By Brent Michael, Rock At Night Tampa Senior Correspondent
Venue: The Orpheum, Tampa, Florida–May 9th, 2022
Bands/Websites or Facebook/Social Links:
I hope this is not the story of the year, but the story of the night was rain, rain, and more rain…and just how hardcore the fans of these three bands are!
But first, a few lines about the venue, the newly-relocated Orpheum. I don’t normally spend any time talking about the venue, but as I’ve written over a dozen articles located at this one, words to describe the changes are necessary. Previously, the location was the Ybor City section of Tampa, a very busy and all paid-parking old-town downtown area, the building was two-story and relatively huge, and there was a balcony that allowed for some great shots of the entire stage. The new location is in a part of Tampa often called Suitcase City because of the high percentage of University of South Florida students living there, and also known for certain other nighttime activities described in American Supermodel‘s song “Walking Nebraska.” Okay, since you might have a tough time getting to hear that song, let’s just say it’s a street known for scantily-clad women looking for temporary companions, capiche? Parking is now free – if you get there early enough, otherwise plan on walking a good distance. No balcony, and no roof for the area up close to the band which is outside – though there is a smaller stage inside that went unused – which is why the rain became an integral part of this article.
And as you can see, the fans were “singing in the rain,” a testament to their dedication! So on to the music!
Escape the Fate is from Las Vegas, Nevada, formed in 2004 and originally from Pahrump, Nevada. The group consists of Robert Ortiz (drummer), Craig Mabbitt (lead vocalist), TJ Bell (rhythm guitarist and vocalist), Kevin “Thrasher” Gruft (lead guitarist, maybe replaced) and touring musician Erik Jensen (bassist). As of 2013, Ortiz is the last founding member in the current lineup of the group.
They have released three EPs and seven full-length studio albums. Dying Is Your Latest Fashion was the band’s first album. This War Is Ours was released on October 21, 2008. The album debuted at No. 35 on the Billboard 200, selling 13,000 copies in the first week. Their eponymous third studio album, Escape the Fate, was released worldwide on November 2, 2010. The album charted at No. 25 on the Billboard 200, No. 1 on Hard Rock Albums, No. 4 on Rock Albums, No. 3 on Alternative and Independent charts and No. 18 on the Digital Albums Chart. Their fourth album, Ungrateful, was released on May 14, 2013, by Eleven Seven Music, and charted at No. 27 on the Billboard 200, with 17,000 copies sold in its first week. Their fifth album, Hate Me, was released on October 30, 2015, and charted at No. 58 on the Billboard 200. Their sixth album, I Am Human, was released on March 30, 2018. Their seventh album, Chemical Warfare, was released on April 16, 2021. They kicked the night off a bit late (can you guess why?) and hence had a short, but very high-energy set that stirred up the crowd’s enthusiasm.
Hawthorne Heights, formerly A Day in the Life, is from Dayton, Ohio, formed in 2001. Their lineup currently consists of JT Woodruff (lead vocals, rhythm guitar), Matt Ridenour (bass guitar, backing vocals), Mark McMillon (lead guitar, unclean backing vocals), and Chris Popadak (drums, percussion). JT and Matt are founding members.
The band found success with both of their first two albums, their 2004 release, The Silence in Black and White, and their 2006 album, If Only You Were Lonely, both achieving Gold certification. Their second album additionally peaked at No. 1 on the Billboard’s Independent Albums chart and No. 3 on the Billboard 200 charts. They are also well known for their 2006 single “Saying Sorry”, which reached Gold status and peaked at No. 7 on the Billboard Hot Modern Rock Tracks chart. The band’s third album, Fragile Future, was released on August 5, 2008, surprisingly through Victory Records again, after a lengthy legal battle between the two parties.
The band’s fourth album Skeletons peaked at No. 50 on the Billboard 200. The band’s former label, Victory, released a Hawthorne Heights “greatest hits” album, entitled Midwesterners: The Hits, on November 9, 2010. Shortly afterward, Hawthorne Heights left Wind-up Records to begin their own record label, Cardboard Empire. Via this new label, the band released an EP trilogy, beginning with Hate released August 23, 2011, and followed by Hope released June 5, 2012. After signing with Red River Entertainment in 2013, the band postponed the release of the third EP in the trilogy, and released a full-length concept album titled Zero on June 25, 2013. The band played on the 2013 Vans Warped Tour. In September 2015, the band released Hurt, the third EP of the trilogy. The band’s sixth LP, titled Bad Frequencies followed in 2018. Hawthorne Heights released their 7th full-length album titled The Rain Just Follows Me on September 10, 2021, via Pure Noise Records. How ironic is that album title?
Story of the Year is Dan “BB Gun Danny” Marsala – lead vocals (2000–present), drums (1995–2000), Ryan “Ricochet Rhino” Phillips – lead guitar and computers (1995–present), Josh “Old Crossbow Wills” Wills – drums, percussion (2000–present), and Adam “Pew Pew Peanut/The Skull” Russell – bass guitar, vocals (2000–2014; 2018–present). Don’t ask me who came up with the nicknames, or why Adam has two, or which is preferred/current.
Story of the Year formed in St. Louis, Missouri, in 1995 under the name 67 North. The band eventually changed their name to Big Blue Monkey in 1998, and then subsequently changed it again to Story of the Year in 2002, after the release of their EP titled Story of the Year on the indie label Criterion Records. At the time, they claimed they discovered that a blues group named Big Blue Monkey had already existed. Later, on their podcast “Page Avenue Crew”, they clarified that they just didn’t care for the name and made up the excuse of another band having the same name.
It would not be until three years after forming that Story of the Year saw its first piece of commercial success in its major label debut, Page Avenue, containing the popular singles “Until the Day I Die” and “Anthem of Our Dying Day”. A second album, In the Wake of Determination, followed in 2005, but did not achieve the commercial success of its predecessor. The band released their third album, The Black Swan, on April 22, 2008, which was their first release on Epitaph Records, followed by 2010’s The Constant.
On August 11, 2017, they teased a 90-second clip of a new song off their crowd-funded fifth studio album. (The pledge campaign began in November 2016 and was completely funded in less than 3 days.) The band used high-profile producer Aaron Sprinkle and mixers Tom Lord Alge & J Hall to complete their fifth studio album. Wolves was released on PledgeMusic on December 1, 2017. The album’s wide release was on December 8, 2017. On February 2, 2019, Story of the Year held their annual hometown show at the Pageant in St. Louis, Missouri to promote Wolves.
It’s been 6 years since their last record. They’ve been on a self-imposed hiatus for much of that time, and to say it’s been confusing and difficult for them and their fans is an understatement. In March 2021, Page Avenue was certified Platinum by the RIAA. The band went through a lineup change, brought back Adam Russell on bass, released their new single Real Life on August 24, alongside the announcement they’d signed with SharpTone Records and a new set of tour dates. With darkness often comes great art, and to be certain, the sun always rises – even if we can’t see it through the clouds and rain. I could see them stepping out of the shadows with more passion and energy than perhaps any time in the last decade, re-vitalized and absolutely intent on delivering the best record and best performances of their lives. It’s time to rock!
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