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The right amount of self-applied pressure causes growth.
Through an unwavering dedication to progression, Wage War sharpen their patented hybrid of heavy pit-starting technicality and hummable hypnotic melodies with each subsequent evolution. Look no further than the aptly titled third full-length from the Florida quintet, Pressure [Fearless Records]. The band—Briton Bond [lead vocals], Cody Quistad [rhythm guitar, clean vocals], Seth Blake [lead guitar], Chris Gaylord [bass], and Stephen Kluesener [drums]—drove themselves to fully realize their ambition by personally pushing harder than ever.
“There’s always pressure to make a great album, but we felt it even more so this time around,” explains Cody. “We pushed ourselves to keep this thing moving and growing. The theme was to be as catchy and as heavy as possible. We knew we had to do something people would notice. Ultimately, we tried to deliver a benchmark that says, ‘This is Wage War. This is what we can do.’”
A whirlwind four years set the foundation for such a statement. The group’s 2015 debut, Blueprints, yielded multiple fan favorites with “Alive” cracking 12 million Spotify streams and “The River” exceeding 8 million to date. Meanwhile, 2017’s Deadweight established the boys as a rising force. Totaling nearly 50 million cumulative streams in two years, the single “Stitch” racked up 14 million streams on Spotify as Deadweight received widespread praise from MetalInjection, New Noise, Metal Hammer, and Rock Sound who dubbed it, “a relentless, genre-evolving treat.” Meanwhile, they toured alongside everyone from I Prevail and Of Mice & Men to Parkway Drive and A Day To Remember, logging countless miles on the road.
In order to approach their next evolution from a different angle, Wage War enlisted the talents of producer Drew Fulk (Motionless in White, Lil Peep, IDKHOW) and recorded in Los Angeles for the first time. The locale fostered a spirit of evolution.
“We were all out of our comfort zone, which was really cool,” Cody elaborates. “We couldn’t just go home after the day. We all lived in the same house. It was a great opportunity for us to reconnect. We’d go to shows together, come back, and write at 2am. Los Angeles is inspiring, because there’s a youthful drive and passion. Everyone is there to chase a dream. It gives you a mindset. You talk about going to L.A. to make a record when you’re 13. It was a bucket list thing for us.”
At the top of 2019, they teased out the album with “Low.” Right out of the gate, it leapt past 5 million Spotify streams. Meanwhile, the first single “Who I Am” targets those people who only engage in discussions to spread negativity, as it teeters between a razor-sharp riff, guttural screams, and a sweeping clean refrain, “Don’t forget I’m human. I’ve got the open wounds to prove it. You don’t get to choose it. You don’t know who I am.”
Meanwhile, “Take the Fight” hinges on a gnashing guitar fused to an aggressive pitched intonation by Briton, standing out “as something we’ve never done before.” Cody adds, “It’s a call-to-arms. We have dark songs, but we want to share light in the underlying message. It encourages everyone to stop being ignorant and treat each other better.”
“Grave” highlights Briton’s clean vocals for an entire track, another first, as it dips in and out emotionally charged verses and into an arena-size gang chant punctuated by call-and-response.
“You come to a point of realizing you need to cut ties with toxic individuals in your life,” adds Cody. “You’ve repeatedly given them chances, but they don’t deserve you.”
Illuminating the dynamics of the group, the airy guitar of “Me Against Myself” underlines the biggest and boldest refrain of this body of work as closer “Will We Ever Learn” merges heavenly vocalizations with subtle synths and a thudding groove.
In the end, Pressure elevates Wage War to the next level.
“When you listen to the album, you hopefully get Wage War turned up to ten,” Cody leaves off. “Lyrically, everything is from the heart. Maybe, it gets you through a tough time, pushes you into another day, or gives you the strength to talk to somebody. There’s nothing better.”
“Fueled by ripping riffs, heavy beats, and Jonny Hawkins’ powerful pipes.” – Loudwire
Passionate audiences count NOTHING MORE among the most cherished acts, the kind of band who straddle the line between populism and intimacy with every performance. The San Antonio, Texas-born quartet builds unapologetically massive anthems from catchy hooks. Crowd-pleasers clear a path for heady, confessional, thought-provoking emotionalism. Fresh rewards reveal themselves with repeat listens, welcoming like-minded seekers with rich melodicism, like Tool, Deftones, or Thrice.
Those who saw the band on tour with hard rock heavyweights like Shinedown, Five Finger Death Punch, Breaking Benjamin, Papa Roach, and Disturbed will attest to what The Guardian observed: “There’s a sophistication to NOTHING MORE’s angst that raises them above the tumult-tossed pit.”
