Destin-based radio station prepares for 'one hell of a ride' at Blazefest

Matt Algarin
The band Hell Yeah is the headliner for Blazefest.

Putting on a rock and roll festival is no easy undertaking, but 14 months after connecting the power cord, the team at 103.1 The Blaze has done exactly that.

"It's been a culmination of a lot of relationships," said Greg "Gonzo" Sutton, program director at The Blaze. "We discussed what would be one of the fastest ways to make an impact in the market, and we all agreed that putting on a rock and roll festival was a damn sure way to do it."

After passing the idea through the radio station's brass and getting the green light, Blazefest was born. Blazefest will feature 11 bands on one stage Memorial Day Weekend at the Mullet Festival Grounds in Niceville.

And while there are any number of factors that go into securing bands to play at a show, Sutton, who has 15 years of experience in the radio industry, teamed with friend and concert booker John Robertson to bring a lineup like no other to the Emerald Coast.

Blazefest kicks off at 11:40 a.m. on May 25 with Shallow Side and continues rocking with Cathercist, Monster Truck, 3 Years Hollow, Eye Empire, Pop Evil, Saving Abel, Drowning Pool, Filter, Sevendust and Hell Yeah, which rounds out the show at 10 p.m.

"We wanted all of these bands that come in on Memorial Day weekend to have a genuine love and compassion for, and want to help, the military," Sutton told The Log. "Almost every band on the bill has played for the troops in Iraq or Afghanistan."

Looking at the mix of bands that will perform, they all bring their own unique style to the stage, which is something that the festival’s organizers wanted to see. Take an outfit like industrial rockers Filter, who had the tremendously successful single "Hey Man Nice Shot," but also spun out the crossover hit "Take a Picture," which reached No. 12 on the Billboard Hot 100 charts in 2000.

"We wanted to make a show that was a good rock show and embodied the attitude of the radio station's persona, but was mainstream enough where more people outside of our target demographic could appreciate it," Sutton said. "Once we got the ball rolling, we got the bands we wanted here."

Since coming on air, Sutton said the team at the Blaze, which includes fellow on-air talent Dan Collins and many others behind the scenes, has strived to bring top-notch talent to the Emerald Coast, and teaming up with Club LA has helped them do so. Destin’s Club LA has hosted bands such as Candlelight Red, Nonpoint, and In This Moment since it began serving as the area’s hotspot for rock and roll fans.

"We've seen how people have been yearning for something like this in Destin," Sutton said. "When we first started talking, our goal was to turn this bar into the Machine Shop of the south."

And for the bands, what's not to love about playing in Destin?

"It's one of the most beautiful places in the world. Would you rather play in Destin, Florida, or play a show in the snow in Cleveland, Ohio?" Sutton said with a chuckle.

With the show set for Saturday, tickets for Blazefest are still available and can be purchased at, and military tickets are available in advance of the show for $20.

"It's going to be one hell of a ride," Sutton said. "Come out and enjoy the music and the atmosphere. If you've never seen bands like this before, you are going to be in for a real treat."


Shoreline Church in Destin is one of the slightly surprising participants in Blazefest. “If you've been around Shoreline more than five minutes, you know we love getting involved in things happening in our community,” said the church’s Facebook page. “This week, we got an unexpected opportunity to be part of a brand new event coming to our area next Saturday. One of the sponsors dropped out of Blazefest, and Shoreline will now be providing volunteers age 21-plus for the Blaze Beer Garden. We're super stoked about this because it fits our mission perfectly — to change people's perception of God by changing their perception of church.”