Young Acts Set the Tone During So What?! Festival in Deep Ellum

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This weekend people flocked to the born-again So What?! Music Festival in Deep Ellum. Pop-punk veterans like Hawthorne Heights and Dance Gavin Dance headlined the festival, as well as metal acts like Hatebreed and DevilDriver. But the real draw was the artists who held down the fort leading up to their arrival; those aspiring local and national artists who may form the next generation of pop-punk and post-hardcore bands.

You would be hard pressed to convince anyone in attendance at the festival that the days of pop-punk have passed. Friday’s lineup included veterans like Avien Row and Aaron Gillespie, and they absolutely delivered. However, despite their dedication to their craft, it's no longer their role to focus on the health of their scene. Luckily, younger bands here seem eager to take up the mantle and injected fresh energy into the festival. 

The Colorado band Head Injuries brought their sensible, straightforward brand of purist pop-punk to the stage at Club Dada. They satiated the appetites of festival goers early in the day, setting the tone for the rest of the weekend.

Saturday was easily the most densely populated day for the festival, with loyalists flocking to Deep Ellum to see paragons of nostalgia, Dance Gavin Dance and Hawthorne Heights. Once again, the onus of entertainment fell upon the opening bands, who occupied a significant portion of the schedule that evening.

DFW-based post-hardcore band Fever Youth made the most of their time on stage at Three Links, reinvigorating a tired genre with roiling and intense composition. Frontman Bradey Bates transitioned seamlessly between and clean and unclean vocals in a way that evades the cliches that has mired the genre for the better part of a decade. This produced a tangible energy that hung in the air, catalyzing dynamic performances from the bands that followed them. Austin-based Nominee successfully engaged a hungry crowd until finally Hawthorne Heights stepped forward to indulge those reminiscing on simpler times, with their breakout hit “Ohio Is For Lovers.” 

Sunday, however, drew out a very different crowd. Hidden among the headliners was Foxing, exemplars of the most recent wave of emo music. Alongside them was Mercury Girls, and Balance & Composure. They offered a brief respite of angsty, scream-riddled song writing from an earlier time, offering instead tighter, more introspective lyrics, and more experimental tones, which included fleeting but impressive moments of both trumpets and strings. They managed to fill out a comparatively sparse Club Dada, with passionate young fans singing along with fervor, proving to be the logical next step in the evolution of emo music.

Amidst all the fervor, luminaries of Dallas’ hip-hop community converged on Liquid Lounge adding much needed diversity to a somewhat homogeneous line-up. Acts like Blue, the Misfit and Sam Lao demonstrated to locals and tourists alike that Dallas has more to offer than what initially meets the eye, rounding out each evening with sets that injected a bit more light-hearted, party oriented aesthetics into a show that would otherwise not be present amongst bands that are quite possibly completely unfamiliar with the concept of fun in the traditional sense.

Deep Ellum offered a comfortable environment rife with food and drinks, that exposed people to many local business, while allowing festival goers to navigate freely through the venues. The division of stages kept crowd sizes at a manageable and comfortable level, without seeming barren or under crowded. Set times were executed faithfully, and no show was more than 15 minutes off schedule, saving countless constituents from musical purgatory. 

If one venue began to lull, there was another vibrant one just steps away. Should this be the model that Third String implements in the future, it goes without saying that this evolution was for the best, keeping things fresh for both veterans and newcomers alike.

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