Orlando and Saint Pete have an “In This Moment”

By on July 8, 2016

 with Travis Failey

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Chris Howarth, Maria Brink & Randy Weitzel ITM ( Photo-Travis Failey )

In the midst of Orlando’s booming summer of concerts, the Hell Pop Tour rolled into Hard Rock Live at Universal’s City Walk. The tour brought a diverse foursome of rock groups – from the sexually charged, female-driven headliner In This Moment, to the metallic super group Hellyeah, to the countrified, bluesy sounds of Shaman’s Harvest, to the energetic, painted faces of Sunflower Dead.

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Maria Brink ITM ( Photo-Travis Failey )

 The tour, which started in April, is the first leg of a very busy summer for its two leading acts. In This Moment will be supporting Korn and Rob Zombie on their summer tour in July, while Hellyeah will be teaming up with Escape the Fate, New Years Day, and From Ashes to New for their own headlining tour.

 Though music is often near the top of Orlando’s radar, a slew of national tragedies have made this summer memorable for very different reasons. Each of the bands made a special effort to connect with the people of Central Florida, letting them know that they had support from the rock community.


Micheal Del Pizzo SFD ( Photo- Will Ogburn )

Sunflower Dead:

In a interview I did with SD’s Michael Del Pizzo, he said that “this band is about fun and entertainment…we’re out there on stage to entertain the fans”.

(To listen to the Interview click here : https://www.rocketsports-ent.com/interview-with-michael-del-pizzo-of-sunflower-dead/


Sun Flower Dead ( Photo- Will Ogburn )

They brought that mission to life on stage at the Hard Rock from the minute their painted faces walked out. As an opener, it’s often a band’s job to not only warm the crowd up, but also give a powerful impression.

Sunflower Dead is in the midst of promoting their new album It’s Time to Get Weird, and the title track did just that – sending cheers and first-pumps through the crowd.

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Michael Del Pizzo Sun Flower Dead ( Photo- Travis Failey )

Del Pizzo stressed that he likes to blend fun and seriousness into his act, and their songs “My Mother Mortis,” and “Dance With Death,” are great examples of this.

With a throwback sound, and the blessing of one of the greatest bands in the genre – Korn, Sunflower Dead is worth a listen.

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Shaman’s Harvest ( Photo-Travis Failey )


Shaman’s Harvest

This group from Jefferson City Missouri caught my eye during high school, and their unique sound has made me a fan ever since. A mix of rock, blues, and a bit of country, the band has been going strong since ’96. No matter what they sound like, their attitude can be described in one of their best known songs, “Country As F***”.

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Josh Hamler Shaman’s Harvest ( Photo-Travis Failey )

The spooky chants of “Blood on the Water” echoed off the walls as the wild looking group of friends took the stage. After the long intro, the powerful, raspy vocals of frontman Nathaniel Hunt came through the mic.

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( Photo-Travis Failey )

Their diverse set list featured everything from the upbeat “Turn It Up’ – as close as they’ll ever come to pop, to the somber “In Chains,” to the heavy metal sound of “Dangerous.” There’s even their cover of Michael Jackson’s “Dirty Diana” for good measure.

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Nathan Hunt & Josh Hamler Shaman’s Harvest ( Photo-Travis Failey )

My personal favorite of the night was “Dangerous,” with it’s chugging guitar riffs and catchy refrains. This is a great song to have on a workout playlist; it makes you feel like a genuine badass.

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Matt Fisher Shaman’s Harvest ( Photo-Travis Failey )

Shaman’s Harvest finished off their set with their biggest hit, “Firefly.” Hunt’s curly hair fell at odd angles over his face, as he soulfully belted out the deep-voiced intro of the Who’s “Behind Blue Eyes” leading into the opening notes of “Firefly.”  It was beautifully done and and a complete surprise.

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Adam Zemanek Shaman’s Harvest ( Photo-Travis Failey )

“Firefly” has the same spooky feel as their opener, but it’s much more intense. The heavy guitar and hypnotic drumbeats had the crowd moving along as the Missourians closed it out in style. As with Red Sun Rising, Shaman’s Harvest is a refreshing addition in the rock scene that seems to be stuck in a rut of emo-metal bands these days, and I’m looking forward to hearing more from them in the near future.

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Chad Gray Hellyeah ( Photo-Travis Failey )


Hellyeah is the lovechild of multiple musicians that were in other bands, but decided to come together and form one sound. Vocalist Chad Gray had a bit of a messy breakup with his ex-bandmates in Mudvayne, leading to a bit of pent-up anger. These emotional lyrics, from anger to sadness, give Hellyeah a raw, charged up sound.

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Vinnie Paul Hellyeah ( Photo-Travis Failey )

Gray embodies this persona with messy dreadlocks and a grizzled scowl, far from his days as a nu metal MTV Award winner. He took the stage with blood seeping out of his mouth, surrounded by his ragtag group of musicians.

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Chad Gray Hellyeah ( Photo-Travis Failey )

They opened with “X”, an appetizer for the rage-filled set. Hellyeah brings a much different level of energy to the stage than what goes into their studio work, and this track showed it perfectly.

 Next up were “Demons in the Dirt” and “Sangre por Sangre”, two high-energy songs that kept the crowd in a frenzy. As Gray jumped around the stage, fake blood trailed down his face, dying his beard red.

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Tom Maxwell Hellyeah ( Photo-Travis Failey )

His duo of guitarists, the outlaw-looking Tom Maxwell of Nothingface fame, and relative newcomer Christian Brady, strolled around the stage while unleashing face melting riffs on the crowd. Dread-headed bassist Kyle Sanders was a blur of energy, just like Gray, whipping his hair around amidst the chaos.

