heart full. Soulfly will forever be legends to me.
A huge thanks to Kristin, Gloria, and Nuclear Blast records for photo access! This show was insane.
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