Hollywood Undead, Rise Against and Friends at the KINK! Musical Festival

By on November 19, 2015

 

J Dog (photo Will Ogburn)

J Dog Hollywood Undead (photo Will Ogburn)

There’s something about a festival that makes life seem complete. At the Kink Music Festival, there was a certain community aspect. Regardless of who you ran into, you instantly knew you shared a bare minimum of two things: a love of rock music, and the will to enjoy it for 12 hours straight. Thousands gathered at the Central Florida fairgrounds on Saturday not only for the sick lineup, which was headlined by Atreyu, Hollywood Undead, Killswitch Engage, and Rise Against, but also for the tattoo expo, the car show, and the host of other events that the day would bring.

Jordan Foster - Within Reason (photo Will Ogburn)

Jordan Foster – Within Reason (photo Will Ogburn)

letlive.

Letlive is easily one of the most fun bands I’ve ever seen live. Their vocalist Jason Butler is an absolute animal  – never still, and always looking like he’s having the time of his life on stage. I’ve seen musicians do some pretty wild stuff; Butler set a new standard for just how much he could do over the course of each song.

Jason Butler (photo Will Ogburn)

Jason Butler (photo Will Ogburn)

They opened with “Le Prologue” and already they were off – jumping and headbanging to the distorted and screamy track. Butler flew across the stage, bounding from riser to speaker to barricade and back.

Their first “real” song was “The Sick, Sick, 6.8 Billion.” The track combines both clean and unclean vocals with light, fast guitar riffs for an overall high-energy feel. Both Butler and drummer Lionel Robinson were active, showing off for the mid-day crowd. Butler grabbed a bottle of water and drenched himself, sending beads of liquid flying out of his hair every time he banged his head.

Jason Butler (photo Will Ogburn)

Jason Butler (photo Will Ogburn)

The “soul punk” band followed with “The Fear Fever,” a relatively light song despite the name. This is where Jason Butler took it up a notch, to one most haven’t seen. As the song progressed, his steps became leaps – and then backflips. He collapsed on the floor and began convulsing as he delivered the chorus.

For good measure, Butler took the mayhem into the crowd – backflipping over the barrier to rock with his people. Looks of shock and awe covered the crowd as he stood on their hands and sang to the fans surrounding him.

Lionel Robinson (photo Will Ogburn)

Lionel Robinson (photo Will Ogburn)

The rest of the set featured Butler running up to Robinson and bashing the symbols, as well as their biggest hits “Muther” and “Banshee” near the end. Fans essentially fell into two groups: those that already knew letlive, and those that would never forget them.

Jason Butler (photo Will Ogburn)

Jason Butler (photo Will Ogburn)

Tattoo Convention

Part of the cultural side of Kink was the tattoo convention, where artists from across the state came to show off their skills. In addition to doing tattoos on the spot, they also sold paintings and other art pieces.

Atreyu

Man, I was excited to see Atreyu. Fresh off nearly 5 years in hiatus, the band came to Orlando to promote their new album Long Live. Long before their breakup, Atreyu was part of my first concert back in middle school. Many fans I talked to said a variation of the same thing: “I can’t believe they came back, never thought I would see them again!”

Alex Varkatzas (photo Will Ogburn)

Alex Varkatzas (photo Will Ogburn)

Atreyu is unique for a number of reasons, but we’ll start with their origins. Most bands that have been around since 98’ are well into their 40’s and producing Best of _____ albums. This is not the case with Atreyu, as most of them are just past 30. Do the math there and you’ll realize that the band was created when they were 15 or 16. That’s a long time to be with one project – hard to blame them for taking a few years off.

Alex Varkatzas (photo Will Ogburn)

Alex Varkatzas (photo Will Ogburn)

Their second quirk is that they should be a band of around eight members, but they stick to five thanks to the multitalented Brandon Saller. Saller plays drums, keys, and is essentially the co-lead vocalist in the band’s modern iteration. He is able to do all of this at a world-class level, and often simultaneously.

