A breakdown of the '3 Defining Highlights' that re-shaped this annual single day festival.
The the 12th Annual MMRBQ presented by 93.3 WMMR and Livenation brought new and familiar faces together for one of the strongest line ups the one day mini-fest has ever had as Shinedown, Evanescence, The Struts, Fozzy, The Glorious Sons and Bad Wolves came together for one day only. The 2019 version of this annual show was bigger than the names it contained and in many ways more relevant than other bigger festivals taking place across the country early this summer. While there are no shortage of shows in the Philadelphia market the MMRBQ define itself differently this year as three key things pushed the event forward to new heights.
1. Production is still King and Queen.
Over the past decade the live show has evolved across all genres from being just a concert into a true spectacle with the most successful tours finding the balance between music and art. Despite this the MMRBQ had fallen behind the times over the past 3-4 years as production had taken a side step to talent and while those years were all successful in their own right the 2019 MMRBQ put the mini-festival back towards the top of the local map as a must see/attend festival experience. All of the support bands were treated properly with backdrops, full lighting production, effects, and stage set ups – something that prior years had slipped on. The devil’s advocate would correctly argue that many band’s don’t tour with all of this stuff which is 100% correct but there is no excuse for playing in the dark to a full amphitheater of fans when the lights are there and just not being used which had been the way the MMRBQ was trending. Each band’s set (though some shorter than others) felt like a true headline performance in terms of production as fans were treated to a truly remarkable concert experience.
This visual increase in value coupled with the stellar performances given across the board by band’s made the 2019 MMRBQ possibly the best rock show of the year so far in the Philadelphia DMA. Shinedown headlined the show in true fashion with the band putting on a powerful set technically that was transformed as their lighting design complimented each song wonderfully. Whether it was the bursts of pyro on “Devil” or the cascading lights on “Sound of Madness” the impressive production rig took their solid performance and elevated to something new, original and masterful.
2. Mental Health has united Rock as a Genre.
On the two year anniversary of Chris Cornell’s tragic passing the subject of mental health remains a constant conversation point in the rock world and it made an appearance numerous times through out the day during the MMRBQ. Awareness is the largest part of the battle in combating the issue and it was refreshing to see every band on the bill taking a few minutes from their already reduced festival sized sets to contribute to the cause. Tommy Vext, lead singer, of Bad Wolves set the tone early in the day as he spoke to the already full BB&T Pavilion about his journey in being an attempted suicide survivor. While the band deals with this in their lyrical content often it was especially impactful for him to spend these few minutes to address it in the set and use it as a way to move forward/unify those in the crowd who may be feeling the same way he did in that time.
Shortly there after The Glorious Sons tackled the issue as well as Brett Emmons mentioned that a lot of their songs deal with real problems and the real world is full of real problems – and that it was okay. Every one has problems and sometimes getting together at a festival like MMRBQ is the perfect way to deal with them. It wasn’t a call to forget or ignore the problems but a symbolic statement of unity and acceptance as he encouraged the crowd to see that they weren’t alone in their fight. Last but not least Shinedown tackled mental health head on for their entire set both lyrically with their music and motivational wise as lead singer Brent Smith encouraged the crowd to engage with those around them early in the set by leaning over, shaking their hand or even giving them a hug. You never know what the person to your left or your right is going through but at the MMRBQ you could know that they were going to be as accepting as rock has become in the past 2 years. Mental health has been drug out of the shadows and into the light by the genre that has suffered and fought with it the most – by doing so the world of rock has begun to involve into something new and truly wonderful.
3. The Future Steals The Show
While headliners Shinedown and Evanescence delivered phenomenal shows for the WMMR faithful at the BB&T Pavilion it was hard to deny that the brighest moments of the show came earlier in the day from the band’s much earlier into their career as well. MMRBQ veteran’s The Struts made their Philadelphia return a glam rock sight to behold as Luke Spiller took his over the top style to new levels with eye line, lip stick and even more glitter. The Struts are way more than the flash they present on stage however as they received some of the best and most interactive crowd participation of the day. The brightest moment of their powerhouse set came with a bass driven rendition of “I Do it So Well” led by bassist Jed Struts and guitarist Addo Slack that saw Spiller strutting the stage powerfully while belting out the songs very nuanced lyrics.
Likewise the band’s summer tour mates (as support) The Glorious Sons also provided a glimpse into the future during their set. Already becoming a household name in rock following their hit “S.O.S.” the Ontario rockers continue to perfect their live show by becoming increasingly unpredictable during the set as lead singer Brett Emmons spent much of the set crashing into his band mates as he performed with a vicious intensity. The crowd ate their set up and knew the majority of the songs in their set – even some of the deeper cuts from the band’s earlier days. Rock isn’t dead – it’s just younger and a little bit more Non-American than we are used to. It won’t be long until one of these two band’s garner the top billing on festivals like this across the country – they’ve already earned it.
Exclusive photo gallery of Shinedown, Evanescence, The Struts, Fozzy, The Glorious Sons and Bad Wolves at the 2019 MMRBQ at the BB&T Pavilion in Camden, NJ on May 18, 2019.