We As Human: Short set, strong set


MEMPHIS – Been a fan of We As Human since 2009 when I first heard “Fly.” In 2011, I aimed to see them at Winter Jam and unaware they were a warmup band, missed the set.

Finally over the weekend in Memphis, got my chance. And it was disappointing. We As Human isn’t a very good fit for the opening spot they had on Summer Shed Tour. They would have been a way better fit for the closing act, headliners.

I get Summer Shed. Outside of Skillet and WAH, it’s more of a youth conference lineup, pop acts and old white guy rap. Don’t get me wrong, if that’s your thing, great. Nothing wrong with that, it’s just not mine and it doesn’t do WAH justice. Skillet works fine in the spot before closer TobyMac. John, Jen, Korey and Seth are tenured. But WAH is still proving itself and a three-song set is too short, for both already fans like me and for people who might become fans.

Frankly though, Summer Shed isn’t a WAH crowd, nor is Winter Jam. Rock on the Range, yes. Downtown Memphis club, yes. A billing with Love & Death and Korn, yes.

That said, “Strike Back,” “Dead Man” and “Take the Bullets Away” were killer and left me wanting more of what is a great live band. That crowd was a pop crowd and that’s OK. But WAH is a rock band, not a youth conference rock band either. While Lecrae and TobyMac have their audience and their non-Christians to reach in that crowd, WAH has an audience far-more heavy, far-more tattooed and far-more interested in metal that they will share their Jesus-heavy lyrics with.

They’re proving that metal and it’s starting to pay off in some headlining gigs, gigs with crowds who appreciate a great rock band when they see one. And that’s exactly what you’ll see. Get the album, worth way more than you’ll pay. Go get the EP. Go get “Fly.” And go to WeAsHuman.com and catch a show.


Real life: Rep brings it yet again with 13th Floor



The Rep is as real as ever. And he had already set some pretty high standards.

Christian rap’s ultimate diamond in the rough, Brandon Kagel’s new record, “13th Floor,” released on May 6.

“My music’s always been kind of transparent, so it really kind of gives people the opportunity to reach out to me and kind of begin to relate and share their issues and their struggles,” Kagel said. “It’s kind of one of those things that as bad as you think the world is, the deeper you get, the worse you find out it really is.”

Take that concept and put it on top of hard beats, sweet melodies and Kagel’s undeniable and variable style.

The title is an ode to not skipping the 13th floor like many hotel elevators do because of superstition and the negative attached to the numeral. Kagel’s elevator stops here and instead of pretending the floor doesn’t exist, he deals with it.

The Rep doesn’t skip 13 and he doesn’t gloss over real life. A proclaiming Christian, but a self-proclaiming Christian with continual struggles, he said his last 12-18 months have been filled with not only going state-to-state, touring and spreading his message-filled music, it’s been filled with learning more and more about God’s grace and drawing closer to Him through trials.

“I think that reflects on the album,” he said of his third disc.

From 2009’s “Say No More” to 2011’s “Alive” to “13th Floor,” Kagel has fed his hunger for Jesus and his music has evolved, too. There was always, as he puts it, “a heartbeat for the lost,” but many of his songs were also confrontational against the world.

“13th Floor” has taken a more one-on-one approach with listeners who are going through some of life’s tough times. There are collabs with the talented Eshon Burgundy and Lee Green among others.

In story-telling driven “Conversations,” Kagel converses with Daniel on the phone. As Daniel opens up on some of his problems, he tells Kagel he’s not quite ready to accept Christ. Then he wrecks his car and is unresponsive.

Kagel is handling more than the tracks. He’s also his own promoter, booking shows as they come, his own management. He does have some pretty big names in his corner, including Sonny Sandoval and The Whosoevers.

“(They’re) recognizing there’s a 13th floor so to speak,” Kagel said. “There are people that are hurting, broken. As Christians, we’re not called to jump up to the 18th, 20th floor. We’re called to the 13th floor, to live amongst the hurting, the broken, to be a light in the darkness. I enjoy partnering with them because that’s my heart. That’s my vision.”

Rep’s struggles are an open book – see this story from 2009.

“13th Floor” continues to chronicle his real life.

That’s part of why fans are so attracted to not only his under-appreciated talent, style and unguarded story-telling. But that’s who he is, a bleeding heart for people in the shape he used to be in, longing for fulfillment and finding it in all the wrong places. It’s important for him to meet them where they are. It’s what Jesus commands.

“It’s imperative,” Kagel said. “It is the pathway. The reason that I cling to Jesus is because I need a Savior, and not just in a cliche way to say that I need my sins forgiven, because that’s kind of vague, but in a very practical way, meaning without Christ, I’m left to lust after every woman that walks by. I’m tempted to look at pornography. I’m tempted to be abusive to my wife, to constantly nag and yell at my children. So it’s having this relationship with Christ that keeps me.”

Kagel is not on the 13th floor. He’s on the bottom level, searching for those walking around blindly, just like he did and still fights not to do.

“If I’m not transparent to say that and relate that to my audience, to the people around me, then they’re left to assume that the reason I have Christ is because I’m on another level,” he said. “Therefore they’re left to say, ‘Well, I need to get on another level to get to Christ.’ It’s really the exact opposite. I’m so low, that I need a Savior. That’s the message, that we all need Jesus.”



review: Stapp’s new record is worth something

Scott Stapp - Proof of Life cover art@brandonspeck

Scott Stapp, I know, I know. Make all the fun you want. Dude carved his place in rock history. Creed was awesome, even for you who throw them into the Vanilla Ice, Crash Test Dummies, bands-you’ll-never-admit-to-listening-to category.

I just got my hands on a free copy of his new solo record, “Proof of Life.” Like you, I refused to buy it with my own money, but it’s not bad.

The title track is hard-hitting, classic Stapp vocals. Those vocals aren’t to be mistaken and they’re good on “Slow Suicide.” There are slower songs, “Only One” and “New Day Coming” that I’m not crazy about. “Crash” is about getting too high and crashing, but it doesn’t have the same effect as old schoolers, “One,” “My Own Prison” and “With Arms Wide Open.”

It’s Stapp’s second solo record and while it’s not 11-times platinum “Weathered,” it’s worth some your money on iTunes. I wouldn’t buy the whole record, but if there are two to buy, download “Slow Suicide” and “Jesus Was a RockStar.”

The biggest question I have isn’t about the record. The second track, “Who Am I” has da**it in the chorus, yet Lifeway still carries the album. The retail giant wouldn’t carry the full version of POD’s “Murdered Love” because Sonny used an F-word for effect, though it was scratched out. Maybe I’ll inquire.

In the meantime, buy a couple tracks. You won’t lose any dignity, I promise.

2014 Proof of Life Tour Dates
6/13/14 – Winston Salem, NC – Ziggy’s
6/14/14 – Wilmington, NC – Ziggy’s by the Sea
6/16/14 – Newton, NJ – Newton Theatre
6/17/14 – Washington, DC – The Howard Theatre
6/19/14 – Verona, NY – The Turning Stone Resort Casino
6/20/14 – Lancaster, PA – Chameleon Club
6/21/14 – Patchogue, NY – The Emporium
6/24/14 – Pittsburgh, PA – Latitude Live
6/25/14 – Poughkeepsie, NY – The Chance
6/27/14 – Niagara Falls, NY – The Bear’s Den at Seneca Niagara Casino
6/28/14 – Flint, MI – The Machine Shop
7/1/14 – Springfield, MO – Gillioz Theatre
7/2/14 – Fort Smith, AR – Neumeier’s Rib Room & Beer Garden