Dan Jacobs (photo Will Ogburn)

Dan Jacobs (photo Will Ogburn)

The setlist started off in the modern era of Atreyu with “Long Live.” The band’s youth was on display in the faces of vocalist Alex Varkatzas, bassist Marc McKnight, and guitarist Dan Jacobs as they took control of the stage. McKnight slung his fiery red beard around like a tornado as he danced around, and Varkatzas went in to the crowd early and often.

Brandon Saller (photo Will Ogburn)

Brandon Saller (photo Will Ogburn)

His first such crowd leap was during their huge hit “Becoming the Bull,” the second song on the docket. Fans went crazy when they heard the iconic intro riff, and off went Varkatzas – jumping from barricade to barricade as he sang the opening verse. Back on stage, Jacobs and McKnight were posing like they were on an 80s hair metal band – but one with a lot less hair and more beard.

The setlist had something for every Atreyu fan, with an even distribution of songs across every era of the bands’ existence.

Travis Miguel (photo Will Ogburn)

Travis Miguel (photo Will Ogburn)

Next came “Right Side of the Bed” and “When Two Are One” – two guitar-heavy tracks from the early/middle part of the band’s career. Because of their dual vocalists, Saller’s smooth tones and Varkatzas’s unclean ones, these two songs are both heavy and easy to sing along with. This is a staple of Atreyu’s sound, and something they do as effectively as anyone in the genre.

The band’s final album pre-hiatus was a short collection of covers called Covers of the Damned. On it was their version of Bon Jovi’s “You Give Love a Bad Name.” Many fans of their earlier (heavier) stuff were unimpressed by the band taking a step this far into the mainstream, but as a festival song it did a good job of getting everyone to sing along.

Marc McKnight and Travis Miguel (photo Will Ogburn)

Marc McKnight and Travis Miguel (photo Will Ogburn)

The most fun part of the set was yet to come, as the final two songs were a mix of nostalgia and headbanging bliss. Atreyu has closed with these two for nearly a decade now, and the results have only gotten better with time.

First was “Bleeding Mascara,” off of The Crimson; with it’s intense scream at the beginning and melodic chorus, this song perfectly sums up early Atreyu. In the same vein was the finale, “Lip Gloss and Black”. This the only track from their first full album Suicide Notes and Butterfly Kisses that still stands as part of their constant setlist.

Dan Jacobs and Travis McKnight (photo Will Ogburn)

Dan Jacobs and Travis McKnight (photo Will Ogburn)

The fans, knowing the end was near, formed a huge mosh pit in the crowd and celebrated the band’s second coming. Regardless of which band fans came to see when I asked, many of them brought up Atreyu’s solid performance.

Hollywood Undead

Hollywood Undead is an interesting act, for their unique image if nothing else. In the rock scene, they definitely have the market cornered on bandana-and-mask-wearing Californians that rap.

Despite losing their frontman “Deuce” in 2010, the band has compiled a solid resume after their breakout album Swan Songs (2008) spent 82 weeks in the Billboard Top 200. To give some context of how long HU has been around, their first album was with MySpace records.

J Dog (photo Will Ogburn)

J Dog (photo Will Ogburn)

The Angelinos came on the stage in nearly total darkness, sporting their usual hockey goalie masks. They opened up strong with with “Usual Suspects“ from their recent release in Day of the Dead and then with one of their most  most popular hits “Undead.”  “Undead” has a heavier sound  but is also a party rock-ish track explains what they’re about: generally disregarding the rules and living in the streets of LA.

Hollywood Undead is a different breed. They fuse together a brand of rock, metal, rap and hip hop that brings an eclectic crowd and sound during their performances. The six different musicians of the group sing and play different instruments which makes their sound unique. With Charlie Schene taking the lead vocal parts on many on the songs, the sound and styles of their songs changes throughout as the other members of the band combine with him to either blend or take the lead. One of the members that really stood out was Johnny 3 Tears. His large athletic frame differed from the other members of the band as so did his vocal style.

