August Burns Red

From left to right, Dustin Davidson, Brent Rambler, Jake Luhrs, Matt Greiner and JB Brukaber of August Burns Red will play the band’s 2005 debut album “Thrill Seeker” in full for a livestreamed performance from Rock Lititz on Saturday. 

On Nov. 14, 2005, a scrappy young metal band stepped onto an American Legion stage in Lancaster and performed songs from its recently released debut album.

After hundreds of shows, eight more albums and two Grammy nominations, August Burns Red will perform the songs from that debut, 2005's "Thrill Seeker," for the first - and probably last – time on the 15th anniversary of its release.

"We're super nervous, if I'm being honest," says JB Brubaker, August Burns Red lead guitarist. "We're practicing more than we would for a normal tour, let's put it that way."

The Manheim-founded band will perform the "Thrill Seeker" tracks live from a Rock Lititz soundstage at 8 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 14, complete with a half-dozen cameras, lights and stage production that fans have grown accustomed to over the years. The concert will then be mixed, mastered and pressed to vinyl, adding an extra level of pressure to the proceedings.

"We want to put on a full production show, you know?" Brubaker says. "We've seen livestreams where bands are playing in a studio and it sounds great and can look good, but I think what people expect from an August Burns Red show is big production, lots of lights, tons of energy, things like that."

Changing plans

As with most creative ideas in 2020, the anniversary livestream was born out of COVID-based necessity. "Guardians," the bands' ninth album, was released in April of this year. The band performed three shows during a national tour supporting Killswitch Engage before it was canceled.

"When we watched some doors close, we decided it was time to open some new ones," explains Brubaker. "We have time for those sorts of things now."

August Burns Red began in 2003 when Brubaker was a freshman at Elizabethtown College. The other founding members were seniors at Manheim Central High School.

Despite the importance of a debut record to any band, Brubaker and rhythm guitarist Brent Rambler concede that it's not one that is thought of very often. While the albums "Messengers" and "Constellations" scored whole decade anniversary tours - in 2017 and 2019, respectively - the band was content to let the tenth anniversary of "Thrill Seeker" quietly pass in 2015.

"Thrill Seeker is really for the diehards," says Rambler. "I think most people would even tell you that our debut record was 'Messengers.'"

If there was ever a time when the members of August Burns Red thought they had decisively put the album to bed, it was at their 15th anniversary show as a band, which took place at the Launch Music Conference in 2018. For that show, former members of the band came back for extended cameos, including vocalist Josh McManness, who was the band's singer for "Thrill Seeker" but left the band soon after. Jake Luhrs took over vocal duties in 2006 and has been with the band ever since.

With a vinyl release of their upcoming live show, the band has the unexpected ability to put a newly definitive version of its debut album out.

“A portion of the fans have been asking for a while for Jake to record 'Thrill Seeker' with his vocals," Rambler explains. "Doing a full rerecord of the album felt like a little much, but to have a live performance of it and then put it out there for fans if they wanted to hear it that way, seemed more feasible and cooler to me, actually."

"You don't want to completely erase what the other guys did in the band, and this is a way of having the people that most people know as the members of August Burns Red on this record without stomping all over the past a little bit."

Muscle memory

The weeks leading up to the show have been an exercise in a very specific style of nostalgia for the band -- it's not just remembering how to play these long dormant songs, but it's also forcing technically proficient musicians to reach back into their memory banks to when they were, say, much less proficient.

"There's definitely some stuff that I've played through and thought, 'There's got to be an easier way to play it,'" says Rambler. "But then once I get to that part in the song, I just play it the way I originally did. It's very hard to break muscle memory, even if you practice it over and over."

But don't expect any "Thrill Seeker" tracks to end up on an ABR setlist down the road.

"[Those songs] hold a place in time for us and were building blocks for what we would become as a band. For that, I love the songs and the record," says Brubaker. "We just have so many songs and albums that it would be hard to find a spot for in a setlist moving forward."

As a band with no touring income for the last eight months, it should be said that the bands' new "Thrill Seeker" webstore is as involved a process as relearning and playing the old songs. Along with their roles as players behind the band's punishing dual guitars, Brubaker and Rambler also serve as co-managers of August Burns Red, meaning that while there is fun to be had with a big anniversary show, it doesn't just begin and end on stage.

"I think there's definitely times that I'm putting my musician hat on and that's what I'm focusing on for weeks and months at a time," says Brubaker. "But right now, we're wearing the manager hats because we just released this record and now have the livestream to promote."

For Rambler, that meant creating the webstore himself, which now has over two dozen items specifically related to the livestream show, from wall flags and vinyl variants to hyper-specific apparel dedicated to specific songs, such as the "Endorphins" hoodie or "Your Little Suburbia Is in Ruins" t-shirt.

The band has UK tour dates on the books for November 2021 but concedes that they, like everyone else, are at the mercy of a vaccine before touring can ramp up in a serious way again.

"We can look back at most of the things we've done as a band pretty fondly, but as far as having nostalgia, we always try to look forward as much as we can," says Rambler. "These anniversary shows for us have been about the fans and their personal nostalgia."