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From the Pit to the Crowd: Senses Fail with Counterparts, Movements, and Like Pacific

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Any band that can stay together for 5 years is impressive. If they make it to 10 even better. But, when you start celebrating 15 years and more, that’s an amazing accomplishment. This is what exactly brought me out to House of Blues Orlando on Friday, September 10th. The band that many define as “post-hardcore” is on tour celebrating their 15th anniversary. Any band going on tour for an anniversary celebration will always make it their performances special and I suspected tonight would be no different.

Doors were opening earlier than usual so I arrived at 6 PM to pick up my photo credentials. I will say when I got them, I was quite pleased. Some bands make great efforts into providing unique photo credentials for photographers and Senses Fail made this one my all time favorite. I made my way through security and over to the photo pit. The House of Blues floor was filling in quickly and there was merchandise packed behind the soundboard area for all four bands. The immediate thing I noticed is none of the other photographers I normally shoot with were here. There were a few others, but no one I knew.

Around 6:30 the first band started making their way onto the stage and the photographers headed into the pit. First up was Like Pacific. The pop punk band from Toronto, Canada, appeared excited to play before the Orlando crowd. The band consisting of Jordan Black (vocals), Greg Hall (guitars), Luke Holmes (guitar), and Chris Thaung (bass) started out the gate with “Richmond” from their 2016 album Distant Like You Asked. It’s fast beat song that immediately had fans of band bouncing. Jordan was with them bouncing and constantly shifting his position and mic stand throughout the song. They followed up with “Commitment” from the same album. This was another fast song that has some nice start and stops. Chris’ excellent bass playing gets time to shine during some of song. He’s quick on the strum and produces a really nice sound from it.

The band’s lighting primarily stayed in the blues and whites for most of their set. They had it mixed up to orange and yellows midway through it. They are very active on stage, so I had to get off shots quick once I saw the opportunity to snap a shot. The band continued on to “Sigh of Relief”from their self titled EP. The surprising part is the song though very fast with screaming vocals is also very short. As in one minute and twenty-two seconds short. So when it finished a few of us in the pit looked around really wondering if it was the third song. Either way I grabbed my gear and moved around the venue get some shots of them from other angles including from behind the soundboard and upstairs from House of Blues’ balcony seating. I ran into my friends Lauren and Sami up by the balcony seating. Lauren was working that area last night and running into Sami was random chance, which was a first as I hadn’t run into Sami since I started shooting shows there.

The band caught my attention from the start. Jordan’s vocals are high powered and high ranged. His vocals are very unique, in a great way, and the way he can quickly lay out the lyrics is impressive. Greg and Luke do a wonderful job mixing their riffs together to give Like Pacific the punk sound their fans love. And as I said before, Chris does a great job strumming away at the bass. They also performed “Scarred”, “22a”, “Worthless Case”, “Clarity”, and “Distant”. The band thanked the crowd before walking off stage and they received a resounding cheer from the crowd.

I hung out by the photo pit waiting for the next band to take the stage. With four bands performing tonight, it didn’t take long before we were back down in the pit and Movements took the stage. The post-hardcore/emo band from California consists of Patrick Miranda (vocals), Ira George (guitars), Spencer York (drums), and Austin Cressey (bass) opened up with “Protection”, which was released as a single in 2015. The song has a moderate pace but full of emotion from Patrick’s singing. And then has some hard guitar riffs through the end. Fans of the band were definitely pleased with them starting off with it. They followed up with “Hatchet” from their recent Outgrown Things album.  It’s a faster paced song than Protection which has some great guitar stretched out notes from Ira and quick riffs that keeps the song upbeat. Check out their video of Hatchet when they play it acoustic from the Catacomb Session. Truly impressive musical work.

House of Blues provided mostly red and blue with purple for most of their set. But, it is one of the few times where I actually loved the way the red lighting fell on the band for photos. For those who don’t know, the way some venues use red lighting makes photos useless unless you convert them to black and white. This time, House of Blues made the red lighting a very nice backfill for the band and I was really happy with the photos.

The band continued on with Nineteen also from their Outgrown Things album. I was very impressed with Patrick’s vocals. He has a nice range being able to bring his voice to from low to screaming highs very quickly. And he uses some straight talking during some songs and to bring from that tone to a power scream is amazing. Austin’s drumming is absolutely solid. Everything from slow to quick beats is flawless. Austin does a nice job with the bass, though I’d love to hear more of it stand out in the songs themselves.

After Nineteen, I left the pit and once again went around to the back of the soundboard for some shots and then upstairs to the balcony for a few more shots. House of Blues put in some purple with green lights mixed which made for some stunning colors. Big kudos to whoever was running the lights this evening. Movements put on a really great set including a band new song called “Colorblind” and then finished with ‘Vacant Home”, “Worst Wishes”, and “Kept”. The crowd really loved them.

