• Christian Sullivan

Uprise Festival Report - By JR Rife

Jason Wisdom from Death Therapy

If you’re in the U.S.A., there are plenty of reasons to visit Pennsylvania. You can see the birthplace of America (Philadelphia), visit America’s Oldest Brewery (Yuengling), or if you’re really adventurous you can always try a local dish called Scrapple (just Google it). Our Wawa, Sheetz, and Rutters seem to be quite a unique experience too, depending on what part of the state you’re in. But in addition to those staples and oddities, Pennsylvania has had quite the impact on music as well. And I’m not going to go through all of that history but Pennsylvanians have been doing music festivals way before Ozzfest and Warped. In fact, Creation Festival has been running longer than Ozzfest and Warped Tour put together. We (Creation Festival and myself) are actually the same age but I will let you do the maths.

Unfortunately, the August festival known as Purple Door is no more, but there is another festival that, though it may not be as well known as some of the more established festivals, is just as awesome and quite possibly, even more epic. That is Uprise Festival in Shippensburg, Pennsylvania!

And this year, was the 15th anniversary of Uprise. Uprise is a two-day event with camping, games, children’s activities, skateboarding, food, vendors, and 3 – 4 stages. For years, the organisers of Uprise have been able to bring in some major recording artists and maintain a low-cost ticket yet have well produced and mixed stages throughout the grounds.

As to be expected, the Main Stage has Grammy & Dove award winning artists that blow up the CCM charts. But the Rock Star stage, which is a Saturday only stage, tends to bring in some fairly extreme metal veterans. It’s one of the few places you can catch Demon Hunter every now and then as they are not a band that tours that ambitiously these days (though when they do… they put on a KILLER show!).

This year, a one-day pass purchased in advance had a cost of $50 + service fees, or for $10 more you could get a 2-day pass. Prices have been rising so this could go up next year, once again.

In previous years, the Rock Star stage has also hosted Hip Hop acts and local bands; But the event has grown so much that now, the Hip Hop scene and the local scene have their very own stages. So now, you can just set up right in front of the Rock Star stage and spend a good 9 – 10 hours taking in all kinds of extreme music.

With the long introduction behind us, let’s jump into this year’s event!

Unfortunately, this event had its share of cancellations. Memphis May Fire backed out weeks before the event and Oh, Sleeper as well as As We Ascend backed out nearly moments before the show with one of them being replaced by Lacy Sturm of Flyleaf.

Without As We Ascend in the first slot, the band that got the party started was Jason Wisdom’s Death Therapy. And if there’s any band that can get a crowd going, it’s Death Therapy.

At 11:50 in the morning, there were quite a bit of people gathered already. Death Therapy crushed it, as they always do. Jason Wisdom took some time to express the meaning of his song, “It’s OK” and cruised on through the rest of the set, getting some heads bobbin’ at the Rock Star stage. When I ran into Jason later in the merch tent, he said, “Hey it’s you! You’re everywhere!” I actually think the same thing about Jason/Death Therapy. I said it before, and I will say it again… they are one of the hardest working bands in the scene!

After Death Therapy was The Protest and then Lacy Sturm taking over Oh, Sleeper’s place. Here is where you have the “stage conflict”. The Protest is an amazing band but I decided to go visit the Main Stage for a minute where Disciple was scheduled to play, one day after the release of their brand-new album, Love Letter Killshot.

Disciple has been around for ages. To not know who they are is probably akin to living under a rock for the past 20+ years. They have an energy that puts many younger bands to shame and are 100% evangelical in the presentation of their message. Through various line-up changes, the band is consistently led by Kevin Young, who is one of the most unashamed followers of Jesus you will ever meet. My respect for this band is echoed by many, in the scene and outside of the scene. In addition, the new album features a song called Panic Room featuring Andrew Schwab of Project 86. And since Project 86 was scheduled later for the Rock Star stage, Disciple performed the song live with Andrew. And of course, the boys in Disciple did not disappoint.

At this point, I will share a few “negative” things about the festival. You see, the food vendors work on a “token-system”. Meaning, you trade cash for tokens. And if you don’t use them all, you leave with overpriced pieces of plastic that you can’t do a thing with. I am not even sure you can use them the following year. So, I always elect to go grab lunch in the town of Shippensburg, rather than deal with this dilemma. So, halfway through Disciple/The Protest’s set, my wife and I went out for wings!

