Concert Review by Danny Coleman

Photos by Vernon Webb

IMG_4953HOWELL, NJ—Ballyhoo! christened a new venue recently as GameChanger World opened their doors for its initial offering. This four-piece rock/punk/reggae group from Aberdeen, MD rocked the small, but appreciative, crowd for slightly more than an hourlong set (including their encore).

Opening up the evening were several local bands, most notably Under Fire and Eastbourne. Both had heavy rock/reggae sounds that set the tone. I particularly liked Under Fire, as they combined driving rock with an uptempo reggae beat that was both danceable and great listening.

This was the maiden voyage for GameChanger World as a concert venue. Reminiscent  of an abandoned warehouse (complete with exposed pipes, duct work and a cinder block stage wall), the venue presents a challenge to any sound man on this planet. From my points of reference, the only issues that I found were a muddled mix, more of a cacophony actually, when all the way in the back of this cavernous building. Other than that, kudos to the house crew, as they made things work. The crowd was sparse, only adding to the echoes, but none in attendance seemed to mind, as they all were within the first 50 feet of the stage.IMG_5727

Ballyhoo! entered the stage to the delight of their faithful and with no real introduction or fanfare. Frontman Howi Spangler ripped into the opening chords of “Sandcastles,” and the band was on its way. The high energy was evident from the outset, each member seemingly as pumped as the next to rock this new venue. “Everything” was next, followed by “Battle Cry” and “Bad Credit,” the latter two drawing the crowd into singalong mode as they seemed to shake off the effects of the icy cold and eight inches of snow which had fallen upon the area only 24 hours prior.

“She Wants to Destroy Me” gave way to mega hit “No Good,” and by this time, the crowd was fully immersed in the band’s mystique. Singing and answering Howi’s calls for response, those in attendance were now rockin’ and rollin’ the night away as the band seemed to be picking up even more steam. Combining intense rock riffs with reggae overtones and some well-placed techno beats and percussion from Scott “DJ Blaze” Vandrey, the boys continued to IMG_5021plow through tune after tune as they supported their most recent disc, Pineapple Grenade.

“The Struggle,” “Last Night” and “Walk Away” were followed by the incitement of “Marijuana Laws,” which segued into “Instigator,” once again keeping the crowd at a fever pitch. Raised arms and pumping fists prevailed as “Run” and “Somewhere Tropical” started the group down through the home stretch.

“Cali Girl” and “The Friend Zone” took the night to its precipice as the first curtain came crashing down soon after with a fantastic rendition of “Outta My Mind.” I tip my hat to bassist JR Gregory and drummer Donald “Big D” Spangler, as they were the tireless, tight, driving and steady force throughout. Their bass riffs and timely drum fills placed some very nice punctuation marks on the band’s statements (without any doubt) on this evening.

The group made their throngs wait only for one minute before reentering the stage to do an encore of “Paper Dolls” and “Groove Rock.” Once again their infectious energy overtook the crowd as they immediately picked up where they left off. Rocking the room until the end, Ballyhoo! christened the new venue like a fine bottle of champagne, complete with the loud pop of a successful opening.

The band moves on from here to their Winter Brewhaha tour, along with Passafire. Look out world!













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