I’m still riding the emotional high from my Saturday night at NeverWake’s Sleepwalker Ball. Each year since this band began their annual charity ball, I’ve made sure to be there to cover it. This night was different though, for some amazing, and bittersweet, reasons.
Being a pretty big fan of NeverWake’s music in general (Yes, that was probably me you heard screaming and singing along) I also love that these guys put together a charity event and go no holds barred fun and family with them. Ghostbusters, Disney villains, and now “The Curse of the Red Cougar”, NeverWake takes these opportunities to show their fun side while impressing the crowd with their music. They always look for ways to bring in bands from across the scene too, this time teaming up with Theriaca as well as Chip & The Charge Ups, to have a full line up of stellar music for fans, friends, and of course, family. Kids of all ages in attendance, tables filled with friends and family, fans (and dinosaurs) headbanging through the night, this was a night none of us in the audience expected. Over and again I heard people saying how they hadn’t been to a local show in some time, or they hadn’t really felt the energy to do much but wanted to come out in support, but once they got there they, like me, got caught up in something magical. Maybe it was in the air, or maybe that Red Cougar curse had an effect? All I know is by the end of the show complete strangers were friends, laughter was the norm, and all of us were so grateful to have decided to come.
First up to bat, let’s talk about Theriaca. This is a band that hasn’t been around too long in terms of long standing locals, and they have a uniqueness about them you don’t see too often. Let’s begin with the name. Theriaca is a supposed cure all for what ails you, “theriaca – noun – the·ri·a·ca – thi-ˈrī-ə-kə : an antidote to poison consisting typically of about 70 drugs pulverized and reduced with honey to an electuary” according to the dictionary. Why did I just deep dive on you like that? Because that definition seems to sum up everything about this band. They have a sound that fits with hard rock, metal, doom, you name it, and their music has qualities of them all in it’s own way. We were transfixed by resounding, melodic vocals at times, deep tones and brash drums, so many things that seemed to be taken individually, then ground to their finest and mixed with a dose of something sweet and deep. Each member of the band transported into their own world, the music moving them as much as the audience, eyes closed, caught up in the moment, in the feeling, as we all were. I highly suggest you check out their music online, and get thee to a show of theirs, you won’t be disappointed in the slightest by this band.
Chip & The Charge Ups were up next. I didn’t even recognize them when they first walked by me! Never afraid to go all out, the members of this band decided they should transform themselves into the 80’s as well…. but they went with 80 years of age rather than the 1980’s. I’ve never really known how exactly to categorize this one because there’s elements of punk, rock and roll old school style, and I believe the term power pop has come up a time or two in their interviews. You can’t easily define them, but you’ll probably recognize a tune or two from various sources in the Pittsburgh area. What I can tell you about them is they have FUN. Constantly smiling and playing the parts of entertainers, Chip & The Charge Ups really keep your attention through their entire set. When they saw they’re electrifying, they’re not joking. I swear the lights during their set glowed brighter than all the others! I’ve had the unique opportunity to work with this band as part of their song “Front Row“… so maybe I’m a little biased?? Nah, lol. They’re seen in venues all over, so be sure to keep an eye out for their next show and see for yourself why they’re a well known name in the Pittsburgh scene.
The night didn’t exactly end with NeverWake, there were costume contest winners, Schecter guitar research donated a guitar for raffle, and there was a meet and greet after the show. We’re going to end this article on NeverWake’s performance though, because among the light and the love, there was a moment most of us weren’t expecting.
Beginning the set by staging the story, NeverWake’s manager, Dino Giovannone, had the video reel played showing how the band got cursed and became (duh duh dunnnnnnnn) Red Cougar! We all expected the normal black outfits of a metal band, and got some red leather clad hairspray monsters of hard rock instead. However, Red Cougar took it with grace by completing the night with multiple… covers??… of NeverWake songs. At times the curse would advance and they were forced to play 80’s covers, such as their version of Thriller, or Rebel Yell, but the night was filled with our favorite tunes from the rather extensive NeverWake catalogue. The guys really played up their parts and everyone was having a blast, yes, including the inflated dinosaur I mentioned earlier who continued to headbang through the night. Kids lined up at the stage too, watching what might be their first real concert, It’s been some time since seeing these guys in action on stage for many, and we couldn’t get enough. About halfway through the set, Johnny made an announcement that broke some hearts. Remember that bittersweet moment I mentioned? Hearts were broken when we found out that Marcus Giannamore, NeverWake’s drummer, would be leaving the band. Life is about balance, and his balance right now is best with his family, but my gods people. We weren’t ready.
The Sleepwalker Ball continued, with the guys from NeverWake giving their all, and by the end of the night we were all spent, tired, and happy. Many of us are still recovering, but from everything I’ve seen on social media, we were all glad to have come out that night, and we all felt that same feeling of comradery, connection and pure thrill of the music. To say it was a magical night is only fair. After a few years of not getting to see NeverWake, I got to see them two weekends in a row, and I’m looking forward to their next show as well. There’s no replacing Marcus, those shoes just won’t be filled, but NeverWake will continue to be a bad ass band doing amazing things, and I’ll continue to be there in the crowd with all the other Sleepwalkers.