Friday September 5, 2008
Starting extremely early in the morning around 4am, my brother and I leave south Florida and head up to Orlando and Universal Studios for Rock the Universe. On the way up the Florida Turnpike we have to deal with the harsh weather conditions dealt to us by Hurricane Hanna, which while somewhat intense are nothing compared to what the people living in Texas experienced with Hurricane Ike.
We arrive at Universal Studios earlier than necessary and have to wait about an hour not only for the gates to open but for any of the ticket booths to open so I can exchange my Rock the Universe ticket voucher for an actual ticket. Crowds in the morning are extremely small which I know will change later in the day. When the park does open we decide to go ride the Simpsons Ride but after being asked if we are employees of Universal, which we are not, being told that the far half of the park wont open until about 30 minutes later. Since only 2 attractions are open, Shrek and Jimmy Neutron, we opt to ride Jimmy Neutron's Nicktoon Blast.
After the first ride I stop and take a couple of pictures of the Yard Stage and the Rock the Universe signs in the area. Then we head for the first of many rides we will go on the Revenge of the Mummy over the three days. Next we head for the Simpsons Ride and I stop and take a picture of the Hollywood Stage and the Rock the Universe schedule sign. After riding the Simpsons we decide to head next door to Isoalnds of Adventure..
At Islands of Adventure we first head into Marvel Superhero Island wanting to ride the Hulk. The Hulk however is down for somesort of maintainance and looks like it would be a fairly rough ride in its current condition anyways. Instead we go on Spiderman and the ride is a walk on like all rides up to this point. As we are getting hungry we decide ro leave on go check into our hotel.
The check in to the hotel goes very smoothly, due in most part to being next to Wet-n-Wild and that water park having almost zero crowds due to the hurricane. Head off for lunch at a nearby Burger King and some of the bands for tonights event are also eating in there. Head back to the park and after wondering around for a bit go on E.T. After E.T. we exchange our Rock the Universe tickets for wristbands. Then after we have another ride on the Mummy we stop for a drink at Finnegan's Bar & Grill.
While we only intended to stay in Finnegan's for one or two drinks we end up eating dinner here. I had a great Guiness stew and I split an order of Scotch eggs with my brother. Finnegan's also had a pretty talented bar singer who was pretty entertaining. Left the restuarant and decided to check out the merchandise at Battery Park. Looked to find some small, cheap souvineer I was looking for guitar strap pins or buttons but did not find any for the bands I was interested in. My brother purchased a Skillet sticker for $1.
Waited around on a bench on 8th Ave. near Battery Park for the start of the concerts. As I was not familiar with either of the fist 2 groups performing I opt to say where we are near the Hollywood stage and watch Group 1 Crew, while my brother heads over to the yard stage to watch New Method. After watching Group 1 Crew, who are a type hip-hop group, for one or two songs, mybrothers comes and gets me to come watch New Method. New Method is a kind of punk rock groupp which is more more my style and we watch them until the end of there set. (After posting video of part of their set on MySpace, Doug the lead singer from the band added me as one of their friends and also posted some of my stills to their MySpace page)
After New Method, the speaker Darren Whitehead came out and addressed the crowd. His message involved a story about his daughter after she had been sick on an airplane and him picking her up and giving her a hug even with the mess she had made on her dress. He used this to illustrate that just like the love he had for his duaghter, God has the same love for us even when we are not clean, God loves us no matter what condition we may be in.
Grits was the next to get on the stage. Their musical style was a more aggressive stlye of hip-hop/ rap and was definately not my cup o tea. We did however, stay for the fisrt song just for respect, which I did for almost all the bands I watched this weekend. Then we headed over to the Hollywood Stage.
When we arrive at the Hollywod Stage, the previous group had ended and we waited for Skillet to take the stage. There was some pushing as people viied for position but overall the crowd was not yet that bad. Skillet put on a great show, filled with a lot of energy. My favorite part was when the lead told the story of how he got into Christian music. Someone had interduced to the band Petra but his mother wouldn't allow him to listen to it since she thought it was the Devil's music. When the singer found out that Petra was going to be performing in his hometown he convinced his mother to take him under the condition that they leave once Petra started praying to Satan. After the concert the singer said his mother became the biggest Petra fan he knew. Skillet was great and there concert while starting in daylight ended just after sunset.
After Skillet performed I was incredable thirsty and we headed toward the stage to a drink booth. Only after getting near the stage did we find out that Universal had completely blocked that area and would not let anyone out of the partioned area and we were told we had to go to the end of the barriers which were past the Horror Make-Up Sohw/ Youth Leader's Lounge. This was a very poorly made decision by Universal on crowd control. I would not have been as mad about it if there were signs on the barricades that said there was no exit toward the stage and only near the back of the area. After then searching for a drink stand ended up buying a Powerade from the T2-3D exit shop.
Since a lot of the crowd from the Skillet concert had left we decided to get as close as possible for the Newsboys concert. We ended up being to the right of the end of the catwalk into the crowd. Before the Newsboys came out AJ Styles from TNA Wrestling came out and gave a short motivational speech to the crowd. Then instead of the Newsboys coming out Paul Colman, gutiarist for the Newsboys came out and did a short aucoustic set.
The Newsboys come out on give one of the best performances I have seen. They have great energy and really know how to work the crowd. My favorite part was the use of the catwlak. The band came out to the middle and using only a keyboard did a medley of their older songs. Later the drum solos were awesome. Not only was there the spinning drum set on the main stage that the Newsboys have been using for years, but on the catwalk was a second drum set that was raised on a hydrolic lift about twenty feet into the air. The most explosive song of the night was of course Shine with its confetti cannons, followed by a little Breakfast and the usually throw of Captain Crunch cereal. (Those 2 songs left a lot of debris that parts of were still there in the park 2 days later).
After the Newsboys finished, we were going to the Battery Park merchandise tables where the Newsboys were signing autographs, but the line was already incredibly long, so we headed back to the Yard Stage to catch the end of the Switchfoot concert. While at every other concert over the weekend we stayed for at least 1 song, Switchfoot sounded so out of tune that we just decided to go and check out the lines for the rides.
At this point in the night, it was only a little past 10 and figured we could get in 1 or 2 rides before the park closed at 1am. The Mummy was over 2 hours wait so we kept going. Stopped in Amityville and watched other Rock the Universe guests play the carnival style games. One guest played the knock over the bottle game and succeed at least 4 times while we were watching. Continued our walk around the park, looked at the wiat for Men in Black, but even the single rider's line had extended outside the main entrace. Decided to go watch some of the My Coke Rewards Karaoke but while we saw about 1 song, that event ended at 11pm and it was about 10:45pm when we past by. As the lines were long and for the first time in my experience at Rock the Universe there were no concerts past 10:30pm wee decided to leave for the night and prepare for Night of Joy the next day.