Emo rock music or emocore took hold in the 1980s in Washington, D.C., where the scene was very DIY due to the nonexistence of record labels to nurture the genre. With no one formally pushing the music beyond the boundaries of the performance venues, bands had to design and advertise their shows and cultivate their own fan bases.
Three decades later, emo rock bands have parlayed that DIY spirit into the national Sad Summer Festival. Started by The Maine, the tour that makes its final stop in Anaheim on Saturday–something that never would have come to fruition had the band not formed the 8123 independent record label, according to members. The Maine’s players claim the label has allowed them to mature their sound.
“We have that freedom to do what we want to do creatively, and that’s how tours like this come into fruition,” says Jared Monaco, The Maine’s lead guitarist. “It was a crazy idea that we were able to turn into reality.”
Sad Summer Festival and several of the well-known musical groups on the lineup–such as Mayday Parade, State Champs and The Wonder Years–have partnered with 17 non-profit initiatives to bring emo rock music to multiple locations throughout the country. Others on the bill that includes those bands and The Maine include: Mom Jeans, Stand Atlantic, Just Friends, and L.I.F.T.
Multiple bands have been part of the festival tour that began July 5 in Dallas and hit 16 other cities before coming to Orange County. Bands that have played include Four Years Strong, Set It Off, Forever the Sickest Kids, Emo Night, Every Avenue, GrayScale, Jetty Bones, Ashland, the Worriers, Shortly and Oh Weather.
Stop 17, the only one in California and the final performance on the tour, begins at 2 p.m. (with gates opening an hour earlier) outdoors at City National Grove of Anaheim. The Maine, Mayday Parade, State Champs, Mom Jeans, Stand Atlantic and Just Friends are all scheduled to perform 45-minute sets in the show from the Nederlander and Chain Reaction collaboration.
Many performers are excited to be in California for the last show.
“It’s just going to be a culmination of music from the entire tour,” Monaco says. “We are excited to close it out and play in Anaheim. We are just excited to be in that California weather and play at one of our favorite venues.”
Each Sad Summer Festival headliner has released new music in the past two years. For instance, State Champs, which launched in 2010, released their third studio album, Living Proof, in 2018, and in February the band unveiled a new music video for the song “Criminal.”
Mayday Parade released their sixth studio album, Sunnyland, on Fearless Records in 2018. The collection offers a mix of both new arrangements and well-known emo rock the band has delivered since forming in 2005 in Tallahassee, Florida. This is a change from the band’s previous album Black Lines, which featured an entirely new sound.
“[Our fifth studio album] Black Lines was something where we all kind of wanted to push the envelope in that direction,” explains guitarist Brooks Betts. “That’s maybe the music that we were into at the time. The album has a darker feel to it, and it has ’90s vibes. But [with Sunnyland] we were not trying to alienate our fans [from what they loved] ,and we felt we just expanded our range and our envelope with our music.”
The Maine, which launched in 2007 in Tempe, Arizona, released their seventh studio album, You Are Okay, on their 8123 label in 2018–with their signature sound backed by grand orchestral arrangements.
“I think that we are always trying to find that new element that maybe puts us outside of our comfort zone and on this record, it definitely took a while to figure it out,” Monaco said. “It actually did end up having real strings perform on the record for the orchestral vibe and it honestly, like most things, kind of happened as an accident.”
With a sound that has grown and changed like their members, The Maine has noticed they now draw young and old fans. “I just love the fact that they have this ability to come together because they have common interests and that has landed itself to a lot of returning fans,” Monaco said. “As we branch out and play tours where people are supporting bands, we pull in new fans.”
As Betts put it: “People are always excited to hear their favorite band’s new material. So we try and get out there and try not to let our music die down. Nobody wants to be forgotten, and we don’t want to get rusty, so we keep working up new things.”
Monaco says many of the bands enjoyed the collaboration that went into staging Sad Summer Festival. “The goal is to have everybody feel like they are a part of the family no matter when they started listening to us,” Monaco said. “I hope that people come to our shows and feel like they are among friends or family.”