CMO’S Year in review – A record breaking 2023

Umphreys McGee

After the epic concert year I had in 2022, I thought it was going to be difficult to top 2022’s record of 37 concerts. 2023 has bestowed upon me the opportunity to see many of my favorite bands, witness some musical legends in action, and to have been approved with photo credentials for more shows than I have ever been credentialed for. I discovered new bands that expanded my musical horizons even further. I met many new rock friends and shared time with friends old and new at shows throughout the year, across the country and on the high seas.

In 2022 I tried to involve math to see if there was a way to mathematically prove what the best show of the year was and I came to the conclusion that is a personally subjective outcome and that traveling for a show would indeed skew the outcome. There are too many variables between the ones that I came up with and the suggestions some of my friends added in and my only possible answer is that every show I went to this year kicked ass in its own right and for different reasons.

2023 summarized numerically:

  • 60 shows (counting music cruise days as one concert per day – 14 cruise days)
  • 246 total band sets ( if there were 3 bands at a show that I saw, counts as 3)
  • 44 credentialed shows. 8 shows I got denied, 5 shows I didn’t try for various reasons, 2 shows I had no response, 1 show I was approved but there were no credentials left for me at the venue
  • 6 states
  • 12 cities
  • 23 venues and 3 cruise ships
  • 9 new venues I had never been to

Shows 1-5:
Once again the concert year did not start until late in January when I went on On The Blue Cruise, a yacht rock style cruise and I was blown away by how much of the various music I was familiar with. How in the world did I know every lyric to every song by The Carpenters tribute band onboard?  I met some incredibly great new friends who I am so hoping will be on board again here when it sails in April. I also had the chance to work with an amazing team of pros alongside a great friend, Brian. I am really looking forward to doing this again!

On the Blue Cruise

Show 6:
One of the great things about music cruises going out of the various Florida ports is that artists scatter all over the state before and after the cruise and this time was no different. After being the Young Dubliner’s photographer for their meet and greet session onboard, Brian and I got invited to their Ybor show and to come hang with the fellas, and check out a new venue.

Show 7:
A walk down memory lane seeing REO Speedwagon. This is a band I grew up listening to they are still selling out mid-size venues. It was a great show and brought back memories of me as a kid using my tennis racket to try and emulate Gary Richrath, badly of course. They are still a solid live band and an entertaining show.

Show 8:
It was my first time seeing Deep Purple as well as The Marshall Tucker Band. Talk about legendary, still with 3 original members Deep Purple put on a hell of a show.

Show 9:
My annual pilgrimage to the Florida Strawberry Festival, this time to see Halestorm. After the show I had shared out my photos to my address book and I had the local radio station ask if they could use my photos from the show – that kicks ass! Lzzy Hale really has a great stage presence and such a powerful voice – it was a fun show and of course a people watching gold mine in and around the fairgrounds.

Show 10:
The night after Halestorm, it was my first and probably last time seeing Dropkick Murphys. My friend had won tickets and asked if I wanted to go and I had never seen Jannus so sold out jam packed. It literally was uncomfortable in there. I’m not into the whole let’s get jolly drunk and beat the crap out of each other gig that show seemed to be so, thanks for the offer of the show, but from here on out I don’t see myself going to see these guys again. Still, it was experience I can say I did at least once.

Show 11:
While Steel Panther may have been the headliner for this show, one of the opening bands, Tragedy (a metal tribute to the Bee Gees and beyond) is my favorite undiscovered band of the year. You might groan and say tribute bands shouldn’t count, but I have never been so hooked on a new variation of sound I had never experienced before. This was the band I never knew that I was missing and needed in my life! Of course Steel Panther was fantastic and had some wild antics and of course lots of boobs on display when they asked all the ladies in the crowd to come up on stage with them. Their shows are something to experience – for all of the woke hate you would expect it is crazy how many females there are in the crowd and singing along. I sure hope they tour again soon – both Tragedy and Steel Panther!

