On April 22nd Orlando Rock Station 101.1 WJRR hosted their 24th annual Earthday Birthday. This one day festival sprawled all across the Central Florida Fairgrounds for a day of rock, rides, vendors, food, alcohol, and all around fun. This year’s show brought 13,500 people to the event. And this year DreadMusicReview was on hand to cover the event.
I arrived early to get a good parking as did my other photographer friends. l was going to be in for a long day of photographing and walking back and forth. When I picked up my photo credentials and went inside I noticed there were three stages on hand for the day. The first was the Rock Pink stage that was going to be the main stage for the headliners. Next was the Bud Light stage, which acted as an alternate stage. Bands were scheduled between the two stages to make setup and breakdown easier throughout the day. And last was the Acoustic Stage inside of a building so event goers could cool down and still listen to music. There was so much to see that day, so let’s start off with the thing readers want to read about the most….THE BANDS!
Star Spangled Banner Shredder
Every year WJRR looks for a talented guitar player to play the National Anthem for the crowd. The winner gets a pair of VIP tickets for the show. At 11:05 AM the winner headed on stage and ripped out a phenomenal version of the National Anthem for the crowd.
A few minutes after the National Anthem, the show officially opened up with local Orlando band Meka Nism on the Rock Pink stage. Founded in 2010 and definitely a local crowd favorite, Meka Nism is a heavy metal band that ranked in the top 3 Best Metal Bands in Orlando as voted upon by Orlando residents through the Orlando Weekly newspaper. In 2016 they captured the #1 Best Metal Band spot.The band consisting of Meka Kyoto (vocals), Bobby Keller (guitar), Jarrett Robinson (bass), Chris Lane (drums), and Jay Adkisson (keyboards) brought their A-game to an explosive hardcore metal opening. Those who got there early enough were treated to a great set which included their well know “Mouth of God” song. This band is a treat to see live and to photograph as well. The Earthday Birthday crowd were pleased with their performance and they were a great band to have start off the festival.
The metal band from Tampa, FL opened up the Bud Light stage with a bang. The band consisting of Steven Bruno (vocals), Chris Mullen (bass), Eric Park (guitar), Jerry Morte (guitar), and Mike Fiumara (drums) were more than ready to entertain the crowd. The Fist Mob, as they refer to their fans, were there to support them as well. The band was very energetic on stage and very active for the camera. They too put on a good set to get the crowd moving.
Back at the Rock Pink stage the EDBD crowd was supposed to be treated to Living Colour. Unfortunately, they were unable to make the show. Luckily, WJRR picked a stellar replacement in local band Soulswitch. The Orlando band founded in 2006, who I last covered on New Years Eve with Red Sun Rising and Sevendust, was more than willing to rock the EDBD crowd with their heavy metal sound. The band consisting of Tom Huestis (vocals), Jimmy Kwong (guitar), Nic Allen (guitar), Matt Larson (bass), and Chris Esquivel (drums) rocked out the stage with songs like “Change” and “Transmission’s Lost”. Tom was even kind enough to provide some lucky fans copies of their CD. Soulswitch was energetic, hardcore, and put on a hell of a show. Soulswitch was a perfect addition to EDBD’s roster that day.
Eve to Adam
The New York City rock band founded back in 2001 graced us with their presence that day on the Bud Light stage. Taki Sassaris (vocals), Nick “Corrupt” Brockmeyer (backing vocals, electronic track mixer), Jeremiah Bennett (guitar), and Chris Warner (touring drummer) were ready to rock the stage. Taki dealt with some microphone technical difficulties during the performance that Nick got resolved pretty quickly. Jeremiah, former guitarist of Meka Nism, had recently (literally as of the night before the show) joined the band and was stellar as we expected. Taki decided to get up close and personal with the photographers and fans by stepping off stage and onto the speakers right in front of the pit. Though they had a rough start due to the technical issues, they finished out their set very strong for the fans.
