Traveling abroad can be an exciting, yet intimidating experience. Learning and adapting to a different culture, eating strange food, money exchange rates to calculate, language and communication variances, different modes of transportation. I recently got to sit down with Ft. Lauderdale-based Daybreak Embrace who just got back from playing in the world’s largest open-air festival with an estimated one million people in attendance, Woodstock Poland 22. Smiles abound, each member excited to share a story, a photo or video reflecting on the positive experience they encountered. Despite the differences mentioned above,, they all agreed that rock and roll is the universal language.
For Daybreak Embrace (which includes vocalist James Wamsley, guitarists Dan Cartegena and Kenny Figueroa, bassist Ryan Dorries, and drummer Giann Rubio), playing in Woodstock had been a dream for nearly two years. After a highly successful stint on ShipRocked 2015, they aimed for larger audiences to reach out to and increase their fanbase to a worldwide market. Their manager, Tommy Kowalski, had sent out a promotional package to the promoters of Woodstock and thereafter received word they they had been accepted. The problem came when they had realized the expense that would be involved in traveling so far.
It’s a fact, “Suffocate” is the group’s most viewed video ever.
At the same time, they were encountering expenses producing new material to put out to management companies and record labels in search of a record deal. Lead singer James Wamsley explains, “It kind of hit us at an inopportune time, because at that point we were in talks with some management prospects. And those management prospects said, ‘What I’d like to see is you guys get with your producer and get some more songs done.’ So at that point we were looking at the cost of going over to Europe and the cost of going over to our producer and putting a few more songs together. One or the other may have not been that bad, but combined it hit us like a ten-ton brick.” Not giving up on a dream and with the help of a generous fanbase they were able to fund their way to purchase airline tickets and the promoters of Woodstock took care of the rest in first-class fashion.
Arriving in Poland, they were quickly overcome with culture shock. With none of them speaking Polish, they credit the beautiful local people for helping them along the way. Lead guitarist, Dan Cartegena explains. “They taught us everything: they taught us what not to do, how to behave, what not to say.” He elaborates a little further, “It’s a cool culture because you don’t just smile at everyone and expect them to reciprocate. When you are genuine to people they really respond, it’s really cool!”
Rhythm guitarist, Kenny Figueroa adds “They really appreciate it when you try to speak the language to them.” With some helpful etiquette tips and learning a few basic Polish words from a bartender, they found themselves fitting in with the locals who treated them like rock stars. “Once we learned a lot of those words and we were able to use those words, you should see how people light up. They appreciate that.”
Due to the potential overwhelming extra cost via airline fees, they arrived at the festival armed with only two guitars. They credit the Woodstock promoters for first-class treatment. “They provided a guitar for each of us.” Kenny explains, “Two basses for Ryan, amplifiers, wireless packs for in-ear monitors, and they dialed-in everything.”
Bassist Ryan Dories adds, “We just walked up and they handed us world-class equipment. They opened this case for me and inside was a beautiful Music Man Stingray 5. They had two of them! They asked if these would be alright, I calmly said, ‘Yeah, those will work’.”
Check out the band’s video for their single “Severed” here.
As luck would have it, on the day of the show the skies opened up and turned the festival grounds into one giant mud pit. But that didn’t deter the hardcore Polish rock fans from having a great time. “It may have dispersed the crowd a bit, but it did not diminish the spirit of the crowd.” says James. “They were there with smiles on their face, in the rain, no raincoats, some of them no shirts. One dude was in his underwear wrapped up in a thermal blanket. You’re talking about in Poland where the temperature is 52 degrees, it’s raining and the wind is blowing about 15 knots. It did disperse the crowd some, but the people who were there were the craziest!”
The language barrier had no effect whatsoever from fans getting into Daybreak Embrace’s music. James specifically remembers one man who knew every lyric to every song and sang along to the entire set. Later in the day, as he was making his way to the trailer, the man noticed him and called him out. The man spoke no English whatsoever. He had taken it upon himself to learn every song prior to the event. Now that’s one hardcore rock fan! That will get you a selfie with the singer! It has been said that rock and roll is a universal language. This is a perfect example of that statement.
After their set, they had a meet-and-greet with fans and were taken totally off guard by the reception that they received by the Polish fans. “They treated us with such love, we walked into the tent and they were screaming!” Ryan tells me, “I was expecting an empty room to be honest with you.”
Learn to just “Embrace the Moment” and you’ll enjoy life more.
Kenny adds, “They totally treated us like rock stars! They hugged us and wanted us to sign everything. We made a really good presence there because we got everybody to participate by engaging them, giving away our music, and making them all come and take a picture with us. You know how it is with your favorite band, and giving away that moment with them is pretty cool.”
Interacting with other bands also proved that rock is a universal language, particularly when sharing a bottle of homemade vodka as they did with Polish rockers, Materia. After each had performed their set there was definitely a mutual respect for each other’s talents and friends for life were made.
When asked what was the favorite part of their trip, they all answered one word: Poland. The warmth of the people left them with a lasting impression and they hope to return next year for Woodstock Poland 23. They give great thanks to the promoters for helping them achieve their dream, to the volunteers for their time and helpfulness, and to the local people who went out of their way to help them and make them feel welcomed.