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Upheaval Festival Returns to Grand Rapids


On Friday, July 14, Upheaval Festival returned for its third year of bringing heavy metal bands, both world-famous and local upcomers, to Grand Rapids. Upheaval 2023 was held at Belknap Park and featured three stages with 15 bands playing both Friday and Saturday.

The main Upheaval stage was the largest, taking up most of the venue. Off to the side was a smaller stage, dubbed the “Loud & Local” stage, for local acts. The Loud & Local stage was roughly the size of a garage. At the top of Belknap Park’s massive hill was the Lookout stage.

Pictured: Katharsys Theory performing on Saturday. Brandon Smith | The Collegiate Live

Katharsys Theory, an up and coming metal band from Alpena, Michigan whose first album was released in 2021, performed on the Loud and Local stage for their second year at Upheaval. According to a statement from the band, “Upheaval and Grand Rapids always make us feel like we’re at home, and the crowd was amazing, supportive, and very engaging. We love to engage the crowd into our live shows, and to really make them feel like they are part of the show.” For Katharsys Theory, this was an opportunity to draw in new fans as they record new songs for release sometime next year.

There was free water available for empty water bottles, food trucks, and liquor tents. Folding chairs dotted the hillside, and people arranged them in rows down in front of the main stage. Chairs were not allowed past a certain point however, which left plenty of room for rockers to mob the stage. Some adventurous attendees crowd surfed from the back of the stage to the front, where they were thrust over the fence into the VIP area and finally ended up with security. The number of injuries sustained from this were presumably low.

Pictured: The proper form while crowd surfing is with arms and legs splayed out so audience members can have something to grab. Brandon Smith | The Collegiate Live

On Saturday, Ice Nine Kills had to stop their show twice due to injuries in the audience. Crowd members made an “X” shape with their arms to alert the band that something was wrong, at which point the frontman cut the music and told the crowd to stop.

“I’m taking the credit for that. I just saved someone’s life,” joked Spencer Charnas, Ice Nine Kills’s frontman. Despite not playing “Stabbing in the Dark,” the Ice Nine Kills setlist and horror-themed theatrics were well received.

Pictured: Ice Nine Kills brought out a shark for their “Jaws”-themed song “Rocking the Boat.” Brandon Smith | The Collegiate Live

Later on, Falling in Reverse singer Ronnie Radke had to stop the show as well, but he informed the crowd it was because a crowd member wasn’t drinking water.

For their part, Upheaval staff did their part to make sure that audience members were kept hydrated in the humid summer heat. In addition to the previously mentioned free water stations, staff also had a hose and sprayed audience members who were closest to the main stage.

The vibe from the general audience at Upheaval was friendly. Crowd members in the audience looked out for each other when crowd surfers would float by, and they weren’t afraid to offer additional water, elbow space, joints, and bandages.

Pictured: The view from the hill overlooking the main stage during Falling in Reverse’s set. Brandon Smith | The Collegiate Live

With a third successful festival under their belt, Grand Rapids heavy metal fans can look forward to a potential Upheaval Festival 2024 next summer that will continue bringing big name artists to the city as well as shining a spotlight on local acts hoping to make it big one day.

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