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I think it's safe to say that the Sad Summer Fest might be the festival that will go on to replace the beloved Vans Warped Tour. Debuting here in Dallas, TX, the Sad Summer Fest was 8 hours of pure music mayhem featuring 8 killer bands on one incredible stage at the Gas Monkey Live.  Sure, seeing Vans Warped go might remind you of your childhood dog passing away, but Sad Summer Festival is like that new puppy that you brought home for the very first time and couldn’t wait to have grow up.  From start to finish, this festival rocked on all cylinders and was definitely worth the price of admission.  To say this show was awesome would be the understatement of the year!

Comparable to Vans Warped, the lineup may have seemed a tad bit small.  However, they brought in some heavy hitters for what ended up a show for the ages. With appearances from Mayday Parade, State Champs, The Maine, and Forever The Sickest Kids (to name a few) , the show was definitely set up to be stellar.  Also, let’s talk about the venue set up for a second because promoters definitely planned this out right. First off, they had tables and chairs for people to sit (which is the first time I've seen this happen locally).  They even went so far as to add pink table toppers to accent the festival unique color scheme. There were also step-and-repeat banners set up for photo ops, which definitely boosted the festival’s online game. Too keep festival attendees cooled down, they had a huge water slide and mini pools located throughout the festival grounds. And as someone who likes to eat, they had food trucks on site that were very reasonably priced which tells you the fans were thought of first when planning out the festival. When water is $1 a bottle versus $4, you know they are doing it right.

So now that I’ve laid out the lay of the land, let us jump into the music. We started the festival with Dallas natives, Oh, Weatherly. They came out guns blazing and set the tone for what was to come throughout the show. Having seen them once before, I was impressed once again with how they got the crowd off their feet with hits like “Chasing California” and “Here Tonight”.  Oh, Weatherly rocked and got Sad Summer Fest off to a great start.

Next up was a killer Australian pop-punk band called Stand Atlantic. They kept the energy alive and delivered what I felt was a truly sick set. Led by front-woman Bonnie Fraser, Stand Atlantic has been proclaimed as one of the best international breakthrough bands of 2018 by the Heavy Music Awards, and they failed to disappoint. I had never seen Stand Atlantic perform live before this set, but am now a believer and would absolutely buy a ticket to see this incredible band.  This set was fun to  watch.

If you were to ask me before Sad Summer Fest if I had ever seen a 10-piece band perform live, I  would have said no.  Luckily for me, I got the opportunity on Friday seeing Just Friends perform.  From this day forward, my perspective on live performances  has forever changed. What started with 4 people turned into 6, then 8, and eventually 10 on stage as the set progressed. Guitars, horns, drums, and a lot of dancing just about sums up Just Friends, and I'll definitely be back for more after this performance.  

After a killer Just Friends set came to an end, a few band members returned to the stage to perform as Mom Jeans. It was a very chilled out version of what I had just seen a few moments earlier, with the trombone player now the guitarist and vocalist. Basically these two bands were interchangeable but two completely different sounds. If that isn’t musicianship, I don’t know what is.

Continuing on with the lineup, Sad Summer Fest made a good call by bringing back to the stage Dallas natives, Forever The Sickest Kids. Knowing they don’t tour anymore, I felt honored to have the distinct pleasure of shooting this band twice since they stopped traveling around the world.  They never fail to put on an amazing show, littering their set with bangers such as “Nikki” and “Bipolar Baby!” And leave it to FTSK to have a 2X2 banner and then have Jonathan Cook take the stage in a full suit (while it is 102 degrees in the shade). Forever The Sickest Kids never fail to surprise us on stage and were a great add to this lineup.

The sun was finally on its way  down the other side of the globe when The Maine took the stage. With a banner that said, “YOU ARE OK”, they have always been a band that stuck up for the fans and made sure they supported them first. I’ve been able to take photos of The  Maine three times and without fail, their performances better each and every time. Their front man John Callaghan is always a blast to photograph because he uses every inch of the stage during a performance (at one point he even ended up at the back of the crowd). They went on to play songs from the majority of their albums and ended their set with “Black Butterflies and Déjà vu” - the applause was deafening.

With two bands left, the crowd only got bigger and louder. State Champs were up next, and I was ready. The Albany, New York band didn’t let up on the energy that had been left by The Maine. I’ve always enjoyed watching State Champs perform because they have songs that are easy to sing to. I connect with their lyrics and melodies more than most bands, so it is always a pleasure to get the opportunity to see them. They played songs from the majority of their albums including “Elevated” off of the Finer Things album and  “Dead and Gone” from their 2018 release, Living Proof. They definitely set the fans up nicely for the final performance of the day, Mayday Parade.

Without skipping a beat, Mayday Parade started their set with “Oh Well, Oh Well” and the crowd went wild. Even without Jason Lancaster in the band, Derek Sanders does a phenomenal job taking lead with help from the drummer, Jake Bundrick along with the other guitarists. They went on to play classics such as “Three Cheers For Five Years”, “One Of The Will Destroy The Other”, and “Jamie All Over”. One of the coolest moments of their set was Derek saying they wanted to play a cover song. Typically you don’t hear covers in their live sets, but Mayday Parade picked a winner in this case, starting off the song with the simple yet unmistakable melody of “Mr. Brightside” by The Killers. I’m not kidding when I say every single person there was singing every word of this classic. Mayday Parade definitely ended the night on a high note with this cover along with finale, “Jersey”. Simply unbelievable set!

My overall reaction is to the Sad Summer Festival is a resounding WOW and I can’t wait for year 2 of this instant classic.   It was everything I wanted in a summer festival and more, and I highly recommend grabbing some tickets when they come through your town this summer.  

As always, rock on my friends!


James Coffman

Photojournalist - Dallas

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