2016 was So What?! Music Festivals 9th annual run. Even through a name change from the previous years, the festival continued to grow in size and in popularity. There was a ton of hype behind this years festival, pulling lots of throwback nostalgia bands from the works including the beloved, New Found Glory, Emery, Bayside, Saosin (featuring Anthony Green) and festival headliners, Underøath.
For what seemed like the first year in a long time, the weather was ideal for a festival, clear skies, no rain, and not too warm. Kids were lining up around the baseball fields, eager to enter the venue to catch bands even early on in Day One. Bonfires, all the way from Chicago, IL was one of the earlier bands to play and started off the day right, bringing in big energy from the crowd.
As the day continued on and the crowds rolled in, it was clear that this festival has really taken off, and has become a destination festival in the scene. I started talking with fans from as far as New York and Maine who had driven over 20 hours to see some of their favorite bands play all in one place. Not only was it a destination festival for fans, Capture the Crown from Australia pulled a large crowd during their afternoon set which continued on into The Plot in You’s set directly after. The crowds were unceasing in their growth as day one got to larger ticket bands like Knuckle Puck, Blessthefall, and Real Friends. With pop punk arguably having some of the most dedicated fans, Illinois band, Real Friends pulled the largest crowd of the day so far. Fans in the crowd screamed their lungs out to every song and the band delivered an amazing performance, playing a solid amount of each songs from their discography.
With day one of the fest coming to a close, the headliners started kicking off their sets. State Champs’ 40 minute set was unparalleled to any other, filled with life and lots of crowd surfing, while the band delivered a truly special set for their fans. Bayside followed and the crowd migrated to their stage. The now 16-year-old band brought out one of the best sets of night. Playing songs from their early touring days, including “Devotion and Desire” and “Montauk,” fans of all ages gathered around and screamed the words that pierced their nostalgic heart. At the same time, the band didn’t abandon their newfound fans with music from their most recent album Cult. Following Bayside’s set was Neck Deep. Neck Deep made certain they played songs from each of their albums, saving the best songs for last such as “Head to the Ground,” “December,” and “Can’t Kick Up the Roots.” Fans of the band went wild throughout the set, opening up pits, crowd surfing, and screaming their angst-filled lyrics.
Closing out day one were the “god fathers of pop-punk,” New Found Glory. Despite being one of the well-seasoned touring bands on the bill, New Found Glory was the most kinetic band of the night. Sure to never disappoint, the near 20-year-old band ran around the stage, engaging all their fans, young and old. Playing songs from every stage of their history, the band proved you’re never too old for music (or festivals.) A true treat to end day one of So What?!, the band had unfaltering energy and delivered the most invigorating performance of the night.
Day Two of So What Fest kicked off just before new as people were still arriving at the venue lining up at Quicktrip Park’s entry gates. Ghost Key, hardcore band from Peoria, IL, was one of the first bands to play the Main Stage. They played with incredible enthusiasm, and the early day crowd was lively in return.
Midday must-sees, Being as An Ocean, delivered an unmatchably emotional performance as always. Emarosa, who has always given unbelievable performances that keep fans on edge during the whole set. Bradley Walden has an incredible stage presence. The beautiful vocals, powerful instrumentals, and near-acrobatic performance brings to question how you could possibly over look this band. Born of Osiris carried the largest crowd of the day when they hit the stage. It was no surprise, due to the bands twelve years of touring that they’ve gained quite the fanbase over that time.
Final day of So What?! came to a close and Dance Gavin Dance got the headliners underway playing songs from Instant Gratification and Acceptance Speech as well as a surprising song from the bands self-titled, which was released in 2008. Old fans of the band were glad to hear the throwback song, during a new album saturated setlist. Silverstein played played a good mix of their new with the old starting with Smile in Your Sleep through to Massachusetts, In the Dark, and with a short pause before the final song to speak out as a Canadian based band against Presidential Candidate, Donald Trump. After the short speech, the band played a Propaghandi song “Fuck the Border”, before finishing their set with crowd favorite, My Heroine.