Steel Panther

Show 12:
The Winery Dogs at Jannus is a top contender for show of the year! What a freaking phenomenal live band. The musical talent in this band is staggering. 3 musical virtuosos, together creating some fantastic music. I was able to meet up with one of my new friends I met on On The Blue Cruise earlier this year, who hooked me up to where after the show I found myself hanging in the green room showing my photos to guitarist Richie Kotzen and his wife (her pics of a previous Vixen show in which she performed).

Richie Kotzen – The Winery Dogs

Show 13:
This was my first time seeing Umphrey’s McGee and using my new mirrorless camera that I had just purchased, which I was still not familiar with. Thankfully the band was gracious and allowed us photographers to photo the entire 1st of 2 sets so I had plenty of time to get my settings dialed in and got some great shots of their light show with band members silhouetted. It was my 1st real ‘jam band’ show and I have to say it was a lot of fun.

Show 14:
Queensrÿche at Jannus always brings a crowd and this was the first time I did a show ‘double barreled’, with 2 camera bodies alternating between the 2 based on my positioning and the lighting. It was a fantastic show, and the drummer from Marty Friedman’s band was the most animated and photogenic drummer I had ever seen.

Chargeee – Marty Friedman’s drummer

Show 15:
For years I had always shared my photos with the local radio personalities and out of the blue I got asked if I could help with photos for their day long festival. Well, that was a QUICK response YES on my part and it was a day dreams are made of. Breaking Benjamin was the headliner and I discovered my love of the band Dorothy this day and I got to work with a team of great photographers. I am really hoping to get the same invite this year.

Dorothy Martin – Dorothy

Show 16:
The sail away party for the Monsters of Rock Cruise for me always has the feeling like it’s the first day of school and you’re seeing your friends after summer. It is a reunion of like mined friends ready to rock. Drive thru metal titans, Mac Sabbath put on a hilarious and headbanging show and got us all ready for the cruise the next day.

Shows 17-21:
There is no way I can summarize just how freaking fun and awesome this cruise is in just a few sentences. I have met so many great friends and witnessed so much awesome live music from my adventures onboard over the years and will do my best to not ever miss sailing away with these rockers I call family. A look back at this year’s adventure can be seen here.

Show 22:
Not even off the ship for 48 hours and already with a day of returning to work under my belt, I catch Jackyl blow the roof off of the OCC Roadhouse from the front row with my camera for the whole set.


Show 23:
Still running on cruise adrenaline, the night after Jackyl has me in Orlando for Tesla. Sure, I had just seen them twice within the past week onboard, but it was an opportunity to hang with my buddy Travis for the ride over and back and photo the show with him. I walked out of this show with (after the fact, once I had gone through my photos) what I felt were my best overall set of concert photos I had ever taken, the lighting was that good. This show also triggered a chain of events that…well, keep reading.


Show 24:
Helloween and Hammerfall was a night of full on power metal. My first time seeing either band live. By the end of the night I was determined to slay the dragons in my life.

Show 25:
Vaudevillian rockers Avatar is a definite contender for show of the year. It was a (vocal) performance like no other (there’s a longer story in there regarding Johannes Eckerström vocal abilities so ask me about it if we’re chatting between bands at a show). I’m sad I missed them when they came to Orlando later in the year. I was really impressed with Orbit Culture. I went from really liking what I had heard of theirs on Liquid Metal, to I can’t wait to see these guys again!

Show 26:
Speaking of vocal performances, let me just say that Ian Astbury of The Cult still has some very strong lungs. What a show this band puts on, they were a contender for show of the year last year and I say the same thing again this year. Totally blown away by how awesome they sound and kick ass live and I can’t wait to go again! Their opening band, an electronic duo named Night Club, I enjoyed way more than I ever expected. That chain of events from Tesla in Orlando comes back around this night and you only get part of the story in my show review, and even leads to an inception like 2nd interwoven chain of events.

