Self Help Festival rocks fans in Detroit area debut led by Rise Against, A Day To Remember, Pierce The Veil and much more.

With unseasonably warm October weather, fans arrive early for the inaugural Self Help Festival Detroit.  A long line forms in the parking lot waiting for the doors to open.  With the mostly blues skies and temperatures in the 70s, it looks to be shaping up for a great day of rock music, cold drinks, and fun.  The Self Help Festival was started in 2014 by Jeremy McKinnon of A Day To Remember with a show in San Bernadino, CA followed by a second festival later that year in Philadelphia.  Only the San Bernadino festival was held in 2015 and 2016 before it was decided to expand this year to four cities – Philadelphia, Orlando, Detroit and San Bernadino (2018).

Kicking off the festival on the Black Stage in the permanent pavilion area is The Plot in You from Findlay, OH led by Landon Tewers on vocals.  Due to some issues at the main entrance, very few fans have made it into the venue by this point.  The band are troopers though as they run through a set that includes the single “Feel Nothing”.

Queens, NY based metal band Sylar get the Red Stage rocking as the crowds have now started to build.  Lead vocalist Jayden Panesso fires up the crowd with songs including the radio hits “Dark Daze” and “Assume” while he stalks the whole stage.  They close out their set with their biggest hit, “Soul Addiction”.  It gets the crowd moving and singing along while Jayden and guitarist Miguel Cardona trade off on vocals.

Too Close to Touch from Lexington, KY is up next.  The songs and band are lively with vocalist Keaton Pierce giving it his all as he works the whole stage with occasional jumps.  You can see the passion and emotion in his face and body language when he sings.  The fans are loving it and several along the barrier are singing all the words out loud.  This reviewer can sense an influence from Bring Me the Horizon on some songs.  Check them out if they come to your town.  They are definitely a band to keep your eye on in the future.

Fans at the Red Stage go crazy when Florida-based metalcore outfit Wage War take the stage.  Lead vocalist Briton Bond leads the band in some group headbanging before tearing into high-energy metal including the songs “Stitch” and “The River”.  It doesn’t take long before the fans start crowd surfing and moshing.  They have one of the best sets of the day, albeit short given their early time slot.  Briton is all over the stage firing up the fans with fist pumps to go along with his harsh vocals.  Bassist Chris Gaylord is a treat to watch as he bounces and does scissor kicks throughout the set.  They are a killer band and have the crowd fully engaged.  Wage War ends their set with the aggressive song “Twenty One” from their 2015 release Blueprints.

Back at the Black Stage, alternative rockers Moose Blood from Canterbury, England are ripping through a set of fun, guitar-driven songs.   There is a growing number of fans at this stage with many singing along and cheering.  They have been around since 2012, with more than half of today’s set coming from their 2016 release Blush including “Honey”, “Glow”, “Cheek”, and the closer “Knuckles”, with the rest coming from their 2014 release I’ll Keep You In Mind, From Time to Time.

ISSUES get their set off to a rousing start with vocalist Michael Bohn dropping into the pit and climbing the barrier to greet fans before jumping on top of them for some crowd surfing.  The fans love it.  They kick off their set with “King of Amarillo” and follow that up with “Never Lose Your Flames”, “Hero”, “Blue Wall”, “COMA”, and “Mad at Myself”.  Michael shares vocal duties with Tyler Carter and they whip the crowd into a frenzy, trading off clean and harsh vocals / screams.  The crowd surfers continue to grow as they enjoy the set and keep security up front quite busy.  To add to the bands engaging stage presence, bassist Tyler Acord leaps high and uses both sides of the stage. 

Closing out the Black Stage is a fan favorite, metalcore rockers Of Mice & Men from Orange County, CA.  This band has been around since 2009 with four major releases and what seems like nonstop touring including many of the major festivals every year.  With the departure of Austin Carlile, bassist Aaron Pauley has taken over lead vocalist duties.  They rock the house hard today with a powerful set of tunes spanning their albums including hits like “Would You Still Be There”, “Pain”, and 2017 single “Unbreakable”.  The crowd goes crazy when they launch into “Bones Exposed”, an in your face rocker with fast-paced drums and guitars led by dual guitarists Alan Ashby and Phil Manansala.  They end their set with “The Flood” and “The Depths”.