When we parked earlier that morning, there was no one directing traffic though there usually had been in previous years. When we returned, I actually got somewhat trapped in a lane because people were deciding to block paths, lanes, and even block the central road. Driving a rear-wheel drive American muscle car through these conditions is not for the faint of heart (it’s a field on a hillside with slippery slopes at times) but I managed to back out and find a “safe” spot toward the crest of the hill to avoid getting parked in. Of course, upon reaching security again, I reported the problem. I can’t say how well my report went, but my wife did say that while she was over at the Main Stage, they did announce that some cars were about to be towed. I can’t say I’m sorry if someone’s car got towed from me reporting it. Blocking other cars, I mean literally parking sideways in front of another car, would probably even get a “headshake” out of Jesus from the extreme level of selfishness and discourtesy that goes into that. It’s just something you wouldn’t think to see at a “Christian” event.

But we were happy to be back and ready to rock again!

We made it back just in time to see my friends in Spoken. And I am not saying this just because I have any history with the band, but because it’s true…. Spoken is one of the most underrated bands in the hard music scene. While starting out as a band that sounded a lot like Rage Against the Machine, Matt Baird has developed a sound that has progressive elements of metal and rock that in my opinion, sounds 10 times better than any Nu-Metal band out there. And of course, they are always willing to go into any scene, secular or Christian, and share the love of Christ.

Spoken came onto the stage and did what they do best! Playing with Spoken once again was J.R. Bareis of Love and Death fame. Interestingly enough, J.R. has also had some August commitments with Korn, filling in for Munky at some of Korn’s live shows.

Matt and company gave a stellar performance. Matt is always encouraging. He as well as the other bands were quick to share support for every band on the stage, asking folks to help them out by visiting their merch tables. And of course, being in Pennsylvania, Matt shared his love for Sheetz. I made sure to catch up with him for a moment after their set and share a love offering in the form of a Sheetz gift card. I can’t express this enough, but bands like this aren’t getting the paycheck they deserve. If you can’t afford a shirt or don’t want any of their merch, don’t ever hesitate to offer up cash and gift cards in any tip jars that you see. It really does go a long way!

So, Spoken had closed out their set with a slight surprise. J.R. started ripping through the intro to Korn’s song Blind, and the band closed with some of that tune, though not playing it in its entirety.

Having only been to one Audiofeed in my lifetime where I covered the festival for The Metal Onslaught, I went with the information that Audiofeed is a family reunion of sorts. And I could see that to some degree but I think Uprise has a very similar dynamic and just as strong, with its loyal attendees.

In front of me for most of the Rock Star stage set was an older couple, just a few years younger than the age my grandparents would be if they were not already in Heaven. And this Grandma in front of me was there, singing along to nearly every song of every band to the backdrop of Circle Pits and Breakdowns. In fact, once Spoken gave up the stage to War of Ages, before they played a note, Leroy Hamp announced a very special guest. He handed the microphone to a young man in the front row who I believe is named Tobias. Right there in front of War of Ages waiting to start, he dropped to one knee in front of the woman he was with and said, “We’ve been coming to Uprise together for 5 years now, so I think this is a good time to ask, ‘Will you marry me?” She said “Yes” of course, and then War of Ages turned the whole place upside down!

War of Ages makes the drive nearly every year to Uprise. And every year, they are one of the best bands you can possibly see. I don’t care who is on the Main Stage, when War of Ages plays, I’m at the Rock Star stage. Having just released Void the day before (yes, it’s a record release weekend!) we were treated to a mix of old classics and soon to be classics in an amazing set! It was just awesome to hear those exciting new tracks and then of course, get the set ending that we always do at Uprise. When you hear the song, All Consuming Fire start, then you know what time it is! A time of Circle Pits and then towards the end, all the audience is pushing to the front because Leroy is coming out into the crowd! And then that’s how it ends and it’s never a boring ending! It’s a moment of worship and not worshipping a band or person, but creature and creation praising Yahweh for all of His goodness!

