Okay, I did know one thing about Breaking Benjamin: the band (which largely revolves around frontman Benjamin Burnley) originated from the Wilkes-Barre area of Pennsylvania.
Beyond that, I didn’t know much about Breaking Benjamin before seeing them in concert. Other than hearing from some friends that grew up in northern Pennsylvania that they were acquainted with Burnley from their shared high school days, the majority of my knowledge of the band Breaking Benjamin came from listening to their music on Spotify on the way to the concert.
The band has released a total of six albums since 2002, with the most recent, “Ember,” hitting stores in 2018. The album debuted at number 3 on the Billboard Top 200. The band was one of the leaders of the alternative metal sound in the early 2000s, and is known for hits such as “The Diary of Jane,” “Breath,” “Angels Fall,” “Give Me A Sign” and “Blow Me Away.”
Here are a few things that I learned while at the concert:
5:30 p.m. is an awkward time for a concert to begin.
The gates opened for the show around 4 p.m., but it took some truly dedicated fans to be there before the show started. It was hovering near 90 degrees for most of the afternoon, and the Hersheypark Stadium doesn’t have much shade to speak of. Moreover, the traffic for the show was competing with traffic for the park. And while it was sorted out as smoothly as possible (this is hardly the first time that Hershey has hosted a concert while Hersheypark was open), getting to the concert early did add some time driving, standing, walking and waiting on an already hot day.
Black t-shirts were very popular.
I might not have noticed if it weren’t such a hot day, but black t-shirts were definitely the most common look among audience members – and among the performers. Nearly all of the merch was black t-shirts as well. Plenty of people were wearing Breaking Benjamin t-shirts, but there were also a good number of audience members wearing black shirts for other bands such as Chevelle, Sevendust and Five Finger Death Punch. You’ve got to respect the dedication.
Breaking Benjamin was one of several bands playing.
I’d assumed there would be an opening act or two, but I wasn’t fully aware that the concert was sponsored by 105.7 FM. The X Summerfest concert featured the bands Dorothy, Diamante, Three Days Grace and Chevelle in addition to Breaking Benjamin. Such a stacked lineup explained why they started as early as 5:30.
I actually know a bunch of Three Days Grace songs, somehow.
I’m not sure how I ended up with this band being the one I was most familiar with, but I definitely recognized songs like “Pain” and I Hate Everything About You.” I suppose I must have heard them on 105.7 FM!
“It’s Saturday [expletive] night,” shouted singer Matt Walst. “Let’s get [expletive] up!”
It was extremely loud.
Walst wasn’t joking about [expletive] things up.
I know, I know, I’m getting old. You know it’s bad when you complain about the volume at a rock concert. But the good news was that everyone could enjoy the music, no matter where they were sitting – and there were people stretching nearly the entire way back on the floor of the Hersheypark Stadium, as well as plenty in the stands closest to the stage.
The parents who brought their kids deserve some props.
Speaking of the volume, I was surprised by the number of children at the concert. Fortunately, the parents of these kids had planned ahead: the ones I saw closest to the stage had ear protection of some kind. Well done, parents.
These bands were pretty generous.
Everyone always loves when the band tosses out a guitar pick or two as a memento to lucky fans in the audience. But Three Days Grace and Chevelle chucked picks, drumsticks, towels, water bottles (one of which sprayed water across the closest audience members) and more into the crowd.
Moreover, Breaking Benjamin was raising money for the Shriners Hospital for Children and St. Jude’s Research Hospital during the concert by selling copies of their album “Ember.” The entirety of the $20 purchase would be donated to those medical facilities.
That style of singing has got to be hard to keep up for the duration of a concert.
I don’t know a whole lot about singing, especially not at the level these bands perform at. But the intensity required is really incredible. I don’t know how they maintain it from day to day.
Beach balls at a concert are always fun.
I’d like to give a quick shout-out to the lady who hit the beach ball away from me when it came our way and I wasn’t paying attention. But that’s the nice thing about beach balls at a concert – even if it does bop you on the head, it’s not like it will hurt.
I don’t really know what Chevelle was singing about, but I liked them.
Chevelle was another band I’ve only known by reputation, but I was really digging singer Pete Loeffler’s wailing vocals. They were giving it their all as well – even after only two songs, it was still hot enough at 8:10 p.m. that they were wiping sweat away with towels.
Hershey’s audience was very well-mannered.
At least, according to Loeffler, we were.
“I can feel your energy,” he said, “Even though you’re the most polite [expletive] crowd I’ve ever seen.”
But hey, like I said, it was still dang hot out. I think people were just playing it cool until night fell in earnest.
Benjamin Burnley is a man of the people.
“Okay, now I’m nervous,” said Burnley, after Breaking Benjamin’s opening number and taking a look at the crowd. “There’s a lot of people here. I never thought’d we’d be playing to this many people. This is something. Pennsylvania love – this is Pennsylvania love right here!”
Despite his supposed nerves, Burnley frequently came down to the pit to interact directly with fans, bringing several children and their parents up to the stage, and even singing a few impromptu verses of “Dear Agony” a cappella at one fan’s request.
“I don’t want to hold up the show too long,” he said. “But I love seeing kids at a rock show.”
He’s also a huge nerd.
In his own words: “the biggest [expletive] nerd on the [expletive] earth.”
Honestly, I’m thinking being a frontman of a popular rock band automatically raises you to a certain level of coolness that I’ll personally never reach, but point taken. And he showed off his nerd bona fides by playing the Imperial March from “Star Wars” on electric guitar.
And he loves a lot of different kinds of music.
Breaking Benjamin fans of course got to enjoy songs like “So Cold” and “Tourniquet,” but the band wasn’t limiting themselves to only their own song book.
Burnley also sung verses from several other bands’ hits in a sort of cover medley, including Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” and Metallica’s “Enter Sandman.” There was even a guitar riff from “Pour Some Sugar On Me.”
He was proud to be playing at the Hersheypark Stadium.
Hailing from north-central Pennsylvania as he does, it clearly meant a lot to Burnley to be playing at the Hersheypark Stadium.
“I just want to live in this moent for the rest of my [expletive] life,” he said during a break mid-song, clearly moved. “We love you, Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania, we [expletive] love you! If I had ten hours I’d walk around and hug each and every [expletive] one of you. Thank you for making this dream come true.”