On March 14, 2014, my generation (the millennial generation) in Dallas returned to high school for Third String Productions’s South By So What?! music festival in Grand Prairie, Texas. With headliners The Used and Taking Back Sunday, it was hard to resist the thought of attending Friday’s festival date of the weekend extravaganza. Due to a combination of SXSW exhaustion and my personal distaste for spending an entire day at a festival of this genre, I arrived later than most, though photographs will prove the winding lines of fans more than prepared to enjoy everything the day had to offer.
Sadly I was too late to catch my favorite Bryce Gilbertson, but the one-two punch of Mike Mains & The Branches and From Indian Lakes was plenty satisfying. Mike Mains was captivating, proving why the indie group is one of the quickest rising acts of 2014 with their new album Calm Down Everything Is Fine, and deservedly so. While not necessarily the usual SBSW attendee’s standard cup of tea, the performance certainly caused new taste buds to salivate.
If Mike Mains & The Branches was a new addition to taste, From Indian Lakes took that taste and blew it out of proportion into a buffet. The Yosemite Valley natives have mastered their art, and their flawless performance, early as it was, was the best of the debut day. As mentioned by many and as beaten to death as the horse of the Queen-Foxy Shazam comparison, From Indian Lakes brought forth many memories of As Cities Burn’s serenades, and the symphonies conjured were anything but lullabies. The band is a must see, for all.
He Is Legend’s return was easily predictable, and so was their performance quality. Schuylar Croom may not be the most conventional on CD or wax, but this becomes the greatest strength of the vocalist in live shows. The band proved their influence on southern rock and roll music, assaulting the audience with simple and complex rhythms alike, and preparing our minds for what cannot possibly be prepared for: their new album, to be the first in 5 years. Welcome home.
Taking Back Sunday sent shockwaves through the internet when they announced that their tour for new album Happiness Is… would be a co-headliner with veterans The Used. Accompanied on some dates by Tonight Alive and Spencer Chamberlain brainchild Sleepwave, the tour reached 35 different cities across the United States and was the nucleus of the South By So What?! Day 1 lineup. As expected, it created high anticipation for the aforementioned festival, which was also the opening date of the hydra headlined tour. As a result, the other acts had a lot to live up to and were demanded to deliver magnum opus performances to keep up with the tour package.
It feels as if we all blinked and Taking Back Sunday was six albums deep. Performing off the strength of their newest release, Happiness Is, Taking Back Sunday made sure no one went home disappointed, playing cuts all across the board, from 2002’s Tell All Your Friends to 2014. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who felt like I was opening a time capsule, thinking of all the experiences throughout those years, the scenery that surrounded me, and how the music was the soundtrack to it all. The performance was memorable for the sake of the memories conjured before it, and sorry Brand New, but at South By So What?!, mics were for swinging. Adam Lazzara owns every stage he touches, and Grand Prairie’s QuikTrip Park was no exception.
I left before The Used because of personal taste, but the festival was absolutely money well spent. The acts mentioned were highlights in a festival that was littered with more of the usual, and said acts are the kind of moves that have helped propel South By So What?! into a much larger spotlight than its humble Plano Centre beginnings. Although the later days would be superseded in conversation by weather issues, South By So What?! is on its way up, and hopefully the momentum will be ridden to its full potential in time for 2015.Words by Dustin Harkins