Show 27:
This one was initially a borderline call to include in my list or not. Nightrain is a nationally touring GnR tribute band and I really thought they kicked ass as did my friends who went that night. They know of my attention to detail with my show list and we all concluded this was a listable show.

Show 28:
This was the show where I was photo approved but no credentials were left for me and I had no day of show contact (it’s rock n roll and shit happens). Thankfully a friend who works at the venue let me slide in to at least see the show (sadly the show didn’t sell well). I have to say I was pretty impressed with the stage presence and sound of Fozzy and for Ugly Kid Joe, it was like half of the already small crowd that was there left after Fozzy. Of all the nights for me not to be behind the lens, the lighting was the best I had EVER seen at this venue and not only that, there were only 2 photographers and lead singer Whitfield Crane invited them to come up on stage and shoot after their 3rd song concluded (that is the norm, we get to photo 3 songs). Oh well, I still saw a great show and thanked my friend on the way out!

Show 29:
My first time seeing Dream Theater and while I thought it was a fantastic show, my 2 friends who went said it was nowhere near some of the better performances they had seen of the band. I was (and am still) not real familiar with their material. I was going to hang with my friends and see a legendary band, and with Devin Townsend opening I was excited to see him shred again.

Show 30:
The draw for me this show was finally seeing Megadeth again. I had never been a big Misfits fan, but with this being a one of 4 shows in the country with this lineup this show was jam packed sold out. I remember seeing the lead singer of Cannibal Corpse, George Corpsegrinder Fisher, seated in the audience not that far from our seats. This show was also a people watching goldmine.

Show 31:
Oh man, that chain of events…do you ever get the feeling there’s times in life where as events are occurring you think after the fact that B would have never happened had A not unexpectedly happened? This was the grand opening of a new venue, The Sound, and Cheap Trick, having local ties, was the first band to headline that stage. I remember it was brutally hot this day as we were in the middle of one of the hottest summers ever and without that great breeze coming in over the water this might have been unbearably hot. I also recall with that being the 1st ever show there, there were plenty of news crews on hand and local concert legend Medicine Man got himself on air during one of the live broadcasts and is now immortalized as he was completely wasted on air. While that chain of events mostly concludes before the next show, there is no way for me to ever know if B would have happened if A had not, and to me that is the most curious thing ever!

Coachman Park – The Sound

Show 32:
Another nationally touring tribute band, Zoso, but there was no question if this show was listable – I knew going in it was! These guys were as fantastic as I had been told they were – I’d go see them again in a heartbeat, the musicianship was outstanding.

Show 33:
Another walk down memory lane with Loverboy opening for Foreigner. With no original members left some consider the current iteration of Foreigner to be a tribute band in and of itself, but it’s a tribute to the music with how strong the near sellout crowd turned out in a 20K person venue.

Kelly Hansen of Foreigner

Show 34:
This was one of those times when I didn’t realize I was familiar with some of the opening band’s music. I had no idea I would recognize anything of the opener going in until Gunshine started playing a song I learned was called ‘Daylight’ and I was like, hey, I’ve heard that before and I like it! Headliner Buckcherry was fantastic, the more I listen to this band the more I like their stuff. This was my 3rd time seeing them and I’d also go see them again in a heartbeat, their shows are that fun and like Steel Panther have that female interaction with the explicit nature of their biggest hit.

Show 35:
This night was hotter than Cheap Trick but with no breeze. The heat index was easily 115 and with 5 bands in the lineup I knew early on I was going to be a hot sweaty mess after Mudvayne, Coal Chamber, GWAR, Nonpoint, and the Butcher Babies all played. One of my Monsters of Rock Cruise buddies is Nonpoint’s touring videographer so it was really great to catch up with him and chat. Of course GWAR’s set was over the top and blood filled and for them I opted for the safety of doing photos for their set from the soundboard.