With most of the crowd inside the venue now, Falling in Reverse hit the stage and is greeted with loud cheers.  This is the first time seeing Falling in Reverse for this reviewer and he is impressed.  Lead vocalist Ronnie Radke is a spitfire on stage, never standing still but for a few seconds.  He paces the whole stage, bounces, leaps, spins, kicks, and shows his emotion through facial expressions.  While Ronnie has been known for getting into issues with bands, he keeps today’s set focused and seems to be having as much fun as the fans.  At the beginning of “Just Like You” he acknowledges that he can be an asshole.  Backed by a band including guitarists Christian Thompson and Derek Jones, along with bassist Zakk Sandler, they tear through a set that also includes “I’m Not a Vampire”, “Superhero”, and “Alone”.   It leaves the fans wanting more.

Underoath is one of the most anticipated sets of the day.  This metal band from Tampa, FL reunited in 2016 for the Self Help Festival and followed that with a tour.  Led by singer Spencer Chamberlain, they get the huge audience moving via mosh pits, crowd surfing, bouncing, and fist-pumping.  With a band including bassist Grant Brandell and guitarist Timothy McTague, they lay down an aggressive sound with powerful riffs, driving rhythms, as well as harsh and soaring vocals on songs including “In Regards to Myself”, “Desperate Times, Desperate Measures”, “Reinventing Your Exit” and the set closer “Writing on the Walls”.  Hopefully, they will continue to tour and record new music.  Judging from today’s show, they have a huge following of loyal fans who will continue to support them.

Opening their set with “Bulls in the Bronx” and “The Divine Zero”, Pierce The Veil from San Diego, CA waste no time getting the crowd moving.  Guitarist / lead vocalist Vic Fuentes leads the band that also includes his brother Michael on drums through a fast-paced set of rock.  This band loves to use the whole stage including the platforms.  Vic and bassist Jaime Preciado launch high-flying jumps many times, along with just running around the whole stage.  To add to the fun for the fans, Jeremy McKinnon from A Day To Remember joins the band on stage for “Caraphernalia”.  They end their set with the highly popular song “Circles” and the wickedly fast “King for a Day”.

Ocala, FL band A Day To Remember takes the stage to the loudest cheers of the day.  They have been around since 2003 and have built up a huge and loyal following of fans through many successful releases and major touring.  Their live shows are known for their high-energy and fun.  They have a full stage setup to entertain the crowd including smoke cannons, streamer and confetti launchers, and a guy dressed up as a superhero shooting t-shirts into the crowd.  Crowd surfing is now in full chaos as body after body comes over the wall faster than security can handle and takes down a female security staffer at one point with his momentum.  During their set, there is even a person literally surfing on top of another crowd surfer as he is passed to the front.  Crazy is an understatement.  These fans are having a great time and the band is feeding off the energy throughout the set.  They play one of the longest sets of the festival at 14 songs including hits like “All I Want”, “I’m Made of Wax Larry, What Are You Made Of?”, “2nd Sucks”, “Paranoia”, “Naivety”.  They close out the set with a 3-song encore that includes “The Downfall of Us All”.  A Day To Remember is the highlight of the day for many of these fans at the festival.

With winds gusting and the skies growing darker from the sunset and approaching storm, the crowd is growing anxious for headliner Rise Against from Chicago, IL to hit the stage.  Light drizzle is now falling across parts of the festival grounds, but the fans do not seem to care.  The lights dim and the crowd erupts as the band launches into “Chamber the Cartridge”.   The set is heavy on hits including “The Violence”, “Re-Education (Through Labor)”, “Help is on the Way”, and “Prayer of the Refugee”.  Lead singer Tim McIlrath gets the crowd fired up with fans crowd surfing like crazy.  Guitarist Zach Blair is highly active, leaping high in the air doing poses with his guitar.  The crowd loves these guys and respond with huge cheers.  They close out their set and the festival with one of their most popular songs “Savior”.

While there were major issues with getting all the fans into the venue in a timely manner, most would agree they had a great time rocking out to the awesome bands.  Hopefully, they work out the logistics for a better experience for all the fans and bands next time around.

Self Help Festival
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