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(Live Review) WAYFARER + SUPPORT - Reggie's, Chicago (5/21/2024)


The Beard & Little Johnny


Greetings friends’ fans and followers. The Beard and Little Johnny are reporting from show #33 and bands #129-131. We are at Chicago metal staple Reggie’s on a hugely windy evening to catch our last show of May. On tap this evening, Wayfarer, Sonja, and Varaha.



After a little pregame meal of blackened catfish and a Russian Imperial Stout beer called Chemtrails Mix, we are prepared for one more metal filled evening this May.


First up tonight was local gothic doom from Varaha.


One thing Metalfest lacked in Milwaukee was a doom band. Tonight, Varaha will at least partially scratch that itch with cuts from their one full length release Passage For Lost Years. Varaha was a four piece with a female bass player. Instrumentally their stuff was melodic doom, but vocally it was more of a death doom style. They have been around just over ten years, but only Fabio Brienze (vocals) & Joel Hollis (guitars) remain from that initial incarnation.


Varaha played under minimal blue lighting, so it was difficult to see a lot of details. This was not slow music by any means, but after Milwaukee Metalfest it seemed that way. The songs definitely held a degree of melancholy (which was totally doom), and I enjoyed the music more than the vocals. Varaha would be a natural fit for the Maryland Doom festival, and they resemble bands like Katatonia or maybe Swallow the Sun.


Their final number, “It takes a ghost to kill a ghost” was a well-done, layered composition which the Beard enjoyed, plus it caused Little Johnny to scratch his head and say, “Geez Beard, you think that’s really true?” “No idea little dude” but I liked it and overall, I am giving Varaha an 84/100 for a nice opening set.



Second up was Philadelphia gothic metal rockers Sonja behind their 2022 release Loud Arriver.

A three-piece act with female singer, Melissa Moore had an okay voice. That sounds more disparaging than I mean it to. We are coming on the heels of Christina Scabbia (Lacuna Coil) last week and Brittney Slayes (Unleash the Archers) the week before, so the bar for female vocalists has been unusually high lately. Moore can certainly sing, but not like those ladies.


The first few songs lacked pizzazz vocally even though Moore cuts an impressive figure in her white outfit. The songs were not really doom or alternative, they reminded me a bit of the band Castle in style and structure. Both bands present the animated guitar lead and the tall female singer and rhythm. Honestly, I enjoyed Sonja while it was happening, but chances are I will forget about them after I leave ... whereas Castle caused me to seek out the merch table after their set.


Sonja has a legitimate style, but I think the act needs more lighting and pop. Give the audience a little more “show and tell” with the numbers. Moore also needs a louder voice, stronger, and with more enunciation. She could also use a better between songs stage rap with the audience. First time seeing them and their first time playing here, so I will go 80/100 with potential.



Headlining tonight was the fusion of black metal and folk music courtesy of Colorado band Wayfarer behind 2023’s American Gothic.

As I watched Shane McCarthy, Jamie Hanson, and Joe Truscelli (making up the front line) while Issac Faulk lurked in the darkness behind the drum kit, the Beard thought to himself, if the Children of the Corn cast formed a band, Wayfarer might well be that band.


Black metal vocals by McCarthy paired with a definite western feel to the music as did their appearance including the Mormon hat wearing Hansen on bass. Now, there are a LOT of sub-genres within the black metal camp, and each is largely about evoking a particular feel. Wayfarer certainly did that. Songs from American Gothic had that mix of cold earth and hard times. For this band, because of the ambiance they were presenting, the darker more shadowy lighting scheme worked for them. The songs felt like the members of Immortal had bred with the Amish and Wayfarer was their progeny.


I am always interested in creative stylistic metal. This was that. Little Johnny said, “I don’t know whether I should mosh, pit, or just tip over a cow and sacrifice it to He who walks behind the rows.” Lol, “Okay little dude, that was a good reference." Wayfarer were entertaining and their slower doomy beat could suddenly go Wolves in the Throne Room when they wanted to.


Black lyrics and a dark feel, on tonight’s windy and unseasonably chilly evening, the Beard enjoyed this set and is picking up their newest CD on the way out. Little Johnny was disappointed that a version of Hansens hat was not available. Ultimately, this was some good stuff tonight and we are cracking a cold one for the cold music of Wayfarer with a 90/100.


Well metal fans, that wrapped up May and we now stand at #33 shows and #131 bands already reviewed. Remember to follow us every Wednesday on our host site The Mighty Decibel, then after reading our reviews, see what other new shows Editor Chris Tighe has on there. Recently, he killed it with his “Bands in 40-minutes” series, doing perfect service to old time Manowar & more recently speed metal act Midnight.


To see all the videos of everyone we cover check out our TikTok at thebeard0728 or #thebeardandlittlejohnny. Finally, friend and follow Mark McQueen on Facebook for all the non-metal reviews running each and every week.


Until next time, this is the Beard and Little Johnny saying ... Stay Heavy and Horns Up!!!


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