Chad Gray – Mudvayne

Show 36:
This was the annual Girls Rock St. Pete summer camp concert. This is such a great organization that helps empower young girls with life confidence through rock n roll and music. Some of the summer camp (it’s only  6 days long) attendees have never played an instrument and here they are less than a week later performing in front of a live audience, rocking out with originally written songs. Once again this year my friend Brian and I volunteered as photographers and the pure gratitude we received in return has us both anxious to volunteer again this year. I’m proud to say one of my 2022 shots is still one of the feature image on their website –

Shows 37-38:
2 nights of no repeat Metallica in New Jersey to tie and break last year’s record. It was a fantastic trip and I cursed whoever designed the New Jersey interstate system even though I didn’t do any actual driving. The shows themselves were jaw dropping amazing. I paid a pretty penny (face value) for the seats I had and kicked myself that freaking BOTH nights I forgot my handheld camera. D’oh!  I say it was worth every penny for that experience. It was my 11th and 12th time seeing Metallica and what can I say, they are still kicking ass live. I’ve got tickets to the Friday Boston show with Pantera this summer and hope to also hit at least one of the 2 Chicago shows the next week. Pantera opening the first night was also part of the impulse buy when tickets went on sale. Looking back I have to say that these were the concerts of the year for me. I’ve really liked the last 2 Metallica releases and I came home from this trip with a seriously sore neck! Read about that weekend adventure here.


Show 39:
This one is a really close 2nd place for show of the year for me. An absolutely epic nonstop 3 hour set by Guns n Roses playing at the iconic Wrigley Field. Their show just happened to be a day after a work event I had in Chicago so it was a no brainer to stay the extra day and go to this. I’ve maintained that GnR’s debut album, ‘Appetite for Destruction’ is the greatest rock debut ever, and my friend’s brother, Dean, and I had a spirited discussion on it as we drove to the venue. The heat followed me up from Florida and I remember it was the hottest day in Chicago in the last hundred years or something and Dean had me take a picture each incremental degree his car display showed of the outside temperature. I surprised myself knowing as many Pretenders songs as I recognized in their opening set. I was really impressed with how great GnR sounded, and how Axl didn’t make the show all about himself and payed tribute to us fans, and the legacy of their music. I was surprised I like some of their newer material because, honestly I had never heard anything newer than the 2nd ‘Use Your Illusion’ release.

Show 40:
Rob Zombie, Alice Cooper, Ministry and Filter was one hell of a show. As difficult as it was for photos during Rob Zombie’s set, it was the exact opposite for Ministry and I think I got the best set of photos I ever have, even better than that Tesla show back in May.

Al Jourgensen – Ministry

Show 41:
You have NO idea how long I’ve waited to see Vanilla Ice live. Somehow, my life and his tour dates never lined up until this day. Also on the bill were Rob Base, Montel Jordan and Tone Loc but sadly Tone had an illness and did not perform. The show was as fun as I expected it to be and while I would have loved to have been credentialed and been up close for better photos, I still was able to get some great shots of his Iceness! I have my eyes out for anytime he comes back to the area, as I’d go again in a heartbeat it was that much fun. Word, yo!

Vanilla Ice

Show 42:
To say that I was blown away by being credentialed on my own is an understatement. I put in the request totally expecting to be denied, but that was the worst they could answer. I was traveling for and seeing this tour regardless if I was credentialed. For me the draw was Lamb of God and it was the biggest bonus ever that Pantera was also on the bill as the headliner. I had a great time visiting with my friend Steve who I’ve known since high school but had not seen in a decade or more. As I wrote the show review I made an observation about the setlist that really stood out to me and a couple months later I had the chance to ask Willie from Lamb of God about it on the Headbangers Boat and his response was that mine was amazing deduction! This was also a candidate for show of the year.

