JESS BECK AND ZEL MICHAELS | Go Venue Magazine
This music festival is shaping up to have a little bit for everyone.
Suboxone boys, cosplay girls, metal heads, kids…you name it, the SoWhat?! Music Festival probably has it and then some this weekend (May 27-29th) in Arlington, Texas at Choctaw Stadium in a sweat-soaked, endorphin-fueled, Monster Energy Drink powered festival that has brought together the likes of hip-hop, metal, pop-punk, DJ’s, and multiple vendors to entertain just about everyone.
If you’re into people watching – this is the event for you. Everywhere you look there’s someone new and interesting to see, whether it’s the costuming they’re wearing, the energy you feel from them, or if you’re just stopping by a tree with some shade and see some fellow music enthusiasts, all-in-all so far it’s been a great time.
Our first act of the day was a joint venture.
Sorry, I’m being rude.
Many of you don’t know my business partner Zel Michaels. So in his brief introduction – he has been my best friend now for God knows how many years, and officially joined our company in September when we moved from Nebraska to Arizona. We get mistaken for brothers and/or twins literally every single day, and we have a matching pineapple tattoo (no, we’re not swingers – we just didn’t know that was the symbol for that before we got it). Now that you’ve been introduced, let’s begin!
The first act of the day for us was Palisades – and what I love about these fellas is that they always put on a great show. They played the Stay Lit Stage, and it was a great introduction to the festival (you know…after we got through all the annoying – albeit necessary – security bullshit). The most notable track for me was “Let Down” off of their 2017 self-titled album. The way the audience sang back with all the fervor of a Midwest Baptist preacher headed for the potato salad at a potluck was right on the money, and even though it was hot as balls down there on the field (my lamborfeeties were literally melting through my shoes), the fans stood and sang in unison. If you haven’t seen Palisades live yet, you’re missing out. They’re one of those bands who sounds just as great live as they do on the record, and their music is like candy for your sweet, sweet earholes.
We then moved on to a UK band called Hot Milk. Yes…I know what you’re thinking…Hot…Milk…? But give the band it’s due – these folks put on one hell of a show, hardly ever staying in one spot for very long (which for me makes it challenging and fun at the same time). Vocalists Han and Jim sounded amazing together as the Manchester dual-fronted band broke into the Texas heat with ease. From the mosh pit that ensued on the already scorching Texas concrete to the incredible display of self-deprecation of wearing leather pants on stage in this weather, this band fucking nailed it. “Teenage Runaways” was the main take away for me from this act – an excellent new-age pop-punk anthem that you should be listening to right now!
*Tags Zel in*
So I’ve been waiting to see Afterlife for a while now. Let me say, they did not disappoint. Vocalist Tyler Levenson came out and immediately took control of the crowd. He had them waving their hands, clapping, and throwing up the devil horns (Jess here – there was also plenty of the Devil’s Lettuce if you will – ok, back to Zel). They were doing it all. Trying to follow these guys on stage was quite the workout. But it was all worth it. Then they played “Part of Me” and the crowd blew up singing and rapping along to the entire song. I couldn’t tell who was having more fun – the crowd, or the band. Needless to say, I’m hoping to catch their show in Scottsdale next!
*Tags in Jess*
Next up on our list was Crown the Empire. Holy shit do these Texas locals have a dedicated fan base, and it’s not without reason. They were probably one of the top acts of the day for me (I know, I say that about everyone, but I mean it this time). Picture the setting – the hot Texas sun hanging over the crowd around 6:30pm after being on an already brutal display all day long. The flooring they used to cover the baseball field is about to melt people’s shoes off. The amount of sweat (and people who needed deodorant) could’ve filled a small river if needed. But here they were – the faithful, the die-hards, the, “I’ve seen this band 800 times,” people in the front row chanting along to every line. Crown the Empire has been building a steady following throughout the years, and for good reason. They’re a post-hardcore band, sure, but their lyrics are what set them apart for me. You can tell that these guys BELIEVE what they sing about – it’s not just some pre-written, already-existing song that you can sing without any attachment to it – these melodies make you think. They dig deep. Notable tracks for me include “Blurry” and “What I Am.”
