There is nothing like walking into a sold-out music venue with three ambulances flashing outside, shortly being passed by a bloody-faced male adult headed out. Quite the precursor to Highly Suspect, featured at Newport Music Hall. Maybe it was to be expected as the show was presented by Columbus’ main rock station, The Blitz. Regardless, it literally set the stage for the show (along with openers DJ Redbees and And The Kids).
Back to the music- Highly Suspect is a trio comprised of Rich Meyer (bass/backing vocals) and brother Ryan Meyer (drums/also backing vocals), with the addition of frontman Johnny Stevens (lead vocals/guitar). These guys are next to impossible to place into a single genre category as frankly, they do whatever they want. It’s one of their most endearing qualities. That being said, their sounds meld together a cool mix of post-grunge and modern rock, with a hint of blues.
Walking into the venue, the acronym “MCID” was visible everywhere. And I mean everywhere. The backdrop to the stage, the hat of the woman in front of you, the shirt of the dude next to you, and even across the knuckles of frontman Stevens. “MCID” meaning, “My Crew Is Dope”. Fans are regarded as one big family, and your family is naturally your crew. It is unbelievable to think that Highly Suspect originally started off as a cover band.
As the lights dimmed to start the show, a pumped up rap song started blaring as the guys nonchalantly walked onto the stage. There was no huge intro, but this packed audience definitely didn’t need one. People started shoving forward just in anticipation. The Meyer brothers launched into “Send Me An Angel” followed by the emotive, heartfelt lyrics via Stevens. It isn’t very often that a group can successfully drive a crowd into a slower song to start a show, but it was perfect for them. The slightly more up-tempo “Bath Salts”, a track off of their first studio album “Mister Asylum” was to follow up.
The honest “Serotonia” shortly came next, much to the crowd’s delight. Stevens crooned along, “I wish that everyone was dead / So that I’d never have to pick up the phone / I just wanna be naked / And masturbate all day at home”. This caused such applause from the audience that the boys gathered in towards center stage for a quick dance break, featuring a jazz-hand-esque arm bridge followed up by a “go team” style arm raise. More applause and cheers.
The setlist continued on with hits such as “Lydia” which was nominated for best rock song at the 2015 Grammy’s, and was later intercepted by “Claudeland” which is the perfect amount of all-around aggressiveness. At least once throughout the show, each member got to showcase their abilities. “Claudeland” featured one of the many solos of the set, by Meyer on the drums. Closing out the impressive 1 hour 45 minute set was an encore of fan favorite “Little One” as well as “My Name Is Human”.
Columbus definitely got their fill for the night, but there is a lot in store for the crew. Highly Suspect is currently working on their third studio album, and have also just booked dates for another Fall tour in the U.S., followed by European dates in early 2018. Dates within the U.S. are as follows:
9/02 – Seattle, Wash. @ Bumbershoot
9/09 – Pittsburgh, Pa. @ Stage AE – w/ Bastille
9/16 – Los Angeles Calif. @ Spaceland Block Party
9/21 – Flint, Mich. @ Machine Shop
9/22 – Grand Rapids, Mich. @ 20 Monroe Live
9/23 – Bloomington, Ill. @ Castle Theatre
9/25 – Madison, Wis. @ Majestic Threatre
9/28 – Maquoketa, Iowa @ Codfish Hollow
9/29 – Sioux City, Iowa @ Hard Rock Hotel & Casino
9/30 – Bellevue, Colo. @ Mishawaka Amph
10/3 – Colorado Springs, Colo. @ The Black Sheep
10/4 – Colorado Springs, Colo. @ The Black Sheep
10/7 – Billings, Mont. @ Pub Station – Ballroom
10/8 – Missoula, Mont. @ Top Hat Lounge
10/12 – Spokane, Wash. @ The Knitting Factory
10/13 – Boise, Idaho @ Knitting Factory
10/14 – Salt Lake City, Utah @ The Depot
10/18 – San Francisco, Calif. @ Bottom of the Hill
10/19 – San Francisco, Calif. @ Bottom of the Hill
10/20 – Phoenix, Ariz. @ Steele Indian School Park – Lost Lake Festival
10/21 – Sacramento, Calif. @ Discovery Park – Aftershock Festival