So What?! Music Festival 2016 // QuickTrip Park - Grand Prairie, Dallas
Words and Photos by Justin Kunz
A warm and delicate sun beat over QuikTrip Park in Grand Prairie, TX as hundreds gathered in line, desperately waiting for the clock to strike 11:00AM. Many a long way from home, their patience was certainly tested as they retrieved their previously purchased paper tickets from the back zipper of their backpacks. 10:58AM hit, as facial expressions clearly revealed the sudden realization on everyone’s mind. The day has finally come. Today was March 19th, 2016. Day One of the ninth annual So What?! Music Festival.
Previously named South By So What, this music fest has been around since 2007 and has featured bands such as The Used, Bring Me The Horizon, Suicide Silence, Taking Back Sunday and Pierce The Veil. Formally a three-day event, this year’s two-day festival featured New Found Glory, Neck Deep, Underoath and Saosin as headliners with Bayside, The Devil Wears Prada, Real Friends, State Champs and many more as support.
As the festival gates opened, the crowd began pouring in, entering the venue like a pack of dogs attempting to fit through a single doggy door. Once in, the layout was speculated and examined by many passing guests: to the immediate right and left, merch tables. Lots and lots of merch tables. Follow the baseball stadium path through the seating area, make your way onto the field and you’ll notice the three stages set up to reflect 3-of-the-4 corners of the field’s diamond shape. Sponsor’s event tents outlined the area, passing out free Red Bulls, and providing advertisement information. One sponsor in particular stood out to anyone who passed by. Over near the second main stage, enclosed by a mobile building bigger than any other co sponsor’s, a vendor lingered, its shadow casting over the attendees nearby. With a familiar logo, the building read “Grizzly”, a chewing tobacco company with a long history in baseball. And while many festivals and music events chose Anti-smoking or anti-tobacco sponsors to advocate towards teens, So What decided to take the opposite route, choosing a sponsor who was openly advocating to a field of new potential customers. And while not in complete agreement with this decision, I came for the bands… not the sponsors.
As the crowds gathered tightly, Capture The Crown stole the first wave of the day, jumping in the crowd and performing, mic-in-hands amongst the fans. Later that night, Bayside took the stage and engaged the crowd as they shouted the lyrics to every song performed. Then, as the day became darker and the night began to kick in, Neck Deep closed out the second main stage with an unforgettable show. With the assistance of a suicide prevention speaker, who was invited to speak on stage in between songs, Neck Deep further pushed a message they’ve supported since their formation.
Day one of So What ended with New Found Glory, who struck the ultimate nostalgia vein with concert goers in their 20s and 30s, hard strumming the anthems of their youths and embracing crowd sing-a-longs. Their performance completely reissued the belief that they are not only the ultimate pop-punk band of the past and the present, but also the future. The strong stench of sweat lingered in the air as the concert-goers weakly made the stride to the parking lot to travel to their nightly hotels. Less than a 12 hour window now remained for ticket holders to retreat, rest, revitalize and revisit QuickTrip Park before day two began.
Day two started just as the previous day had. Long lines and heavy heats shortened everyone’s patience as the slow move through security thickened. Once in, crowds were reintroduced to the decor of merch tables and stages set around the complex. Gathering around Main Stage 1, the attendees stood in awe as Being As An Ocean began their performance. Vocalist Joel Quartuccio took his chance on the So What stage to prove the intensity of the bands live show, leaving his center stage post to jump in the middle of an active circle pit.
Later, as the indwelling brisk of night settled over the baseball field, Saosin took the stage. Armed with the trusting voice of original vocalist Anthony Green, the band slayed through hit after hit, embracing their emo roots with full force. After closing with “Seven Years”, the crowds cheers seemed to be laced with woe as a realization began to sink in: the festival was almost over. This sorrow was only short lived, as every person in attendance journeyed to the stage hosting the final performance of the night: Underoath. The empty stage lights dimmed as the crowd began to cheer uncontrollably. A quick intro welcomed the band onto the stage as they immediately broke out into their first track of the night, “Young And Aspiring”. The crowd became wild, leaving no line unsung, no song without cheer, and no moment left in silence. Finishing off their lengthy 19 song set with “Writing On The Walls”, Underoath happily consumed the last drops of energy from every attendee. As the set ended and the long festival finally came to a close, the energy deprived, weak and sweaty bodies made their final trip of QuikTrip Park. Long drives were ahead for some while others snagged near-by motels and prepared their journey home for tomorrow.
Festivals connect people from around the globe with a common interest. Successful festivals stand out as both extremely enjoyable, and immensely memorable. Though So What 2016 had its ups and its downs, I would undoubtedly deem it a massive success and not one to be missed by any of its featured genres’ fans. If you weren’t fortunate enough to attend March’s concert, though, you still may be luck! It was recently announced So What will be hosting a three-day festival this upcoming fall in Dallas, TX. The dates are set for Oct 21st to 23rd, and though no lineup has been officially released, you can purchase a blind presale three-day pass from Ticketfly.com for $80. If this upcoming fest is anything like their annual March event, it’s not one to skip.
DAY 1 (Photos)
Capture The Crown
Escape The Fate
New Found Glory
DAY 2 (Photos)
Chunk! No, Captain Chunk!
Dance Gavin Dance
Stray From The Path
I See Stars
The Word Alive
Words and Photos by Justin Kunz