By Chyrisse Tabone, Rock At Night Tampa
Live Review: Sad Summer Festival – The Sound, Clearwater, Florida – July 7, 2023
For those missing the Vans Warped Tour days (the last year was 2018), we are so lucky to have the Sad Summer Fest. Starting in 2019, the fest has become the anticipated festival. Promoted by Journeys and Converse, it has the same vibe—and a lot of the same players—who graced the Vans Warped stages during the years.
On Friday, July 7th the Sad Summer Fest hit Clearwater, Florida at the recently opened venue the Sound. Having attended many Warped Tours, it certainly had the same feel, but was pared down with only one stage. The usual hot and steamy weather felt familiar—as did the 20-something crowd. Many of the concert attendees dressed for the weather, wearing underwear as outerwear, midriffs, and shorts making it almost a “beachy” feel.
In fact, watching the attendees was almost as enjoyable as the concerts. I have found a good way to gauge the crowd is by observing their attire and t-shirt messages. Of course, there was the obligatory black attire, fishnet stockings, piercings, and ear gauges. Many wore t-shirts bearing the names and logos of bands that were staples at the Warped Tours, like the Interrupters and Anti-flag. There were lots with emo-related slogans (“Emos 4 Jesus”) and suggestive ones (“Show me your kitties”). And, possibly the best slogan (“Fuck love, make money”) describes the feel of today’s post-Covid youth.
The festival began at 2 p.m. but I was lucky to catch the pop-punk band Mom Jeans after 3 p.m. They played at the Download Festival in the UK, which is quite an honor, and even toured Australia last Spring. Hailing from California, the lead singer Eric Butler remarked that he has family in the area. The band played an enjoyable set and you can’t go wrong with songs like “White Trash Millionaire.”
Kicking back, it was feeling like a Warped Tour redux—but so much more comfortable. The Sound was covered, we had chairs to sit on, and there was a slight breeze where I was sitting. A perfect Friday afternoon.
Things heated up with Michigan-based band Hot Mulligan, as lead singer Nathan “Tades” Sanville belted out lyrics while hiding behind his long hair. Oh, so emo! The fans head-banged and raised arms to songs like “Shhhh Golf Is On” and “How Do You Know It’s Not Armadillo Shells?” All we needed were some beach balls to toss in the air. At the end of the set, Sanville deadpanned, “I heard DeSantis is gay!” A roar of laughter soon followed.
Possibly my favorite band of the festival was the supergroup L.S. Dunes. The band consists of Anthony Green (Circa Survive, The Sounds of Animals Fighting, Frank Iero (My Chemical Romance), Travis Stever (Coheed & Cambria), Tim Payne, and Tucker Rule (Thursday). Green was sweating and impressively belting out tunes like “Bombsquad” and “Benadryl Subreddit” before he quipped, “I swear I saw a gay dude. I think I lost him in the crowd.” Florida has become the laughing stock of the nation due to the strict laws regarding LGBTQ+ rights and the banning of books.
Green said, “I don’t know if I can continue. I need orange juice or a cookie or something.” Apparently, his blood sugar was low. I had noticed during a song he stopped to check his pulse on his neck. Nevertheless, he showed much professionalism and continued the set—which totally rocked. He ended the set saying, “Thanks for being a part of our journey.”
Next up, was a highly anticipated band PVRIS, which features talented singer/songwriter Lynn Gunn. In fact, I asked the girl sitting next to me which band she really wanted to see and she replied, “I can’t wait to see PVRIS!” Singing with the mic and later picking up the guitar and singing, Gunn blew away the crowd with her brand of danceable synth-pop music.
By 6:30 p.m. the venue was filled to capacity—especially with “mature” fans of 90s emo showing up after work. At 7:30 p.m. one of my favs’ the Maine (sorry, I couldn’t stay for Taking Back Sunday) hit the stage as the sun was setting. The colored spotlights were turned on and the stage was thick with smoke. A special treat was seeing Adam Lazzara of Taking Back Sunday sing “Loved You a Little” with the Maine. The dude was wearing a fly rust-colored suit and was probably dying from the heat (but he certainly looked good).
Overall, the Sad Summer Festival was really enjoyable at the Sound venue. Like Warped Tour, the sets were punctual, the crowd was friendly and very responsive to the music. I truly hope they come back to this area next summer. If they come to your area, make a point to go and re-live the Warped Tour days.
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