As I walked into the photo pit, I could feel the tension building. Wage War, the new hometown heroes, about to take the stage in the biggest way they could’ve imagined: being direct support for none other than A Day To Remember. Opening with their ever-aggressive song “Hollow” off of their debut album Blueprints they really set the pace for a high-energy performance. Halfway through their chaotic set they debuted “Stitch”, a new song that had only been released a few days prior. Despite the song being brand new, hardcore fans yelled the lyrics right back at the boys as if it were an old favorite. Wage War ended things with a bang, playing their most popular song “Twenty One,” I don’t think I witnessed a single person standing still during their final song. All in all, an incredible performance by the guys in Wage War.
As the light began to fade, the stage changes came, preparing for what was to be the most anticipated act of the night: A Day To Remember, live in their hometown of Ocala. But before the fans could experience what it is to see them live, a ceremony was in place. You see, this wasn’t any ordinary concert, A Day To Remember were set to receive the keys to the city of Ocala. An incredible honor indeed. Mayor Kent Guinn spoke shortly about how much the boys meant to the city and eventually stepped back to pass the microphone off to Jeremy McKinnon to let him speak. Jeremy thanked the fans, his family and even gave a (well deserved) shout out to Ocala’s own Donald Gualandri, a local promoter who has shaped the Ocala music scene in an unimaginable way. After all the keys were handed out, the stage was cleared in preparation for the live show everyone was waiting for.
Thick with tension, whispers of possible set list songs, and random chants of “A-D-T-R” the moment was finally closing in, A Day To Remember was taking the stage. Suddenly the stage was illuminated by a faint blue light. A silhouetted Alex Shellnutt placed himself behind his drum kit and began to play the intensely familiar drum pattern to “Mr.Highway’s Thinking About The End”. Soon all the members began to creep onto the stage, playing their parts, still unrecognizable in that faint blue light. The intense energy continued throughout their set, as expected, playing a medley of songs from every album they’ve released. Truly a spectacle for the longtime fan of A Day To Remember.
Eventually, the hardcore riffs and chaotic drumming were traded in for an acoustic guitar and a single mic stand. Jeremy enchanted the crowd as he sang “If It Means A lot to You,” a classic song of theirs. They closed out the night with “The Downfall Of Us All,” a song whose video was shot at the long gone skate park in Ocala many years ago. Overall the night was incredible, one for the books, and if you were one of the six thousand or so attendees, you surely know what I mean.