So What Music Fest
This past weekend while most people flocked to Austin, Texas for the infamous South by Southwest, fans of a different type flocked to Dallas, Texas for the So What?! Music fest. (Formally known as South by So What?!)
Taking over Grand Prairie, Texas from March 19th – 20th, over 100 pop-punk, rock and hardcore bands took to the stage for the ninth year in a row. Labeled as a “festival made by fans for fans” from creator Mike Ziemer, it was easy to feel the community vibe through QuickTrip park all weekend.
Day one was a stacked lineup of pop-punk bands, including favorites such as This Wild Life, Turnover, Real Friends, Alternative Press cover stars State Champs and Neck Deep and pop-punk royalty New Found Glory rounding out the night. Among three stages set up within the baseball park, it was hard to miss out on any band you might have been there to see while also toe-tapping to bands you may have never heard of.
Throughout the day, it wasn’t hard to see how or why pop-punk seems to be making an enormous comeback among fans of all ages. Starting the very chilly day off (I was told Texas was hot…), bands such as Sorority Noise, Milk Teeth, Movements and Forever Came Calling got the crowd moving before bigger names took to the stage. Seriously, these bands all need to be on your radar because they’re going places. Between the overflowing Rockstars throughout the park, and the free Fireball whiskey cart set up, it was easy to keep busy in between sets and that genius in-door bar was tapped out by the end of day one. ( I think probably more so to escape the insane Texas wind that no one was warned about.)
The stacked lineup started around mid-afternoon when pop-punkers Major League took to the stage for the band’s very last show in Texas after 6 years. With an energetic crowd, it was a very bittersweet feeling singing along. Right afterwards, Slaves (Johnny Craig’s new project) competed for fan’s attention while acoustic duo This Wild Life took to another stage. It’s hard to compete with an acoustic cover of Sleepwalking – no matter how captivating Craig is on stage.
From then, the crowd shuffled from Stage 1 to Stage 2 and back and fourth in order to see their favorite bands. The boys in Knuckle Puck took to the stage for the second time in Dallas, and were ready to put it all out there again for an enormous crowd. The amount of energy every member puts into a set accounts for their growing popularity and overzealous crowd surfers.
The night full of pop-punk had just begun. Fellow Chicago band Real Friends took time out of their recent $5 tour to perform at So What?! and gave the crowd a sneak peak into their record coming out this spring, with the song Colder Quicker, and the crowd jammed like they had known the song for years.
Although pop-punk sad boys took to stage one, more hardcore bands such as Miss May I, Escape the Fate and Blessthefall entertained other festival goers or the second main stage. Between Levi Benton’s hair, and Beau Bokan’s crowd involvement- there was much more going on than just the pop-punk revival at So What?!
Although there was a variety of bands who nailed their sets throughout the day, when the sun started to set over QuickTrip Park, it was time for the real acts of the day to start. Coming off the final stop of their AP World Tour, New York’s State Champs and Brit’s Neck Deep played back to back. Both having released records not too long ago, these sets included feature songs from Around The World and Back, and Life’s Not Out To Get You. Seriously, who ever said pop-punk needed defending? The lyrics resonate with almost everyone, and the energy presented by the bands make it near impossible to NOT enjoy their sets- even if it was freezing. The boys in State Champs know how to get the crowd moving by example. The spins and kicks in their performance make me feel like I need to work on my cardio. Seriously. And the boys in Neck Deep know how to get the feels going with ballads like December and A Part of Me. A various obvious sight from the hundreds of cellphone flashlights in the air. These two got to share an AP cover for a reason.
Headlining day 1 was no other than pop-punk originals- New Found Glory. These dudes have been super busy lately, and now being announced as setting up camp on one of the main stages of this year’s Vans Warped Tour- they’re not slowing down anytime soon. When you watch a NFG set, you can tell although they’ve been in the game a while, they don’t want to slow down anytime soon either. With just as much enthusiasm as when I first saw “My Friends Over You” over 10 years ago, these guys are the best of the best for a reason. With a setlist of vintage hits (like Dressed to Kill) and newer radio hits – i.e. Vicious Love, the crowd went insane for the headliner to nobodies’ surprise. In true New Found Glory fashion, they picked a fan out of the crowd for a special request and help performing. The fans choice this time: the band’s rendition of Celine Dion’s My Heart Will Go On. Ending out the night with the one and only “My Friends Over You” ,(seriously try not singing along to that song. I dare you) you could feel the impact left on the crowd- who just happened to be that much more pumped for the impending next day at QuickTrip Park.
If you weren’t able to make it to this year’s So What?! Music Fest make sure to keep an eye out next year, and make sure to check out :