Op-Ed: Sad Summer Fest brings feelings of nostalgia and love for new acts

If you are like me, then you have been missing Warped Tour since it completed its final run in 2018 and you are looking for something to fill that hole in your emo heart. Well, Sad Summer Fest may not be Warped Tour, but it will definitely help fill some of the hole in your heart left from Warped Tour.

Sad Summer Fest is a tour that travels across the United States with a handful of bands and artists in the emo, pop punk and alternative scene. It is one day and only one stage. So, no worrying about having to run from stage to stage and having to choose which act to watch and which one you may have to miss. You can just pick your spot and stay there the entire day. With breaks in between sets to set up for the next group, there was time built in to get a drink, go to the bathroom, shop some merch or whatever you need to do.

I attended the Sad Summer Fest Cleveland date on August 2 at Jacobs Pavilion. This was my first time attending the tour and needless to say I was excited. Some of my favorite bands were playing as well as acts I had been wanting to see. On the lineup was: LØLØ, Hot Milk, The Summer Set, Hot Mulligan, State Champs, Mayday Parade, Waterparks and Neck Deep. The line-up was stacked, so I knew I was in for a great day.

The first act up was LØLØ.  I had listened to some of her stuff in preparation for the concert and while she is not the type of music I normally gravitate towards, I still enjoyed what I heard and was l excited to see what her set was like. And she did not disappoint. Her set was full of energy and she sounded amazing. She owned the stage and could tell she was having fun. She used the whole stage and got the crowd involved. 

She performed a cover of “Teenage Dirtbag” and had her guitarist put on a blonde wig with pigtails and sing part of the song with her. That was one of my favorite parts of the set. She sang ‘Debbie Downer’ which is her song with Maggie Lindeman and is probably her most well known song. Many of the songs she performed she introduced with a purpose, like one was about letting go of an ex, so you were to scream the lyrics and let go of all those feelings and that relationship. Overall, she was a fantastic performer and will definitely be adding her onto people to keep an eye on.

The next act up was Hot Milk. This was a band I had heard of and had been meaning to check out but just had not. And let me just say, after their set, they are going to quickly become a band I keep in rotation. They were high energy and entertaining and did not stop going from the second they stopped on stage. They from Manchester and Han and Jim know how to keep the crowd engaged.

They sounded phenomenal vocally and on their instruments. They showcased their skills in every aspect of their performance. If you were not a fan before their set, you were a fan after. They definitely got the energy up in the crowd and got us all moving around, jumping and rocking out. I did not want their set to end. I was engrossed and engaged from the start and wanted them to just keep going. 

Some of my favorite songs from their set were ‘Teenage Runaways’, ‘Wide Awake’ and “I Think I Hate Myself”. If you have not checked out Hot Milk, I highly recommend giving them a listen because I have a feeling you are going to love them.

Next up, I was taken back to my early teenage years with The Summer Set. This band just recently announced their return after breaking up a few years ago. So, seeing them back on stage at Sad Summer Fest was definitely a treat. I remember listening to them when I was in middle school and early high school, so getting to hear some of those songs live finally was definitely nostalgic. And remember those boats I mentioned. While during their set a boat came by and honked its horn very loudly for an extended period of time, so that was fun. 

They played the classics like ‘Chelsea’, ‘Boomerang’ and ‘Lightning in a Bottle’. They also brought LØLØ out to sing one of their new songs ‘Teenagers’ as well. Their set started with some technical issues but once those were all sorted off, they got it together and put on a great performance. You could tell they were happy to be back on stage and playing together. Overall, this set to me was a chance for me to relive my early days of discovering pop punk and bands that introduced me to the scene. I enjoyed the set and am excited to see what else The Summer Set releases now that they are back. 

Next up was Hot Mulligan. This band I have been slowly getting into over the last few months and was excited to see what they are like live. And just like every other act of the day, they were fantastic. They sounded amazing and had a great stage presence. They looked comfortable, had a great setlist of songs and kept the crowd engaged. They had lots of fans in the crowd and that added to the performance as you could hear them sing along to the songs that they loved. I always love seeing fans in the crowd when I am still new to a group because it just makes me want to listen to the band evenmore. Which I will definitely be doing after watching their set. 