The crowd was getting more anxious as we were getting closer to the headliner. The GA floor was completely filled and the first floor was nearly elbow to elbow with people. There had been mosh pits going on the during the first two sets and I got this feeling this next set it was going to get worse. The lights dimmed and the group of us went down into the pit. Only a little bit of blue lighting came back up as Counterparts hit the stage. The crowd yelled and cheered loudly before they even starting playing. I knew we were in for a treat. The band from Hamilton, Ontario, Canada currently consists of Brendan Murphy (vocals), Adrian Lee (guitar), Blake Hardman (guitar), and Kyle Brownlee (drums). They started off with “Stranger” from their Tragedy Will Find Us album. This song is hardcore and Brendan’s screaming vocals set the tone for the rest of the set. Adrian and Blake were riffing together while Kyle was smashing out the notes that already had the crowd into a frenzy. And then the crowd surfing started.

We already had additional security in the pit and I got shoved aside by one as a crowd surfer nearly landed on top of me, with another one following right behind them. And this was only one song in! They followed up with “Stillborn” also from Tragedy Will Find Us. Another song that’s just as hardcore and the crowd went even crazier. The mosh pit was going nuts at this point and I was glad I wasn’t in it. It was bad enough dodging crowdsurfers in the photo pit.

Photographing Counterparts was challenging as their lighting was dark blue with very little white for a lot of the time we were in the pit. They also used some heavy reds with purples. The one thing I loved is all the band members were wearing the same shirt with horses of different colors. They followed up with “Witness” from their album The Difference Between Hell and Home. And once again it’s another hardcore, in your face, rock song that drove the crowd wild. After that I exited the pit to take more pictures of them from the back of the venue and upstairs on the balcony.

Counterparts played an amazing set that night. How Brendan is able to maintain that level of vocal intensity and power is beyond comprehension. And on top of that constantly moving around on stage. Adrian and Blake do stellar guitar work at such fast pace Counterparts present in their music. And Kyle is right there with the rest of the band banging away that. Some of the other songs the band played included “Outlier”, “Ghost”, “The Disconnect” and “Burn”. By far they generated the most crowd noise of the night. The mosh pit crowd was very pleased with Counterparts’ performance as was the rest of the audience.

The photographers were all waiting by the pit with anticipation. The crowd was too. You could feel the buzz through the crowd. The lights went down and the photographers quickly made their way into the pit. Music started to be heard around the arena as Senses Fail made their way to the stage. The New Jersey band currently consisting of James “Buddy” Nielsen (vocals), Gavin Caswell (rhythm guitar), Chris Hornbrook (drums), Greg Styliades (bass), and Jason Millbank (lead guitar) took the stage. For their 15th Anniversary Tour the band decided to play their 2006 album Still Searching in it’s entirety straight through. They started it off with The Rapture. It’s an uplifting song to get the crowd in the mood before they let all out. As in the album they followed up with “Bonecrusher”. It’s a fast paced punk tune with quick guitar riffs, drum snaps, and vocals.

Photographing Senses Fail was, to put it simply, fun. James moves around the stage a lot. He’s very energetic, he’s passionate amount his music, and he’s very interactive with the crowd. You can see how much he loves his music and it was obvious that night how much he loved performing before the crowd. The rest of the band members are just as active moving around on stage. The lighting for the band was a variety of everything from red to blue to green to purple and sometimes a mix of them all. It was great light work by House of Blues.

The band followed with “Sick or Sane (Fifty for a Twenty)”. A song slightly slower than the first two yet still just as full of energy. The crowd was absolutely loving the set and James was encouraging the crowd to sing along sometimes stopping just to hear the crowd sing to him. The one thing the photographers realized is these songs were short so our time was very limited in the pit. Once it was done, I was again moved around the venue to capture some photos from different angles.

At one point during the show James explained how he was at a very low point in his life and some of the things he had done. He wasn’t proud of them and he explained how he had a lot of internal struggles about himself. It was something he had discussed in interviews before and he was here on stage telling people his story. You can tell the fans appreciated his openness and he then went and told the story of how they remember playing in Orlando at The Social many years ago when they first started. From the cheers that were heard when he said it, there were people here who remembered that show.

Sense Fail was on fire putting out a heck of a performance for their fans. They played out the entire album of Still Searching including the songs “Can’t Be Saved”, “Calling All Cars”, and of course the title track “Still Searching”. The wrapped up their set with “Negative Space” and “The Priest and The Matador”. They walked off stage for only a short time before they came back to encore with “Stretch Your Legs to Coffin Length” and “Mason’s Revenge”. But, they were far from finished. The band came out one more time to do a lengthier encore with “Family Tradition”, “Jets to Peru”, “Buried A Lie”, “Blackout” and finally “Bite to Break Skin”.

It was a stellar night for all the bands that night. Senses Fail truly put on the show I anticipated and I was not disappointed in the least. Fans that night were truly treated to a special experience and a show that will not be forgotten.