If you were a fan of punk music back in the late 2000’s-early 2010’s, you remember Adam McIlwee as the vocalist of Tigers Jaw up until 2013. Now, he has returned to the scene with a new sound, one that has become significantly more popular since the death of Lil Peep, one of the pioneers for this new “genre” called emo-rap. Sometime in 2012-2013 Wicca Phase, Cold Hart, and Horsehead came together to form the “GothBoiClique”, an emo rap collective that has now expanded to include Døves, JPDreamThug, Lil Tracy, Mackned, Fish Narc, Yawns, and the late Lil Peep. This group has come to characterize what this genre is about: creating a place in society where you can be yourself, even when you don’t seem to fit in anywhere else. Whether you feel this genre fits into the underground rap scene, or the underground punk scene, McIlwee’s new project, Wicca Phase Springs Eternal, undeniably captures the feelings and emotions of today’s young adults growing up, backed by somber, yet catchy beats.
After 3 years since his last release, Wicca Phase Spring’s Eternal’s latest album, Suffer On, released on February 15th, 2019 features some of Wicca’s best tracks to date, accompanied by a fantastic tour with Guardin and Angel Du$t. Suffer On focuses on suffering and trying to cope with mental health in relationships. Produced by Døves, Will Yip and himself, this album relies heavily on beautiful acoustic guitar melodies, without losing the 808s, synth and crisp hi-hat sounds that typically characterize rap and trap music; it is a perfect mix of early 2000s emo-pop and today’s rap music.
With support from fellow emo-rap artist, Guardin, and punk rock band, Angel Du$t, Wicca Phase Springs Eternal set out on his Spring 2019 Tour across the Northeast spanning from February 27th to March 17th. This tour was a display of what emo rap is about. This mixed bill left the Buffalo crowd a little bit confused when Angel Du$t took the stage, but showed fans what the GothBoiClique is about: a little bit of punk and a little bit of rap. I had the opportunity to see this tour twice: once in Toronto and once in Buffalo, and it was nothing short of amazing both times. Although the Toronto show was sold out, and the Buffalo show wasn’t, both nights were full of energy from the crowd and the artists.
Guardin was definitely my underground find for the night. The semi-local, Hornell, NY, native blew the crowd away. Many of the people I talked to before and after the show had never heard of him before, but they all had nothing but amazing things to say after he walked off the stage. His energy and authentic nature on stage did not go unnoticed by the crowd, and his catchy lyrics allowed fans who had never heard him before to sing along by the end of every song. He closed out both nights with his newest release, “Demons in my Orbit”, which is clearly a fan favorite. Although his style of emo rap was more characteristic of Gnash than of Lil Peep, his music was very well received by Wicca Phase’s fans.
Both nights, the fan’s reactions to Angel Du$t’s set was my favorite part. Some of my favorite comments were “Why is there a drum-set on the stage?”, “What is happening right now?!?!?”, and my personal favorite “What the hell?!”. Jumping on an emo rap bill was a bold move for punk rock (after their latest release, power pop) band, Angel Du$t, but they knew what they were doing. Angel Du$t’s latest release, Pretty Buff, was released the day of their show in Buffalo, March 15th, and it was a major switch up from their previous three releases.
I have been a long-time fan of Angel Du$t, and after hearing how they were changing their sound on their next album, I was a little unsure of my future as a fan. However, the new sound featured on Pretty Buff is nothing short of amazing, yet so different from their past material, that when I heard it, it made sense why they would want to tour with an artist such as Wicca Phase. Although they have been known as a punk rock band since their beginning, Pretty Buff features more of a power pop sound than the traditional punk rock sound, but by no means did they lose sight of their heavier roots. They played three tracks off of the album during the course of the set, “Bang My Drum”, “Big Ass Love”, and “On My Way”, and the crowd loved them, especially when front-man Justice Tripp brought out his acoustic guitar. Even though some fans were a little caught off guard by their set, by the end, they had everyone in the crowd moving along to their irresistible, fast-paced, hard hitting music.
Last but not least, Wicca Phase Springs Eternal took the stage to close out the night with his much calmer, yet still dynamic set. Although many of Wicca’s songs are more easy-going, that did not mean the crowd was any less energetic for his set. Oftentimes, when an artist releases a new album shortly before going on tour, the crowd isn’t as receptive to the newer songs, but this was absolutely not the case with Wicca Phase. In fact, I couldn’t even tell which songs were new and which weren’t based on the crowd reactions, each song was just as hype as the last, and the crowd never looked bored.
Sometimes, it was even hard to hear him over the sound of fans screaming the lyrics to each and every song, which is never a bad thing. From seeing his sold-out show in Toronto, to the more intimate Buffalo show, it’s clear that he has pioneered not only a new genre, but a whole new scene with GothBoiClique. He brought his message beyond the music and the scene, and created a whole identity with which his fans, and other artists can freely and openly express themselves. One might call it a “cult following”, but it is a space where teens and young adults who feel they don’t fit in can go and find others that are like them, bringing Wicca Phase back to his roots and recreating what underground punk rock and underground rap did for their respective scenes in the 1960s and 70s.