Randy Blythe – Lamb of God

“I find it interesting and thought about it the day after the show in that Lamb of God opened their set with a song about embracing the possibilities and opportunities of the day ahead as the inevitability of death is always out there to Pantera closing the show by conveying a message about the insignificance of dwelling on the past and the importance of focusing on the present and future. And people say heavy metal is just noise.”

Show 43:
Hatebreed absolutely shredded The Orpheum’s new location. This band I consider my own personal empowerment therapy and this night was no different. I went with a friend of a friend who was there to see opening band Terror and let me tell you, for being such clean cut looking guys in that band they were as brutally heavy as Hatebreed are. It was a freaking awesome night and Hatebreed had a killer Tampa Bay Lightning themed shirt (they did local designs for all stops on the tour) and I have gotten tons of compliments on it as I proudly wear it out and about and at other shows.

Show 44:
This show and trip to Dallas to see Nerd Halen came about from a comment from my girlfriend made at dinner one night that she’d rather see tribute bands than the bigger name bands. Me being friends with the Nerds played in to the decision to make the venture as well and it was a fantastic trip and show. I got some great photos which both the band and the individual members have shared on their socials and I ran into 2 Monsters of Rock Cruisers who I got formally introduced to at this show, which probably would not have happened had I not been wearing my MoRC 2022 shirt that had Nerd Halen listed in the lineup.

Hal Sparks – Nerd Halen

Show 45:
This was the most visually trippy show I have ever seen. To say that I had no idea what I was in for seeing Heilung perform is a gross understatement. It was quite the visual and musical journey as the ‘band’ utilizes archaic instrumentation that ranges from rattles and ritual bells to human bones and throat singing. Even after the fact I had no idea exactly what I witnessed but I will say that I found the music quite interesting and have listened to more of their releases. My younger self would think some special mushrooms would REALLY enhance this visual and auditory experience!

Heilung ritual

Show 46:
My second time at The Sound venue and my first time seeing both Sammy Hagar (solo) and George Thorogood. This show was another walk down memory lane and it was a jam packed sold out venue. For both of these artists being in their 70’s, it was a high energy, kick ass rock n roll show! Bad to the Bone!

Show 47:
2 of the 3 bands this night were also performing on the Headbangers Boat departing 2 days after this show so it was a great introduction to both Lacuna Coil and God Forbid. Lacuna Coil is incredibly theatrical and is a band I made sure to see onboard and I am curious to dig farther back into their discography.

Shows 48-51:
This was the Headbangers Boat cruise. 4 nights of some brutally heavy tunes highlighted by 2 headliner sets by Lamb of God on the pool deck. It was a most excellent adventure minus the charter group’s overly aggressive security people and my camera gear. Sadly, a person was lost overboard on the next to last night, which drastically changed the demeanor of everyone onboard the last day and certainly made me reflect on just how fragile life really is. Gatecreeper was the undiscovered gem of a band onboard for me. Read about the adventure here.

Chase Mason – Gatecreeper

Show 52:
One of my all-time favorite tribute bands, The Iron Maidens headlined the opening night of a 3 night festival at the OCC Roadhouse. Sadly, rainy weather kept them from playing on the larger stage outdoors (with better lighting for photos) but I got to hang with another of my Monsters of Rock Cruise friends who was doing their merch and I got to hang out with another new photographer friend who I met doing photos at local roller derby bouts. It was a great show, these ladies never disappoint.

Show 53:
Queensrÿche was the headliner for night 2 of the festival and thankfully the weather played nice and they absolutely kicked ass on the outdoor stage – this band just keeps getting better and better the more times I see them live. With 5 of their shows scheduled in my 2024 future that will propel this band to being the one I’ve seen the 2nd most at 18 times – currently at 13 as I write this. Very awesome that within the 1st couple of days after the show I had the band share 4 of my photos on their socials.

