Growing up in rural Nebraska meant I didn’t get to go to many concerts. I didn’t attend an actual rock show until I was 17 when I saw REO Speedwagon in North Platte at Nebraskaland Days. Living in Lincoln as an adult has been much more beneficial for seeing bands, but I’ve never seen a bill such as the one I attended recently. You see, it’s one thing to have a package where Hatebreed, Crowbar, The Acacia Strain, and Twitching Tongues all play on one bill. It’s also another thing when Knocked Loose, Terror, Jesus Piece, Year Of The Knife, and Jocko come together in one night. However, when they ALL play together on the same night in the same building, it’s a miracle the building is still standing. This was the case at the Heartland Throwdown that was held in Sokol Auditorium March 22, 2018.
First, you have to have a mental picture of Sokol Auditorium. Sokol Auditorium was built in 1926 in the Little Bohemia neighborhood of South Omaha, Nebraska. It has a maximum capacity of 1,500. Sokol Underground is the basement of Sokol Auditorium, and holds about half as many occupants. It’s like seeing a show in an old church with no pews. Because it’s in a neighborhood, and the Heartland Throwdown was an all-ages, the show started pretty early, and before I got off work. It didn’t help that I live almost an hour away, so I was unable to see Jocko and Year of the Knife’s sets in the Underground. Thankfully, I did arrive in time to see the bulk of the bands.
Being technically the third band on the new huge bill may have been a detriment to the crowd size for Twitching Tongues. However, that didn’t stop them from putting on a high energy performance. Vocalist Colin Young came out in a golden devil mask and Twitching Tongues emblazoned ring robe like a professional wrestler ready to rumble, and rumble they did. Tearing through songs like ‘Eyes Adjust,’ ‘Disharmony,’ and ‘Gaining Purpose,’ the bass was so heavy my teeth were rattling. I soon found out this was a reoccurring theme throughout the night upstairs. Once TT completed their set, I filed downstairs with the crowd to the Underground, which literally looks like a church basement, complete with multiple steel reinforcement poles positioned through the center of the crowd area.
Jesus Piece took the stage to a much more raucous crowd than Twitching Tongues had available, and immediately started calling for the pit. They put on a short, but punishing set, with front man Aaron Heard thrashing around as much as possible. JP even dropped two new tunes on the crowd (probably to come on their Southern Lord debut), along with standouts ‘Greed’, ‘Oppressor,’ and ‘Sinking.’ After this the crowd ran back upstairs to watch Knocked Loose. They were already pretty amped up, so it didn’t take much for vocalist Bryan Garris to get the pit rolling. They’re crushing setlist included favorites ‘Deadringer,’ ‘Counting Worms,’ and ‘Oblivions Peak.’
Terror was ready and waiting to take the crowd’s already high energy and turn it up a notch when they returned to the Underground. Launching into ‘Keep Your Mouth Shut,’ frontman Scott Vogel was all smiles and yells as he encouraged the crowd to stage dive. Beings that the “stage” is only about three feet above the floor, it was pretty easy to accommodate the crazy’s up front. The band threw out banger after banger, ripping through ‘Live by the Code,’ ‘Stick Tight,’ ‘Out of My Face,’ and ‘Keepers of the Faith,’ the whole time calling out for more stage dives, no fights, and directing the pit to go around one of the steel reinforcement poles. Cole Crutchfield from Knocked Loose even joined the band on stage to do vocals for one song.
Once again, it was time to head back upstairs, this time for the mighty Crowbar. After crushing the crowd with opening songs ‘Conquering’ and ‘High Rate Extinction,’ Kirk Windstein announced that it had been 25 years since the band had released their self-titled album. With that, he layed into the opening riff of ‘All I Had (I Gave).’ Crowbar treated the fans to tracks old and new, like ‘Plasmic and Pure’ from their latest album The Serpent Only Lies, as well as crowd favorites ‘The Cemetery Angels’ and ‘Existence is Punishment.’ Remember how I spoke of the thundering bass earlier? Well, it culminated on Crowbar’s final song ‘Like Broken Glass,’ nearly shaking Sokol apart! Many members of other bands bands on the bill gathered along the edge of the stage to watch, headbang, and air drum to the masters as they worked.
The final band in the Underground was The Acacia Strain. I could only listen to the first couple songs of their set, as the basement was at capacity (!), so I had to wait my turn with the rest of the crowd to take the trek downstairs. Luckily, that didn’t take long, so I was able to watch the craziest crowd of the night close out the basement shows. Slamming through songs like ‘The Hills Have Eyes,’ ‘Send Help,’ and ‘Gravebloom,’ vocalist Vincent Bennett’s wild eyes and odd stage banter only stirred the crowd up more, making sure they made the most of their stop in Omaha. Jesus Piece’s Aaron Heard also made a guest vocal appearance to make the set that much more memorable.
Closing out the Hearltand Throwdown were hardcore heavyweights Hatebreed. Well into the “20 Years Of Desire / 15 Years Of Perseverance” tour, they powered through a twenty song set that included the entire Satisfaction is the Death of Desire album, the best of Perseverance, plus a few more of their hits. Opening with ‘Empty Promises,’ Jamey Jasta immediately got the crowd into the set, calling for fists in the air. This is where they stayed most of the show, as Hatebreed hit us with ‘Looking Down the Barrel of Today,’ ‘In Ashes They Shall Reap,’ and ‘Live for This’ along with the tracks from Satisfaction and Perseverance. Former Hatebreed/current Twitching Tongues guitarist Sean Martin joined the band onstage for most of the set, cranking out the tunes he played on the Perseverance album and more. Much like the Crowbar show, members of the other bands that played that night were hanging around the sides of the stage and in the crowd enjoying Hatebreed right along with us. Jesus Piece drummer Luis Aponte stood next to me, singing every song.
Unfortunately, due to the location of the venue, and that it was a week day, Hatebreed were unable to play an encore. No matter, since most of the crowd had already been rocked by eight other bands, it was time to go home. The Hearltand Throwdown was probably a once in a lifetime show, and I’m SO glad I was able to be there!