Every street on the GPS is showing stand-still traffic as cars full of people from all over the east coast ease their way closer and closer to The Mann Center. It feels like the longest part of the drive into the city is waiting to park and the nervous excitement begins to build. Event parking is $25, but there's no doubt it'll be worth it when we don't have to walk a mile to our vehicle at the end of this long, hot, wonderfully exhausting day that still stands before us.
Doors open at 1:00 PM and, in a way that's reminiscent of The Warped Tour, the saddest summer ever begins with your favorite sad boys and sad girls meeting their fans outside of lined-up merch tents. It's already scorching outside, as the sun beats down on freshly sunscreened shoulders and people begin to take cover with the fan/shade tent while they wait for the first band to take the stage. In true pop-punk fashion, seeing someone dressed in black is unsurprising, however, this event also features fifty shades of pink.
Sad Summer Festival is one of many touring festivals that popped up after the iconic Warped Tour announced its end last year. Organized and arranged entirely by 8123, the goal was to create an all-inclusive environment for all the kids who find their home within the crowd of a show for their favorite band. For The Maine, Mayday Parade, and State Champs, as bands who often express their desire for their shows to act as a safe space for their fans, it only made sense for them to come together as the main headlining bands performing at every show (The Wonder Years appeared as the fourth headlining band for majority of the tour as well).
The tour also featured smaller, opening bands like Mom Jeans, Stand Atlantic, and Just Friends at a majority of the shows. Individual dates saw special guests like Four Year Strong, Grayscale, Emo Nite, Forever the Sickest Kids, and Every Avenue. Featuring certain bands at specific dates resulted in fans traveling across the country to see their favorites in person, rather than living vicariously through photos and videos.
With a marketing pack stocked full of fun, bubblegum pink everything, fans quickly jumped on board for this sad summer of pink. Arriving at the venue, they were met with pink photo op backdrops featuring popular summer-themed lyrics from each of the headlining bands, as well as mock barbie doll packaging labeled “Sad Summer Toy Company **tears and angst sold separately.” People, of all ages, lined up to partake in the fun and grab a picture with their friends and inflatable summer props. With a line of merch tents to one side, food trucks to another, and a bar tent as well as a cool-down tent, there were ample places for people to mingle and wander throughout the day. Much like Warped Tour, Sad Summer Festival allowed attendees to bring reusable water bottles and offered a hydration station for them to refill in order to remain hydrated throughout the event without repeatedly paying $4 for a bottle of water.
With performances starting around 2:00 PM and the line-up shifting slightly every day, the entire event really did function like a mini Warped Tour, without the excessive running between all the different stages. It’s set-up to be inclusive and feel-good for everyone, and the vast range of attendees is proof that it was successful in its mission. Just walking into the front gates is enough to land you at least a couple new friends. It’s the start of a summer tradition. One that, in time, may even fill the cross-country-Warped-Tour sized holes in our hearts. Even if it doesn’t go on to be quite as big and new little festivals continue popping up all throughout the scene to try and take over summer touring, it’s incredible to be part of and witness the very beginning of something that will, no doubt, be a staple within the old and new generations of pop punk kids everywhere.