Northern Invasion 

The Somerset Amphitheater has played host to Ozzfest, Summerset and on this weekend in May, Norther Invasion. Boasting a lineup that had high school me internally screaming, the weather played fair for the most part. Even the small drizzle on Saturday was a welcoming cool off for the heated crowd. 

Day 1 


This Canadian Punk/Grundge trio of brothers was part way through their first US tour when the catastrophies began with a broken down car outisde of Chicago and continued with a loss of sound during their set. While the universe was throwing everything at them, they maintained composure and air guitared their way through Smells Like Teen Spirit and eventually had the crowd chanting their names as the walked off the stage of their first US festival. 


The second act for me was another band from out of the States. Counterfeit hails from the UK and is headlining the tour with Dubé. This high energy punk/metal band also came to the US for their first tour and while they brought a certain power to the stage, they also had a band of high pitched girls squealing for the dashing British charm. Their unique style of creating music at live shows ensures that their live performances leave nothing to the imagination. 

Butcher Babies (Zippo Session 1) 

The first of two Zippo Acoustic Sessions for me was Butcher Babies. Through all the running around, chaos, moshing and all around craziness of a festival, the Zippo Side Stage offered a bit of a slowed down intimate experience between fans and artist. Butcher Babies, who normally bring a powerful growl and instense energy, gave a more amatory experience to the select few. The dual lead singers, Heidi and Carla, showed a softer side that was my first in depth listen to them and personal has me hoping they put out more of that style music in the future to contrast their powerful ballads. 

Senses Fail 

This was an instant throwback to my highschool life. Senses Fail brings that classic combo of deep growlish verses with catchy high pitched chorus that was at the forefront of Screamo music for a long time. They have built a heavier catelog as of late but it was still great to hear Bite to Break Skin and see the crowd reaction. One thing that was obvious through the first few acts of the show is everyone knew that the others would have energy and Senses Fail wanted to make sure they not only matched it, but surpassed it. 

I Prevail

Hailing from Michigan, I Prevail is well versed in the Midwestern life. Their sound was very familiar to me growing up in NE Wisconsin and their live show didn't disappoint. While the stage had a stand in on main vocals and guitar, it didn't cause them to miss a beat. My favorite part of their set was the use of the steam gun. I have seen this at other shows and it is always a fun time. Looking like a “ghostbuster”, Eric Vanlerberghe was all smiles and the steam shot straight into the air. 

Breaking Benjamin 

One of the better known acts of the festival, Breaking Benjamin didn't hold anything back. Their “cat's eye” backdrop creating a galaxy like background for their set. I had pulled away from Breaking Benjamin over the years but their live show not only played a few of my favorite tracks but also were just captivating. Most notable were the pristine vocals of Benjamin Burnley added with the flames a steam created a very classic rock show feeling. 

Parkway Drive 

I had heard a lot about this band coming in, without knowing much about them. This was amplified when Jose Mangin of XM's Liquid Metal gave them one of the most intense introductions. As one energized voice left the stage another took its place, but this one much deeper and ominous. Parkway Drive, coming all the way from Australia, brings a very direct in your face metal sound and it works really well. They have steadily climbed their way to the headline spot at the side stage and the crowd appreciated their growth and energy. 


The second side stage was headlined by one of my all time favorite thrasher/screamo bands, Atreyu. This five piece from Orange County came out to their well known hit “Right Side of the Bed.” After earlier talking with guitarist Dan, it was great to see him all smiles with fellow bandmates on the stage. The highlight of this performance came as Alex Varkatzas hopped off the stage and got help screaming the lyrics from the overzealous fans. While Atreyu's sound is heavy emotional thrashing music, they stage presences was very positive and happy making for a very enjoyable energy throughout the crowd. 

Avenged Sevenfold 

Most of my day was spent on the side stages, but Avenged Sevenfold, the first day headliner of the main stage, was a can't miss act. One of the most unique, well known raspy voices in rock, M Shadows, took the stage and didn't disappoint. While I wasn't able to stay for the entire performance, what I did see was very impressive. A purple haze illuminated the crowd as I watched from the hill. 

Day 2 

Fever 333

My most anticipated set of the festival did not disappoint. Starting with a heavily political message on equality and the state of the nation and presidency. Jason Aalon Bulter stood hooded in front of a white cloth until the message ended and an eruption of energy shot through the audience. By far the largest crowd for the Budlight stage all weekend, Fever 333 brought a protest filled rebellion to the stage. A week ago I had only heard reviews of this band and now they are a mainstay on my playlist. Furthermore, what I have often said is that a live show can be the difference between a good band and an iconic one and Fever 333 put on a performance that ranked in my top 3 all time. 

Hawthorne Heights

The downside to any festival is trying to fit every act that you want to see into a tight schedule, which is why I was very pleased to head back to the Zippo Stage to catch an act I otherwise wouldn't have had a chance to see. Hawthorn Heights, an Ohio group, was nostalgic over spending the weekend in the midwest. Like Butcher Babies, Hawthorn brought an intimate vibe to their otherwise hardcore tracks, finishing off with a chillingly beautiful rendition of “Ohio Is For Lovers.” 

Asking Alexandria

Another powerful voice taking over the main stage, Asking Alexandria brings a speed to their power. One thing that really stuck out to me is that unlike bands like Atreyu that have more melodic aspect to their songs, Asking Alexandria had such a brute force, but could pick up the pace with the best of them. 

Black Veil Brides

Immediately after Asking Alexandria on the main stage was a band who's brand and image was the definition of scene. Black hair, black clothes, bright white make up that was reminiscent of KISS and a sound that split the difference. One thing that was clear about the current stage of rock/metal is that the voices are becoming a force to reckon with and BVB was no different. While their performance was memorable, the smile on a bright sunny Sunday on Andy Biersack stuck with a lot of fans as well. 

Anti Flag 

While BVB felt like a parital throwback to KISS, Anti Flag is a throwback to the classic sounds of punk rock. And in a very punk rock fashion, they took a moment or two out of the set to talk against the authority state of the nation, getting the crowd to chant “Fuck Trump” and “Fuck the Pigs.” One of my favorite parts of any anti-culture is the questioning of the norm. The point isn't to go against everything that people like, its meant to question it and learn from it and Anti Flag does this and more. 

The Used 

When I saw the lineup for Northern Invasion there were a handful of must sees for me, and near the top of that list was The Used. I can't count the number of times I have sang along to the “Taste of Ink” in the shower, the car, and now at Somerset Amphitheater. Similar to the other punk bands in attendance, The Used didn't shy away from their political affiliation, but unlike the others The Used talked a lot of acceptance even talking of a safe space for positively voicing any opinion. This theme of talking about real issues on a large stage is part of what makes music special and The Used's approach was very well accepted. Celebrating 18 years as musicians, the Used ended their set by bringing back out Fever 333 for a high octane festival finish to the Bud Light Stage. 

The festival ended with an iconic but bland peroformance by Tool. Sonically, the band reaches damn near perfection, but a hidden Maynard and lack of interaction with the audience left more to be desired. Overall, this was my first rock/metal festival and brought back the nostalgia of being in high school belting out the lyrics to “Bleeding Mascara” on my morning drive. Having covered other festivals at the Somerset Amphitheatre I can say it is always a pleasure to visit the little piece of music heaven near the Apple River. 

Favorite Band: Atreyu 

Favorite New Artist: Fever 333 

Favorite Show: Fever 333 

Favorite Vocalist: Bert McCracken (The Used) 


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