When it comes to radio-hosted concerts, 97x’s Next Big Thing lies close to the top. The all-day concert took place in Vinoy Park, St. Petersburg at noon and featured hard rock bands such as A Day To Remember, Sleeping With Sirens, Stone Temple Pilots (with Linkin Park’s Chester Bennington), Jimmy Eat World, and Thirty Seconds To Mars, while branching off to less metalcore groups such as Dirty Heads and Manchester Orchestra. Less popular groups (Frank Turner, Sleepwave, Pepper, Saints of Valory) were also showcased throughout the day.

The Dirty Heads performs at 97x Next Big Thing on December 7th. The band stood as one of the day's best acts.
The Dirty Heads performs at 97x Next Big Thing on December 7th. The band stood as one of the day’s best acts.

The bands played on two different stages at different times, so fans at times had to run back and forth if they wanted to hear Pepper and Saints of Valory, though luckily popular bands weren’t on at conflicting times.

Manchester Orchestra was the first to perform, though it was mostly background music as fans were just starting to arrive. It’s an intentional misnomer for their band, as they were anything but orchestral throughout their set. Undiscovered bands Saints of Valory and Pepper followed, though I personally didn’t get to see their set.

Apart from the Kellin Quinn-obsessed screaming girls, Sleeping With Sirens put on a decent show as well, though they mostly played music from their new album (Feel) which fans weren’t as excited about or familiar with. English singer Frank Turner and Christian rock group Sleepwave also performed, though neither was particularly impressive.

I didn’t see every performance, but the Dirty Heads act at 4:30 p.m. was by far one of the best of the night. Easy reggae made for smooth listening and a less rowdy crowd; all in all, an enjoyable set. Jared Watson and his Californian buddies did a superb job in pumping up listeners while eliminating the need for mosh pits, and played common favorites such as “Spread Too Thin” and “Dance All Night”. At 5 p.m. old favorites Jimmy Eat World came on, making for the opposite reaction of that of the Dirty Heads; fans were wild and on their toes screaming for almost the entire set (yes, even during their strange cover of “Last Christmas”). And after making a fashionably late entrance came the band most had been waiting for: A Day To Remember, a fantastic set mostly made enjoyable by the lights after sundown (not to mention, Jeremy McKinnon walking right over fans’ heads in an inflatable hamster ball). It was a set to remember indeed, with a great mesh of new music from their latest album Common Courtesy (“City Of Ocala”) and older tracks (“Have Faith In Me”).

ADTR fans had to wait until sundown for the popular metalcore band to perform. The performance was a favorite of the night.
ADTR fans had to wait until sundown for the popular metalcore band to perform. The performance was a favorite of the night.

Stone Temple Pilots followed, though they could hardly live up to the hype that ADTR had built up. The big finale came with Thirty Seconds To Mars; an enjoyable performance for the quite popular Los Angeles rock band.

I will warn you, Next Big Thing is not a concert for the faint of heart. Especially under Florida conditions (forget the fact that it’s December) it was similar to this past summer’s Warped Tour, with more hyped and crazy fans, better music and bands loud enough to be heard in St. Petersburg homes three miles away. It was certainly worth the $50, especially if you got to meet some of the performing bands (ADTR, Thirty Seconds). It was a boisterous concert with quality music, and this year’s lineup was strong enough to raise fans’ hopes for years to come. Score: 8.5/10.

Highlights of the night: A Day To Remember, Dirty Heads, Jimmy Eat World

Nataly Capote/A&E Editor

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