So What?! Music Festival 2016

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March 19th and 20th myself and thousands of fans from around the world made our mecca to Grand Prairie, Texas for the 9th Annual So What?! Music Festival.  So What?! is well known for its heavy hitting and fan driven line up! This year Third String Productions has done more than out done themselves. In years past I have said that I didn’t know how they would top the years prior, but this year… this year has set the bar with headliners like New Found Glory, Neck Deep, Saosin with Anthony Green, and Underoath! Another thing this festival is infamous for is getting a decent amount of rain. To my pleasant surprise the weather allowed us to have a chilly but dry weekend of fun.

Day One definitely geared towards the pop punk fans in us all.  came out of the gate strong, with featured sets like Slaves, Real Friends, Myka Relocate, Knuckle Puck and headliners, Neck Deep. Some of the most memorable sets I caught day one: Sirens and Sailors. The band all around owned the stage with a powerful stage presence, aggressive vocals delivered by Kyle, and amazing crowd interaction. This set is what we all hope for when as a fan when you go to see your favorite band. This Wild Life. Definitely played all the crowd favorites with moments where the crowd’s singing rivaled with Kevin’s vocals making for a fun set.  Have Mercy. For being a band with such a sad demeanor, they had a very uplifting and powerful stage presence. Speaking on behalf of myself and possibly everyone else, I was most impressed with their flawless performance of their song “Let’s Talk About Your Hair.” Hotel Books. This set was different than sets I’ve seen come out of them as of late. It was like taking a trip back in time to when Hotel Books first hit the scene: Acoustic and emotional. Cam Smith (vocalist) spent most of the set with the fans (making for a true Hotel Books experience) bringing himself and most of the crowd to tears.

Day Two had some high expectations to live up to. Not only did it have to compete with Day One but it also had two headliners no one ever thought they would see with on stage again… Let alone together. But I’ll get to that later, for now let’s talk about the featured sets. Just to name a few Cruel Hand, Chunk! No Captain Chunk!, Silent Planet, Being as an Ocean, and Oh Sleeper. A few sets worth talking about: Unity TX. Jay Webster, who when speaking to the crowd, knows no filter and tells it how it is always moves a crowd. Opening their set with a fan favorite “Wigsplit” followed by yet another favorite “J.A.P.A.N.” definitely got the crowd pumped and set the pace for the rest of the day. Left Behind held nothing back with a new life I had never seen on the stage with them before. The passion flowed. With the guys playing, not only the songs fans all know and love, but also songs of their new E.P. Seeing Hell they definitely kept my head bobbing and kept not one soul still until the last note rang out. Ghost Key. They spoke of the little world we create in our music scene where we can connect and make friends, and how we are truly never alone, and how suicide crosses many people’s minds but it’s never the answer. These strong words were supported by an even stronger performance that made us all happy, angry, sad, and loved… all at the same time.

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To add the cherry on top of the already killer So What?! Festival, Saosin with Anthony Green and Underoath graced us with their flawless performances that left us all in awe. Saosin took the stage with the mystical presence that we had all been waiting for. The conditions that night were truly perfect. Something is absolutely enchanting about watching Saosin fronted by Anthony Green outside under the full moon, enchanting enough that even Anthony made a commented about it. Over the next couple hours we laughed, we cried, and were truly moved by what we were witnessing together. The only thing that could of pushed this set from perfect to legendary was the lack of one song. Sadly, “Show Me Yo’ Bootyhole” was not in the set list for the night. Next on this emotional roller coaster was Underoath. The set list consisted of performing albums, They’re Only Chasing Safety and Define The Great Line in their entirety. I’ll admit, I had my concerns about how well Spencer Chamberlin’s vocals would hold up with the band playing two albums in their entirety, however he proved me wrong. He by all means made me eat my words by performing each song not only with the same amount of vigorous soul as the last, but also owning the stage like no other. The crowd was absolutely bonkers putting everything they had left in them after this two day festival to sing along and have just as much spirit as the band. With the crowds participation and the way the band carried themselves, it was almost as if they had never left it in 2013. Spencer even talked shorty about the past and the band’s breakup. He even commented on our drive as fans being the reason why they are back. He said it was the constant Tweets, Instagram posts, Facebook tags with fans begging and pleading to see Underoath together again that persuaded the band back to the stage. So if you were one of those fans, pat yourself on the back, we owe this all to you.

This years So What?! Music Festival was definitely one of those “DO NOT MISS” music lineups. All of the bands were beyond impressive and left myself and thousands of others in attendance in total awe. Now, now, it’s OK, don’t cry too hard if you missed this year. You can always join us next year in Grand Prairie, Texas for the 10th Annual So What?! Music Festival.

Now comes the most difficult part. Waiting for next year to see how Third String Productions tops themselves yet again.

 

Check out our Interview with Sirens and Sailors!

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All photographs copyright Ryan Pollack Photography.
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