Pop Evil Heats Up the Sold Out Audience at The Forge

(l-r) Matt DiRito (bass), Hayley Cramer (drums), Leigh Kakaty (vocals), Dave Grahs (guitar), Nick Fuelling (guitar) of Pop Evil perform at The Forge in Joliet, IL on 01/03/2020. Photo Credit: © Ian Bardecki 2020


Leigh Kakaty of Pop Evil performs at The Forge in Joliet, IL on 01/03/2020. Photo Credit: © Ian Bardecki 2020

Joliet, IL – Wrapping up their worldwide tour in support of their 2018 album release of the same name, Pop Evil wasted no time in heating up the crowd that had been waiting in a cold line at The Forge in Joliet to listen to some rock and roll this night. The band themselves had barely dethawed from their outdoor hometown show a couple of nights earlier in Grand Rapids, where the temperatures had plunged to the mid 20’s, for the New Year’s Eve ball drop. As the lights dimmed and the band took to the stage, they immediately kicked their evening into high gear with “Boss’s Daughter” from their 2011 album War of Angels. Lead singer Leigh Kakaty mentioned to the crowd that the cold weather from that Grand Rapids show had taken a toll on his voice. He asked them if they wouldn’t mind helping him out by singing the lyrics to the songs for the evening, which of course, they enthusiastically replied that they would. Armed with a sold-out venue full of fans that were more than willing and able to sing along to the songs, his bandmates, and a setlist that contained 16 Pop Evil songs, Leigh Kakaty gave 100% of whatever he had left of his voice to those that came to rock and roll.

A lesser artist might have decided to rest easy after such a toll on their voice, or even take a step back and relax a bit more up on stage, in fear of perhaps wearing themselves out even more. Not Leigh Kakaty. While he did ask for, and graciously received, help from the audience, they only provided more fuel to the fire for him and his Pop Evil bandmates. The louder the crowd sang, the more energized Kakaty got as he prowled the stage from side to side like a lion on the hunt. And the more energized the band got, the more the crowd fed off that energy. Even as the band tore into their second song of the evening, the very Rage Against the Machine-esque “Colors Bleed,” there was no going back now. The level of intensity from the audience was now in full effect for the evening, any thought that might have crossed his mind about “taking it easy,” was dismissed without a second thought. The louder Leigh Kakaty tried to sing, and the more exuberant the band played, they were met with a response each and every time by those in attendance. I had seen Pop Evil before, and they’re a very energetic band. Tonight was different. Maybe it was the intimacy of the crowd, the band being closer to their fans instead of playing in an arena. Or maybe it was the entire place releasing the pent up winter frustration from the cold weather outside. Whatever it was – it didn’t stop for the remainder of the evening.

Nick Fuelling of Pop Evil performs at The Forge in Joliet, IL on 01/03/2020. Photo Credit: © Ian Bardecki 2020

The band played several of their hits from their library, including an amazing mashup of “Deal With the Devil” and “Bodies” from Drowning Pool, “Hero” from their first full-length album Lipstick on the Mirror, as well as their most recent chart-topper, “Be Legendary.” The band even slowed it down for a bit as they played “Torn to Pieces”, a very personal song that Kakaty had penned upon the loss of his father. Several in the audience sang along, with some even getting very emotional. One such audience member was Amber, a woman who had recently lost her brother Andrew. She sat in the front row, singing along to the lyrics with tears in her eyes, clutching her necklace that contained some of her brothers’ ashes. She had been trying to get to a Pop Evil show since his passing, and this moment, singing Torn to Pieces, was a bit of redemption for a lost loved one.


Pop Evil is a band that continues to grow musically and lyrically with each album and song they release. The chemistry between the members is impressive to see and hear. Nick Fuelling and Dave Grahs are some of the most talented guitarists you’ll ever get to see performing together on stage, who work off of each other perfectly. Bassist Matt DiRito provides a solid backbone to the rhythm section along with Hayley Cramer, who is nothing short of ferocious behind the drums. And while Leigh Kakaty may have been nursing his vocal cords, he still sounded fantastic and was able to whip the audience into a frenzy with his emotion and charismatic stage presence. The band wrapped up the night with a blazing encore performance of “100 in a 55”, “Waking Lions”, and the long-time audience favorite from the 2013 album Onyx, “Trenches.”


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Boss’s Daughter
Colors Bleed
Deal With the Devil
Torn to Pieces
Last Man Standing
Ways to Get High
Be Legendary
Monster You Made
When We Were Young
A Crime to Remember
Footsteps (Go Higher)
Take It All

100 in a 55
Waking Lions

Show Date 1/03/2020

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Ian Bardecki
Born in Scotland, raised in the United States, based in Chicago. Ian Bardecki is a professional photographer, avid motorcyclist, reader, IT geek, gaming and comic book nerd, who was bathed in music at a young age by his mother who constantly played classical piano in their home. While she also introduced him to the Beatles and Elvis, his father forced on him Hank Williams and Johnny Cash, the local paper boy had him listening to Alice Cooper, his uncle then turned him onto KISS and his first 8 track tape, while his friends turned him onto punk music. Today, his music library ranges from Amadeus Mozart to ZZ Ward and everything in between. Hesitantly agreeing to fill in one night to photograph a concert at a local venue in San Francisco for a friend, was where the accidental love and passion for concert photography was born and hasn’t stopped growing since. As a freelance photographer, Ian has had the honor of working with various artists like, John 5, Sick Puppies, Scott Stapp, Drowning Pool, Anti-Flag and Art of Dying, just to name a few. Ian can be found on Instagram and Facebook under Center Stage Pictures.