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Tom Maxwell & Kyle Sanders Hellyeah ( Photo-Travis Failey )

The set continued in this mayhem until its conductor put the music on pause. Covered in sweat, Chad Gray started addressing the crowd. He talked about how metal music changed his life, and how it would bring together this community that had been saddened by tragedy.

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Chad Gray Hellyeah ( Photo-Travis Failey )

He said that he went through a depression – he thought he had the perfect job, perfect life, perfect girl, and perfect friends, and all of it came crashing down, but metal music made him whole again.

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Christian Brady Hellyeah ( Photo-Travis Failey )

After this somber aside, the band played their only kind of soft song ­– a cover of Phil Collins’ “I Don’t Care Anymore.” It’s becoming a trend for metal bands to cover more mellow songs, and I’m all for it.

The band closed out their set the way fans hoped they would, with their self-tiled party metal anthem “Hellyeah.” The crowd, as well as the band, was already covered in sweat and probably in need of a drink but they rallied for one last round of moshing to top off a night of face-melting fury.

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Hellyeah ( Photo-Travis Failey )

Though Hellyeah was a bit repetitive, they know how to have a good time. When you’re two bands into a metal show, the adrenaline is running at a fever pitch and the lyricism can wait. A band like Hellyeah is perfect to build up anticipation for the upcoming headliner.

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ITM ( Photo-Travis Failey )

In This Moment

Maria Brink is a true performer. She has built a loyal fan base over the years, and it’s easy to understand why. By playing up her physical gifts with creative costumes and provocative dance moves, she has become a symbol of power for women and a symbol of lust for men.

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Chris Howarth & Maria Brink ( Photo-Travis Failey )

Brink took the stage holding what looked like two shields surrounded by two dancers that had the same. They danced around in unison as an introduction to the elaborate show to come.

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Maria Brink ( Photo-Travis Failey )

I’ve never seen a stage show as complex as In This Moment. The end of each song meant a brief intermission, a costume change, a corresponding dance routine, and a new elaborate entrance. There was everything from a sexy nurse during “Sex Metal Barbie,” to a Disney villain-esque character during “Black Widow,”and to savage animals during “Big Bad Wolf.” Performance rock to its finest.

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Maria Brink ( Photo-Travis Failey )

The four official band members and two back up dancers were constantly engaging the audience and keeping the show fresh. Because of all of these theatrics, a 10-song set list took over an hour and a half and not a single person seemed to mind.

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Maria Brink ( Photo-Travis Failey )

Midway through the set, she too stopped to talk to the audience. With a bed of music, she looked everyone she could in the eye and individually thanked them or waved. It was a big difference from the following night in a blistering heat during their performance at Jannus Live in Saint Petersburg as Maria had to have security jump out into the crowd to stop some fans from being overly aggressive & violent in the pit.

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Maria Brink Addressing the Crowd Issue ( Photo-Travis Failey )

She also had to address some male fans who found it to be ok to grope some of the female fans in the audience. This is a disgusting trend at concerts these days and it has increased exponentially over the last few years and hopefully those who get caught will be handled brutally and made an example of.

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Randy Weitzel ITM ( Photo-Travis Failey )

Brink then shouted out to her guitarists Chris Howorth and Randy Weitzel, as well as the bassist Travis Johnson. After about ten minutes of all of that, she disappeared to let them have the spotlight, which was amazing considering that critics would knock In This Moment for playing up the gimmick of having an attractive female lead.

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Maria Brink ( Photo-Travis Failey )

By letting the music do the talking, they proved that they could hang with the best of them without the makeup, masks, or tricks. The men also played up to the crowd by playing some classic instrumentals that the crowd would appreciate and dig in “Peace Sells But Whose Buying” by Megadeth and “Creeping Death” by Metallica.

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Chris Howarth, Travis Johnson & Randy Weitzel ( Photo-Travis Failey )

The best part of their set came in the final two songs. The first was their hit “Whore,” which Brink wore emblazoned on a dunce cap. As she waved a ruler around, the dancer waved pompoms as the crowd sang along every time the chorus hit. I was amazed as the both venues were packed to capacity, especially Jannus Live with the “feels like” temperatures reaching over 100 degrees with bodies packed 20 deep near the rail.

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Maria Brink ( Photo-Travis Failey )

Finally, as the clock rolled around midnight, the band left the stage for the final act. Brink appeared in a plume of smoke, her body covered in red head to toe. She had a bloody crown, a full-length dress covered in veiny folds. This was, of course, “Blood”, their biggest crowd pleaser. The fully synchronized trio of red ladies danced enticingly with every word, and the crowd ate it up.

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Maria Brink ( Photo-Travis Failey )

I’m not sure exactly what I was expecting in an In This Moment show, but I know I’ll never forget it. It was equal parts loving, sexy, and badass, with their lead siren guiding you seamlessly through each. Even if you’re not a fan of their music, the show is worth the ticket price alone.

 For additional info and dates on In This Moment and the Hell Pop Tour: http://www.inthismomentofficial.com/tour/


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In This Moment ( Photo-Travis Failey )

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Maria Brink ( Photo-Travis Failey )

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( Photo-Travis Failey )

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Travis Johnson ITM ( Photo-Travis Failey )

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Maria Brink ( Photo-Travis Failey )

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( Photo-Travis Failey )

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Maria Brink ( Photo-Travis Failey )

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