Charlie (photo Will Ogburn)

Charlie (photo Will Ogburn)

Next, they went with “Comin’ In Hot”, off of 2011’s American Tragedy. This song focuses on all the HU staples: drinking, girls, and partying. Like a frat party at a band camp, Hollywood Undead lead the masses with their hands while their instruments provided the base.

They fast-forwarded to 2015 with “War Child,” their newest single. You will hear this song all over Sirius/XM and in the dance clubs as the beat drives through your chest and the bouncing commences.

HOP_0601

(Photo Travis Failey)

“Bullet” is an ironically upbeat song about overdose and suicide. There’s a weird sensation that’s felt when listening to this song. You want to enjoy the beat, but the lyrics are so dark and sad that that the tone actually makes it worse.

Hollywood Undead closed with “Been to Hell”, one of the their more rock-related tracks. The song gives the feeling of patrolling LA with the band, almost like an anthem for the masked anti-heroes. The crowd sent Hollywood Undead off in style with a round of applause and we were on to the next act.

J Dog (photo Will Ogburn)

J Dog (photo Will Ogburn)

 (photo Will Ogburn)

(photo Will Ogburn)

HOP_0599

HOP_0676

(Photo Travis Failey)

Killswitch Engage

KSE had an interesting path to get to their current state. After recording two albums with Jesse Leach as their vocalist, the band was forced to move on without him. Reports have stated that he was in a bad place mentally, and struggled to deal with the pressures of fame.

His replacement, Howard Jones, was onboard from 03’-12’ but essentially had to bow out for the same reasons. This allowed the band to reunite with Leach and produce his first album since the return, 2013’s Disarm the Descent. The band barely missed a beat, winning Best Live Band at the Golden Gods in 2014 and being nominated for a Grammy that same year.

Jesse Leach (photo Will Ogburn)

Jesse Leach (photo Will Ogburn)

Quick to give the people what they want, KSE took the stage with their biggest single “My Curse.” The song opens with a soft guitar intro, before dropping into face-melting screams. By this point in the show, fans were pretty well warmed up and as ready as they would be for some headbanging. The hard-hitting track sent the crowd into a frenzy.

Mike D'Antonio (photo Will Ogburn)

Mike D’Antonio (photo Will Ogburn)

Next up was “Beyond the Flames,” a track off of the second coming of Leach. The song displays his raw, powerful vocals of his early work as well as an almost soothing chorus. The audience, still riding their high from “My Curse” rapidly swayed back and forth.

After “Life to Lifeless,” Leach stopped for a second. With a childlike grin under his scraggly Mohawk, he took a moment to connect with the audience. “I can’t believe that this is my job. I can’t believe that I get to tour around the world with my best friends and play this music. You guys make me feel so lucky.”

Justin Foley (photo Will Ogburn)

Justin Foley (photo Will Ogburn)

 

Adam Dutkiewicz (photo Will Ogburn)

Adam Dutkiewicz (photo Will Ogburn)

He had to clear all of the warm fuzzies out of the air, before he began belting out the hateful tones of “A Bid Farewell.” This was the first song to showcase the vocal powerhouse that is Jesse Leach. The song is full of vocal torrents of liquid metal, which weave their way through heavy guitars and fast drums.

Adam Dutkiewicz (photo Will Ogburn)

Adam Dutkiewicz (photo Will Ogburn)

Speaking of guitar/drum combos, “Fixation on the Darkness” has I think the best intro of any KSE song. Lead guitarist Adam Dutkiewicz opens it up with some tasty shredding, accompanied by a loud and infections drum track by Justin Foley. Couple those with a solid chorus and some angry backup vocals and you’ve basically got the picture.

The next highlight came with the passionate “This Fire Burns”. This song is for the underdog, the person that gets counted out. It shows not only the approach that the band has to their music, but also a good message for anyone trying to succeed. “Even through my darkest days, this fire burns – always.” This song is raw emotion, perfect for working out or running.

Joel Stroetzel Adam Dutkiewicz

Joel Stroetzel (photo Will Ogburn)

“In Due Time” is another hit off of Disarm the Descent, their second highest charting album so far. The high-energy track bellowed out of Leach’s mouth as his limp Mohawk fell across his face. Despite it’s distinctly metallic guitar riffs, this song trends more towards the mainstream.

