Self Help Festival thrills fans for the second year in a row headlined by Limp Bizkit, Asking Alexandria, Nothing More, and many more.

A sunny, but cool fall day makes for a great day for those attending the second Self Help Festival in Sterling Heights, MI.  The event is scaled back a bit from 2017, with only 8 bands this year, but that does not stop the fans.  The Self Help Festival was started in 2014 by Jeremy McKinnon of A Day To Remember.  While they are not playing this year, the event is still organized by them.

Returning for the second year is Queens, NY based metal band Sylar, who kick off the festival with a brief, but solid set.  Lead vocalist Jayden Panesso works the stage from side to side and gets the fans cheering to hits like “Soul Addiction”, “Dark Daze”, “Assume”, and the latest single “All or Nothing” from the forthcoming album Seasons.

Turnstile ramps up the energy with a blistering set of punk rock.  Lead singer Brendan Yates spins, jumps, and bounces around the stage, all the while singing with angst.  The fans up front love it and Brendan takes some time to jump down into the pit and greet them.  Not to be outdone, bassist Franz Lyons takes to the air with flying scissor leaps.  Franz along with drummer Daniel Fang lay down the grove that powers the songs.  They tear through around 14 songs in their 30-minute set including “Real Thing”, “Big Smile”, “Gravity”, and “Fazed Out”.  They certainly won some new fans over.

Next up is some hardcore from Kentucky-based Knocked Loose.  With a loyal following, they get the moshing started with a large circle pit on the lawn area at the top of the pavilion.  The moshing has these fans energized and they keep it going throughout the whole set.  Led by vocalist Bryan Garris, the band grinds through heavy songs such as “Oblivion’s Peak”, “By the Grave”, “Last Words”, and close with the fan favorite “Deadringer”.

For a change of pace, but not short on energy, rapper Denzel Curry from Caral City, FL comes out with rapid-fire lyric delivery to the delight of fans.  Accompanied by only a DJ, he stalks about the stage in a vivid green hoodie, occasionally stopping to shake his head and send his short dreads spinning.  It only takes a song and Denzel finds his way into the crowd.  He remains there for several songs as he raps and engages with fans with high fives, jumping up and down, and rapping in unison. The fans eat it up and can’t get enough as just about everyone has their phones out to capture this awesome moment.

One of the hottest rock bands, Beartooth, hits the stage to loud cheers.  Their fan base has been on the rise for a few years and their newly released album Disease is getting rave reviews and plenty of airplay.  Lead singer Caleb Shomo, along with guitarists Kamron Bradbury and Zach Huston, lead the charge through a killer set that includes the new songs “Bad Listener” and the title track.  However, it’s the older hits like “Sick of Me”, “Aggressive”, and “Hated” that get the fans into a frenzy with plenty of singing out loud and fist pumps.  They close out their set with “Body Bag” and “In Between”.   From the buzz after their set, it seems a large amount the crowd came to see them as much as any other of the headliners.

Another band who has been on the rise is San Antonio rockers Nothing More. They have been touring almost non-stop since their latest album The Stories We Tell Ourselves was released about a year ago.  The album has spawned several singles with more surely to come.  Shirtless and barefooted singer Jonny Hawkins takes to the stage and along with drummer Ben Anderson pound the skins aggressively before jumping into “Do You Really Want It?” from the latest release.  The crowd is in awe at the energy of Jonny and the whole band.  

The first half of their set is heavy on songs from that album including “Let ‘em Burn”, “Don’t Stop”, and the very popular radio hit “Go to War”.  With awesome lighting, dialled-in sound, and plenty of CO2 cannons, they have one of the best sets of the festival and the fans eat it up.  If anyone here today did not know who they were, they certainly did shortly into their set.  It’s hard not to take notice with Jonny running and jumping about with his chiselled physique that the ladies love. On top of that, you have one of the tightest bands with guitarist Mark Vollelunga and Daniel Oliver on bass.

Slowing things down a bit, they play “Fadein/Fadeout” before Jonny introduces a huge hit in “Jenny”, a song written about his sister.  That gets the crowd singing along.  A highlight of their shows is the contraption called The Scorpion Tail, but tonight the sound failed to work once Jonny rode it over 10 feet in the air.  They close out the set with the breakout hit “This is the Time (Ballast)” and “Salem (Burn the Witch)”.  The latter showcases Jonny on drums again.  Many in the crowd are left wanting more.

With the sun fully set and the air temperature dropping into the 50s, the fans could use some more hard rock to get them on their feet again.  And Asking Alexandria from England are just the band to do that.  Riding high on the self-titled album from 2017 still, they open up with “Into the Fire”, complete with a bank of CO2 cannons the width of the stage. Singer Danny Worsnop sounds as good as ever on vocals.  Guitarist Ben Bruce has the ladies screaming up front as he sings several parts of “Under Denver”, and in between thrashes his hair about with cool backlighting amid the smoke.

Their set is dominated by new songs including “When the Lights Come On”, “Eve”, and “Where Did It Go?”.  There are still plenty of other songs to keep old fans happy including “The Death of Me”, “Run Free”, and the early screamer “The Final Episode”.  They close out the set with their latest hit “Alone in a Room”.  With Danny back in the band and an album back under their wings, it seems like the future is looking bright once again for Asking Alexandria.

Taking the stage in a suit with faced painted black on the bottom half, and white including his hair on the upper, is Limp Bizkit guitarist Wes Borland.  He starts playing a cool, repeating riff until singer Fred Durst strolls out on to the stage sporting a Detroit Lions jersey and a floppy fisherman’s hat.  After a bit of rapping with the crowd, they get things cranking with “Full Nelson” and “Hot Dog”.  Fred works the whole stage with his signature swagger and banter.  It has been 4 years since they last played the Detroit and the fans are ready for an evening of hits from one of the 90s nu-metal masters.

The familiar notes of “Rollin’ (Air Raid Vehicle)” get the pit up front jumping with John Otto laying down a thunderous beat as his powerful arms smash the skins and cymbals.  They keep the energy high as they run through a series of rockers including “Eat You Alive”, “My Generation”, and “Livin’ It Up”.  Working his way through the crowd, Fred finds a spot in the center of the pavilion and the band runs through some covers including “Song #2” and “Smells Like Teen Spirit”.  In between, Wes and the band throw in some snippets of metal classics like “Holy Wars” and “South of Heaven”.  The fans are loving every minute of the performance.

Returning to the stage, Fred brings up a fan and they sing the Rage Against the Machine anthem “Killing in the Name”.  Wow. What a huge thrill for that fan.  Keeping things amped up, they play one of their famous songs “My Way” that has the fans again singing along and bouncing.  The floor area near the stage breaks into a circle pit as Fred introduces “Break Stuff”.  They close out the evening with another hit, “Take a Look Around”. 

Another Self Help Festival is in the books.  Hopefully, it will be back bigger and better in 2019 for a third instalment in the Detroit area.

Self Help Festival
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Limp Bizkit
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Asking Alexandria
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Nothing More
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Beartooth
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Denzel Curry
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Knocked Loose
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Turnstile
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Sylar
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