Saying Goodbye to Letlive.

My first experience with letlive. was unintentional. On a hot July evening in Louisville, Kentucky, I was in attendance to cover my favorite band, Underoath, in support of their new album Ø (Disambiguation). It was mid-2011 and I was unaware of letlive.’s existence before their placement as the opener on the tour, though that night would prove to be the most enraptured I have ever been while watching an opening act.

Within moments of taking the stage, vocalist Jason Aalon Butler leaped into the docile crowd, screaming the repeated refrain of, “There are no martyrs in resolution / Remain still, don’t expect restitution / Stand up, stand up, stand up”. From there, the energy only escalated. Before the band’s set came to an end, Butler would be pulled from the stage by two venue security guards and dragged out of the building for his response to their abuse of a spectator. Feedback blared over the house speakers as the crowd looked around in bewilderment, unsure what it had just witnessed.

In so many ways, it was the perfect introduction to a band delivering an unwavering wake-up call, resolute in its cry against injustice.

Hanging with Jason after a 2012 concert in Indianapolis.

That night, I purchased Fake History, their breakthrough album, which had just been re-released by Epitaph Records. In the years that followed, I made it my ambition to share the news of letlive. at every possible opportunity, framing them as the west-coast spiritual successors to New York hardcore kings, Glassjaw.

For all of the criticism aimed in the direction of modern punk music, perhaps none is more valid than the idea that the genre has lost its teeth: misdirected passion with no resounding political or social message; no voice. It was, and still is, my belief that letlive. encapsulated the spirit of the punk community in a way that very few bands have dared in recent decades.

Fake History is a manic display of outrage directed toward systematic oppression and collective rejection of truth. Topics range from religious denial of evolution to the pitfalls of capitalism. On “Casino Columbus”, Butler takes aim at the pillaging of Native Americans and their culture, shrieking, “I want to be the bourgeoisie, but I don’t have blue blood in my veins / My eyes did see the vampirous pilgrim drop a few red drips from his fangs” before closing with, “Stick your finger down the throat of your freedoms / And let it all purge on out”.

The raw, post-hardcore violence of Fake History, coupled with grassroots, word-of-mouth marketing around the band’s live performances brought letlive. to scene attention, complete with magazine covers and features that showcased the delicate, thoughtful off-stage personality of Butler – a man determined to deliver his message at any cost. It was that organic rise to attention to made 2013’s The Blackest Beautiful all the more impactful.

I’m a firm believer that The Blackest Beautiful is one of the most important rock albums the genre has produced in recent memory. In addition to refining their sonic chaos, Butler delivers an inspired performance, targeting systematic racism, the broken healthcare system, and a misplaced worship of celebrity. It’s the punk album that letlive. had earned more than enough cache to deliver, and it is close to perfect.

That summer was a whirlwind, with letlive. leading a long-overdue conversation in an often-complacent scene. One of the personal highlights of my career came while covering the band on that summer’s Warped Tour, writing a feature on a band that had put the genre I love on notice in all the right ways. It felt like validation.

As I’ve learned so many times in my life, though, it’s easy to take good things for granted. I largely shrugged at last year’s If I’m the Devil…, an album that I felt lacked the bite of letlive.’s previous work, even if it did contain some interesting new tricks and important discussion. It never crossed my mind that we might have heard the last from a band that I presumed would lead the genre forward for years to come.

The news of letlive.’s demise is hard to swallow and even harder to believe. The mission statement and idea behind the very website you’re reading is based largely off of the spirit of letlive. – a commitment to praise authenticy, progress and positivity. In a scene that still shamefully struggles with misogyny, gender and racial imbalance, and general apathy, it’s hard not to feel a giant hole. Nevertheless, I know this community benefited greatly from letlive. and I firmly believe that others will carry their torch.

I feel fortunate to have been at that show in Louisville in 2011 and even more fortunate to have watched the band play countless times after, seeing something new with each performance. I’m grateful to the band for their music, their message and their humbleness. Finally, I feel confident than their spirit of empowerment and justice will carry on. After all, according to Butler at every show I attended, letlive. was composed of more than just the members on stage – it was all of us.

“We got an army for us versus them, but look, it’s not us versus them / It’s just us, my friend”

by Kiel Hauck

kiel_hauckKiel Hauck is the editor in chief at It’s All Dead. Over the past decade, he has been a contributor for multiple online and print publications and was most recently an editor at PopMatters. Kiel currently resides in Indianapolis, IN with his wife and their imaginary pet, Hand Dog. You can follow him on Twitter.

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letlive. release rendition of “27 Club” featuring Keith Buckley

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If you’re like us and couldn’t get enough of letlive.’s stellar 2013 release The Blackest Beautiful, you’re in luck. The band is giving the songs from their album an overhaul as part of their Renditions series, in which they give guest vocalists an opportunity to sing over a part of one of their songs. Lead vocalist Jason Aalon Butler explained:

We presented them one song off of our latest album and asked them what they would do with a certain section if I (Jason Aalon) never sang in said section. We asked them to explore with free reign utilizing their particular style and prose. The point of this was not only to share our gratitude and adoration for other bands/artists, but to work with other artists we appreciate in new methods of collaboration and provide listeners with an exciting approach. In doing this you will hear the same song with different artists providing their artistic signature in the same section. The contrast, we believe, will not negate any single performance, but enhance all of them.

