From the Pit to the Crowd: Daybreak Embrace

I started my band photography with what most people call local bands. These are bands from your city who usually play at smaller venues. Local bands success ranges from only playing in their own cities to going on full tours on their own. There are some local bands I’ve seen who have just as much popularity as national acts and some who I feel are better than national acts. One such act is Daybreak Embrace.

A local promoter (who requested to remain anonymous) gave me my first band shooting opportunity  with Lacey Sturm and a number of local bands opening for her. I was amazed by the talent these local Orlando bands and the promoter continued to work with me to photograph the bands he would bring into a venue known as The Haven. It is a well known bar that has prided itself over the past 12 years to having local and national acts perform there. Some of the performers who’ve graced Haven’s stage include Fear Factory, Nothing More, Ill Nino, Fozzy, Soulfly, and many more. So when the promoter told me about this show scheduled at The Haven on November 5th as a “must see”, it peaked my interest. The promoter knows my taste in music so when they tell me I’ll like a band, I usually do. So after photographing The Pretty Reckless the night before, I decided to go to The Haven the following night.

I showed up around 7:30 PM, my normal time, so I can go in and chat with the promoter and have a drink before the bands start playing.  I found the promoter right away, bought both of us drink, and we talked for a bit. He even offered me some pizza (there is a pizza shop right next door to The Haven). A little after 8 PM the first band was getting ready to start playing. So I got out my camera and got ready to start photographing.

Photographing at The Haven is always a challenge, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It helps me sharpen my photography skills. First, there is no pit. So you’re mixed in with the crowd the entire time. More often than not, the crowd is very willing to move for photographers as they know you’re trying to get the bands at their best. But, when the crowd is moshing, I’m holding onto my gear for dear life. I’ve been bumped once before when I almost went face down with my camera. Second, lighting. During most shows, they have someone that is controlling the lights, so you get some nice mixes which works for photography. But, if there is no lighting person, the lights run on auto and pretty much goes from red to blue to green to yellow to white (or something like that). So if that’s happening I’m literally timing when the color is right before pressing the shutter. Sometimes I’ll snap a shot if I see something I just can’t miss capturing. Third, its loud. When you’re so close to the stage you’re also so close to the speakers. I always ensure I’m wearing my earplugs.

There are some very cool things about photographing there though. First, no pit! Instead of being in a hole six feet deep looking up an artist’s nose, you’re less than foot height difference with the artists. Second, The Haven allows photographers to shoot on either side of the stage. When the lighting is right (and with a good lens) you can actually get some great shots of the drummers, which they appreciate. Third, if you become really good friends with bands or they know you well enough, some will let you shoot on stage with them. Fourth, no 3 song maximum! And lastly, The Haven has some of the nicest staff I’ve met.

I started snapping photos as the first band, Nundayo, started playing. I go through a series of photos usually doing full band shots (if possible depending on the crowd size), then the vocalist, the guitarist and bassist, and ending with the drummer. Anything after that is extra angles and shots I want to take. I’ll usually take a lot more if I really like a band.  Everred took the stage after and I shot my series of photographs. They were followed by Your Design and I shot photos of them too. Once they left the stage Daybreak Embrace started their setup. You could sense from the crowd anticipation. They ran into a small hiccup with sound as The Haven’s sound engineer worked with them to get it fixed. It was a small delay, but completely worth the wait when Daybreak Embrace started to play.

They opened up with “Tomorrow Awaits” which is the title track from their first album Tomorrow Awaits. The first thing that hit me is the amazing vocal skills from James Wamsley. His voice is strong, clear, and he provides raw emotion as he sings. The five member band also includes Keneth Figueroa on rhythm guitars and Dan Cartagena on lead guitar. Their playing melds very well together to provide a solid rock sound and will have you bobbing your head and throwing up horns in appreciation. Ryan Dorries their bassist plays with a heavy hand so you feel every note through the speakers. Giann Rubio the drummer wraps up the band with his quick beats and heavy bass that meshes perfectly with everyone.

When they played “Ramses” (not on a current album release yet) they brought out the big guns to rile up the crowd. A heavy metal sound that within the first two notes you knew you were in for a ride. Yet, expecting James to be screaming the song, instead he soulfully conveys his lyrics with poise and power. This is a band who isn’t afraid to mix it up like they did with “Severed” from their Mercury album. Starting off with a techno sound that goes into heavy bass and drums and vocals that go from low voice singing to high powered vocals. This was definitely one of my favorites of the night.

You can see this is a very polished band who has been together for a while. Daybreak Embrace has been together since 2009 and hails from South Florida. Their Facebook page About section states the band “To become something more than a genre; a vessel”. And I can see it. They work together well on stage and provide a presence you don’t see in most bands. You can’t help but to want to watch them and want to listen to their songs. And, they know how to have fun while doing it, goofing around with each other at times and taking pride in their playing and music. And even they mention on their Facebook page they pull their sound from all elements of music, which is very obviously. And it works well for them.

“We Rise”, another song I enjoyed, focused more on their rock side, heavy on the bass, but it was the lyrics and vocals that gave me chills. The song sounded like a personal experience turned into inspiration. “Like embers from the ash we rise.” Daybreak Embrace is also a band that is amazing to see live. Their recorded music is worth picking up, but seeing them live is so much better.

By the end of the set the crowd wanted to hear more and with good reason. This is a band that is on the rise. On November 11th they opened up for Hellyeah in Destin, FL. They have two EPs out (both worth buying). And they stand fast as a solid rock band that is only going to bring more great music as they go on. I’m looking forward to see where Daybreak Embrace goes next and hopefully get recognized by a national label to elevate them to bigger and brighter things. If they tour near you, do not miss this band.

Bernard Cana

Bernard is a photographer based out of Orlando, FL. He started photographing models 5 years ago and felt the need for a change of pace. In July 2016 he was introduced to band photography and immediately found a passion for it. Bernard primarily covered performances at local venues. He joined in October 2016 as a photographer and writer covering both bands on tour and local bands. If you are interested in having Bernard cover your shows you may reach out to him here: E-mail: Facebook: Instagram:

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