Back on the Rock Pink stage, the alternative rock band from Nashville, TN was a very nice addition to Earthday Birthday. Touring on their debut EP ‘Danger in the Morning’ released in 2016, band members Landon Milbourn (vocals), Tyler Baker (guitar), and Brandon Qualkenbush (rhythm guitar) brought their Tennessee rock sound to the Orlando fans. Landon sang well with tambourine in hand for some of the songs while Tyler and Brandon ripped out some great guitar riffs. I was very impressed with their music and it is easy to see why they were also included on the Danny Wimmer Presents festival tour.
Back again to the Bud Light stage brought us Bleeker, an alternative band from Toronto, Canada. Taylor Perkins (Vocals), Cole Perkins (Guitars), and Mike Van Dyk (Bass) brought an upbeat, grooving rock sound on stage that the fans were enjoying. Taylor danced on stage while putting out some beautiful vocals. Bleeker was a lot of fun to see perform with some great music including “Highway” and “Free”, which I truly enjoyed. It’s no surprise this band is also on the Danny Wimmer Presents festival tour.
At this point I veered away from the outdoor stages and headed over to the acoustic set to catch one of my favorite local bands, Dark Summer. The metal band from Lakeland, FL consists of Troii Peak (vocals), Zakk Summer (guitars), Wilson Bembry (bass), and Eric Justice (drums) were stripping down their music for the acoustic stage. I love their hardcore metal sound, so to hear them perform an acoustic set was definitely different. And it was different in a very good way. When a band’s song sound just as good acoustic as it does recorded or live with electric instruments, you know it’s solid work. Dark Summer had a nice crowd going on inside and Troii did not hold back with his screaming vocals during the acoustic set. Those who missed this set that day definitely missed something special.
Dinosaur Pile Up
The band from Leeds in the United Kingdom was definitely ready to rock the Bud Light stage. Matt Biglund (vocals, guitar), Jim Cratchley (bass), and Mike Sheils (drums) was having fun on stage performing. Some of their songs came from their album from 2015 titled ‘Eleven Eleven’. Matt looked out over the crowd and stated how much he and the band were loving Florida and the weather. The band is currently on tour including being part of the Danny Wimmer Presents festivals. They return to Orlando on July 19th at House of Blues in Lake Buena Vista.
The Rock Pink stage area was jammed with people by the time the photographers arrived at the photo pit. You could see the anticipation on everyone’s face waiting for Nonpoint to hit the stage. WJRR personality SupaDave was the one to introduce them stating it was his 21st time announcing the band to the stage. The 20th time is when Nonpoint headlined a show in January 2017 at House of Blues Orlando. When SupaDave started the Nonpoint chant, which the fans graciously continued, Elias Soriano (vocals), Rasheed Thomas (guitar), B.C. Kochmit (guitar), Adam Woloszyn (bass), and Robb Rivera (drums) took the stage to a crowd roar. They rocked EDBD with the songs “El Diablo”, “Victim”, “My Last Dying Breath”, and more. They closed their set with one of their most famous songs “Bullet with a Name”. As expected, Nonpoint did a phenomenal job entertaining the EDBD fans.
Next up on the Bud Light stage was the Sick Puppies. The Australian band consisting of Emma Anzai (bass), Mark Goodwin (drums), and recent vocalist and guitarist, Bryan Scott, had a large crowd waiting for them and they did not disappoint. Emma bounced and danced around the stage as she played and Bryan provided stellar vocals for their set. Mark’s drumming was definitely on point and the band overall was having a good time. The fans definitely appreciated their appearance at EDBD 24.
Back at the Rock Pink stage, the band from Irvine, CA, Thrice, was set to perform on stage. Thrice was originally founded in 1998 and is known for their post hardcore music. The band consisting of Dustin Kensrue (vocals), Teppei Teranishi (guitar), Eddie Breckenridge (bass), and Riley Breckenridge (drums) played well for the EDBD crowd. Some of their set list included “Hurricane”, “All That’s Left”, Black Honey”, “Yellow Belly”, and “The Earth Will Shake”. Thrice left the crowd wanting more and looking forward to more from them in the coming years.