Jesse Leach (photo Will Ogburn)

Jesse Leach (photo Will Ogburn)

As with Atreyu, the last two songs were the climax of KSE’s set. First was “My Last Serenade”, the bipolar track that flips between one of their heaviest and softest songs of the night on a whim. The killer bass drums, unclean vocals, and chugging guitar riffs give it an aggressive start, but the melodic chorus sets you down nicely.

Jesse Leach (photo Will Ogburn)

Jesse Leach (photo Will Ogburn)

For a last act, Killswitch came with fan favorite “End of Heartache”. As the clock neared 10, they made one final push to get fans to headbang their brains out. The distorted, plodding song builds tension without any of the usual bursts of screams. It’s just an overall solid song that the crowd was feeling until the very end. After seeing Killswitch I can see why their live show is so highly acclaimed, fans had already gotten their money’s worth and they hadn’t even seen the headliner yet.

Killswitch Engage (photo Will Ogburn)

Killswitch Engage (photo Will Ogburn)

Rise Against

“There’s a fire on the borders and it’s burning down the walls you built high” vocalist Tim McIlrath frantically yelled as he darted across the stage. After waiting nearly 10 hours, Rise Against would play with an amount of passion and energy that made fans forget what time it was.

Tim McIlrath (photo Will Ogburn)

Tim McIlrath (photo Will Ogburn)

For the Chicagoans, it was never about just the music. “These songs were once problems, and our solution to them was to smother them with music until they made sense.” said McIlrath between breaks. The band made a special effort to speak honestly to their audience at various points of the show. That, I think, is why these people all gathered here, covered in sweat and weary from a day of moshing – Rise Against has a way of making each city feel like home.

Joe Principe (photo Will Ogburn)

Joe Principe (photo Will Ogburn)

Now back to the music – after opening with “The Great Die Off”, they broke into their first infectious chorus of the night with “The Good Left Undone.” “All because of you!” McIlrath and the audience chanted in unison.

Zach Blair Joe Principe

Zach Blair Joe Principe

The band would keep a carefree and accepting vibe throughout their performance, feeling like a group of old friends that had personally accepted you into their jam session. This feel was brought up a notch during “Satellite,” the next song on the docket. Guitarist Zach Blair and bassist Joe Principe ran back and forth, jumping, dancing, and kicking their legs high as they jammed away.

Zach Blair (photo Will Ogburn)

Zach Blair (photo Will Ogburn)

The next highlight was “I Don’t Wanna Be Here Anymore.” With a typically frantic pace, McIlrath delivered his vocals while Blair and Principe yelled “Hey!” in the background. This catchy, energetic song got the crowd even more pumped – especially since many of them knew it by heart.

Tim McIlrath (photo Will Ogburn)

Tim McIlrath (photo Will Ogburn)

Rise Against is known for their political themes, but on that night they didn’t say anything inflammatory, only a message of love. “In the wake of the recent tragedy in Paris, something hit me,” said McIlrath, “That could’ve been us. We played that theater on exactly one year before it was attacked…it was a great show and we met so many wonderful people. An Irish fan proposed to his girlfriend, and it was such a sweet moment.” He talked about how music brings us all together and that with it we should never feel alone.

 Zach Blair (photo Will Ogburn)

Zach Blair (photo Will Ogburn)

Genuine empathy was on his face as he spoke of the band who’s set was cut short by the attacks, The Eagles of Death Metal. They knew each other well, as they had spent the Fourth of July with Rise Against and the Wu Tang Clan (somehow) this year. The scene of compassion and unity as a rock music community was touching, as they stopped their set for a moment of remembrance.

Tim McIlrath (photo Will Ogburn)

Tim McIlrath (photo Will Ogburn)

“Even if you don’t know this one, you can sing it with us!” said the frontman, “Just sing whoa-oh-oh-oh-ohh.” That meant that next up was “Make It Stop,” a song that deals with the struggles of being tormented and bullied. The crowd swayed back and forth and formed somewhat of a rock choir as they repeated the refrain.