Todd La Torre – Queensrÿche

Show 54:
The final night of 3 in a row at the same venue which was a personal record in itself for me. This was also a tribute band featuring the lead singer of Anthrax, Joey Belladonna, singing Journey songs. When I first discovered that this tribute band, Beyond Frontiers, even existed I was so curious to see them live. Let me tell you, Joey can freaking sing and carry a tune. I was blown away by how awesome this show was and I had a couple of friends who even after the fact said I had to be joking that it was any good. I figured I had enough metal street cred for my friends to know if I’m joking or not. I’m taking them with me if the opportunity ever presents itself to see this band again!

Show 55:
When I was inquiring around to see if anyone was interested in going to see Goatwhore on a post-Thanksgiving holiday weekend, I said, well, just figure that the band doesn’t really like Baby Jesus, but it’s some seriously kick ass driving music! This was only my second time at the new Orpheum location and initially upon arrival I was sort of bummed it wasn’t outdoor on the larger stage, that all 3 bands that night would play inside. As it turned out, due to some challenging lighting, I went full black and white and was in the front row for the whole show and got several pics shared by the headliners and their PR company on their socials! Thankfully this show was on a Saturday night so I could go to church and repent early the next morning.

Show 56:
The man I consider my favorite guitarist of all time. Even above the historic rock greats, I think Joe Bonamassa is just unbelievable as an axe man and his shows are next level professional, passionate, spot on musically and just a fun musical journey. I got to finally meet the media coordinator after a couple of years of just email communication for one of the outlets I work with. This was also a journey an hour or so down south to an acoustically superior new venue and that added to this one being another contender for show of the year.

Show 57:
The next night after witnessing the guitar god that I think Joe Bonamassa is, Pat Travers came to kick our ass with rock n roll and did exactly that as he is also an extraordinarily talented guitar player. Sadly it was a very small crowd but it was the loss of those who had thought about going but didn’t. I had seen Mr. Travers a few times before on the Monsters of Rock Cruise(s) and when I saw this show was announced I had it circled on the calendar and was certainly glad I went.

Show 58:
This band’s biggest hit is the one that makes me think about the girl that broke my heart 30 years ago, one of our first dates was to a Zebra concert. So while it was a walk down memory lane, I had met and made friends with the band’s tour manager at the venue. We discovered we had mutual friends from my Monsters of Rock Cruise family. After I had settled into my seat to enjoy the show after my 3 songs behind the lens, he texts me and asks if I wanted to come takes photos from side stage. Um, yeah! Be right there! Dude, thank you for that it was quite the experience and the photo result.

Felix Hanemann – Zebra

Show 59:
The annual tradition of celebrating Baby Jesus with rock and roll when Trans-Siberian Orchestra comes to town. The rock royalty in this collective (there are 2 touring groups with one on each side of the country at the same time) has many members with local family roots and of course it is also celebration of the legacy that is the music and vision of local band Savatage.

Show 60:
A Denver trip to celebrate the new year coincided with an Iron Maidens tour stop so it was a no brainer to see them again in a new state, at a new venue, and with friends from the Monsters of Rock Cruise who traveled from Arizona to meet up with me there. As always, the ladies were spot on musically and went really deep into Iron Maiden’s discography. It was a really cool theater in the middle of a residential neighborhood so that was sort of interesting as I wondered where everyone parked, I took Uber so it was a drop off for me. As their last song of the night came on I took a minute to reflect and appreciate just how freaking awesome the year has been, then I enjoyed the closing notes of “Hallowed Be Thy Name”, one of my all-time favorite Iron Maiden songs.

The Iron Maidens

What a year. Seeing legends and favorites perform. Hanging out with great friends and meeting new friends along the way. Seeing new bands, cities, venues and cruise ships. Having stories to tell and photos to capture the moments and memories. The phrase ‘living the dream’ comes to mind as I reflect on this past year concert wise. My thanks and appreciation to all of those who helped make 2023 the epic, record breaking concert year it was.  

To see my favorite concert photos of the year go here.

To see the list of shows and bands I saw in 2023 go here and start with show number 292.

CMO  \m/