The band from Seattle, WA drew a huge crowd at the Bud Light stage. I remember waiting in the pit and feeling excited to photograph a band I loved for so long. The band consisting of Kevin Martin (vocals), Mike Leslie (lead guitar), Brian Quinn (rhythm guitar), Adam Kury (bass), and Dave Krusen (drums) were more than ready to rock. They played some of their well known songs “Cover Me” and “Far Behind” and some of their more recent work such as “Vexatious” from their 2016 album ‘Disappearing In Airports’. One of the best moments I saw after the photographers left the pit was during their performance of “You”. Kevin made his way into the photographer pit and starting high fiving with fans as he sang while walking on the backside of the barricade (which has make shift seats for photographers to sit). Candelbox put on a phenomenal set and sounded just as good as when they started back in 2000.
The band from Atlanta, GA is no stranger to Orlando, FL. They’ve pretty much stopped here on every tour they’ve done and most recently headlined a New Year’s Eve show at House of Blues Orlando in Lake Buena Vista. Even Lajon commented during their EDBD set that Orlando was a second home to them. The band consisting of Lajon Witherspoon (vocals), Clint Lowrey (lead guitar), John Connolley (rhythm guitar), Vince Hornsby (bass), and Morgan Rose (drums) were no strangers to Earthday Birthday and reminded the fans why they are constantly brought back again and again. Some of their set list included “Pieces”, “Denial”, “Praise”, “Bitch”, and “Thank You”, the first single off ‘Kill The Flaw’. Lajon was very emotional as he spoke to the fans saying how much he appreciated their support over the past 20 years. As expected Sevendust performed an awesome set for the Earthday Birthday crowd.
Another band who is no stranger to Earthday Birthday, the band who originated in Orlando, FL, was one of the bands fans wanted to see the most. Alter Bridge’s stop at Earthday Birthday is part of the tour for ‘The Last Hero’, their latest album. The band consisting of Myles Kennedy (vocals), Mark Tremonti (guitar), Brian Marshall (bass), and Scott Phillips (drums) stepped out to a humongous roar from the fans. They played an hour long set, which I stayed around to watch till the end, which included “Come to Life”, “Addicted to the Pain”, “My Champion”, “Blackbird”, “Isolation”, and “Rise Today”. They are an amazing band that gets better and better with each performance and album.
Sublime with Rome
Last and certainly not least, Sublime with Rome the headliner of Earthday Birthday 24 was ready to take the stage. The band from Long Beach, CA consisting of Rome Ramirez (vocals, guitar), Eric Wilson (bass), and Carlos Verdugo (drums), were ready to have some fun and entertain the crowd. Their set list consisted of “Date Rape”, “Smoke Two Joints”, “Wrong Way”, “Badfish”, and “Sirens”. The fans were pleased with the performance making it a memorable way to close EDBD 24.
But, those were only the bands! There was so much more. Besides having carnival rides EDBD 24 offered tattoo artists, body painters, suspension artists, wrestling, and even helicopter rides. Mel’s Bad Girls Club was there selling laminated set list times for charity as well as running a dunk tank for charity. The dunk tank was a lot of fun to watch as the women distracted throwers by spraying them with water and how people heckled throwers who missed badly. Later in the evening WJRR brought out the Orlando Police officers who were all part of the first response team during the shooting at Pulse on June 12, 2016, who received a large round of applause and cheers from the fans. Earlier they had shown the names of all the victims from that shooting in a tribute to them.
There was also a number of interesting characters at the show. Besides women walking around topless with their chest painted (legal at festivals in Orlando since nipples are covered), there were a few men who did the same. Some people went as far as showing up in costume. I saw The Joker, Harley Quinn, and the Tooth Fairy.
The crowd was a lot of fun. The majority were happy, smiling, and more than happy to pose for pictures. The crowd surfers were definitely having fun getting the chance to reach the photo pit starting way in the back of the crowd.
Of course, I had to take a couple of pictures of some of the other photographers who was having just as much fun as me that day.
Last, and certainly not least, the WJRR Staff were all on hand to celebrate another EDBD and to interact with the crowd. I was able to meet AJ and Mel and got pictures of most of the staff for WJRR. You could tell they were having a good time just as much as the fans.
Overall, I had a really good time at Earthday Birthday 24. Great music, great side events, and nice way to host a festival. I’m already looking forward to next year as WJRR celebrated Earthday Birthday’s 25th anniversary.