April marks what we here call the beginning of “festival season” which always kicks off with WJRR’s Earthday Birthday. This was the 24th year of the festival and it continues to get better every year. Between carnival rides, body paint, and overpriced food, it’s everything a festival goer can ask for – oh and over ten hours straight of live music.
The year boasted lots of well-known bands and showcased a few up and comers on the scene. Sublime with Rome and Alter Bridge headlined the main stage this year, while the Budlight Stage hosted Bleeker, Dinosaur Pile-Up, and Pepper. Sublime with Rome and Pepper brought a new reggae taste to Earthday Birthday, keeping the crowds mellow and grooving. Unfortunately, due to last minute issues, Living Colour had to give up their slot at the show, but Florida group The Supervillains jumped in to fill the void with their punk-reggae vibes.
Let’s go over the highlights of the show:
1. The acoustic Chill Zone – The Chill Zone is an indoor venue with an acoustic stage set up. The bands performing here are not announced until the day of – so make sure you head over to check who’s playing. This year we were treated to a set by Sick Puppies. Sick Puppies are an Orlando favorite for me; I feel lucky that they’re becoming a festival staple in Florida. Even better this time was they played personal high school favorite “All the Same” in the acoustic tent – a song that they normally pass over during festival performances. The Supervillains also came and rocked out the Chill Zone, along with other Florida bands such as Dark Summer, and CLoud9 Vibes.
2. Florida bands – Earthday Birthday does a great job at recognizing local Florida talent and bringing them to the stage. Meka Nism, a band led by shaman Ms. Meka, opened the day as the first band to perform. This is the second time I’ve seen Meka Nism and I’m still weirdly drawn to them. Some bands over do it on theatrics that the music suffers, but they have a healthy mix of the two, and are tons of fun to watch onstage. Aside from the aforementioned local bands that played the acoustic stage, Clenchfist and Soulswitch rocked out the early slots following Meka Nism. Sevendust claims Orlando as their second home, and there’s no doubt we’ll take them. They put on an amazing set, as they always do, but this setlist included “Bitch” which just turned twenty! While they may no longer be considered a “South Florida band” there’s no denying that Nonpoint are still a hometown band for Florida. Those guys came out and absolutely rocked it as always. We had just caught Nonpoint a few weeks back, and while this setlist was much more Poison Red heavy, they of course threw “What A Day” into the mix for the oldschool fans and closed out the set with “Bullet With A Name.”
3. Up and coming bands – I always find festival sets a great opportunity to find new music. Bands put together a shorter than normal setlist and go out to knock out as much material as they can. It’s an easy way to determine, as a fan or reviewer, if you’re gonna pursue this band and see what they have to offer. Luckily this year had three bands that definitely sparked something with the crowd. Goodbye June were the first new-comers to hit the stage, and even though they formed over a decade ago, their first is set to drop early this month. With Southern blues driven rock songs out of Nashville, they were energetic and catchy on stage. And we’ll definitely be checking out their upcoming release, Danger In The Morning. Bleeker is next on our radar. Much like Goodbye June, they have been around for quite some time, but are just seeming to gain traction here in the states. Based out of Ontario, the trio have reinvented themselves after a lineup and name change, but are sticking to their alt-rock roots. Vocalist Taylor Perkins was wild to watch on stage, with his rhythmic dance moves and his ability to take control of the crowd. Finally, Dinosaur Pile-Up was introduced to us. Apparently we had been missing something big with everyone talking about single “11:11” before they performed. The Leeds band were like Bleeker’s sister-band from across the pond. Their solid performance has landed them on our watch list for sure.
4. The headliners – I had never seen Alter Bridge live before EDBD, and do they put on a show or what? From the start singer Myles Kennedy is the ultimate frontman, and Mark Tremonti one of the best guitar players to watch live. Alter Bridge played an hour long set including hits such as “Addicted to Pain,” “Cry of Achilles,” “Isolation” and their most recent single “My Champion.” Sublime with Rome kicked off their 75-minute set with “Date Rape” sending the crowd into a massive sing-along from the moment they took they stage. Following up with “Smoke Two Joints” had EDBD praising Mother Earth more than they had been all day. Of course “Badfish” “What I Got” and “Santeria” closed out the night.
5. The people – As always central Florida proves to be one of the greatest places to hold a show. Even though late April starts getting hot, and people get cranky in the heat, Floridians are great showmen, and treat each other like family. From people recycling, to getting water for those in need, and picking each other up in the pit, we thrive on being a community. The local vendors of the show are also a great side to explore of the festival. From jewelry and clothes to hand made art, there's a little bit of something for everyone to look at.
6. The memorial - With this being the first EDBD since the tragic Pulse shooting in Orlando, there was a memorial to those we lost later in the day. The memorial went through every victim of the event, and had those on stage, and in the crowd, in tears. Following the video memorial, the WJRR hosts brought a handful of the first responders from the event to the stage. While it was definitely an emotional part of the day, it was also beautifully done, and really embodied the heart of Orlando Strong.
There were only two obvious hiccups throughout the entire day. The first one was Sevendust running behind, not sure if the cause was a technical issue occurring, but pushing their set back ran into the Sick Puppies acoustic set, and while I managed to catch the beginning of Sevendust and the end of Sick Puppies, there were a few people I heard bummed about having to choose. The second hiccup thankfully was only a hiccup as the annual fireworks were canceled due to an RV fire backstage. Thankfully no one was hurt, but if that isn’t a crazy EDBD story I’m not sure what is.
As always EDBD is the best kick off to the Florida festival circuit, and we can’t wait to see what WJRR has planned for us next year.
Band line up: Meka Nism / Clenchfist / SoulSwitch / Eve To Adam / Goodbye June / Bleeker / Supervillains / Dinosaur Pile-Up / Nonpoint / Sick Puppies / Thrice / Candlebox / Sevendust / Pepper / Alter Bridge / Sublime with Rome