DAY 3 -- AUGUST 3, 2002


The final day of Furnacefest had arrived, and there were still so many exciting bands to see. I arrived just in time to catch Anberlin's 11AM set. The latest signing to the Tooth & Nail roster, Anberlin play extremely commercial power pop and their songs are as infectious as hell. From Central Florida, the band seemed genuinely excited to be performing for the early morning crowd, and their exhuberance was contagious. Miscommunication and Tonight were some of the terrific songs this young, up-and-coming group delivered to the early arrivers. It was a fun way to start off the day. There is no doubt in my mind that Anberlin are going to become huge! Watch for their debut CD, which will be available in February 2003. In the mean time, be sure to catch a rising star and support these talented guys!


In the grand tradition of Ride and The Jesus And Mary Chain, Celebrity was up on the main stage next, and hypnotized the crowd with their glorious rock anthems. You would not expect a band like this to be from Nashville, Tennessee. The best parts of Celebrity are Dustin Waldrop's dreamy lead guitar lines (complete with all-out sonic feedback) and the super passionate vocals courtesy of Lance Black. The lyrics and music are both moving and profound, with songs like So Long Farewell and Cave being absolute masterworks. During the set, Celebrity did an ambitious cover of Come Undone by Duran Duran, practically rendering the tune one of their very own. Celebrity has an EP out on One Day Savior Records, and really should consider touring with a band such as Starflyer 59. Congrats to the guys for having their song Cave selected to be on the Swim Fan soundtrack!


From Dayton, Ohio, Dead Poetic has been on tour opening for Zao and Furnacefest was one of the stops. Combining emotional clear singing with an all-out screamed vocal assault, the music of Dead Poetic is melodic yet packs a lot of force and aggression. Many tunes were played from their Solid State release Four Wall Blackmail, including A Green Desire, August Winterman, and Arlington Arms. There is something very accessible about the music Dead Poetic spews forth, making it likable for those who prefer harmonious pop as well as others who need their metal music laced with a decidedly hardcore vein. Dead Poetic will reach music fanatics across the board, setting them far apart from their competition. An impressive set that sent many to their merch booth seeking more info as well as their new album.


Symphony In Peril's vocalist Shawn Jonas use to be lead screamer in Zao, and his new band drew quite a crowd at the side stage. Those who chose to bake in the harsh sun were treated to a powerful, inspirational set of hardcore music as well as a sermon or two from Jonas. Based out of Columbus, Ohio, Symphony In Peril has the passion and conviction of a band like POD - these guys could easily move mountains and minds with their persuasive sonic assaults. Commenting favorably on the mixture of secular and non-secular bands at the Furnacefest, Symphony In Peril just seemed happy to be playing for such a diverse crowd. And although the singer has claimed to be open to discuss anything regarding his band or religious beliefs, an e-mailed inquiry from Highwire Daze regarding the band's origins remains unanswered at press time.


Up next on the main stage was Denison Marrs, a fantastic band whose U2/Creed like anthems are really beginning to get them noticed. Their latest album, Then Is The New Now, is being co-released through Velvet Blue and the mighty WEA Company. In a live setting, Denison Marrs deliver their inspiring rock hymns with an impressive amount of drive and passion. Highlights of the set included The New Droan, You Feel Like and The Real Ones. Also featured was an uplifting cover of the Real Life classic Send Me An Angel. So many of the original songs Denison Marrs has written could be played on the radio - and believe me - the airwaves would benefit greatly! Let's hope these guys tour incessantly and spread the word about just how powerful and healing real music may aspire to. In short, Denison Marrs rock!!!


Although their set was plagued by various sound problems, the power pop of Ace Troubleshooter clearly gunned down the audience with its pure magnetic force. The Madness Of The Crowd is an outstanding album, and in a live setting, these guys rock even harder. Ace Troubleshooter played several infectious tunes, the highlights being Amanda, Estella, Tonight, the heartfelt 2:00 Your Time, and the manic title track from their Tooth & Nail release. These are the type of songs that find themselves committed to memory even after the first listen. Based out of Minneapolis, Minnesota, Ace Troubleshooter will be touring all over the country, so fans of super cool rock and roll should check them out.


