jakub | May 3, 2023

WJRR’s Earthday Birthday 29 Ft. Breaking Benjamin, The Pretty Reckless, Beartooth & More Celebrate At The Orlando Amphitheater In Orlando Florida On 04/22/23


 

It seems as though the pages on the 2023 calendar have been turning uncharacteristically fast and here we are smack dab in the middle of April. For music lovers and festival fanatics, nothing epitomizes this time of year more than WJRR’s Earthday Birthday. EDBD 2023 is the 29th installment of the renowned extravaganza that has rocked Central Florida for nearly three decades. With rain chances at a minimum and temps pushing 90 degrees, it promised to be a scorcher. I arrived early, as usual, which in today’s case was 10:00am. As I pulled into the Orlando Amphitheater, I was surprised to see the lot already filling up. I quickly set out to gain a lay of the land and grab a couple of shirts before the endless juggernaut of fans launched their assault on the merch tables. After completing these seemingly simple tasks, I became unsuspectingly aware that I was already feeling the effects of the heat.

 

 

There were a couple of initial observations that I made note of. Last year’s robust 23-band lineup had been trimmed down to a lean 13- bands. The entertaining BMX stunt riders were missing as were the wrestling shows. The biggest observation, however, came just a tad bit too late. The large, permanent stage that had served as the main stage (Byrd) was now the secondary stage. I, along with other several other photographers, joined an already waiting crowd at what we thought was the Turn It Up Stage, or secondary stage. Needless to say, that by the time we discovered the switch, we had already missed the opening band,  The Other La’s set. I was bummed because I covered them a few years ago and really wanted to catch their performance. Please, take a second and check out their latest single “I’m Not Broken.”

 

The Other LA: 11:30-11:50 Turn It Up Stage

Aria Fowler: Vocals

McKenzie Lee: Bass

Joel Ericson: Lead Guitar

Zack Chapman: Drums

 

 

Crowd/Other Shots

 

 

Being that we were at the wrong stage really meant that we were early for the 2nd band of the day, Products Of Rage. Straight out of South Florida, this Rage Against The Machine tribute band was the 1st to christen the main stage. With vocalist Alex Mandel out front, the band took full advantage of their 30-minute set and thrilled the early crowd with favorites like “Killing In The Name,” and “Bulls On Parade.” These guys had the sound and the look to get the fans rocking and they were a great addition to this year’s lineup.

 

Products Of Rage: 12:00-12:30 Byrd Stage

Evan Crocker: Guitar

Rocky Rucker: Bass

Cory Ricardy: Drums

Alex Mandel: Vocals

 

 

Setlist:

1.Wake Up

2.Tire Me

3.Testify

4.Freedom

5.Killing In The Name

6.Bulls On Parade

 

By the time the Dropout Kings’ 12:40 set time arrived, things were really heating up. Vocalist Adam Ramey wasted no time before leaping from the stage and into the crowd. It was from there that he performed the entire opening song. If you were to think that all the action was taking place offstage, you’d be surprised. This band brought the energy and singer Eddie Wellz’s flying dreads were evidence of his charismatic vitality. The entire set was frenetic and the heat stood no chance against the Kings.

 

Dropout Kings: 12:40-1:00 Turn It Up Stage

Adam Ramey – lead vocals

Eddie Wellz – rap vocals

Chucky Guzman – guitars

Staig Flynn – guitars

Rob Sebastian – bass

Joe Lana Jr. – drums, percussion

 

 

After a quick trip to the main stage it was time for Fame On Fire. I covered these South Florida rockers at last year’s EDBD and I was well aware of what they bring to the table. Singer Bryan Kuznitz’s Monopoly themed tattoo sleeve is one of the coolest I’ve seen and his ability to play to the crowd is remarkable. The entire band rocked hard and kept the momentum flowing. Be sure to follow these guys online (links all the way at the bottom).

 

Fame On Fire: 1:10-1:40 Byrd Stage

Bryan Kuznitz – Vocals

Blake Saul – Guitar

Paul Spirou – Bass

Alex Roman – Drums

 

 

Setlist:

1.) Rotting Away

2.) Her Eyes

3.) Ketamine

4.) Welcome To The Chaos

5.) Plastic Heart

 

Trekking back to the Turn It Up Stage, it was time for Middleburg, Florida’s Red Jumpsuit Apparatus. Middleburg, is a suburb southwest of Jacksonville, Florida and is just a three hour drive from Orlando. Since their inception in 2003, Red Jumpsuit Apparatus has grace the festival stages in Central Florida almost yearly. Ronnie Winter started the set belting out the lyrics for “False Pretense” off the bands 2006 release Don’t You Fake It. The crowd was ready and the energy spilled on the stage as the bands next song and highest charting single, “Face Down” off the same album.

History says Red Jumpsuit Apparatus will return soon to Central Florida so get out and give this band some love!

