Saturday, May 18, 2024

Sad Summer Festival aims to cheer up emo fans as it wraps in Irvine

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When the summer long Vans Warped Tour officially stopped crisscrossing the country in 2018 with its lineup of dozens of punk, emo, screamo, pop punk and hip-hop artists, fans were left feeling a bit melancholy.

And it wasn’t just the fans.

The bands were also feeling like something was missing as Warped Tour had served as a staple in the lives of so many since it started in 1995 and wrapped in 2019 with just a trio of events taking place to commemorate its 25th anniversary. The event also fostered a tight-knit community of artists that would go on to collaborate in the studio or on tour with one another after having met on Warped Tour.

Members of emo acts like The Maine and Mayday Parade were so bummed out that they decided to do something about it and in 2019 helped launch the Sad Summer Festival. Even the name of the festival tour, which has grown to take over lager outdoor spaces and amphitheaters across the country, came from The Maine’s John O’Callaghan quipping that without Warped Tour it was going to be a “sad summer.”

  • Andrew McMahon will perform as a special guest at Sad...

    Andrew McMahon will perform as a special guest at Sad Summer Fest hosted at the FivePoint Amphitheatre in Irvine on Saturday, July 29. (Photo by Lindsey Byrnes)

  • Taking Back Sunday will perform at Sad Summer Fest hosted...

    Taking Back Sunday will perform at Sad Summer Fest hosted at the FivePoint Amphitheatre in Irvine on Saturday, July 29. (Photo by Jacob Moniz)

  • PVRIS will perform at Sad Summer Fest hosted at the...

    PVRIS will perform at Sad Summer Fest hosted at the FivePoint Amphitheatre in Irvine on Saturday, July 29. (Photo by Jacob Moniz)

  • The Maine will perform at Sad Summer Fest hosted at...

    The Maine will perform at Sad Summer Fest hosted at the FivePoint Amphitheatre in Irvine on Saturday, July 29. (Photo by Jacob Moniz)

“That just clicked into place and sounded like a kind of a mix of catchy, funny, tongue-in-cheek, and it just felt like, ‘Alright, that’s our name,’” festival co-founder Mike Marquis said during a recent Zoom interview. The fourth edition of the festival kicked off with headliners Taking Back Sunday in early July and wraps on Saturday, July 29 at FivePoint Amphitheatre in Irvine. Other performers on this final stop include The Maine, Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness, PVRIS and Hot Mulligan.

“It’s cool that over the last couple of years, so many people have flooded back in with a new interest in this scene,” Marquis said of the once again rising popularity of emo rock music with highlights being the return of My Chemical Romance, who sold out five nights at Kia Forum last October, and the booming success of the L.A.-born Emo Nite events.

“When we first had the idea, it was the first time there was really no Warped Tour, and it was like, let’s put something cool together in the summer to do outdoors and package together a few bands to try to do something a little more ambitious,” he continued. “It was definitely not our goal to try to do something to fill the shoes of Warped Tour. If anything, it was a nice inspiration because Kevin (Lyman, Warped Tour founder) built that to be such an incredible beast, but we never wanted it to be like the Warped Tour. It was just that there was a void to do something in the summer because it wasn’t around any longer.”

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Among the contrasts to the multi-stage Warped Tour, Sad Summer has only a handful of bands who perform on one stage. Marquis said they wanted to keep it light, so fans don’t have to pick between performers. The more intimate experience also allows smaller acts to get in front of an audience without any competition.

“These bands in the pop punk and emo scene traditionally don’t get a ton of love on big box multi-genre festivals,” he said. “You don’t see them often in places like Coachella, Lollapalooza or Bonnaroo. Every now and then, you’ll see one, but for the most part, that’s not really where they thrive.”

Andrew McMahon, who has performed at festivals of all sizes and genres, including Warped Tour, with his projects Jack’s Mannequin, Something Corporate and Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness, said he was ready to share the stage with friends at Sad Summer Fest in Irvine.

“There’s definitely a nostalgia at play that I feel like is going to make for a really great show, especially in Southern California, where my first bands really got their foothold,” McMahon said in a recent phone interview.

The singer-songwriter said he works every day on the setlists for his shows to include a variety of his work. The setlist now features songs off of his latest studio album, “Tilt at the Wind No More.”

“Coming out of the difficult last few years, I’ve certainly seen a huge uptick in craving for music that people grew up with, and to get a handful of those asked in one place, it’s a galvanizing force that brings out a lot of people who probably aren’t going to shows as much as they used to,” McMahon said. “You give them a little slice of where they came from and the songs that were the soundtrack of their lives, and that’s great for any festival environment.”

While it’s too soon to reveal what’s to come for the fifth edition of the festival in 2024, as this scene continues to grow it shouldn’t be difficult to pull a solid lineup together as Marquis notes these bands have appreciated the sense of community Sad Summer provides.

“It feels like since the pandemic, there’s not only been a resurgence in emo and pop punk spaces, but also a resurgence in people’s appreciation for musicians as a whole,” Marquis said. “The biggest show of support in the world for artists is when fans support ticket sales for shows and festivals and buy merchandise. That is always the most important and direct support fans can offer to the artists they love. Supporting these kinds of ventures is keeping the music alive and keeping it vibrant.”

Sad Summer Festival

Where: FivePoint Amphitheatre, 14800 Chinon, Irvine

When: 2 p.m. Saturday, July 29

Tickets: General admission starts at $33.50, and VIP seating starts at $125.00 at livenation.com.

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