Ohio bands took the stage to headline Day Two of the festival. Columbus born band, Beartooth, played a packed set from their debut album, Disgusting. A clear attendee favorite, the crowd went wild their whole set as copious amounts of crowd surfers found their way to the front of the barricade, the band fed off their energy and gave one of the best performances of the festival. Following Beartooth was Dayton raised band, The Devil Wears Prada. This ten years of experience under their belt, the band drew an enormous crowd on the main stage. With the help of stage lights and an amazing crowd, TDWP kicked it up a notch as we got to the final bands. Starting with a couple songs from their newest album, they eased into the set before getting into the 2007/09 throwback jams of “Hey John, Whats Your Name Again?” and “Danger: Wildman”. However the band pushed most of their newest EP during the set playing 5/6 of the songs that are on it; likely to show that they have grown up even more from their sound in their album Dead Throne and With Roots Above and Branches Below. The band exited after playing a highly anticipated “Mammoth” with a final crowd call. Even after all these years TDWP has a dedicated fan base and continues to surprise their followers with their newest music.
During Day Two if you asked almost any of the attendees who they were most excited to see you would get the answer of Saosin or Underoath. So What Fest did an incredible job getting the headliners that they did. Seeing Anthony Green perform with Saosin was truly an experience. Die hard Green fans have been asking for a reunion of the band with Green since he had left in 2004. Although they had done a couple one off performances since the announcement of the reunion in 2014, for most people this was the first time seeing him perform with the band since the departure. The band kicked off their set with a song that would be released as a single to introduce their new music called “Racing Toward a Red Light”. The crowd was elated to hear new music from the band after so many years. Anthony Green has one of the most interesting stage presences when he performs. You can truly see the music flow through him as they play through the set.They played “Translating The Name” in its entirety for the fans of So What?! as well as playing some more unexpected tracks, like a full band version of “Mookie’s Last Christmas” which was originally recorded on a charity Christmas compilation album, A Santa Cause: It’s A Punk Rock Christmas. Also playing “I Can Tell There Was An Accident Here Earlier” from a Music on the Brain compilation album, originally recorded with the bands second vocalist, Cove Reber. Coming full circle, Saosin also played another new song “The Silver String” which was also released as a single soon after the festival. Finishing out the set with one of the bands most popular songs, Seven Years the crowd was in a state of nostalgia like no other. Truly a beautiful performance, and so heart warming to see something like this after so many years. The band seemed like they felt good to be back together, and they gave the crowd exactly what they demanded for so long.
The most anticipated band of the night, Underøath was headlining the festival. Going immediately into “Young and Aspiring” the band wasted no time playing hit after hit after hit. The light performance was one you had to see for yourself, Underoath showed their faces to many people for the first time since they had left in March of 2013. When Underøath left, fans remained constantly asking for a reunion. After all, Underøath is arguably the most influential band in the scene of music. Playing their largest hit, “A Boy Brushed Red…” the crowd exploded. They paused to talk to the crowd momentarily about their decision to come back and continue touring because of an unwavering fan base, and the crowd roared back with cheers of excitement about the return. They played completely through their biggest album, “They’re Only Chasing Safety” as you looked around the venue, not a single person didnt have their eyes locked on the incredible performance taking place in front of them. With “The Blue Note” being played, anticipation built as fans waited for “It’s Dangerous Business Walking Out Your Front Door” and continuing through the album that fans fell in love with over ten years ago. After finishing the 10 songs from TOCS, the band also played almost completely through Define The Great Line, and ended with the ever popular “Writing on the Walls” to close out another great festival weekend.
Time and time again So What?! Music Festival puts on an amazing festival, and the work that is put into it truly is so worth seeing and being a priority in your music festival “Must-See’s”.