So, what exactly is HeartSupport? In a nutshell, it’s a non-profit, family-like organization that provides support to the community in areas such as addiction, anxiety, depression, and self-harm, just to name a few. These are not counselors or therapists; they are just everyday people that care. The aid provided by HeartSupport is not only online, but also through events such as conventions and music festivals. This unique and outstanding group was founded by none other than Jake Luhrs, lead vocalist for August Burns Red, one of the explosive and ultra-talented bands we would be seeing this weekend. As I arrived at the Orlando Amphitheater, I took a quick stroll to check out the layout. 2 stages were placed at opposing sides of the venue, and in between was a lot of green grass that was now home to the numerous vendors that were here for the event.
Opening bands at large festivals have a tough job. In addition to abbreviated sets, they also must perform at a time when the majority of concertgoers haven’t even arrived yet. Surprisingly, a respectable-sized crowd had assembled to check out this opening set. Bloodlines, a South Texas band, drew this assignment and came out ready to rock. These Christian/metalcore rockers had the privilege of firing up the 1st circle pit of the day and blasted the crowd throughout their 20-minute set. Their new single, “Psalm Of The Depths,” came out a few months ago and is definitely worth checking out.
Bloodlines (Hot Topic Foundation Stage) 1:30pm:
Alex Rodriguez: Vocals
Daniel Camacho: Guitar
Aldo Mayorga: Bass
Matthew Benavides: Drums
Escaping the cold Connecticut weather, Currents was the 1st band to christen the BetterHelp Stage. The set kicked off with 2020’s “Monster,” and never slowed down. Bassist Christian Pulgarin was rocking a Deftones shirt and leaped through the air with ease. Singer Brian Wille took advantage of the perfect 60-degree weather and wore a long black sweat shirt as he belted out tunes like “The Death We Seek,” and “Vengeance.” Currents succeeded in keeping the momentum going and they are definitely going on my playlist.
Currents (BetterHelp Stage) 1:50pm:
Brian Wille: Vocals
Chris Wiseman: Guitar
Ryan Castaldi: Guitar
Christian Pulgarin: Bass, Unclean Vocals
Matt Young: Drums
A long way from home, Scotland metalers, Bleed From Within are on their very 1st tour in the United States. If you were looking for some blistering power riffs and fierce hair whips, then you came to the right place. Vocalist Scott Kennedy led the charge with songs like “Levitate” and “Pathfinder” and really fired up the pit. The band’s new album, Shrine, comes out this summer and I’ve dropped a documentary video below that goes into the making of the record, so be sure to give it a look.
Bleed From Within (Hot Topic Foundation Stage) 2:30pm:
Scott Kennedy: Unclean Vocals
Ali Richardson: Drums
Craig “Goonzi” Gowans: Lead Guitar
Davie Provan: Bass
Steven “Snev” Jones: Rhythm Guitar, Clean Vocals
Wilmington North Carolina is the birthplace of the next band up, He Is Legend. These guys bring it hard, and even the fact that singer Schuylar Croom was under the weather wasn’t about to slow them down. The band was able to squeeze 6 songs into their 20-minute allotted time and the fans loved every minute of it. The shirtless and animated Jesse Shelley was a beast on drums and is exactly what you’d expect to see from a hard-rocking band like this.
He Is Legend (BetterHelp Stage) 3:10pm:
Schuylar Croom: Lead Vocals
Adam Tanbouz: Lead Guitar
Matty Williams: Bass
Jesse Shelley: Drums
With 6 studio albums under their belt, The Word Alive has been thrilling fans since 2009. Calling Phoenix Arizona home, it was obvious that these guys were more than happy to be here today. Not only did they bring the energy, but they also brought a new song, “New Reality,” which they debuted for the 1st time. The 7-song performance was inspiring and was capped off with 2016’s “Trapped.” The band has a slew of upcoming dates so don’t miss out on a chance to catch them live.
The Word Alive (Hot Topic Foundation) 3:30pm:
Zack Hansen: Guitar, Backing Vocals
Tyler Smith: Lead Vocals
Jose DelRio: Guitar, Keyboard, Backing Vocals
Daniel Nelson: Drums
When it came to appreciating the Florida temps, no one could’ve been happier than Canada’s Comeback Kid. The band just returned from several dates in Australia and after today’s show they will head on over to Mexico and then to Italy in the summer. The band wasted no time and hit the stage with a fury. Singer Andrew Neufield even took time to get up close and personal with the front row fans as he jumped off of the stage and hopped onto the railing. The blazing set included “Heavy Steps,” “Absolute,” and “Wake The Dead.” Comeback Kid has been banging since 2001 and are currently signed with Facedown Records.