Underoath started out their existence as a blackened death metal band - but with their latest album The Changing Of Times, those days are long gone. Now on the hardcore edge of things, their ever-evolving music continues to thrill long time fans while gaining them many other new converts. Their Furnacefest set was spectacular, showing how far these guys have grown as musicians. All hell really broke loose when Underoath performed their dynamic song When The Sun Sleeps. Perhaps the best track they've ever written, When The Sun Sleeps mixes in Dallas Taylor's harsh vocal expulsions with the clear singing of drummer Aaron Gillespie. Playing the drums and singing leads is no easy chore, but Aaron pulls it off well and has a great singing voice too. Dallas is an exceptional front man, with plenty of charisma to spare, making sure that everyone is having a great time in between his unearthly hardcore growling. Mention must be made about Chris Dudley's keyboard work, which adds an inspired melodic touch to the overall Underoath sound. One of the best live acts in the hardcore scene today, hopefully Underoath will hit the road once more before recording their new album. Expect great things from this Florida-based band!


Elliott summed up the concert site best when they stated that it was "one of the most interesting and beautiful venues" they had ever played. The music of Elliott meshed quite well with the artistry of the historical Sloss landmark. The sun was setting and the dreamy sounds of Elliott were sending the audience into a blissful, glorious state of mind. Hailing from Lovell, Kentucky, Elliott were truly one of the most original bands to play at the Furnacefest this year. Ethereal and sweeping in scope, the entire crowd at the main stage seemed to be transfixed by the splendor found within Elliott's majestic soundscapes. Elliott can rock hard when they want to, but the band clearly proved that you don't need to beat someone over the head to create power and force within your music. See Elliott for yourself and prepare to submit to their bittersweet melodies.


Between the two stages, you walk around the park in almost complete darkness. Some were just sitting around by the fountain while many others were waiting for Pedro The Lion to start up on the main stage. Playing opposite Pedro was The September Engagement from Tampa, Florida - an unsigned band whom, judging by their fans and live performance, have a good future ahead of them. Playing emo-rock complete with hypnotic guitar work, there was a lot to like about this impressive band. Jeremy, the main vocalist, performed with a ferocious passion reminiscent of the original emo-god Robert Smith. Overall, The September Engagement have some great material, and appeared to really reach out and grab the crowd by the throat with their emotional tunes of love and loss. A label like Drive Thru or Vagrant should really take note of these guys - there is plenty of raw talent in The September Engagement and it should take the band far. Hopefully the guys will find themselves signed and play a few shows on the West Coast.


Furnacefest was beginning to wind down at this point. The activity on the side stage had ended, and everyone was crammed into the main room to see the final acts. At this point, I was able to see a show from on the stage and situated myself over by the fan to watch Further Seems Forever. Once fronted by Chris Carrabba of Dashboard Confessional, Further Seems Forever has a new vocalist and still remain a compelling musical force. Fortunately, Jason Gleason has a powerful stage presence and delivered the songs from The Moon Is Down as if they were all his own. Gleason and his band mates really pumped up the crowd with their tremendous live presentation, delivering one of the most memorable sets of Furnacefest 2002. Playing an inspiring brand of indie emo-rock, the crowd went into a mosh frenzy during what the band would later call one of the best shows they had ever played. On the verge of recording a new album, it won't be long before Further Seems Forever has the audience scratching their collective heads and saying "Chris who?" Currently on tour with New Found Glory, expect this Tooth & Nail band to take off into the big time!


Will this really be one of Zao's final shows ever? Those who stayed for the finale seemed certain that they will be back, but Zao nevertheless delivered a nerve wrenching show that will stay in the memory of many for years to come. I left the Furnacefest 2002 with ringing ears and the memory of three great days of totally unforgettable bands. Driving back to the hotel in the humid Alabama night, one thing was for certain - that Highwire Daze will be wherever Furnacefest is next year covering the extraordinary musical event once again!


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