Let’s be real — Sad Summer Festival had a lot to live up to. The event quickly became deemed “the new Warped Tour” as the most famous alternative/emo festival finally announced the end of its cross country runs. With something that has such a deep-rooted place in alternative culture, having to fill the checkered shoes seemed impossible. But man, did Sad Summer Festival pull off something special, with or without the shadow of the festival before it.
Due to being at the age where I’m an adult with a job and not a fourteen-year-old getting dropped off by her mom (ah, the good old days) I didn’t get to stay very long. In addition, for my date in particular, we were subject to a heatwave — one so bad that the public was told to stay indoors at all costs. However, the festival was wonderfully accommodating, with free water and cool down stations in the neighboring bar. In my short and sweaty time there, I was able to catch the three main acts on my list — Mom Jeans., The Wonder Years, and Mayday Parade — and of course, was amazed by each and every one.
The number one band I was looking forward to that evening was The Wonder Years. A friend who was unfamiliar with them turned to me and asked: “so they’re like… a classic right?” I think she nailed it, as the group from Pennsylvania has become a staple of the scene with their raw, storied lyrics and the talented musicianship that backs them up. It’s always such a moment to yell relatable lines with strangers, and not a soul was left unmoved by screaming “I was kind of hoping you’d stay” back at frontman “Soupy.” I was instantly transported back to my “stan” days the second I heard “Passing Through A Screen Door.”
My writing for Pop Culture Beast is no stranger to Mayday Parade. This was my fourth time seeing the loveable emo group, and every time is a treat. Most recently, I caught the Lesson in Romantics Anniversary Tour, celebrating ten years of the album that brought hits like “Jersey” and “You Be The Anchor…” For that tour, I raved about an “emo medley” that we were treated to mid-set. This time, we got a cover of “Mr. Brightside,” the most emo song that isn’t actually emo. This got even my friends unfamiliar with their originals dancing, and it’s those communal moments that give festivals their draw. Of course, they do more than just covers. The original songs from Mayday Parade range from ballad to pop-punk, showing the range and talent the group has. My only wish was for “Three Cheers For Five Years” to be acoustic like it was for LIR Anniversary… but I have no doubt I’ll see them again.
Of course, music isn’t the only thing you come for. My date of Sad Summer Festival partnered with She Has A Name. I highly encourage anyone to check them out, and check out the other amazing partnerships throughout the tour! My one wish is that the philanthropy aspect was better communicated how it is at the Vans Warped Tour. It wasn’t until after the show that I checked the official website and saw that there was an opportunity to give back to the community. Hopefully, future runs of this festival will have even more participation from nonprofits with an even more clear focus on their mission.
From the fans I talked to, that multi-stage aspect was missed. However, I loved the short sets with small breaks setup that Sad Summer Festival had. The trouble of Warped was always running back and forth, having to decide which groups you want to miss in favor of others, and sometimes missing sets you cared about just due to the massive crowds. Fans were able to sit back and relax in one spot, or get up and mosh in one spot, while not missing any of the action. There was MUCH more freedom and organization than you would find in a multi-stage parking lot kind of deal.
Even though the comparisons are inevitable, I feel it’s important to say how great Sad Summer Festival is as a stand-alone tour, without being the “new warped.” The event had a perfect grasp on modern emo culture, mixing in equal parts trends and nostalgia. From the get-go, we see a poster created by Glamour Kills, a name easily recognizable by those who were in the emo scene in the 2010s. For those unfamiliar, the fashion brand partnered with the likes of The Maine, (who, of course, were featured on this tour,) and All Time Low. The brand brought its signature pink and black color scheme, becoming the official colors of the tour and making their way onto several photo booth stations. These photobooths screamed modern music festival in a way that even the most recent Warped Tour never did, with loveable lyrics from each act plastered across.
During Mayday Parades set, frontman Derek Sanders talked about his first Warped Tour, and how it was the first time he truly felt like he had a place. This is met with cheers from the crowd, as we all know the feeling. He then said it will be special to be able to say you were at the very first Sad Summer Festival, as there will undoubtedly be more cross country runs.
Derek, you could not be more right.
Hannah is an accidental internet meme, drummer, loud talker, and proud owner of a purse that functions as a working analog clock. She got the media writer gene from her dad, PF Wilson, another writer for Pop Culture Beast. Her favorite bands come and go on a seasonal rotation, but Marina & The Diamonds and Say Anything are here to say. She’s probably watching The Grand Budapest Hotel right now, but if she isn’t, she’s out photographing rock concerts.