Comeback Kid (BetterHelp Stage) 4:00pm:
Andrew Neufield: Lead Vocals
Jeremy Hiebert: Lead Guitar, Backing Vocals
Stu Ross: Rhythm Guitar, Backing Vocals
Loren Legare: Drums
Chase Brenneman: Bass, Backing Vocals
After a quick jog back to the Hot Topic Foundation Stage, it was time for The Devil Wears Prada. The band was a long way from home (Ohio), but guitarist Jeremy DePoyster made a point to tell the fans that they’ve been coming down here to Orlando for a long time and that they love playing here. Songs like “Danger: Wildman” and “Watchtower” kicked things into overdrive and the emergence of crowd surfers increased. Each member of this charismatic sextet put on a captivating performance. There are a ton of upcoming U.S. dates before the band heads north to Canada so keep an eye out.
The Devil Wears Prada (Hot Topic Foundation Stage) 4:30pm:
Jeremy DePoyster: Rhythm Guitar, Vocals
Mike Hranica: Lead Vocals, Guitar
Kyle Sipress: Lead Guitar, Backing Vocals
Jonathan Gering: Keyboards, Synthesizers, Backing Vocals
Guiseppe Capolupo: Drums
Mason Nagy: Bass
With very little down time between sets, my legs were starting to feel the effects of all the back and forth, but there was no way I was going to miss the start of Memphis May Fire’s set. The 1st time I saw these guys was back in 2019, at the very 1st festival that I covered. As the band appeared onstage, drummer Jake Garland took time to raise his sticks in an acknowledgement to the crowd. He must be the happiest drummer I’ve ever seen because he smiles more than the Cheshire Cat. The 1st song of the set was “Blood & Water” from last year’s album, Remade in Misery. By this time the only thing outnumbering the flying beach balls was the non-stop flow of surfers, a fact that would remain until the end of the night. The band crushed their set, that included “Left For Dead,” “Somebody,” and “The Sinner.” Frontman Matty Mullins thanked the crowd for spending their precious money and time to come the show.
Memphis May Fire (BetterHelp Stage) 5:00pm:
Kellen McGregor: Lead Guitar, Backing Vocals, Keyboards
Matty Mullins: Lead Vocals, Keyboards
Cory Elder: Bass
Jake Garland: Drums
As daylight started to fade, it was time for another band that I was eager to see. Florida’s own, Underoath. The band has undergone lineup changes during their 25-year existence, but one thing has remained the same; Underoath delivers one hell of a blood-spitting performance. Keyboardist Christopher Dudley was so fired up that I swear I thought he was going to break his keys. At one point, guitarist Timothy McTague slung his guitar across his back and went to work on an extra set up drums. Even singer Spencer Chamberlin got into the act by crowd surfing among a sea of fans. Original member and drummer Aaron Gillespie was stellar throughout. The hour-long set included the new single, “Hallelujah,” “No Frame,” and 2006’s “Writing on the Walls.” This was definitely one of the most energized performances of the weekend for sure.
Underoath (Hot Topic Foundation Stage) 5:30pm:
Aaron Gillespie: Drums, Clean Vocals
Christopher Dudley: Keyboards, Synthesizers, Samplers
Timothy McTague: Lead Guitar, Backing Vocals
Grant Brandell: Bass
Spencer Chamberlin: Lead Vocals
James Smith: Rhythm Guitar, Percussion, Backing Vocals
Nightfall brought about one of the most anticipated performances of the weekend. HeartSupport founder Jake Luhrs, and his band August Burns Red, were finally getting their time in the spotlight. I had waited quite a while to see this band and was stoked that the time was finally here. The crowd had swelled exponentially, and the excitement was undeniable. As the band took their spots, Luhrs appeared on the platform center stage. “Fault Line” opened the set while smoke and strobes took over the stage. The bone-crushing 10-song set was nefariously impressive. Songs like “Meddler” produced more surfers than a giant swell on a North Shore beach. One such surfer came into the pit with enough momentum to push the security officers and myself into a stack of speakers which then tumbled into the stage wall. Such is life in the pit and the show must go on. The performance concluded with “White Washed,” “Mariana’s Trench,” and “Composure.” I was a little surprised that August Burns Red wasn’t positioned a little higher in the lineup or given a little longer set time at the very least, but then again, it’s not my festival. In addition to a scorching performance, Luhrs showed his appreciation earlier in the day when he took the time to shake hands and greet fans who were waiting in a very long line at the venue’s entrance; a classy move by a classy dude.
