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HeartSupport Festival Rocks Orlando

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The Inaugural HeartSupport Fest’s Mission to Bring Good Vibes and Good Music to Florida is a Smashing Success –  Photos and Feature on the HeartSupport 2023 Festival at the Orlando Amphitheater in Orlando, FL

One of the things I miss the most about Warped Tour was the amazing amount of bands that you were able to catch in one day. And while it remains to be seen if we’ll ever see the all time champ of traveling festivals back in action any time soon, thankfully there’s a new contender ready to take the throne, at least here in Orlando: the HeartSupport Fest. Even though it was only their first year, the team over at HeartSupport came out of the gate swinging and delivered an incredible two day knockout punch of an event. Featuring an impressive amount of incredible bands spread over the weekend with something to cater to the tastes of every fan of heavy music, this February festival was the perfect kickstart of the 2023 concert season!

HeartSupport was founded by Jake Luhrs, the lead singer of August Burns Red with a mission to not only sponsor this amazing festival but also to bring awareness to the mental health issues affecting the people within the heavy music community. As anyone that’s tried to reach out to a “normal” therapist knows, trying to explain to someone that the only place that feels like home is in the middle of a moshpit, getting pushed around while heavy metal music blares in the background is a little bit unnerving. HeartSupport offers resources for people that are affected by mental health issues, as well as a judgement free place to get together and chat with other likeminded individuals on Discord. Check out HeartSupport.com for more information!

HeartSupport Festival employed a revolving 2 stage lineup, with one band playing while the next sets up on the other stage, and this setup provided two full days of almost nonstop music without having to wait in between bands. Plenty of food booths, drink tents and a large merchandise area that sold not only shirts & accessories from the bands playing that weekend, but also booths selling vinyl records, hot sauce and much more! The VIP area was also very well set up, with the area positioned in a good spot on both stages allowing for great views, less crowded bathrooms, and shorter waits for drinks.

The main stage of the festival was, in my opinion, perfectly set up, with plenty of elevated lawn space offering good views for those that wanted to sit down, spread out and enjoy the show from a distance, while still offering a large paved area for fans to get a good view up front. And the smaller nature of the side stage (which featured some heavier bands) gave you a great opportunity to get in the pit or crowd-surf your way to the front of the stage. And speaking of crowd surfing, it wouldn’t be a real metal festival without the likes of crowdsurfing Santa, who also made an appearance!

Day One featured some heavy hitters in the world of hard rock and heavy metal. Scottish metal heroes Bleed From Within stopped by on their first ever American tour, and He Is Legend delivered their brand of twitchy post-hardcore jams. The Word Alive and Comeback Kid were two bands that I had not heard of before the festival, but absolutely killed it and I will definitely be checking them out further. The Devil Wears Prada played some new songs from their latest release, and Memphis May Fire rocked the main stage with an epic heart-pounding performance. Tampa natives Underoath, who recently re-united as a band, closed out the second stage with a riotous hour long set featuring old classics and songs from their acclaimed most recent album Voyeurist.

As the sun set towards the second half of the day, the bands got heavier and the weather got colder. The crowd decided to amp up the moshing to keep warm, and there’s no better band to help with that than the real heroes of this festival August Burns Red, who in my opinion delivered the best set of the entire weekend. Dance Gavin Dance and their extremely colorful stage show was up next, and this was their first tour since reuniting with Tilian Pearson. The band sounded as good as ever, and the crowd seemed to eat up the “Screamo Mars Volta” style jams the band was famous for. Finishing up the night was the return of Parkway Drive, who went on hiatus last year. The Australian metalcore legends delivered an amazing set, with vocalist Winston McCall singlehandedly keeping the crowd warm for the rest of the night with his ripping vocals.

The second (and much warmer) day of the festival was an old-school emo kid’s paradise, featuring the likes of Ohio natives Hawthorne Heights & Canadians Silverstein, who I’m sure were incredibly happy to be out of the Northern cold and performing outdoors without snow gear. Senses Fail and their incredibly charismatic frontman Buddy Nielsen never fail to deliver an incredible show, and they were one of the heavier bands that performed on the side stage, aside from the band that followed them next. Spiritbox, a newer band that is quickly rising to the top of the heavy metal world, delivered an absolutely crushing set with singer Courtney LaPlante impressively handling both clean and growling vocal duties with aplomb.

But nothing could top the return of The Ghost Inside, who were finally back after surviving the bus accident that claimed the leg of their drummer and left the band in the hospital and out of commission for almost five years. Incredibly, not only does the band sound better than ever, but the drummer Andrew Tkaczyk is still playing using a special mechanism to drum with impeccable precision. Capping off the festival with a grand finale was seminal punk rock band Rise Against, who rose to prominence around the same time as the bands that played earlier that day. Tim McIlrath and the rest of the band sounded tighter than ever, and even after 20 years the songs remain as relevant as the day they were released.

I had an incredible time at the first ever HeartSupport Festival and judging by the crowd, so did everyone else in attendance! Hopefully the festival stays located right here in Orlando, as the venue is perfect and the warm weather provides a welcome escape for not only the out of state attendees, but also the bands. I can’t wait to see what the HeartSupport team comes up with next year!

Gleb Barabanov is South Florida Insider's Vice President, Graphic Designer and Webmaster, as well as a Photographer and Writer covering events all over the world. Originally born in Odessa, Ukraine, Gleb now calls the sunny Florida area home, where he attended Full Sail University and received a Bachelors of Arts in Film Production. Gleb is obsessed with music, cameras, guitars, and his Shiba Inu, Yoshi

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