Concert Review: A Night of Raw, Intense Garage Rock with White Reaper at The Basement
White Reaper, along with opener No Parents, made it a night full of raw, intense, rock ‘n’ roll at The Basement last night. White Reaper, the Louisville, Kentucky based garage punk/rock band, was back in Columbus for the first time since the release of their second full-length album, The World’s Best American Band (released April 7). While the new album offers a more slightly more polished and mature sound than the band’s 2015 debut, White Reaper Does It Again, White Reaper is still tearing things up on stage.
On this night, lead singer/guitarist Tony Esposito was sick. So sick, that apparently there was blood coming out of his mouth/nose earlier in the day, and some sort of medicinal shot to the posterior applied. So sick that the band was forced to reschedule their live radio appearance at CD102.5 until later this month. However, once he stepped out on stage, most in the crowd would never have guessed that anything was out of the norm. Esposito’s vocals were as intense and piercing as on the band’s recordings, easily rising above the wailing guitars and driving drums of the band, and his scream was working just fine. Along with Esposito, White Reaper is Ryan Hater (keyboards), Nick Wilkerson (drums), Sam Wilkerson (bass), and Hunter Thompson (guitar).
The crowd, already more than warmed up by No Parents, took things to the next level as soon as White Reaper began to play. The small pit area in The Basement got a workout with nearly constant moshing and crowd surfing. Throughout the night fans frequently brushed by and clung to The Basement’s low hanging lighting structure, and ended up on stage with the band, only to quickly jump back into the waiting arms of their friends. White Reaper bassist, Sam Wilkerson, even got in on the fun towards the end of the show, jumping into the crowd and being propelled all around the pit before making his way back to the stage.
Standout moments of the night were when the band played “Make Me Wanna Die,” the lead single from White Reaper Does It Again, and current single “Judy French” from The World’s Best American Band. The latter has been in heavy rotation on CD102.5 in Columbus, likely garnering the band some new fans who missed them on previous tours through the city. White Reaper’s set clocked in at a relatively short 45-minutes, but with the constant intensity of their two to four minute tracks, like “Sheila” and “The Stack,” it felt like the band put on a much longer show that it actually was.
White Reaper may not technically be the world’s best American band -- yet -- but if they keep progressing as they have from their self-titled EP, through both albums, they’ve got a shot, and if you love loud, pure, fuzzy, made-in-the-garage, scream-along-to, rock ‘n’ roll, then White Reaper is definitely the band for you.
The aforementioned L.A. based punk band, No Parents, opened the show with a bang. Front-man Zoe Reign, moving from one side of the stage to the other, leaning out over those standing in the front of the pit, and dancing along with each song, was a perfect illustration of the band’s brand of punk featuring fun-filled and slightly off the wall lyrics. Guitarist Ryan McGuffin drove the entire set, with his fingers constantly flying up and down his guitar, except for when he paused playing long enough to dive out into the early arriving, and fired-up crowd. Check out crowd favorite, “Hey Grandma,” off of 2016’s Hey Grandma and The Greatest Hits, for an example of how No Parents melds relatable and fun lyrics with their awesome punk sounds. Who hasn’t had to go on a holiday visit and declare “Hey Grandma, merry Christmas, I’m in a punk band” (or at least dreamt it)?
A cool moment of No Parents’ set was when they played “Monte Claire Prep” off of 2014’s May the Thirst Be With You. Apparently a fan requested the song two nights previously at the band’s show in Covington, KY, but it wasn’t a song they were currently performing. However, the fan was also making the trip to Columbus, so the band relearned the song in order to play it, recognizing and thanking the fan for his support.