Midnight Demon Club tour brings Highly Suspect and Tigercub to The Aztec

Cesar Soto, Staff Writer

Making their second appearance in San Antonio this year, rock band Highly Suspect came back to town on Wednesday, Nov. 2 for their headline performance as part of their Midnight Demon Club Tour. Bringing along Tigercub to the Aztec Theatre, all of the Highly Suspect fans in the Alamo City were prepared for a fun night of rock music.

The night’s opening band was Tigercub, playing in San Antonio for the first time ever. The U.K. rock trio features Jamie Hall as the vocalist and lead guitarist, Jimi Wheelwright as the bassist and James Allix as the drummer. Unlike most bands, the three members were situated close together on stage rather than the drummer being behind everyone else like usual. It is fairly uncommon that the drummer is the one that is most attention-grabbing, but because he was more upfront than most drummers are, the intensity and passion that he put into his playing were much more visible. His facial expressions and the excitement in his eyes felt incredibly genuine in every moment they played. This does not discredit Hall putting his all into his performance as a frontman playing two roles and Wheelwright bringing his own quirky dynamic to the bass. 

British bands have a loose and easygoing vibe about them that makes them easy to have fun with. For instance, after the crowd was asked if any of them liked to get f—ed up, they played their song “I.W.G.F.U.,” which stands for “I want to get f—ed up,” as everyone raised their alcoholic drinks. They also had terrific instrumental breaks in songs like “The Perfume of Decay” and “Beauty,” where the trio went off into their own zone but in a way where they all came together. The crowd increasingly responded to them as their set went on, with their biggest sign of approval being from a fan who threw their bra on stage — much to the band’s delight. They showed so much humility and appreciation for opening up the show, and their alternative rock sound worked as the ideal opening act.

Then it was time for Highly Suspect to take the stage, revealing an epic backdrop with their name in giant red letters and lots of psychedelic graphics spread all over it. Lead singer and guitarist Johnny Stevens dapped up his fellow bandmates before kicking right into the first song of their set, “The Sound,” the intro track off their newest record, “The Midnight Demon Club,” released this past September. Stevens controlled the band’s momentum at the beginning of their set, getting the crowd to “use their throats” to scream the words. He then proceeded to show love by thanking everyone in the venue, including the frenzied fans on the balcony. For the next hour and 45 minutes, the Massachusetts-based band continued to rock out on the Aztec Theatre stage.

The crowd continued to stay on a constant high through the first few tracks, and the band sure felt that excitement. They praised the Aztec Theatre, a venue they have played numerous times now, and highlighted that San Antonio has “always got it going on” whenever they come to town. Once they transitioned into their earlier hits that led them to where they are today, that excitement somehow got even higher. The lighting techniques of the show continued to improve as well, with many impressive visual choices. In front of their backdrop, the lights were shaped into thin dashed lines that connected across the stage, flashing vibrant colors throughout the show.

Some of the early highlights included “Bloodfeather,” which had the entire crowd clapping and even had Stevens telling everyone to put their middle fingers up, which they all eagerly did. With the song “Canals” being one of their angriest songs lyrically, the emotion of the live experience lived up to expectations. Stevens used a flashlight of his own for some eye-catching visual cues, let out some screams, and towards the end of the song, moved around the stage while flashing peace signs, which everyone in the crowd returned, making for a powerful moment to see.

The band then left the stage, with the exception of bassist Rich Meyer. In a complete departure from the rest of their set in the best way possible, he started singing “Wild Eyed Son,” a song he performs off their new album, and it was easily the most heartfelt moment of the night. Meyer has very calming vocals in the song, touching the souls of everyone in attendance, where they all started lighting up their cell phones — and a few lighters scattered around — completely unprompted. It was an obvious sign that the fans need to hear more of his vocals moving forward on the band’s future work.

However, the standout moment of the concert was the song “Serotonia,” which already started as a great song that held a lot of emotional meaning to people in the audience. It sparked the loudest sing-along of the night, and performing the song alone was already going to bring the house down. Even so, the Grammy-nominated band still found a way to raise the ante by turning the song into what was essentially a 10-minute jam session that grew to be more unbelievable as each member continued to play around with the notes of the song. They continually found new ways to use incredible live production to keep the nostalgic 70s sound of the track going even when it felt like it was reaching its end.

The set list started to wind down with fan favorites like “Lydia,” with a killer line in the song being “I can’t f–king breathe,” which all the fans screamed out and felt like a full release of emotion for them. Another song was “Claudeland,” a track that picked up the tempo so much that it had the most headbanging in the crowd of the night, as well as incredibly fun energy between Meyer and guitarist Matt Kofos, who added a nice touch by firing a small confetti cannon into the crowd.

The band left the stage, resulting in the crowd shouting out for an encore. They gladly complied, returning to perform “16” and “Look Alive, Stay Alive.” The closing song was “Pink Lullabye,” the most the band has dipped their toes into the metal scene thus far, and it was just as aggressive in a live setting. The frantically pulsating lights timed perfectly with the loud refrain, “Shut up! Move!” The band walked off stage to wild applause, with the band members loving the Aztec Theatre just as much as the Aztec Theatre loved them that night.

This stop in San Antonio showed that not only is Highly Suspect a rock band unafraid of taking risks with their music but the same can be said for their live show. What makes it even better is that for them, the risks absolutely pay off.