As all former emo middle schoolers know, the territory came with a set of mostly embarrassing rites of passage: having a tantrum in your local Hot Topic when parents wouldn’t buy yet another Avenged Sevenfold t-shirt, cutting lopsided bangs, crying in the middle school cafeteria when My Chemical Romance broke up. However, a true mark of the emo experience was Vans Warped Tour, a traveling summer music festival that birthed rock and punk legends like Paramore, Dropkick Murphys, Blink–182, and oddly enough, Katy Perry. 

Chances are Warped Tour was also the first time you went anywhere without parental supervision, made out with a stranger, or crowd–surfed. Warped Tour invokes a sense of messy nostalgia, which is why when Kevin Lyman, the festival’s creator, announced it would no longer tour after 2018, a gaping hole was left in the music industry.

That is, until Sad Summer Festival announced its lineup. Featuring bands that grew up in the shadows of Warped Tour, Sad Summer Fest will kick off its first trip across the country this summer in Dallas, with stops in Philadelphia, New York City, and the Jersey Shore. It features a line–up reminiscent of emo’s heyday, with bands like The Wonder Years and Mayday Parade moshing their way into each city. Expect the songs you used to blast on the bus ride home from school, like “Came out Swinging” and “Three Cheers For Five Years,” to hit you differently, imbued with the energy of summer air and a sweaty crowd. 

However, Sad Summer Fest isn’t here just to help us reminisce—its true goal is to create, celebrating the emergent talent that keeps punk music kicking. State Champs, the festival’s headliner and Penn alum Hoodie Allen’s closest friends, is a punk band with a pop finish, having toured with All Time Low and 5 Seconds of Summer. Meanwhile Mom Jeans., another touring band, melds pop–punk with the kind of causal guitar riffs that ooze from a Mac Demarco song. With acts like these, Sad Summer Fest predicts what the future of emo looks like—it’s an experience and a feeling, not just a sound. 

This festival comes at a time where emo, as much as it would hate to be, is trendy. At press time, My Chemical Romance’s Three Cheers For Sweet Revenge charts in the Billboard Hot 100 for the first time in 15 years, positioning itself next to a Chainsmokers album. Emo Nite, a touring party that pairs Jimmy Eat World and company with the likes of Fetty Wap, has attracted a cult following of reformed emo kids. 

The Wonder Years in Bristol, 2018 (Photo by Jonjonohny1 // CC by 2.0)

Self deprecating humor peppers our Twitter feeds and secret Instagrams, where we expose our flaws with the precision of a Death Cab for Cutie song. Before, emo was jarring. The notion that we should be honest about the underbelly of life, where we never get over that one breakup, broke ground. Now, it’s common place.

With this in mind, some may call Sad Summer Fest a fad, a lame attempt from a now–fringe genre to lasso in its core fanbase—“misunderstood” suburban middle schoolers. Others may view it as a tribute to the late, debatably great Warped Tour, indoctrinating youth into a culture that stays with you as you grow up and still rock out to "Thnks Fr Th Mmrs" in secret. Either way, Sad Summer Fest promises to be riddled with nostalgia, hope, and most of all, a tasteful amount of sadness.


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