 

Red Jumpsuit Apparatus: 1:50-2:25 Turn It Up Stage

Ronnie Winter: (Lead vocals)

Randy Winter: (Guitar)

Joey Westwood:  (Bass)

John Espy:  (Drums)

Josh Burke:  (Guitar)

Daniel Resnick: (Keyboard)

 

 

Setlist:

1.) False Pretense

2.) Face Down

3.) Your Guardian Angel

4.) All the Small Things  (blink‐182 cover)

 

2:35pm signaled the appearance of Alice’s Jam Garden. Calling Orlando home, the band is spearheaded by vocalist/guitarist Nick Hildyard. The band kicked off their set with some awesome Soundgarden and the crowd responded enthusiastically. Before long the set turned into a family affair as Hildyard’s daughter Ashelynn made her singing debut with a rendition of Radiohead’s “Creep.” Hildyard’s son Darian also performed on the venue’s acoustic stage. Alice’s Jam Garden put on an entertaining set and I’m sure there will chances to catch them live around Central Florida so keep your eyes open.

 

Alice’s Jam Garden:

Shain Honkonen– guitar

Colin Robinson -drums

Joe Clements– bass

Nick Hildyard – vocals

AsheLynn Hildyard – vocals

Darian Hildyard – vocals on the acoustic stage

 

 

Setlist:

1.) Jesus Christ Pose   (Soundgarden Cover)

2.) Bullet With Butterfly Wings   (Smashing Pumpkins Cover)

3.) Thunderkiss 65  (White Zombie Cover)

4.) Man in the box  (Alice In Chains Cover)

5.) Them Bones  (Alice In Chains Cover)

6.) Creep   (Radiohead feat AsheLynn Hildyard)

7.) Stutter (original)

 

Back at the Turn It Up Stage it was time for one of the bands I was more eager to see. Hailing from Los Angeles, Dorothy has been blowing up the music since 2014. Wearing a Boy’s Lie jersey, vocalist Dorothy Martin had the crowd in the palm of her hands from the second she took the stage. She even took time to graciously accept a bouquet of blue roses from a fan. I had covered guitarist Sam “Bam” Koltun when he was with Faster Pussycat and as usual he did not disappoint. The audience ate up Dorothy’s gritty rock n’ roll that included their recent single “Hurricane.” If you haven’t checked out this band you’re definitely missing out.

 

Dorothy: 3:30-4:05 Turn It Up Stage

Dorothy Martin: Lead Vocals

Sam “Bam” Koltun: Lead Guitar

Eliot Lorango: Bass, Backing Vocals

Jake Hayden: Drums, Percussion

 

 

Setlist:

1.) Down to the Bottom

2.) Hurricane

3.) Gifts From the Holy Ghost  

4.) What’s Coming to Me

5.) Black Sheep

6.) Flawless

7.) Rest in Peace

 

As I headed back to the main stage for Bad Wolves’ 4:15 set time, my legs were feeling a little heavy from all the back and forth. Born in 2017, Bad Wolves has already found mainstream success after having survived a tumultuous split with their original lead vocalist. The Wolves came out fast and opened with 2019’s “I’ll Be There.” Singer Daniel DL Laskiewicz was dressed in all black and vigorously pumped up the crowd. One of my favorites, “No Masters,” had the fans on their feet and what would a Bad Wolves show be without their striking cover of The Cranberries’ “Zombie.” I’m anxious to see what the future holds for this pack of wolves.

 

Bad Wolves: 4:15-4:50 Byrd Stage

Daniel “DL” Laskiewicz – lead vocals

Doc Coyle – guitar

Max Karon – guitar

John Boecklin – drums

Kyle Konkiel – bass

 

 

Setlist:

1.) I’ll Be There

2.) Killing Me Slowly

3.) Lifeline

4.) No Masters

5.) House of Cards

6.) Zombie (The Cranberries cover)  

7.) If Tomorrow Never Comes

 

One of the highlights of the show came early in the form of Atlanta headbangers Sevendust. A loud and raucous chant of “Sevendust” welcomed the band to the stage as the kicked things off with 2005’s “Pieces.” The show was momentarily paused due to a medical issue in the pit. Singer Lajon Witherspoon helped direct security and medical personnel to the scene and you could see the concern on his face. Once the show got restarted, the pace picked up as if never skipping a beat. Morgan Rose was pulverizing on drums and the rest of the band matched the energy every step of the way. Witherspoon gave a fist bump to Mosh Pit Jesus who had surfed into the pit and then gave another to a photographer. Sevendust is definitely a band of the people and they bring it every single time. Their new album, Truth Killer, comes out on July 28th and you can see their new video below.

 

Sevendust: 5:00-5:45 Turn It Up Stage

Vince Hornsby – bass (1994–present), backing vocals 

Morgan Rose – drums, backing vocals 

John Connolly – rhythm guitar 

Lajon Witherspoon – lead vocals 

Clint Lowery – lead guitar, backing vocals

 

 

Setlist:

1.) Pieces

2.) Denial

3.) Praise

4.) Waffle

5.) Shine

6.) Crucified

7.) Rumble Fish

8.) Face to Face

 

While keeping an eye on the darkening skies, I hustled back to the main stage for the dynamic and prodigious Beartooth. The mastermind behind the band is frontman Caleb Shomo. To say that Shomo is amped up onstage is an understatement. The band stormed out with Shomo wearing an open yellow jacket that allowed breathing room for his full-chested lion tattoo. The 1st song of the set was “Devastation” and the band put their foot on the gas and never looked back. There were signs throughout the venue stating “no moshing or crowd surfing,” but Shomo wasn’t having any of that. During “You Never Know” he told the crowd that they didn’t spend their money to stand still and that this was a rock festival. He then had them open up a mosh circle that spun with fury. All of these guys complement each other perfectly and the result is incendiary. I will will catch a Beartooth show every chance I get.

