Setting the Stage: Saturday night was an emotional evening, as feelings of curiosity and anticipation swept over the audience with Los Angeles based metalcore band The Ghost inside set to play their first show since a tragic bus accident in 2015.
The Ghost Inside formed in 2004 under the name A Dying Dream. They changed their name and released a well-received debut album, Fury and the Fallen Ones, in 2008. In January 2012, the band signed to the famous indie punk label Epitaph Records. And in 2014, they released their fourth studio album (and second album for Epitaph), titled Dear Youth, which cracked the Billboard 200 Chart at No. 63, their highest position yet.
Things seemed promising for the band as they embarked on tour to support Dear Youth, until one tragic night in November 2015; a truck crashed into the band’s tour bus near El Paso, Texas, killing both the bus driver and truck driver as well as leaving vocalist Jonathan Vigil, guitarist Zach Johnson, and drummer Andrew Tkaczyk in critical condition. Tkaczyk was in a coma for 10 days and eventually lost his right leg.
The band would offer updates in the coming months and years, as they struggled to heal emotionally and physically from the accident. In August 2018, Tkaczyk posted an encouraging video of his new drum kit, dubbed “The Hammer”, that his father custom made for him. He stated that he was close to playing at the level he was at before his leg amputation.
In February 2019, the band released a video featuring some new music they were working on in the studio. Shortly thereafter, they also announced their first concert since the bus crash. It was to be a “one time only” event to take place on July 13th at The Shrine Outdoors in Los Angeles. They said that the future of the band remained uncertain, and this would definitely be their only show in 2019. Tickets sold out within five minutes after they went on sale on March 1st.
Taking the Stage: Nestled between buildings at the University of Southern California college campus, The Shrine was packed with an amped up crowd eagerly awaiting The Ghost Inside. Unannounced opening acts included This Wild Life, Wage War’s Cody Quistad and Trade Wind. Trade Wind, which consists of Stick to Your Guns vocalist Jesse Barnett and Stray From the Path guitarist Thomas Williams, played just before The Ghost Inside with an emotionally charged set of their emo acoustic brand of music. Barnett dedicated their set to the members of The Ghost Inside, whom he said had been through “every band’s worst nightmare.”
After Trade Wind, music was piped in over speakers as The Ghost Inside’s gear was set up. Just before they hit the stage, Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” played while the entire crowd sang along. This seemed like a fitting beginning for The Ghost Inside’s set. As “Bohemian Rhapsody” faded out, a voice bombed over the speakers describing the history of the band. It described how the story of the band started 15 years ago here in Los Angeles and just when it was taking off, “it came to a sudden end, but here tonight are our mothers, brothers, family, and friends” are here to see the return.
Then, the band hit the stage with full force, starting off with “Avalanche”, a single from Dear Youth that they were promoting just before the crash. During the intro to “Avalanche”, the band was mysteriously silhouetted in giant spot lights up against a black back drop. Then, as the heavy part of the song kicked in, the lights finally lit up the band members onstage.
The band’s sound was amazing, with all of the musicians on point and bringing an epic energy to their playing. The crowd was mesmerized by the performance, many emotional over the fact that they thought they would never see this. Vigil mentioned that when they originally booked the show, he thought that they couldn’t fill up The Shrine, having no idea the tickets would sell out in five minutes.
Vigil was in rare form, being very open about discussing the band’s trials and tribulations with equal parts somberness and reverence for how far they had come. However, he was careful not to mention too much about the band’s future, mainly focusing on the moment. For example, before the third song, “The Great Unknown,” Vigil addressed the crowd for the first time: ” I never thought today would come. We spent so much time with this dream we wanted to achieve… but then everything changed for us… As much as I said, ‘we’ll be here, we’ll be back,’ as much as I said that, there was always a little piece of me that doubted this day would come.”
He added, “Three years and eight months, every single thing we went through, every physical therapy is for today. We had to learn how to walk again, we had to learn how to live again, we had to learn how to play again, we had to learn how to be broken. If we didn’t have the encouragement of all you guys here tonight and all the fans around the world, I honestly don’t know if we’d be here right now. This next song is about that, it’s called ‘the Great Unknown.’”
Vigil was right about all the fans all over the world, and of all ages. Waiting in line for the bathrooms and beer, fans discussed how far they had traveled to be there. One fan was from Maryland, another from Florida. Several fans were seen with young children. At one point, Vigil asked, “Who here is from Cali?” and about half the crowd cheered loudly. Then he went down the list: “Who’s here from the rest of the country” followed by more loud cheers; then the singer asked about Australia, Canada, and even Japan and each question was answered with scattered cheers. Vigil remarked that many bands wonder what it would be like to have all their fans in one place and they are lucky enough to actually see that happen.
The frontman was also very appreciative, thanking the fans, the band’s family, and Brett Gurewitz (guitarist of Bad Religion and Epitaph Records owner). Vigil then told the story of how the first record he ever bought was Offspring’s Smash, which was an Epitaph Records release, and so it fulfilled a dream of his to be on that label. He was also very grateful that the label stood by them through all they had been through. He also thanked Tkaczyk’s father for creating the special drum kit that allowed his son to play that night.
The Ghost Inside has always been a band that tackled difficult subjects with a sense of encouragement. The significance of this was not lost on Vigil who described how the band’s uplifting lyrics kept coming back to him throughout their recovery. Lyrics like “I’ve got something here worth fighting for/ Give it all, Give it all, Give it all/ Give me everything that you’ve got” from the song “Unspoken,” which the band played as their second song. Vigil said it took the fan’s encouragement and the band’s own message to get him through the rough period.
The band played nearly 20 songs, including the aptly titled “Phoenix Flame” and “The Other Half,” which were played for the first time live, both off of 2014’s Dear Youth. They ended with the heavy, fast and emotional “Engine 45” off of 2012’s Get What You Give, their first release with Epitaph. The show left the audience with a sense that this may indeed have been a “one time only” event, but with hope for the future nonetheless.
The Great Unknown
Dear Youth (Day 52)
Out of Control
Between the Lines
The Other Half
Faith or Forgiveness