Launch Music Conference ft Ice Nine Kills & more!

I feel I’ve earned the title of the “ Ice Nine Kills girl ” in my local concert scene. With their logo tattooed on my arm, my Google Drive full of photos from the last 5 years, and my car full of CDs spanning their entire career, my love for this band has become no secret. So at 10 pm, September 10th, seeing in my inbox, I was approved to shoot another Ice Nine show, I just about cried. 2 years without a concert is just about the worst possible thing for a concert photographer, especially two years without my favorite band playing shows. So I loaded my car, and drove the 3 odd hours to Lancaster, PA for the Launch Music Conference.

A venue of this size is intimidating after not shooting a show for a long time, so making my way to the photo pit was the scariest thing I had done in months. The night kicked off New Jersey natives, Enox.

 It was hard not to bang your head to the punchy guitars, crashing drums, and the vocals full of emotion and frustration. They started the night off with an insane amount of energy, getting the crowd warmed up for what else was to come.

Gladiators took the stage next, offering a vibey, heavy performance. The melodic vocals mixed with the deep and bassy guitars, I was in awe of the somehow soft, but powerful performance. The PA band offered a different vibe to the night, setting them apart from the heavy, angry acts we’d see with them. Speaking to them after their sets, they were overwhelmingly kind, and super supportive of all the artists attending the show. It was heartwarming to see a band connecting with fans after two years of isolation, and I could tell how much it meant to the guys in Gladiators.

Lancaster hometown act Hawk was a band I had never seen, despite following singer/guitarist Ricky Armellino’s music since This Or The Apocalypse. It was exciting to see a band I knew, and being able to scream the words back at them had me smiling their entire set. They offer a simple, yet insanely unique approach to metalcore. Ricky’s vocals pack a punch, complimenting the heavy, beautiful guitar work. I could see the emotion in their performance, the entire band clearly overwhelmed to be performing in front of their hometown. There were familiar faces I had seen at shows, all of them looking at the stage with happiness, excitement, and a proudness you rarely see at shows anymore.

Currents was a band I had seen open for bands before, and I heavily regret not giving them my full attention in years past. The energy was turned up to eleven, crowd surfers hammering the barricade. Currents may seem like a traditional metal band at heart, but their music seems to fill your body, forcing you to start moving. It was a chaotic set to shoot, all of us photographers moving to try and capture the incredible stage presence of the band in front of us. After the shoot, I was beyond excited to hand my camera off to a friend, and jump in the pit myself.

I had seen Ice Nine Kills 10 times before this show. I knew all the songs. I knew all the words. I was expecting a typical, incredible set from them. But this set seemed to move me more than usual. INK isn’t exactly a band with sentimental songs, as horror movies and theatrics have taken a hold on their music. But I felt myself getting choked up watching their set. It had been so long since I saw them, that the tears filled my eyes before I even knew. It’s a bit awkward to have tears pouring down your face while your favorite band sings about slashers and demons, but it wasn’t about the music. It was about all the people I had missed over the pandemic. The friends I made and haven’t seen in years. The ability to use my camera and make more art. Their set was, as usual, outstanding. Spencer works the crowd in a way that no frontman could, the other members of the band adding to the chaos happening in the crowd behind me. The horror behind their music comes to life with chaotic vocals, costumes, and of course their amazing makeup artist, Shevy, dressing up as the final girls from the movies inspiring their songs. They make the movies you love come to life before your eyes. It was so rare to see a band who sounds just as good live as they do on record, their entire performance rivaling any movie you could see. My 15 minutes were up before I knew it, and I made my way into the crowd, and finally let loose. Two years without a moshpit, without friends to headbang with. It was an emotional night. The exhaustion didn’t hit my bones until I finally sat down in my bed. 

This tour is a gift for everyone involved. Fans, bands, crew and security. Everyone missed this. I know I did. I eagerly look forward to seeing Ice Nine Kills on the second leg of this tour. And I can’t wait to see what every single band on this bill has coming for the future.

Review & photography courtesy of Emily Sulkowski

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