West Palm Beach, FL – August 3, 2008 – The gates to Cruzan Amphitheater opened at 1:30 PM, a half hour late on account of an MTV video premiere being filmed that morning. It was a very hot day until rain swept through and cooled things off. The rest of the day was pleasant and breezy. There was a wide age range with many fans young and old; there were a few mothers with their 4 or 5 year olds.
The first half of the concert took place on the side stage area. There was a Konami tent next to the side stage, which housed DDR, massage chairs, and a Guitar Hero competitor, Rock Revolution. Free Monster energy drinks were handed out at the Monster’s truck. There was an MLB area with batting cages and an artist meet and greet. Some fans had water poured on them by security before and after the sets to keep them hydrated and cool. There was a huge video screen on back of stage showing music videos.
Armor For Sleep took the stage at 2:30 PM to an anemic crowd – the pit was only half full. The audience wasn’t very interested in the performance and it seemed that most were there to claim a spot in the pit for better viewing later. The band lacked energy except for the lead signer, Ben Jorgenson. In fact, the guitarist PJ DeCicco’s eyes were barely open during half of the set. Maybe they were suffering from a wicked hangover. ARS have an emo sound with fuzzy guitar chords and lazy vocals. Their lackadaisical performance did nothing for the assembled listeners. The band just did their part to fill the opening spot on the concert line up.
10 Years were dressed in all black and played an energetic set. People had started funneling in and filling up the pit. They performed a short cover of Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick In The Wall Pt. 2”. It started to rain and that was welcome relief from the scorching heat. The band’s energy succeeded in attracting more fans but this lesser known outfit was unable to excite most of those in attendance.
It poured between sets until Atreyu took the stage. The crowd was very pumped and there was a strong connection between the audience and the performers. The band played with ferocious tenacity – bassist, Mark McKnight, jumped around the stage the entire time. The hardcore metal guitar chords were grinding and brutal. Atreyu has a similar style to Avenged Sevenfold (they opened up for A7X month’s earlier during the Rockstar Taste of Chaos tour). The energy from the stage spilled into the crowd and spawned a mosh pit. Of course no music event is complete without props – huge black beach balls were tossed amongst the rabid fans satisfying this simple crowd dynamic. Alex Varkatzas’s vocals were nothing special; they lacked a certain level of nuance and the screaming seemed more like yelling.
Finally with the opening bands behind us they closed the side stage and full attention was now directed to the main stage. Street Drum Corps were up next. They originally were supposed to open on the side stage but by some good fortune were made main stage opener. The crowd poked fun at lead singer, Bobby Alt’s, steam-punk outfit, his androgynous looks and eccentric behavior. Despite the lack of audience acceptance they tore up the stage with an energetic performance. Their sound was really interesting and new; they were a nice surprise. They incorporated gongs and trashcans much like the musical troupe STOMP does. The sporadic and jolting quality of their sound is comparable to that of System of a Down. Bobby engaged the crowd and even jumped down from stage after the third song to introduce the band and say hello to Florida. The performance was precise – vocals were perfect, drums were standout, and guitars sung. Unfortunately, a lot of people were not present for their show since these guys are generally unknown. The band’s virtuoso playing made up for a bare stage – non-existent lighting and no backdrop. More than anything the crowd seemed most focused on Bobby Alt’s fashion, hip swaying, and flamboyant demeanor.
Ashes Divide played a somber and atmospheric set along a gothic rock vibe. They did not attract much more of a crowd and the lack of audience connection had a lot to do with that. The band finally introduced themselves after the third song. In all it was a boring performance, the whole band might as well stood in the same position the whole day — they had zero stage presence. It was monotonous and dull especially in contrast to Street Drum’s energetic performance. They are lot like HIM with their mellow rock sound; they were very different from the guitar shredding and banging drums of the bands before them. Despite these failings the band’s backdrop and the stage’s beautiful lighting colluded to draw you in.
By the time The Bravery took the stage the seats of the amphitheater were filling up. You could tell a lot of people came to see them. The band offered up an energetic performance and interacted with crowd – there was a lot of talking with the audience. Both the front man and guitarist had lots of energy. The performance was solid and managed to pump up the crowd. The only detraction was the vocals, which seemed a little shabby.
The crowd was really into Chris Cornell — there must be a lot of Sound Garden fans in South Florida. The seats had nearly filled up by that time. A symphony instrumental of “Black Hole Sun” opened the set. Cornell’s generic rock sound was not too entertaining though, despite what the crowd may have thought. It was rather bland and typical. He debuted songs from un-named new album and performed solo and Sound Garden songs. He slowed down the set with “Hunger Strike” which he performed with Chester Bennington of Linkin Park. At that point the whole crowd stood up and started to immerse themselves into the show. The sound could’ve been better and the band drowned Cornell’s vocals out. “Black Hole Sun” was obviously the highlight of the set. It would’ve been the last song on the set and that would have made sense but instead he ended with the song “Rusty Cage”.
Street Drum Corps opened Linkin Park’s set. They wore glow-in-the-dark and neon outfits, producing spectacular visuals. The drums pounded like hearts pumping. SDC even generated a few sparks using their tools – you could feel the heat if you were close enough. All the while the Linkin Park backdrop prominently featuring their logo was slowly being raised, adding to the anticipation. Linkin Park began the set splendidly with “What I’ve Done” off of their 2007 album Minutes to Midnight. Chester Bennington’s vocals were on point. It’s amazing his vocal chords can withstand the immense strain put on them by his ferocious screaming. There was a fantastic use of lighting, which really set the mood and helped to captivate the audience. They performed the song “Crawling” with Chris Cornell. Chester Bennington said, “This was the best crowd they’ve played for so far.” They ended the night with a dramatic rendition of “One Step Closer”.
Hawthorne Heights and Busta Rhymes were a no show. The concert failed to top last year’s in terms of bands since the line up was not nearly as impressive. It was also barebones as far as stage accoutrement; there were no effects such as pyrotechnics or fireworks, which were present at last year’s concert. Busta Rhymes left the whole tour due to “complicated business matters” and a backstage altercation, as confirmed and reported by Linkin Park’s, Mike Shinoda.
Words: Shaun Flagg & Norrel Blair
Photos: Norrel Blair
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