New and returning students at the University of Central Florida were greeted on campus with a week-long welcome, Pegasus Palooza, to celebrate the start of the fall semester. To everyone’s surprise, this year’s Pegasus Palooza: Concert Knight included none other than The Driver Era and made UCF the school to be at. The brotherly band of Ross, Rocky, and Riker Lynch had students and longtime superfans lined up outside of the venue with anticipation for their performance.
Formally known as “R5” before Ross’ rise to fame in the popular Disney Channel show Austin & Ally, The Driver Era has been able to evolve with its audience to create a unique and textured sound. The group began releasing records in 2018, cultivating an alternative pop energy to their discography. In 2021, I attended and photographed their Orlando show when they were touring for the release of Girlfriend, following the COVID-19 pandemic. To not only see their fanbase grow but also the breadth of their albums is fantastic. The Driver Era’s most recent album, Summer Mixtape, hosts the sounds of an idyllic coastal vacation where you could envision yourself spending the day through night on a catamaran with its colorful, upbeat, and sonically layered discography.
As a concert photographer, I never forget to wear earplugs; however, those couldn’t have mattered less when roaring screams from the UCF audience likely broke the sound barrier as the band took the stage. The lighting design helped initiate a powerful start to the show, where The Driver Era opened with “Feel You Know” from their 2019 album, X, and shook the audience. Three songs in, the crowd was given a surprise guest: Knightro, the University of Central Florida’s beloved mascot, who hyped up the audience to the university game-time song. The band of brothers all maintained a level of comfort, ease, and connection on stage with each other and the fans. Each member adorned a guitar for the entirety of the show, especially Riker and Rocky, adding a rockstar quality to the thrilling performance.
“Heaven Angel” and “A Kiss” are my personal favorites to hear live, and I know fans would agree that “A Kiss” is the perfect song they could have chosen to end the night on. The band also included a cover of “Sex on Fire” by Kings of Leon, a fan favorite in the setlist over their years of touring. 2023 has proven to be an impressive year for touring artists such as Taylor Swift, Beyoncé, The Weeknd, and more. Concert-goers feel comfortable expressing themselves through artists’ lyrics and dressing up for a night of fun as UCF students did with their glittery cowboy hats lined in feather boas at The Driver Era’s show. The band is certain to accomplish great things, and I can definitely envision them selling out more shows in the Orlando area or around the US with their steady rise in popularity.
Photos by Gianna Aceto: @GiannaAcetoPhoto