We will get to the music in a minute, but on the chance that someone doesn’t make it very far into this write up let’s just get to the important piece of the Rise Above Fest immediately: raising awareness about suicide and mental illness. We can talk about it and throw around the startling statistics such as suicide is the tenth leading cause of death in the U.S. for all ages and that there is one death from suicide every 12.3 minutes (CDC), but what do we do to assist someone considering ending their life? And what if it is us struggling with depression or drug addiction? Resources are available. Get help. People do care.
If you are in a suicide crisis,
call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
or visit www.save.org
The Rise Above Fest, the brain child of Seether, is now in its third year at Bangor’s Waterfront Pavilion, and is “the largest suicide prevention event ever held anywhere in the world” according to Dr. Daniel J Reidenberg, Executive Director of SAVE, Suicide Awareness Voices of Education, and the crowd just keeps getting bigger and bigger every year. Disturbed’s metal anthem, “Ten Thousand Fists,” was almost the correct head count but shy by a few thousand for this year’s turn out. The place was packed. And the fans come from near and far – Boston, New York City, Pennsylvania, Charleston, SC, Detroit, MI – just to name a few, to hear their favorite bands and enjoy a Saturday full of metal music. This isn’t a day for the faint of heart, but for those who love it heavy and screaming, Rise Above Fest is a can’t miss event.
Before getting down to the bands, I’d like to thank all the fans at Rise Above Fest who chatted with me about the music, sharing with me their stories and “talking metal.” And special thanks to our friend Evil Robb for giving me the inside scoop on the bands, metal music, sharing his opinions, and answering my countless questions.
Rise Above Fest is a chance for fans to see a lot of metal acts in a small amount of time, and this is engineered by the use of two side stages just outside the main venue. This year’s event had a few staging hiccups and a huge line backed up at the gate, but the crews at the Waterfront busted their asses to make it work and the crowd was helpful as well – and that’s saying something since the day was Hot and Humid. Great Job!
Not many fans were in the venue for Portland, Maine’s own Sygnal to Noise, who put on a brief but impressive show for the fans on hand. Sygnal to Noise were the runner ups in the Waterfront Concerts sponsored battle of bands held earlier this year for this event.
Next was Cilver. With a female vocalist and a style that is hard without being metal core, Cilver left their mark but only had a two song set. Technical difficulties.
Memphis May Fire, all the way from Nashville, was next and worked the crowd well. Reminiscent of Linkin Park and All That Remains, Memphis May Fire has strong vocals and interesting compositions.
The final two bands on the side stages are far from “up and coming” and have legions of fans here in the U.S. and abroad. First, Hatebreed. This is straightforward metalcore music with the requisite pounding guitar and drum beat that fans know and love. Jamey Jasta’s vocals were full throttle and spot on. Strangely enough, Hatebreed’s lyrics run toward the uplifting side of the emotional scale and encourage perseverance and self-confidence. The fans loved their performance.
Regularly filling stadiums and headlining metal festivals in Europe, Killswitch Engage was the last act on the side stages. Giving fans a great set, they also included a cover of Dio’s “Holy Diver,” a song they haven’t played in two years. Sadly their set was cut short by one song due to weather. The clouds opened up and drenched the venue, and the lightning was too close for safety. The venue was forced to close until the storm passed, sending thousands of patrons to their cars.
Eventually the beating rain subsided and Waterfront crews were able to ready the venue for fans once again. What a mess.
Now for the main stage. Starting off with Burning Time from Portland, Maine, the crowd was ready to get back to the business of metal. Burning Time were the winners of the previously mentioned battle of the bands and had the privilege of opening the main stage for Rise Above Fest. The fans appreciated their set. Next was I Prevail, a band with a lot of members and a lot of energy. They utilize several different elements in their composition, including a bit of techno along with some cookie monster vocals. Their energy and these aspects added interest to their set. Beartooth was next, a band with a strong showing on Sirius radio, and several fans told me they were eager to see the band perform. Led by Caleb Shomo on vocals, Beartooth has a familiar metalcore sound with a lot of energy, drive, and the members of the band worked the show well. Fans loved what they heard.
Alter Bridge hit the main stage at 6:30. As fans know, Alter Bridge is made up of three former members of Creed, Mark Tremonti on lead guitar, Brian Marshall on bass, and Scott Phillips on drums, with Myles Kennedy on guitar and vocals. This line up gives Alter Bridge an edge by blending Tremonti’s melodic guitar style, some would call his work beautiful, and Kennedy’s electric vocals for a style that is not metal, but uniquely heavy. Rock stars through and through, Alter Bridge were fantastic. The set included “Come to Life,” “Addicted to Pain,” and “Rise Today.”
Seether was next. It was nice to see Seether while it was still daylight so fans were able to actually see the band play rather than view them through their usually dim and moody stage lighting. Starting off with “Same Damn Life,” the band sounded great. Dale Stewart, animated as ever, worked the stage, engaging the crowd, while Shaun Morgan was more subdued than last year’s perform but still on target. John Humprey gave a fantastic show on drums and Bryan Wickmann’s guitar work was strong. The set included several of their hits, including “Rise Above This,” before ending with “Remedy.”
Volbeat has a following, to say the least, and nearly every fan on hand was excited to see and hear their performance. They were not disappointed – Volbeat put on a magnetic performance. There is something irresistible about this band, several things actually, starting with Michael Poulsen’s leadership of the performance, urging the crowd to participate as he effortlessly plays guitar, sings, and uses the entire width of the stage to draw in the fans. The man is a rock star in every sense of the word. Speaking of rock stars, Rob Caggiano, on lead guitar, has a flashy style that entertains the eyes as much as the ears. He’s just plain fun to watch play. Backing everything up, Jon Larsen, on drums, and Kaspar Boye Larsen, on bass, hold the beat together and put on an energetic, top notch performance. The substantial setlist included “Lola Montez,” new single “For Evigt,” and wrapped up with “Still Counting.” Chatting with fellow fans after Volbeat’s performance, we all remarked on Volbeat’s blend of metal themes with early American rock and roll to create an infectious, rolling, heavy style. One fan put it this way – “Volbeat sounds like Metallica and Misfits had a baby and asked Johnny Cash to be the god father.” Divine.
Finally, the long hard day came to an end with one final set, and Disturbed took the stage. Opening their performance with “Ten Thousand Fists,” frontman David Draiman was bigger than life and set the tone for the rest of the performance – Big! Disturbed brings a full, arena-style rock show to the stage and the fans love it. Famous for their special mix of industrial, goth, and anthemic, hard, heavy, rock music, Disturbed creates a spectacle for the fans with a massive use of pyrotechnics, drama, and of course, thousands of fists in the air. This is music that fans can’t help but sing along to, and they did. The set included “Stricken,” the hit cover of Simon and Garfunkels’ “Sound of Silence,” and ended with “Down with the Sickness.” Wow.
And then it was done. The fans went home, or in many cases, started their long journey home to the far reaches of the nation, and Rise Above Fest was in the bag for another year. Darling’s Waterfront Pavilion turned off the speakers and the lights, crews tidied the venue, and Bangor tucked in for a night’s rest. All was well.
But let us not forget –
suicide and mental illness touches everyone somehow,
be it a family member or a friend.
People do care, even if they have no idea what to say or what to do.
Reach out if you need help.
Listen if someone needs to talk.