Pop Evil has been coming to San Antonio since 2009 after debut album Lipstick on the Mirror surfaced the year before. The Michigan natives have made every visit count, with most of them being memorable for a variety of reasons.
That first one came inside the AT&T Center opening for Judas Priest and Whitesnake. Most bands could've died happily after fulfilling that dream.
Pop Evil was just getting started. In 2014, they opened for Stone Sour, culminating that tour at a sold-out Alamo City Music Hall (coverage here). Last year, they supported Sevendust at the 99th annual Fiesta Oyster Bake (more here).
The latest stop brought the band full circle on Memorial Day Sunday, as it performed outside the AT&T Center. But it won't necessarily be remembered as Pop Evil playing before its biggest San Antonio crowd during a festival that eventually swelled to an official "more than 27,800." In all likelihood, Pop Evil's 2016 visit will be recalled as one of the first shows by its new drummer, who just happens to be -- gasp! -- a woman.
Hayley Cramer not only bucked the gender trend of Pop Evil. She's also a native of Great Britain joining an American band. Cramer replaced Josh "Chachi Riot" Marunde (watch 2014 interview here) after Marunde and the group reportedly agreed his final gig would come in the band's home state May 24 before leaving to spend more time with his family. While virtually no one can duplicate the type of energy Marunde exuded every night that had him frequently bouncing out of his seat while pounding the cymbals, snare and toms, Cramer exhibited her own style of headbanging while doing her thing behind the kit.
Pop Evil eased into its 12:40 p.m. set via "Deal with the Devil." Vocalist Leigh Kakaty methodically took to the stage after guitarists Nick Fuelling and Davey Grahs and bassist Matt DiRito, his sunglasses peering over the throng that was starting to fill out the main stage even at that ripe early hour. Kakaty soon thereafter commanded the crowd's attention on new single "Ways to Get High" off the Up CD, along with "Footsteps," In Disarray" and "Take it All" plus older offering "Trenches."
Following main-stage openers Avatar at 12:40 p.m., Pop Evil found itself booked for the only overlap time slot between the main and second stages, as Red Sun Rising played the smaller setup five minutes later. If there was going to have to be a conflict at the festival, Rockfest folks must've known they were doing their part to add to what may be a rivalry between both bands -- at least from a college football standpoint -- with Red Sun Rising hailing from Ohio.
Nevertheless, Pop Evil partied on like only rockers know how.
And with that, Cramer had made her live San Antonio debut. It doesn't figure to be her last. Given the increase in crowds each time Pop Evil plays the Alamo City, you might say a profitable situation fell right into her lap. A lap that eventually might have trouble staying still behind the kit, as was the case with her predecessor, from the journey filled with energy and excitement her career is about to embark upon.
For a River City Rockfest interview with Hatebreed, click here. Click on the ensuing links for coverage of headliners Disturbed plus Scorpions, Megadeth, Bullet For My Valentine, Sixx A.M., Hellyeah, Avatar, second-stage headliners Sevendust, DevilDriver, Red Sun Rising and The Sword, and San Antonio's The Heroine.