Walking into the grounds of FortyFest on Saturday morning two things were to be expected— mind-blowing performances from bands like Oh, Sleeper and RED along with lots of sweating. Fans filed into the Texas Motor Speedway as early as eight a.m. to reserve their spots in front of the stage and although the first band wasn’t scheduled to perform until ten-thirty, it didn’t prevent the crowd from dancing and having a good time.
Don’t Wake Aislin was the first band to take the stage and their energetic set created the mood for the rest of the festival. From beginning to end the five-piece played songs from their Everyone Has A Story EP and even spoke to the crowd about The Red Thread Movement, which is an organization the band is extremely passionate about. Next was North Carolina’s own Runaway City followed by the heavily C.S. Lewis influenced Wavorly. The energy of the crowd never seemed to cease and judging by their screaming and chants it seemed as if no one minded the one-hundred-plus degrees of heat surrounding them.
Once one-thirty rolled around the sounds of Johnny Cash engulfed the speedway and The Wedding was center stage. From the first moment they struck their instruments the crowd started to go wild, and the red dirt under their feet quickly created a blanket over the air. Most of their set included songs from previous albums and EP’s, but they did surprise the crowd with a new song from their upcoming release. Texas natives Oh, Sleeper played next and performed crowd favorites like “Vices Like Vipers” while easily keeping up the fast pace of the festival.
The very presence of Project 86 was undeniable and a rejuvenation to the day. Near the end of their set, Andrew Schwab, lead vocals of the band, brought awareness to the struggle against AIDS in Africa and the alarming 74% of women being affected by it. He encouraged the audience to take action against the disease by partnering with the organization Mocha Club. Pillar followed with a mix of old and new songs, which kept the crowd entertained and actively singing along. Once Emery emerged on the stage, and the first scream ripped through Josh’s microphone, the tone was set for their entire performance. From the “Party Song” to “Walls” these guys rocked an unforgettable show. Another North Carolina band, Decyfer Down, made their way on stage next and played powerful riffs and sang melodies that the crowd knew every word to. Their connection with their music was obvious, but it was their connection to the audience that was most evident.
As the sun was setting around the festival, the mood changed but didn’t die down in the slightest. The crowd was ready for Brian “Head” Welch to blow their minds, and after a seemingly forever-long sound check, it was finally time. From his very first step on stage the crowd was in hysterics just waiting to hear songs from his Save Me From Myself CD with lyrics like, “Drug use, I kicked it. Abuse, I kicked it. I’m through. I kicked it. I won’t kill myself. Depression, I kicked it. Suicide, I kicked it. Telling lies, I kicked it. I won’t kill myself. Father! Thank you! Father! I live for you now!”, it’s easy to see why. After playing a wide variety from his full-length, and even a tribute to The Deftones’ Chi Cheng, it was time for Grammy nominated RED to close the festival.
By this time everything was dark around the Speedway excluding the bright lights of the stage. Looking around at the faces in the front row it was clear that the moment they were waiting for all day had finally arrived, and once the lights dimmed and the four-piece came from backstage- the screaming and arm waving reached a high point. Playing new and old tracks alike as well as a heart-melting acoustic ballad, RED clearly exceeded the crowds’ expectations. After their finale, the audience went wild for a bit longer before starting to clear out the festival grounds. Although it was FortyFest’s first year, it’ll be interesting to see if year number two can top it.
Words and images by Brittany Carter and Megan Graham
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