 

Beartooth: 5:55-6:40 Byrd Stage

Caleb Shomo – Lead vocalist

Oshie Bichar – Bass, backing vocals

Connor Denis – Drummer, backing vocals

Zach Huston – Lead guitarist, backing vocals

Will Deely – Rhythm guitarist

 

 

Setlist:

1.) Devastation

2.) Disease

3.) Sunshine!

4.) You Never Know

5.) In Between

6.) Bad Listener

7.) Hated

8.) Riptide

9.) The Past Is Dead

 

Another band that has eluded me over the years is The Pretty Reckless. Coming from the Big Apple, you would expect a certain amount of swagger, and frontwoman/vocalist Taylor Momsen delivers that in spades. With a start time of 6:50pm, the sun had fallen from its perch and was now brilliantly lighting the stage. Over the course of the day the crowd had grown continuously and now it it had reached its capacity. “Death By Rock And Roll” began the set and Momsen, clad in her signature little black dress, was both captivating and enchanting. The show was once again momentarily paused for a situation in the crowd but got rolling again pretty quickly. Jamie Perkins was a bearded beast on drums while the man in black, Ben Phillips, brought his Gibson to life. Bassist Mark Damon was spot on while laying down the boom. “Make Me Wanna Die” and “Heaven Knows” had the fans singing along and Momsen sounded great. This set ended too quickly and I’ll make it a point to see them again.

 

The Pretty Reckless: 6:50-7:50 Turn It Up Stage

Taylor Momsen – Lead vocals, rhythm guitar

Ben Phillips – Lead guitar, backing vocals

Jamie Perkins – Drums

Mark Damon – Bass

 

Additional Gallery of The Pretty Reckless HERE

 

Setlist:

1.) Death by Rock and Roll

2.) Since You’re Gone

3.) Only Love Can Save Me Now

4.) Loud Love (Soundgarden cover)

5.) Make Me Wanna Die

6.) Going to Hell

7.) Heaven Knows

8.) Take Me Down

 

Right before The Pretty Reckless’ set, word circulated that co-headliners Falling In Reverse had cancelled due to an issue with singer Ronnie Radke’s vocals. As a result, Breaking Benjamin’s set was pushed forward to 8:15pm. When I got to the stage the remaining slices of sun were taking a final peek before escaping beyond the horizon. When the countdown clock expired drummer Shaun Foist was seen assuming the helm behind his kit. Several quick beats and the rest of the band appeared amongst the glowing red stage lighting. 2004’s “Blow Me Away”  came out like a hard-hitting punch in the gut because that’s how these guys roll.

“Angel’s Fall” is one of my favorites and it sounded awesome live. Singer Benjamin Burnley paused the song at one point in order to get the crowd to sing the rest of it with him. Guitarist Jasen Rauch launched his Fender Stratocaster into overdrive throughout the set while bassist Aaron Bruch and guitarist Keith Wallen were stellar. The setlist was jammed with hits including “So Cold,” “Breath,” and “I Will Not Bow.” An epic rendering of “The Diary Of Jane” closed out a phenomenal performance.

 

Breaking Benjamin: 9:30-11:00 Byrd Stage

Benjamin Burnley – Lead Vocals, Rhythm Guitar

Jasen Rauch – Lead Guitar

Keith Wallen – Rhythm Guitar, Backing Vocals

Aaron Bruch – Bass, Backing Vocals

Shaun Foist – Drums, Percussion

 

 

Setlist:

1.) Blow Me Away

2.) Follow

3.) Angels Fall

4.) Sooner or Later

5.) So Cold

6.) Lights Out

7.) Failure

8.) Until the End

9.) Red Cold River

10.) Breath

11.) Simple Design

12.) Give Me A Sign

13.) Polyamorous

14.) Evil Angel

15.) I Will Not Bow

16.) The Diary of Jane

 

11 hours later I was in the car and headed for a nice cold shower. Overall, the day had been fun and I got to see and hear a lot of good music. Cancellations at festivals are going to happen and there’s not a lot that can be done about it. I’m not sure why the event was trimmed down, but hopefully it will return to its old form next year. 

 

 

 

 

 

Follow The Other La Online:

Follow Products Of Rage Online:

   

Follow Dropout Kings Online:

Follow Fame On Fire Online:

Follow  Red Jumpsuit Apparatus Online:

Follow Alice’s Jam Garden Online:

 

 

Follow Dorothy Online:

Follow Bad Wolves online:

Follow Sevendust Online:

Follow Beartooth Online:

Follow The Pretty Reckless Online:

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