They may not be a household name yet, but The Hollywood Kills (THK) are poised to take the world of rock by storm. This young band from Hendersonville, Tenn. has been honing their craft over the last few years, conquering the loss of a record deal, and seemingly fatal lineup changes that would shake the foundation of any group.
Career lows aside THK have pressed on and are planning an unveiling of epic proportions, set for the first of the New Year. In preparation for said unveiling, the boys debuted a slew of new material Friday night at The Exit/In (with friends Mother Father and VHS or Beta) and successfully set the stage for their much-anticipated future.
As the lights came down over a well-packed house, The Hollywood Kills took their places on stage; Johnathon “Jirc” Jircitano, with his vintage Fender guitar, slid behind the microphone, Brent Powelson strapped up his sleek black Les Paul stage left, Brandon Jenkins plopped down behind the drum kit, and the newest member John Paul “JP” Gressman planted his feet firmly stage right, bass in hand. Fans crept closer and closer to the front of the room as the first chords of the night rang freely into the cool venue air.
As a special treat, The Hollywood Kills began their set with a Jimmy-Eat-World-esque introduction. The crowd reacted extremely well, bobbing their heads to the beat. After a good sixteen bars, boys dove straight into their first song “Counting Lines.” An epic rock ballad about the strangling grip of cocaine, complete with a soaring chorus, melodically driven hooks and simple verses, “Counting Lines” set the tone for an incredible show. By the end of the first chorus, the entire house was grooving to the THK sound.
Fans continued to trickle into the venue as the band introduced themselves and invited everyone to dance their hearts out during the next song. Entitled, “Bastards,” the song brought out an edgier side of the band, perhaps because it’s about non-conformity and “sticking it to the man” theme. The bulk of the tune is directed at the music industry and the negative experiences the boys have had over the last few years.
The pure energy THK projected during “Bastards” was testament enough to their drive and perseverance as a unit. As Jircitano shouted “Bastards create the rules” sweat dripped down his brow. Powelson and Gressman were playing off each others intensity, and the snarly look on Jenkins’ face turned to devilish smile as he precisely pounded out the down beat of the hook.
A roaring applause followed the final drum roll of “Bastards.” Audience members were waving their fists in the air, screaming and begging for more. In true form, The Hollywood Kills delivered, and began the funky groove of a new song called “Eye For An Eye.” This emotional power-ballad showcased Jircitano’s incredibly versatile voice perfectly. On the chorus he wailed, “I’ve lost the time to keep this alive, lets go out separate ways” as Powelson’s pedal-modified guitar echoed behind him. The most appealing aspect of Jircitano’s talent lies in the fact that his voice is gritty and in your face, yet surprisingly delicate and rather beautiful at times. At the end of the song, in fact he unleashes his vocal prowess with the accuracy and heart-wrenching emotion of a seasoned gospel singer moved by the spirit.
When the last chord and sweet melodic tone of “Eye For An Eye” trailed off into now-musty venue air the boys took a minute to thank the crowd for coming out. By this time the small room was filled to capacity with fans and random concertgoers.
To round out their set the boys played a brand new tune, written just a few months ago. The funky toe-tapper, called “Idiots Guide To Desertion,” is comprised of an incredibly catchy melody with a fistful of personality. The songs message was originally directed at former bassist Dylan Rowe, who left the band for greener pastures in the form of an established, label-friendly group called The Matches.
The band agrees, however, that the song is now more of a general description that shouldn’t be taken literally in any sense. “Idiots Guide” is one of the most personal songs for THK because of the underlying message, but is also one of the most accurate portrayals of the band’s talent for both songwriting and performing. The performance was incredibly energetic, and a darker, more playful side of Jirc comes out, especially during the verses of the song when he croons:
“Keep your sorries, they are no good here anymore/you say are we/still friends, I guess/but friends at war/ I don’t mind/but the answer is/would you leave behind a son who you’d bore/I don’t think so!”
Powelson had some fun on the bridge, which showcased a simpler drumbeat in exchange for a sultry, ever-so-enticing guitar solo that matched the tone of the tune perfectly. When the boys crashed into the final chorus of the song the effect was explosive. Fans gyrated to the half-time breakdown with beers in the air and satisfied smiles on their faces. When it was over, The Hollywood Kills bowed humbly and gave thanks to the crowd for their enthusiasm.
The final song of THK’s set was an old fan-favorite called “Speak Up.” In classic Hollywood Kills form, “Speak Up” is driven by a pulsating beat throughout the verse and then escalates into an emotionally driven, powerhouse of a chorus. Friday night, there couldn’t have been a better song to end with. The entire front rows of the venue were screaming along to virtually every word, dancing and waving their arms. Jenkins truly came alive during the bridge of this song. The intensity with which he pounded the drums echoed that of greats like Barker and Moon, and the rest of the band only fed off the energy he exuded.
As a final treat THK played out their set with the tail end of their introduction. Only this time it was a lot more Hollywood Kills and a lot less Jimmy Eat World. The boys rocked to their own beat, along with the crowd, and with the final drop of the drumstick screamed, “Goodnight!” at the top of their lungs. A few drunken fans screamed for an encore, and everyone was applauding long after the house lights were brought up.
Even after struggling to jump through major-label hoops, and having to replace numerous band members, The Hollywood Kills pulled out an incredible set Friday night fueled by incredible energy, and shear talent; Talent that should be more than enough to get their career-ball rolling again in the New Year. With a new album—set to be released in February—a fresh new look on their Myspace.com page, and a new attitude on life, THK have everything they need to find success in this crazy business of music.