Music is the medicine of the breaking heart. ~Leigh Hunt
During a 4-month period of time in 2009, a circle of friends in the Cedar Rapids, Iowa area suffered the losses of three people close to their hearts. Both individually and as a group, it was a soul-searching time. Looking for a reason to smile again, they turned to music as an outlet to work through their grief and to remember their lost friends in a meaningful way.
One of those that passed away was Todd Weaver: a husband to his high-school sweetheart Nicole, and a father to two young boys- who tragically passed away in a motorcycle accident on June 14, 2009. Nicknamed “V-Rod Todd,” he was an avid motorcycle enthusiast and the local biker community has come together each year to commemorate his life with a memorial ride. The purpose of the ride is to bring awareness to the subject of motorcycle safety and the dangers of drinking and riding.
In September of 2009, BJ and Jennifer Taylor moved into their dream home in Center Point, Iowa-beautiful pasture, plenty of room, and a creek running through the property that has now become known as Blitzcreek. As the Blitzcreek crew began to heal, they decided that it was time to celebrate Todd’s life and make the annual event a ride AND concert.
In 2012, they banded together, built a stage on their property and hosted an amazing party, with proceeds benefiting Todd’s children. The 100-mile ride ended in an outdoor concert on the Blitzcreek property featuring both local bands and national acts Bobaflex and Royal Bliss.
This year the event has grown into a 2-day event with food, fun, camping, a bike ride and two nights of concerts, with a total of 12 bands playing.
According to Jennifer Taylor “Todd would be so honored to have such a great group that rides in his name every year. He loved the music, he loved to ride, and he loved his family and friends.”
Kendra Aarhus, friend of the Weavers and a member of the Blitzcreek team, also had this to say: “You get a network of fellow bikers that will never let you down, should you need it. We ride together, we mourn together. The loss of your friend is a loss of mine. We can all relate and try to keep each other safe. The circumstances of a bikers death are not important, but the loss of a friend is painful, yours or mine. I’ve never been a part of a club that unconditionally helps each other more than the biker community.”
On July 19-20, 2013, Blitzcreek Bookings, the Iowa booking agency/concert promoter which includes a group of the Weaver’s friends, hosted their 4th Annual Todd Weaver Memorial Ride/Concert/Benefit. Screamer Magazine was in attendance, and also a sponsor of the event for the first time ever.
Campers started rolling in on Friday, July 19 and were treated that night to performances by local acts KICK, Midwest Trend Kill, Undisclosed, Cur, Brutal Republic, as well as headlining national act Framing the Red, whose debut album Welcome to the Show features their single Country Band Man. Framing the Red is Jordan Newman (vocals), Jamie Welch (guitar), Mike Schexnayder (bass) and Cody Leake (drums).
A Friday night raffle donated proceeds to the Wounded Warrior Project. Saturday’s events included breakfast and the 100 mile bike ride. After the ride, and during the afternoon and early evening, national and local acts Surf Zombies, For the Broken, Divinion and Framing the Red took to the stage.
There was a short break in the entertainment for a wedding, which was officiated by Blitzcreek property owner BJ Taylor, who is also an ordained minister. It was an interesting twist to the events, with the bride and groom coming down the “aisle” (a path of grass) on a motorcycle.
But the party seemed to really start as the sun set, and the headlining acts came on. Isaac James was the first. The band consists of members Blackie Starks (vocals), Gil Cole (guitar), John Lillard (bass) and ex-Stone Sour drummer Joel Ekman. Ekman originally left Stone Sour in 2006 to take care of his son, Isaac James Ekman who was diagnosed with cancer, and tragically died. The band carries his son’s namesake to honor the child’s memory. Their latest album Shut Up and Listen features the singles The Rain, The Real Me, and Save My Tomorrow. The band has recently been picked up by Jesse James American Outlaw Bourbon as an American Outlaw band.
American Hitmen was the next headliner, and you may recognize this band’s name if you watch America’s Got Talent. They are featured on this season’s show. Their unique backstory includes their band forming on the battlefield in Fallujah, Iraq, during Operation Phantom Fury in 2004. They first appeared on America’s Got Talent July 2. If you happened to see the show, it was unforgettable as they closed out the show and received a standing ovation from both the audience and the judges. Frontman Tim Cord flirted with judge Heidi Klum and was seen crying after the show as he explained how much the support meant to them. They were advanced to the next round in Vegas. So seeing them at this show just a few weeks later, you knew there would be a bit of excitement around them. The other members in American Hitmen include Dan Cord (guitar), Dan Jarmon (bass) and Phil Snyder (drums). Their latest single, Water’s Edge, is available for free download from SoundCloud.
Royal Bliss took the last headlining spot, which came as no surprise because they’ve played the event previously, and have developed quite the following in this town. Royal Bliss is Neal Middleton (vocals), Taylor Richards (guitar), Dwayne Crawford (bass) and Jake Smith (drums). We’ve covered their show in this area before, and even had the chance to interview them when they played there in November 2012. Both the bands Royal Bliss and American Hitmen are based in Salt Lake City, Utah, and are longtime friends, who made the trek together to participate in the event.
One of the most touching moments of the night was when Royal Bliss frontman Middleton brought the Taylor’s 7-year-old daughter on stage to sing their song Crazy with her. Middleton sweetly wrapped his strong tattooed arm around the young girl, held the microphone in front of both of them and they both sang the song in unison. While this crowd seemed to have a large group of tough looking bikers, nonetheless there wasn’t a face in the crowd that didn’t exhibit an emotional response to the gesture.
Royal Bliss is currently working on a new album, and introduced the crowd to three of their unreleased songs, including their single, Cry Sister, which is expected to release in September 2013. The rest of the album is not expected to come out until sometime in 2014.
American Hitmen performs a variety of covers and originals, but it was their cover of Simple Man, which originally blew the judges and audience away on America’s Got Talent. Royal Bliss also covers the song, so at the end of the show the members of Royal Bliss encouraged their friends on stage for a dual performance of the Lynyrd Skynyrd hit. It was a perfect ending to the night, seeing the bands on stage together, just jamming and having a fun time.
Tragedy has brought a group of people together, and made them closer than ever. But everyone that was there, even those who didn’t know Todd, seemed to understand that it was about more than a music festival. It was friends coming together, celebrating together and some of them still mourning together. And even as the show ended it was evident that the focus was on being a family, as Middleton took time to congratulate several in the audience on their recent graduations.
Even as the show ended, the celebration of Todd and friendships did not. The show was moved off of the stage and over to the bonfire. Old friends came together, and new friendships formed. Middleton entertained the crowd by singing various renditions of Disney show tunes. And what a fitting end to a magical night. Isn’t that what Disney is all about? Magic!
In the words of Walt Disney (and we’re sure Middleton would agree with this sentiment)…“No matter how your heart is grieving, if you keep on believing, the dreams that you wish will come true.”
RIP Todd Weaver (1977-2009).
Watch American Hitmen tell their story and perform Simple Man on America’s Got Talent:
For More About Framing the Red Visit:
For More About Isaac James Visit:
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