OMNIFest: The End Of An Era With Project 86

Leading up to the release of OMNI, a lot was said regarding this being the final Project 86 album. The end of an era and the perfect endcap on a storied career. This was to be the album that left a lasting fingerprint on the band’s legacy. However, as the creation of the album began to grow beyond the initial expectations (turning into a two-part concept album) things shifted. OMNIFest was intended to be the culmination of a process long in the making as the album funding campaign was set to start in early 2020 when the COVID pandemic peaked and the globe was placed in a standstill that no one could have predicted, nor did any know how long it would last.

When OMNIFest was announced it was labeled as the end of an era. However, something was still stirring just beneath the surface that would shift the narrative further and bring about something that was equal parts poignant and exceptional. Two nights with two different sets done in two completely different styles and in two different locations. Night one was intended to be small and intimate with a much different approach than would be expected from Project 86. Taking tracks spanning their lengthy catalog and restructuring them in to more of a “lounge” music format. Night two was to follow and be at “full volume” and really dive deep into the “OMNIVerse” with classic tracks laced within.

Night 1: It was a rainy Friday night in Nashville, TN, However, the weather almost helped set the mood for the evening as it was something completely different than anything Project 86 had ever done before. It was intended to be small and intimate and really focus on the communal aspect that both longtime and new fans of the band could enjoy. A chance to connect with the band on a more organic level.

Upon entry I managed to find a spot stage right close to where bassist, Cody Driggers, was set up. I managed to catch a glimpse of the evening’s setlist and it had some pleasant surprises given the change in compositional format. This was going to be a night to remember. The band (currently consisting of Cody Driggers [The Wedding, Letter Kills], Darren King [The Overseer], Abishai Collingsworth [The Overseer, Wolves at the Gate] and Andrew Schwab) took the stage, which was merely a step up from floor level. There were some light pleasantries, but no time was wasted as the band dove headfirst into the night’s set.

Things kicked off with “Me Against Me” from Drawing Black Lines. This was such a unique choice as an opener given that DBL is held in such high regard still to this day. It tends to be universally acclaimed as Project 86’s prime opus. At the time of its release it felt ahead of the game and hearing one of the album’s “bigger” tracks in this format was simply unforgettable. The night progressed with “Evil (A Chorus of Resistance)” and “Omerta’s Sons.” Both tracks are given new life within the new compositional construct. The first half of the set was rounded out with “Last Meal” from Truthless Heroes. The only thing that really would have made this one resonate would have been for Mark Salomon to appear and provide his piece that blended so perfectly on the original album version.

After some mild banter the evening continued with “Copper Wish” and “New Transmission.” It was nice to hear a track from Sheep Among Wolves get some attention as I have always felt that album never got the recognition it deserved. As things began to wind down within the set they pulled out “P.S.” from DBL, which much like “Me Against Me” was a big highlight of the evening. The set was closed out with “Fall, Goliath, Fall” from Wait For The Siren which served as the perfect endcap on the night’s set. Overall, the set was solid (albeit brief) and the sound/production quality was spot on. Each track carried a new and unique impact to both their individual and collective history within the band’s discography. While it may have been a somewhat short night it served as a perfect precursor for Night #2.

Night #2 took place in Franklin, TN, which is just south of Nashville. The venue was larger, but still managed to catch an intimate vibe that permeated the entire weekend. The evening was super laid back and there was a good amount of time before the show started that band was just hanging out with those in attendance taking pictures, signing autographs, and just carrying on in casual conversation. During this time, I did get a chance to speak with each of the band members briefly about various topics (most notably being speaking with Cody [Driggers] and reminiscing about when The Wedding would come through Southern Illinois). After the “Meet & Greet” aspect of things there was a slight bit of an intermission to allow the band to finish prepping for their set.

As the crowd began to prepare there was a sense of excitement in the air and everyone was waiting for things to kick into high gear as the lights began to dim more and more until it was officially go time. There was an intro that allowed the band to take their places and the crowd came alive as the stage was now fully set. Everything kicked in full steam as the band opened with “Metatropolis.” This was OMNIFest and OMNI was fully on deck in the venue’s ambiance, lighting, sound and overall tone. The set barreled on with “Virtual Signal” before diving back to DBL for “Me Against Me” (it was cool to hear this track in it’s true form as provided the cool contrast from the previous night). “Sincerely, Ichabod” followed suite and really got the crowd amped up as everyone collectively was getting involved with the pre-chorus anthemic shout; “Off With Your Head!”

Things shifted back to OMNI with “Complete the Circle” before embracing some the interludes that are present on both OMNI, Part 1 & OMNI, Part 2 as “(User Agreement)” was utilized to lead into “Ultraviolent” which was followed by “SOTS” and “0>1.” From there things shifted back to the DBL era with “Stein’s Theme” and “P.S.” (another repeat from Night #1). All of this took place sandwiched between “(User Agreement)” and “(Trust the Science).” By utilizing the interlude elements, it allowed the band to semi-compartmentalize the set to a minor extent which worked to their overall advantage as it gave them time in between to prep for the next portion.

It was somewhere around this time that things took a rather unexpected turn. As the band continued onward through “Pariah” and “Lonely Code” there was a sense of urgency and mild panic (I had found a seat right behind the lighting/production tech) as something wasn’t quite right. Come to find out, the power had gone out on the entire city block the venue was located on. This completely disrupted the livestream, yet managed to add to the overall experience of the night. Once Schwab was aware of what was going on they took time to pause so that the production team could tap into the generator that was being used for the stage and continue the livestream to the best of their ability. It was during this time that Schwab shared a bit of the journey behind OMNI and how this was indeed the end of an era, but not the absolute end for the band as a whole.

With everything now tapped into the generator the night moved forward at full steam and the band closed out the set with “Spy Hunter” and a reprise of the final moment of “Medusa”, which served as the perfect ending to the set and the night. It was truly a wild night full of surprises and was anything but uneventful. Major props to the production team as they scrambled during the power outage to prevent the evening from stalling out too much and/or completely. Given the technical difficulties it put a damper on my scheduled interview with Schwab himself, but I was able to touch base with him and conduct the interview via email shortly afterward. You can check out the interview here.

Ultimately, OMNIFest was everything it set out and intended to be. A remarkable “changing of the guard” as Project 86 transitions into a heavier realm and the moniker P86: OMNI. The weekend seemed to breathe new life into a band that has seen its fair share of personnel changes over the years with Schwab remaining the central figurehead. With this new venture forward I, personally, am looking forward to seeing what comes next from the P86:OMNI camp.

If you’ve somehow managed to not yet hear OMNI, Part 1 or OMNI, Part 2 you can check out our reviews here and here.

You can also connect with P86:OMNI on social media via Facebook, Instagram and X (Twitter). You can also subscribe to the band’s Patreon for more behind the scenes and bonus content spanning their entire career including the making of OMNI.

Cover Photo Credit: Phil Hawkins

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