Bullet For My Valentine, Of Mice & Men, and Vended at the Hard Rock Live in Orlando, FL on 11/10/23 Words By Jesse Striewski/Photos By Jacob Striewski

Back in 2006 (what now feels like a lifetime ago), I caught this little unknown Welsh band at the time opening for Rob Zombie called Bullet For My Valentine. Two years later I saw them again, opening on a bill alongside Avenged Sevenfold and Atreyu at the 2008 Taste of Chaos Tour. Five more years after that, I caught them as openers for Alice Cooper at a gig I worked security for at the CFE Arena in 2013. A lot has definitely changed for the band in the span of all those years, the most apparent being they’ve since grown to be headliners themselves rather than simply a warm-up act, and rightfully so.

Just days prior to their show at the Hard Rock Live in Orlando, FL on Friday, November 10, I received a request to cover the concert from the publicist for openers Vended, the young Iowa-based metal group who have since been carving a name out for themselves and gaining significant traction thanks to two of its members being the sons of Sliptknot’s Corey Taylor (Griffin Taylor) and Shawn Crahan (Simon Crahan). After shifting a few things around, I was able to make it to the show with my own son (Jacob) yet again acting as my photographer for the event (who ironically was “with me” in a way at that very first Bullet For My Valentine show back in 2006 when his pregnant mother and I attended it together).

The minute Vended hit the stage, it was clear they were not about to go easy on their audience any time soon, after a recording of Soft Cell’s “Tainted Love” was played and slowed down to eerie levels before the guys emerged on stage to blast into “Ded to Me.” More hard-hitters in the form of “Am I the Only One,” “Overall,” “The Far Side,” and “Asylum” all followed before the guys stepped aside to let Of Mice & Men take a turn.

I’ve always held a small place in my heart for metalcore bands like Of Mice & Men, but for whatever reason had still not seen them live before now despite the number of shows I’ve been to over the years. It felt like 2010 to me all over again as the band plowed through a set of tracks both new and old that included “Bones Exposed,” “Would You Still Be There,” “Castaway,” “Obsolete,” “O.G. Loko,” “Into the Sun,” “Warpaint,” and “Bloom.”

Finally, Bullet For My Valentine took over the stage, and full command of the room for that matter. While “Knives” and “Over It” were admirable enough to kick things off, it was song number three (“Your Betrayal”) that really got the crowd pumping. “Piece of Me” followed before the band dug deep in their catalog with “4 Words (to Choke Upon).”

The crowd stuck in there until the very end as the band went through old and new songs alike in the form of “The Last Fight,” “All These Things (I Hate Revolve Around Me),” “Shatter,” “Scream Aim Fire,” “You Want a Battle (Here’s a War),” “Rainbow Veins,” and “Don’t Need You.” By the time all was said and done, there was nothing else left except to visit the merch tent on the way out (and the nearby Voodoo Doughnut shop!) before finally calling it a night.

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