We Went To The First Day Of The So What?! Music Festival After Its Four Year Hiatus. Here’s What We Saw And The Four Things We Learned.
All photos by Frances Tingle.
It’s been four long, long years without the genre-mashing, head-banging festival that is So What?! Music Festival.
Put on by Third String Entertainment, this three-day event marries a slew of artists from multiple genres under one emo-spirited roof. We had to go experience it for ourselves. Entering the gates halfway through the opening day on Friday, we let the angsty spirit guide us across the festival grounds, with no real itinerary in mind.
Trudging along in the bright white heat at Choctaw Stadium we asked ourselves, “so, is this worth it?” And, yeah, why not? The festival excels at what it is — a weekend of nostalgic, angsty fun with a mile-long lineup of varied acts. Even after the official flyer went up in February, Third String continued to add more artists to its bill. Even so far as to host Battle of The Band competitions to see what local bands get to play on its local stage.
You get exactly what you sign up for, nothing more, nothing less. If there are a lot of acts you love on the lineup, going is sort of a no-brainer. Even if there are a limited few that you’re interested in, it’s still a worthwhile experience that’ll expose you to new artists if you’re willing to brave the sun and crowd.
The hot summer day turned into a warm summer night, and as the party continued to rage on, we reflected on what this festival meant to its goers. Here are the four main takeaways from the So What?! Music Festival.
Nostalgia Is A Powerful Thing.
So What?! filled in the void in your heart where scene haircuts, skinny jeans and emoticons once occupied. There’s something comforting about the emo phase and it feels nice to relive that era, without judgment — especially after these past few years of limited human connection. Was this 2022 or 2008? We couldn’t tell. That satisfaction doubles for those in the early 20’s age range, as we were a bit too young to fully experience the Warped Tour heyday — “healing your inner child,” as they say.
Hearing 3OH!3 perform “Starstruck” in 2022 is a wild thing, though. Even if you don’t listen to the duo that much these days, you rush to the stage for its set because where else will you experience it? We loved seeing people sporting their Suicide Silence, Sum 41, Sleeping With Sirens and The Devil Wears Parada band tees, reminiscent of the days when Hot Topic had us by our necks. “I feel like I’m in high school again,” was a sentence that was uttered by one of us. And we meant the good part of high school, not the shitty part.
If you want people to attend to your festival, hit them where it heals.
We loved the spirit of Warped Tour as much as the next guy, but a fully outdoor venue in the middle of the Texas summer was not it. Dos Equis Pavilion (formally Gexa Energy Pavilion when Warped Tour was being held there) lacked the comfort needed for a full two-day affair. The most hardcore of hearts could brave it to see their favorite bands, but this writer was not one of them. So What?! benefits from being held at Arlington’s multi-purpose Choctaw Stadium, where tons of square footage of indoor areas, actual bathrooms with plumbing and water fountains reign supreme.
Plus, it was really comfortable to navigate. There were seven stages total and they were the perfect distance from each other and easy to get to. In addition to the stages, there were a variety of food trucks, concessions, a merch and vendor village and a wrestling ring — all easily navigable as well. The schedule is long and the set times are tight, but with the exception of a couple of delayed starts due to technical difficulties, the organizers did a great job of making everything flow efficiently. One of the biggest turn-offs for a festival is sloppy organization and inaccessibility, but So What?! is a welcoming space even for the most anxious of emos.
The Importance Of Uplifting Local Acts.
One of the most notable highlights of this year’s fest was The Bowling For Soup Local Heroes Stage. The lineup already traditionally features tons of local acts, but Bowling For Soup, the Wichita Falls-born band, sponsoring a stage solely for up-and-coming North Texas acts is something truly special.
Large festivals such as this are where many acts get their breakthrough, but it’s easy to get lost in the fine print of the lineup poster, so it’s commendable to spotlight the locals and give them a bigger shot of getting noticed. Surely we, Central Track, don’t have to tell you the importance of supporting local music.
10k.Caash, A-Wall, Lil Lotus, Penny Bored, Bobby Sessions, Yak The Mack and UnityTX were among the weekend’s local acts.
Diversify Line Ups.
This festival has all types of artists — screamo, punk, rap, hyper-pop — the list goes on and something on it is bound to pique the interest of any attendee. It’s probably the only place where you can see Rebecca Black and Trippie Redd perform on the same night — and that is something special.
If you hadn’t kept up with Black since the cultural fever dream that was “Friday,” you may have not known that she was making bonafide pop bops, but you would’ve seen that she has grown into a well-rounded performer if you caught her at So What?! on your way to see 24kGoldn’s genre-bending, charisma-filled rap, before you had moshed at the emo catharsis of Escape the Fate.
We can confidently say the unity of music lovers is the festival’s crown jewel.