Okay, the next band was State Champs and this set took me back to my junior and senior year of high school. A little back story, my first show after I started getting into the scene was Sleeping With Sirens in 2016 and one of the openers was State Champs. So, the nostalgic feelings were huge. If you like pop punk, then you know who State Champs is and you know they have some classic songs. They sang “Secrets”, “All You Are Is History”, “Criminal”, “Elevated”, “Mine is Gold” and more. 

This band is just high energy. They were crowd surfers, moshing, plenty of people (including me) screaming along to all of the lyrics. Screaming pop punk lyrics at the top of your lungs is one of the best feelings. It is like letting out all your built up anger, frustration and other emotions out and it is such a release. 

State Champs are one of the pop punk bands that I do not think I will ever get tired of seeing. They are consistent and energetic performers that know how to put on a fantastic set. Derek sounded great and every member was getting the crowd hyped. Ryan came over to our side and was screaming at us to get us excited and moving around and it was magical. I was like four rows from the barricade for their set and I could feel their energy. To make it even better, Ben Barlow from Neck Deep came out to sing ‘Everybody But You’ for the last song and my two favorite pop punk bands combined and it was a dream. 

Next up was Mayday Parade. And I wish I had more to say about their set. However, there was some people behind us causing some issues for the people around us so I was not able to completely focus during their set. However, what I did catch I enjoyed. I mean come on, they have been around for years and have so many classics. I went crazy during ‘Jamie All Over’ like you should. I was also two almost at the barricade by this time so I could feel the energy even more. I just wish I got to be fully immersed in their set. So, I just want to put out FYI, if you are in the pit, make sure to be aware of your surroundings, go to proper areas for moshing, and try to not get so drunk that you are spilling your drinks all over the strangers in front of you and have no idea what is going on. Or atleast, maybe move towards the edge so we can properly lift and catch the crowd surfers and enjoy the set. 

Waterparks were up next. And if you know me, you know Waterparks is my favorite band, so I was pumped. I was almost against the barricade and was ready to lose my mind. And they were amazing. Awsten was his usual sarcastic, energetic, and entertaining self. He put on a birthday sash, someone threw a doll head on stage and he kept it. He moved around the stage and got everyone involved. He turned us chanting “Otto” over and over into ‘Seven Nation Army’. He is just a fantastic front man. Geoff slayed the guitar and Otto killed the drums. 

They performed their new songs ‘FUNERAL GREY’, ‘SELF-SABOTAGE’ and the unreleased song ‘Brainwashed’. And I got to scream “I know your dying wish is to be baptized in my spit” at the top of my lungs and it even better than I thought it would be. I also got to hear ‘21 Questions’ live for the first time in over five years and I get just as emotional as I did when I was seventeen. Also, ‘Turbulent’ goes hard every single time. This band was made for live performances. They put their all in every single time and they just keep getting better and better. I cannot wait to see them again because I know it will be even better. 

Last up was Neck Deep. This is another band I have been following since I was a junior in high school and love seeing live. I actually saw them live for the first time officially in November 2021. I was supposed to see them in 2018, but that is a story for another time. Again, if you know pop punk, you know Neck Deep, or you should. Them and State Champs are too bands I highly recommend you start off with if you are trying to get into pop punk. They are from Wales and their music is fantastic, and lyrics that once again feel so good to scream at the top of your lungs in the pit. 

My friend and I moved to the edge of the pit for their set and we just went loose. We danced, screamed so loud and just lived in the moment. They sang a good variety of songs including ‘December’, ‘Kali Ma’, ‘Can’t Kick Up The Roots’ and ‘Citizens of Earth. They also played their new song ‘STFU’ and ended with ‘In Bloom’. Every member was moving around, interacting with the crowd and giving it their all. Their set was so much fun and the perfect way to end the day. We were probably tired, but you could not tell in that crowd. Everyone was hyped and ready to have the times of their lives to end the day. 

Their whole set was just high energy and bop after bop after bop. There was not a dull moment. I highly recommend Neck Deep if you have not checked them out yet. They are also an independent band now, so go show them some love.

Overall, Sad Summer Fest was an amazing day and one of my favorite shows I have been to in a long time. From start to finish I was moving, singing and just letting myself be me. Nothing beats the feeling of being in the pit and being surrounded by people who love the music like you do and just want to have a good time. I found some acts to check out, have some nostalgia and see some of my favorite bands. If you have not checked out any of the acts I mentioned, go give them a listen and show them some support. I will for sure be checking out Sad Summer Fest next year, and I hope some of you will too. 

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