Tim McIlrath (photo Will Ogburn)

Tim McIlrath (photo Will Ogburn)

Next up came my personal favorite, “Prayer of the Refugee.” Everyone in the audience seemed to be on the same page, flailing their hands toward the stage as they sang in unison. The song’s raw, yet happy chorus makes you feel powerful, and seeing it live only intensifies the feeling.

Zach Blair (photo Will Ogburn)

Zach Blair (photo Will Ogburn)

As the set winded down, the band disappeared. In less of an encore and more of a tone shift, McIlrath walked back out with an acoustic guitar and a stool. He began strumming the opening chords of “Swing Life Away” to decidedly female screams. The lights were dim, with the only spotlight being on the fans. McIlrath had the ability to make thousands feel like they were in an intimate club. The sweet song had fans embracing and slowly swaying back and forth.

Zach Blair (photo Will Ogburn)

Zach Blair (photo Will Ogburn)

After a long setlist that all but flew by, Rise Against and the fans at the Kink Music Festival had one last chance to go crazy together before fading off into the night. Their final song was “Savior”, the band’s most popular track, and fans went absolutely wild. When the temp increased, both Blair and Principe jumped off their risers and rand around the stage – sweat beading up on their brows.

Tim McIlrath (photo Will Ogburn)

Tim McIlrath (photo Will Ogburn)

The band from up north took the stage late, but had the crowd eating out of the palms of their hands throughout the set. Having never seen them before, I would strongly recommend it even if you don’t know many of their songs. The personality, passion, and energy of Rise Against perfectly capped off a great day of rock and roll at the Central Florida Fairgrounds.

Alex Varkatzas and crowd (photo Will Ogburn)

Alex Varkatzas and crowd (photo Will Ogburn)

 

Alex Varkatzas (photo Will Ogburn)

Alex Varkatzas (photo Will Ogburn)

 

Jesse Leach - Killswitch Engage (photo Will Ogburn)

Jesse Leach – Killswitch Engage (photo Will Ogburn)

 

Joe Principe - Rise Against (photo Will Ogburn)

Joe Principe – Rise Against (photo Will Ogburn)

 

Chris Dow and Jordan Foster - Within Reason (photo Will Ogburn)

Chris Dow and Jordan Foster – Within Reason (photo Will Ogburn)

 

Chris Dow (photo Will Ogburn)

Chris Dow (photo Will Ogburn)

 

SoulSwitch Tom Huestis (photo Will Ogburn)

SoulSwitch Tom Huestis (photo Will Ogburn)

 

SoulSwitch Matt Larson (photo Will Ogburn)

SoulSwitch Matt Larson (photo Will Ogburn)

 

SoulSwitch Tommy Kwong & Nick Allen (photo Will Ogburn)

SoulSwitch Tommy Kwong & Nick Allen (photo Will Ogburn)

 

Rise Against Fans (photo Will Ogburn)

Rise Against Fans (photo Will Ogburn)

 

Jason Butler (photo will Ogburn)

Jason Butler (photo will Ogburn)

 

Jason Butler (photo Will Ogburn)

Jason Butler (photo Will Ogburn)

 

Jason Butler (photo Will Ogburn)

Jason Butler (photo Will Ogburn)

 

(photo Will Ogburn)

(photo Will Ogburn)

 

(photo Will Ogburn)

(photo Will Ogburn)

Candid Kink Music Festivals PHOTOS

KMF Bikes (photo Will Ogburn)

KMF Bikes (photo Will Ogburn)

 

(photo Will Ogburn)

(photo Will Ogburn)

 

(photo Will Ogburn)

(photo Will Ogburn)

 

(photo Will Ogburn)

(photo Will Ogburn)

 

(photo Will Ogburn)

(photo Will Ogburn)

 

(photo Will Ogburn)

(photo Will Ogburn)

 

Pipe smoking Moses in the house (photo Will Ogburn)

Pipe smoking Moses in the house (photo Will Ogburn)

 

(photo Will Ogburn)

(photo Will Ogburn)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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