The first rendition features Keith Buckley of Every Time I Die singing over the bridge of “27 Club” – check it out below:

You can buy The Blackest Beautiful on iTunes.

Posted by Kiel Hauck

Every Time I Die and letlive. keep hope alive on current tour

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Within these drab walls, above these grimy floors, under these dim stage lights, the music still lives. Entering the Emerson Theater in Indianapolis is like traveling back in time. If these walls could talk, they would tell stories of some of the most intimate, raucous and noteworthy punk rock shows to come through the Midwest over the past few decades.

On this night, it gains another story to tell. Every Time I Die, letlive. and Code Orange Kids have arrived amidst the cold and snow to unleash a night of pummeling music that breathes hope and life into the crowd, but also speaks to the creativity and power that is still churning within the genre.

It’s amazing watching this lineup – truly spanning a generation, yet speaking to listeners of any age. At one point during Every Time I Die’s set, singer Keith Buckley notes that their next song was written when the members of Code Orange Kids were six years old. Don’t let their youth fool you. The Pittsburgh hardcore act is a powerhouse of hardcore punk and metal, fronted by Reba Meyers’ growl and furious guitar.

It’s refreshing to see such a young band hold their own on a tour like this – one that is anchored by one of the most storied and notorious metalcore acts and topped off by a band that has taken the post-hardcore world by storm in a matter of only a few years. Make no mistake – letlive. and Every Time I Die are the main draws tonight, but Code Orange Kids have certainly staked their claim to the rights of hardcore’s future.

Enter letlive. The Los Angeles post-hardcore act has been growing at a slow burn for the past two years since the release of Fake History, an album that introduced them to a larger audience through its 2011 re-release on Epitaph Records. This year, the band dropped one of the best albums of the year in The Blackest Beautiful.

It’s not just that letlive. is making great music and breathing fire back into the post-hardcore scene, it’s that they’re doing it with such furor and passion, marked by the cutting lyrics of Jason Aalon Butler. While they certainly have gained attention for their wild live performance, there’s a method to the madness. The Blackest Beautiful is a furious ride through the heart of Butler, and certainly fans the flame of their on-stage antics.

Butler takes the stage this night with an arm in a sling from a recent injury. No matter. He’ll soon be atop a stack of speakers, flying through the air and writhing on the ground. For Butler, this isn’t just for show, it’s because his passion runs deep as he sings and screams of race, inner demons, family disarray and political failings. The Blackest Beautiful winds back and forth between Butler’s own frustrations with self and his dismay at the world around him before crashing in on itself during the breathtaking “27 Club”, a song that sets the Emerson ablaze.

It’s certainly a sight to behold, seeing the crowd react and move with letlive.’s music – not only because they’re worthy of such an affirmative response, but because the words hold meaning and create a connection between artist and band in a way that runs much deeper than surface level. Letlive. is a force to be reckoned with and with any luck, will be sharing the experience with an even larger audience in years to come.

Yet before the night ends, the bookends of post-hardcore are capped off with the always-manic performance of Every Time I Die. The Buffalo, N.Y., rockers have stood the test of time, outlasting many of their peers while showing no signs of slowing down. Last year’s Ex Lives added to the storied history of the band and has solidified their stay atop the scene.

While their long-standing presence is certainly due to their musical abilities (the band absolutely shreds – still), there’s always been a quirkiness and humor that set the band apart. Buckley is the definition of a frontman, commanding the crowd, demanding your attention and performing the band’s catalogue with such ease that it almost seems too simple.

No one would blame Every Time I Die for wearing down. Instead, the band looks as solid, passionate and tight as ever, performing tracks from 2003’s Hot Damn! as if they had just written them days before. It’s clear that the chemistry amidst this band’s members has aided their longevity and spurred the band to remain as energetic, witty and poignant as ever.

The beauty of this night lies within the acceptance and support of those in attendance and the bands themselves. There’s nothing to prove here, no pissing contests and no room for division. The night is marked by a mutual respect between the bands, regardless of age and seniority, that speaks volumes to the solidity of the core of this scene.

Inside the Emerson, bands still come to play, people still come to listen and there is still hope alive in this underground music scene. We would all be wise to listen, support and keep sharing excellent music. If we’re lucky, these bands and many others following in their footsteps will still be rocking these storied walls for years to come.

-by Kiel Hauck

kiel_hauckKiel Hauck is the editor in chief at It’s All Dead. Over the past decade, he has been a contributor for multiple online and print publications and was most recently an editor at PopMatters. Kiel currently resides in Indianapolis, IN with his wife and their imaginary pet, Hand Dog. You can follow him on Twitter.

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Every Time I Die

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Code Orange Kids

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