August Burns Red (BetterHelp Stage) 6:45pm:
John Benjamin “JB” Brubaker: Lead Guitar
Brent Rambler: Rhythm Guitar
Matt Greiner: Drums, Piano
Jake Luhrs: Lead Vocals
Dustin Davidson: Bass, Backing Vocals
8:00 pm meant it was time for a band that I wasn’t really familiar with, Dance Gavin Dance. Hailing from Sacramento California, Dance Gavin Dance has a very unique vibe. The contrast in vocals between John Mess and Tilian Pearson works well to achieve that special vibe. Although the band has a lot of different genre tags, I’m going to go with a combination of post-hardcore, and emo with an emphasis on style. The backdrop was continuously changing and one of the illuminated images was of several playing cards that bore the letters “D,G,D” on them. The fans really seemed to enjoy the performance and Pearson took every opportunity to show off his dance moves. The hour-long set included a robust lineup of a dozen songs including “Uneasy Hearts Weigh The Most,” “We Own The Night,” and “Inspire The Liars.” After today’s gig, the band will pack its bags and head off for a spring tour in Europe.
Dance Gavin Dance (BetterHelp Stage) 8:00pm:
Jon Mess: Unclean Vocals
Matt Mingus: Drums, Percussion
Will Swan: Lead Guitar, Backing Vocals, Rap Vocals
Tilian Pearson: Clean Vocals, Unclean Vocals
Andrew Wells: Rhythm Guitar, Clean Vocals, Unclean Vocals
By the time 9:30pm rolled around, the aches and pains of a long day were erased by what was about to go down. Parkway Drive hasn’t toured in years, and the fact that we’d be seeing them here tonight was a bit surreal. The band was out on the road in support of its most recent album, Darker Still, which dropped in September of 2022. The Australian metalcore band was far from home, but Orlando was about to become their home away from home.
The stage lights lit up and revealed what can best be described as a dense, impenetrable wall of smoke. Frontman Winston McCall appeared front and center and gave the countdown of 3-2-1 and then went right into “Glitch.” The crowd erupted into a frenzied pit that was about to boil over. The smoke still hadn’t cleared by the time the band went into 2019’s “Prey.” After the conclusion of “Prey” we (photographers) were all asked to leave the pit due to safety concerns raised by the abundance of crowd surfers. McCall said that he had expected something really good tonight but that this was several layers higher than that. “Vice Grip” was similar to throwing a match into a powder keg and the pit showed no signs of tiring. Jeff Ling laid down riff after riff while Ben Gordon provided the beats on drums. The performance of last year’s Darker Still was nothing short of epic and shows the band’s creative diversity. After a very brief break in the tempo, the band finished things off with 3 hard-hitting punches to the gut in the form of “Bottom Feeder,” “Crushed,” and “Wild Eyes.” Parkway Drive definitely left their mark on Orlando and I already can’t wait for them to come back.
Day 1 of the inaugural HeartSupport fest went off like a well-oiled machine. I had so much fun that I couldn’t wait to see what day 2 would bring. Hopefully everyone that attended will take time to check out the HeartSupport website and get involved. Also, please take a moment to check out the socials for all of the awesome artists that performed today (links below).
Parkway Drive (BetterHelp Stage) 9:30pm:
Winston McCall: Lead Vocals
Jeff Ling: Lead Guitar
Luke “Pig” Kilpatrick: Rhythm Guitar
Ben “Gaz” Gordon: Drums
Jia “Pie” O’Connor: Bass
11.The Greatest Fear
Follow Bloodlines Online:
Follow Currents Online:
Follow Bleed From Within Online:
Follow He Is Legend Online:
Follow The Word Alive Online:
Follow Comeback Kid Online:
Follow The Devil Wears Prada Online:
Follow Memphis May Fire Online:
Follow Underoath Online:
Follow August Burns Red Online:
Follow Dance Gavin Dance Online:
Follow Parkway Drive Online:
I’ve had a love for photography since I was young. Whether it was a Polaroid or a Kodak 110, I was always the kid with the camera. My love of music goes back even further. Nothing beats being at a show when those lights go down and the crowd goes nuts.