Project 86 was up next. They are another band of veterans who constantly brings a strong performance in their style of hardcore music from Orange County. A few songs in, Andrew Schwab asked, “is anybody here having a bad day?” Nobody said anything. Maybe wondering if it was a trick question. He said, “I’m being serious. I want to know. Is there someone here having a bad day?” After some more silence, a woman a few feet away from me raised her hand. Andrew pointed to her with love and sincerity, and in a moment of empathy, was able to communicate even beyond words, the same message of Spoken, Death Therapy, Disciple, and so many other bands, that it is “OK” to feel what we feel in the human condition. That we’re not any less than the super-Christians who seem to have it all together.

He then said, “This next song is for you then. In fact, the rest of our songs are for you.”

Project 86 finished up their blistering set and then the stage was cleared for one of the biggest bands on the radio in the secular music scene in the mid to late 2000’s, The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus. Now, I wouldn’t classify them as metal and I don’t think they would classify themselves as metal. But I do think it was a great transition between Project 86 and the final band of the night.

I know a lot of folks who were there for the extreme stuff decided not to stick around and I totally understand it. But The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus has one of the most amazing ministries in my opinion. You won’t find them too much in the Christian scene. In fact, you’ll catch them more in the secular scene playing with secular bands. Even having their music featured in WWE events, film soundtracks, and video games. Yet their hearts are fully centred on the Gospel of Jesus Christ and they take that into all the world. In fact, having a home in the secular market, I see more of their boldness for Christ than I see in many bands in the Christian market. So, I know its not very “metal” of me to take time to share anything about this band’s set, but if you don’t like the melodic, emo-ish, screamo post-hardcore stuff, it’s cool! I just fully support and appreciate bands that take the gospel into all of the world. The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus is one such band.

And then the moment we had all been waiting for, Fit For a King! Those guys came out as the sun was setting and destroyed Uprise! I mean, I know Crowder was playing Main Stage and Andy Mineo was closing out the Hip Hop stage at the same time, but I wouldn’t be surprised if most of Shippensburg heard, over and above all the other stages, holy metal from this four piece band from Texas, lifting all glory and honour to the King of Kings!

It was loud, heavy, and awesome! FFAK even got the crowd to “Circle Pit” around the central sound booth where I was stationed with my camera gear. And towards the end of their set, Tuck O'Leary took a break from his spinning jump-kicks to run throughout the crowd with the energy of kids half his age.

The band closed out the Rock Star stage with one of the most impassioned metal performances you could hope to catch.

While most of Uprise’s “heavy” bands fall into the subgenre of “Metalcore”, even if you prefer other subgenres I think it’s just a wonderful time to gather together as believers (or even non-believers looking for some good fun!) and just enjoy the work and sacrifice it takes to do what these people do.

At one-point Matt Baird of Spoken said about how blessed they (he and all the bands) were to still be doing this after so many years. And to not let people influence you as to the “struggles” and “despair” of the road in a touring band. That it is an absolute blessing and so if you want to be in a band, then start a band and play your heart out! That’s a paraphrase of what he said but I think it’s pretty close!

Uprise’s Rock Star stage is a great way to close out the Summer Festival Season in the States. With June/July being a peak time for such things as Audiofeed and Creation, it’s great to be able to gather right before Fall begins when temperatures having gone down and have a bit of relief from the sun and heat generally associated with the earlier Summer Festivals; and all for a really great price for two-days of all kinds of music, not just metal. If you like other stuff like Hip Hop, Rock, Worship, or even Country, Uprise really does have it all. Even this year, before Skillet closed out night one, comedian John Crist had a set.

And it’s a great opportunity for headbangers to go listen to the music we like, while showing how loving and passionate we can be towards the rest of the body of Christ, who may not be sure how to receive folks covered in tattoos, wearing more black than a funeral procession, or having longer hair.

I love metal, but I love to be Jesus to all people. As we walked to our car with what was left of our case of water, we were able to hand out bottles to tired and dehydrated folks leaving the Hip Hop stage. Union in the body of Christ was the entire theme of Jesus’ words in John 17. Uprise Festival is a place to practice that. Hope to see you there next year!

JR Rife for The Metal Onslaught