*Tags in Zel*
So there I was in the pit, waiting patiently to shoot Sueco, who I’ve never seen live, or have really followed to be honest. I was in for a surprise. The Intro to “Paralyzed” started, and the crowd lit up like Buckcherry. Then the man himself came out blasting with energy. It was like giving a 6-year-old a Monster Energy Drink and dropping them off at a daycare where all the other crotch goblins were on Red Bull. I wish I had a sliver of this dude’s energy. Maybe then I would’ve been able to keep up with him. “S.O.S.” came on, and he jumped offstage, got up on the barrier and sang directly to the crowd. I’m pretty sure one girl actually cried. Happy tears, of course. His stage presence reminded me of a young Ronnie Radke, who Jess says looks like Elon Musk. Let’s be honest, you’ve never seen them in the same room together. Sueco ended the night with “Loser,” a flagship song for the kids who just never seem to fit in anywhere. Which was everyone at his performance, myself as well. I could literally feel the emotion coming from the crowd. All-in-all, I was very impressed with seeing Sueco. A young, spunky, rebellious musician who may have just a hint of self-destruction. Don’t we although?
*Tags in Jess*
Second to last up was the powerhouse Wage War. These fellas certainly brought their A-Game for a very exhausted, “ready to give it one last go” type of crowd after being beaten down in the Texas heat all day. We had a chance to talk to some fans before the show began which is always a treat (especially since most photographers don’t interact with the crowd – which I find weird, but that’s just me), and one young lady told us a story about how their music helped her through some dark times in the not-so-distant past. And really, I think that’s the point of music to begin with. It’s an escape. This is why people listen to songs about doing drugs and banging strippers on their way to their office job – it just helps them pretend for a little bit, you know? And that’s ok. Frontman Briton Bond (crunchy vocals) and rhythm guitarist Cody Quistad (smooth vocals) are a perfect pairing for what they do. Continuing to innovate with sound, they played notable hits including “Low,” and “Stitch.” The sun had finally set, and the audience responded well to the dazzling display of lasers and erratic movement of Bond, who seemed to be at every point of the stage all at the same time.
Last up for today’s adventure was the legendary band from Detroit, Michigan…I Prevail. Now, to be fair, I’d covered them previously in 2019 when they were on tour with ADTR and Beartooth. I gotta say it just to say it, but when I covered them in 2019, they fucking KILLED that show.
Yeah, they killed this one too.
There was a bit of a hush over the festival goers as the sun was fully down by this point and most of the stadium lights had been turned off. It was the calm before the storm, if you will. One fan in the crowd mentioned to us that she had seen them 16 times, including today, which included a 5 show stint before Covid hit and basically ruined everything.
Eric was a brute force of gritty, in-your-face vocals right from the get-go as they opened with “Bow Down,” which is just a monster of an anthem if you’re ready to take your life back or break shit. Clean vocalist Brian appeared to have some difficulty hitting the higher notes that he’s known for, but he’s had a rough go of it over the past few years, so I was honestly just happy that they’re still around and putting out bangers like “Scars” and “Burn It All Down.” The performance was electric from start to finish, and one crowd-surfer tossed her bra on stage, which was promptly kicked to the side by Eric. Smart choice – after a day of heavy sweat like today was, I wouldn’t want such an elaborate gift myself either (makes a cringe face).
All-in-all, it was an exciting, exhausting, sweaty, Monster Energy Drink fueled day, and we can’t wait to get back out tomorrow and bring you more exciting coverage from the SoWhat?! Music Festival right here in Arlington, Texas! As always, HUGE shoutout to the staff working to make sure that everyone was safe and hydrated, including the security guards working in the pits, the sweet ladies in the elevators pushing buttons and greeting people with a smile, the Monster Energy Drink crew for being super gracious and generous, the groundskeepers who worked tirelessly to pick up discarded beer cans (seriously people, pick up after yourselves – it’s 2022, and I WILL call your mom to shame you), and last but not least, the parking attendants and police officers who helped direct traffic so that it flowed smoothly as the event carried on into the night.All images © Jess Beck and Zel Michaels
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