By Julian Routh | Editor-in-Chief
Behind the horror movie masks, in-your-face lyrics and confident charisma of Hollywood Undead are six musicians who have faced enough adversity to tear even the strongest of bonds apart.
Shortly after the Los Angeles rock-rap group released its third studio album, “Notes from the Underground,” in 2013, A&M/Octane – the record label that was supposed to distribute and promote the album – went out of business.
As a result, “Notes,” which took two years of hard work, picked up no radio play, no critical recognition and, ultimately, no buzz.
“That was the hardest thing as a band we’ve ever had to go through,” vocalist Johnny 3 Tears told The Duke. “It’s those kinds of circumstances where you find out if you still love what you do. Everybody in the band had a moment of reflection.”
But that moment has passed, and Hollywood Undead is a reenergized version of its former self. Touring in support of its new record, “Day of the Dead,” the band brought its electrifying live show to Stage AE in Pittsburgh this past Sunday night and proved that they are far beyond tough times.
The 19-song set showcased Hollywood Undead’s incredible versatility; it had quick-witted, raunchy party songs (“Comin’ in Hot”), metal bangers (“Been to Hell”) and sadistic downers (“Bullet”) from the various troves of the band’s four-album discography.
“Every time we do a run like this, we gotta change it up,” Johnny said. “A lot of fans have seen us eight, nine or 10 times. We always make an effort to make it as engaging as possible, the same fun chaos we always try to create on stage.”
Chaos was indeed on stage Sunday, as the sextet navigated the space in pandemonium. The six emcees routinely switched instruments, jumped up on the front speakers, flexed their muscles and stole the spotlight.
It was truly a diverse performance; at one moment, Johnny 3 Tears was delivering a powerful verse in “City.” At the next moment, Charlie Scene was joking about dating the mayor of Pittsburgh (“He’s right there,” Charlie said, pointing to Johnny).
As with any Hollywood Undead performance, the chaos was not confined to the stage. Fans near the front had to dodge dozens of eager crowd-surfers. Fans near the back watched as a mosh pit formed, only to be used as an indoor wrestling space.
Stage AE was at its rowdiest at the end of the night, when the Undead gang jammed the title track from their new album, “Day of the Dead.” Along with earlier performances of “Gravity,” “Usual Suspects” and “War Child,” the new live tracks were a sign that the six men have evolved as songwriters and artists.
“We wanted to make ‘Day of the Dead’ a more group-oriented album,” Johnny said, “and we took that approach … I would never want our fifth or sixth record to sound the same as our first one.”
They ended their set with two crazy fan-favorite encores in “Everywhere I Go” and “Hear Me Now,” a callback to the band’s first two albums.
To think that the band’s existence was threatened by a record label going out of business just two years ago is unfathomable. The gentlemen performed with the same swagger they always have, and that won’t change anytime soon.
“I’ve always promised myself the day I don’t want to do it anymore, I won’t do it,” he said. “I wouldn’t drag it on, because that’s not honest. You’ll know the day we don’t enjoy it anymore.”