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Story and Photos by Andy Lyons, Managing Editor

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My first show of 2014 kicked off with some very familiar faces – Wednesday night was the fifth night of the Hell Pop tour’s second leg.

I headed to the Arvest Theatre at the Midland by AMC in Kansas City to meet with one of my favorite bands, In This Moment. Beforehand, I met with friends and we enjoyed some of the many beers available at the Flying Saucer, a bar with a multitude of styles on tap. As concert time approached, I headed up to the box office to claim my passes.

I saw a lot of familiar faces from the meet and greet in Springfield on May 10. It was cool to have that familiarity and camaraderie with other fans, from areas ranging from Springfield, Mo., to St. Joseph, Mo. More than 100 of us were gathered in the Chandelier Bar area of the venue for the meet and greet, a beautiful private area at the top of the Midland reserved for special guests.

As our promised 10-minute wait time progressed into almost an hour, I missed opener Before the Mourning and stepped out to the balcony area to check out All Hail the Yeti. Fans weren’t shy about their disappointment as rumors had been swirling that lead singer Maria Brink wasn’t feeling well and that the show could be postponed like Friday’s show in Arlington Heights, Ill.

Cosa Smith, a fan from Halfway, Mo. that I met last year at the show in Springfield, Mo., was showing off a recent tattoo of the HellPop symbol on his wrist. The band was delighted to see his ink and Brink signed her initials below, which Smith had tattooed on the next night.

As usual, guitarist Chris Howorth recognized me and I made some quick small talk with the group before I made my way to the photo pit, and I was excited to start snapping pictures, as I heard up-and-coming metal band Butcher Babies take the stage while I was with In This Moment.

Being in the photo pit for the first time was really exciting. I always prefer the pit area because I like to be close to the action and surrounded by people enjoying the music, however the photo pit offered a bit of a reprieve from the crush of the crowd – I usually joke that the guy behind me “didn’t even buy me dinner first” when I’m in the pit. It was really cool to experience a show that close, without the crush.

Butcher Babies were intense, to say the least. Singers Carla Coates and Heidi Shepherd are a ferocious tandem, each with their own growls and screams that make up the vocals. All of their members move about quite a bit and have a great stage presence. The shear aggression from the two that made it into Revolver Magazine’s Hottest Chicks in Hard Rock calendar can be quite intimidating.

Both played into my camera, with Shepherd saluting me at one point while screaming into the microphone. Late in their show, it seemed Shepherd almost fell off the front of the stage and in turn she jumped up on the rail and sang into the crowd, supported by an unexpecting security guard.

I had to be conscious of crowd surfers, but the security guys were always on top of it. It was nice not catching people with my head and neck for a change. I kind of missed the pit, but being up front with no one to really bother me other than photographers was quite a relief.

The fourth band of the evening was Devour the Day. Despite a “Best New Artist 2013” nomination from Loudwire, I was unimpressed with the band live. Their bassist was everywhere, but the music seemed lacking. There was some sort of malfunction for singer Blake Allison’s microphone through the first couple of songs, and when it was fixed the vocals were drowned out by the music.

There was another long delay before In This Moment took the stage. Howorth said via phone in November that the band has focused on touring and promoting their 2012 release “Blood” since it released, so it was kind of alarming with all of the delays. On Friday Brink announced via Facebook that she had strep throat for the first time since she was 15 years old, yet she still belted out every song during the show at the Midland.

Despite the wait, when the lights dimmed the crowd roared. “Black No. 1” by Type-O-Negative played as two dancers in masks crept their way to the front of the stage. The drum kit lit up and Tom Hane was there with a fist in the air. The crowd roared again as Howorth and the other guitarist Randy Weitzel took the stage. When Brink hit the stage, the lights, smoke and mayhem were on in full as the crowd began moshing to In This Moment’s hit song “Adrenalize.”

Almost immediately, security guards all around me were pointing to the audience to warn each other about incoming crowd surfers. The set list seemed similar to the show last May, with a cover of the Nine Inch Nails’ hit “Closer.” Early on, the band slowed the pace while Brink belted “Into the Light,” a haunting song about saying goodbye. By the time she finished many in the crowd had watery eyes, myself included. The song was on the 2008 album “The Dream,” and I heard it for the first time shortly after my aunt died of a heart attack and the lyrics will always strike a chord with me. The album version is heavy, but hearing it live and the emotion that Brink puts into it makes it one of the most heart-wrenching songs I’ve ever heard.

Again it was awesome to be in the photo pit area. Weitzel consistently teased the camera, and at one point he aimed his guitar at my lens and later I got a handshake. It was cool to be close enough to make eye contact with groups like them. I’ve been an In This Moment fan since 2008 and have had the pleasure of hanging out with them on multiple occasions over the course of several tours.

Overall, the show was amazing. I couldn’t have asked for a better way to kick off the new year of concerts.

View an extended photo gallery here.

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