Kerrang! named NOTHING MORE one of 22 Artists Shaping the Future of Rock, alongside Nine Inch Nails, Twenty One Pilots, and Bring Me The Horizon. And frontman Jonny Hawkins, who met guitarist Mark Vollelunga before they were old enough to drive, appeared with Billie Joe Armstrong, Dave Grohl, and Hayley Williams in the English tastemaker’s Top 50 Greatest Rockstars in the World.
“A real rock star should be someone who is a leader of culture through music,” Hawkins thoughtfully demurred when bestowed with the honor. “They steer the world in some direction. They can shift people to think in a different way. For a long while now, there has been a void of bands of substance. Now people are coming out of hibernation. They want something philosophically minded.”
The band’s blend of explosive bombast and nuanced storytelling resulted in a half dozen Top 10 singles at Mainstream Rock Radio, including the No. 1 hit “Go to War” and the Active Rock chart-topper “This is the Time (Ballast).” 2017’s The Stories We Tell Ourselves resulted in a head-turning three Grammy Award nominations, generated by a groundswell of support from authentic fandom.
SPIRITS, the fourth NOTHING MORE album since their 2014 self-titled breakthrough and seventh overall, is both a mission statement and journal entry. Spirits documents a tumultuous time with an empowering contextualization and the band’s most focused, adventurous, and intense music thus far.
“The natural path for most bands in our genre is to go from heavy to a little less heavy to a little poppy, to start aiming for the mainstream,” Hawkins notes. “We went the other direction. We definitely have tracks that are a little more accessible, but the bulk of Spirits is heavier and darker.”
Songs like “Best Times,” “One Way Street,” “Tired of Winning,” “Turn It Up Like,” and the title track capture the desperation and isolation of lockdown; the spiral of substance abuse; the pain of broken relationships; and survival in self-reliance. Alternately philosophical and primal Spirits is a triumph.
“This album gives our fans a lot to chew on,” Hawkins promises. “It’s what they like, times ten.”
In a glowing 2019 profile, Forbes noted that NOTHING MORE’s “deeper, more introspective lyrics” were part of the band’s “unconventional path to rock stardom.” Hawkins and Vollelunga started the band in 2003, eventually joined by bassist Daniel Oliver and later drummer Ben Anderson.
Self-financed releases, dues-paying club shows, and a battle of the bands victory that lead to a few dates on the 2007 Vans Warped Tour allowed them the space to forge a unique identity, onstage and in the studio. Originally the band’s drummer, Hawkins switched to singing before 2009’s The Few Not Fleeting. (That album’s raucous “Salem (Burn The Witch)” remained a live staple.) Buzzed about performances at significant festivals helped earn the attention of Better Noise Music, who reissued 2013’s self-titled Nothing More in 2014.
Before long, the band who fought so hard for a place at the table heard themselves on the radio with songs like “Mr. MTV,” “Jenny,” and “Here’s to Heartache”; and toured arenas with huge rock acts. Eventually, Nothing More’s first-ever radio single, “This Is The Time (Ballast)” would go on to be the #1 song of the decade on Sirius XM Octane.
The Stories We Tell Ourselves blew down the doors. Grammy Award nominations for Best Rock Album, Best Rock Performance, and Best Rock Song (for “Go to War”) followed. Fans played “Go to War” 60 million times across streaming platforms. Loudwire put The Stories We Tell Ourselves at No. 2 on their Best Hard Rock Albums of 2017. NOTHING MORE performed at Loudwire’s inaugural award show, paying tribute to the late Chris Cornell and reshaped the Skrillex song “First of the Year” with their self-made, 14 foot tall Scorpion Tail Midi controller.
Spirits benefitted from NOTHING MORE’s instrumental experimentation, as well. Vollelunga taught himself to play the ukulele during the pandemic shutdown. There are also eight-string guitars.
“It’s so easy to be stressed out from everything in the world and freak out wondering about the future,” Vollelunga says. “I was definitely depressed and sad from the isolation during the shutdown. It’s important to realize that we are not our problems. I am not my pain. I can get through this.”
In “One Way Street,” Hawkins sings, “I hope you see only you can make you better.” It works as both an admonishment of loved ones who can’t seem to get out of their own way and encouragement always to do better, to own our mistakes, and never to stop evolving. In a way, it’s an excellent summary of the overall story and mission, of NOTHING MORE. Reflect, Provoke, Inspire.
NOTHING MORE appeals to fans of Linkin Park, Incubus, Rage Against The Machine, and any crucial act that wrings relatable passion with authenticity and integrity. Memorize the arena-ready hooks. Get mesmerized by the intimate, communal live show. Dig deeper down the rabbit hole into the work of philosophers and artists like Eckhart Tolle, Carl Jung, and Alan Watts, who inspire the band. There’s a place for every type of rock fan with NOTHING MORE. Built to last, here to stay.