Self Help Festival at the NOS Events Center in San Bernardino, CA on March 19th, 2016
Featuring Thy Art Is Murder, Crown the Empire, Tonight Alive, Issues, Further Seems Forever, Yelawolf, August Burns Red, The Story So Far, The Wonder Years, Underoath, A Day To Remember
Self Help Festival, created by A Day To Remember and running three years strong, is a day long festival that featured pop punk, rock, metal, and even rap. This year's lineup made it a must for me to attend. Underoath, Issues, Yelawolf, and August Burns Red all on one lineup?! The clash between genres made me even more intrigued and geared up to haul my ass out to San Bernardino and bake in the sun all day long.
Lines of cars weaved around the block a mere half an hour before the festival was officially open and droves of people were running across the street, making their way to the gates. I was one of those many who patiently waited in line to see what the day had in store.
The first band I caught was Thy Art Is Murder. The sheer intensity of their set made me gravitate towards the main stage and curious as to how their set would unfold. This Australian five-piece made the stage their home and was even able to inspire the crowd to form a solid mosh pit well before most of the crowd had entered the venue.
After their set, I kicked back against the gates, savoring what little shade it allowed me, and waited for Crown the Empire to perform. I had never seen them perform before, but had heard through the grapevine that they put on an energetic show. As they arrived on stage, I was shocked by their attire. Not only because they were wearing long sleeved shirts with slacks and it felt like it was nearing 90 degrees, but because Andy and David did not appear to look like your traditional metalcore band members. I expected shorts, t shirts, hell even a bro-tank, but definitely not dress shirts. I was impressed with their style already and their performance added further to my amusement. The crowd mimicked their enthusiasm and people were crowd surfing in droves, so much so that security had to be beefed up a bit.
I ran over to see another set of Australians, Tonight Alive, perform on a stage set in an old aircraft hangar. Jenna came out dressed in 90s garb, long cargo pants with yellow-tinted sunglasses and an adidas green sweatshirt zipped up to her chin. She immediately began entrancing the crowd with her powerful voice and singing to those that were lucky enough to grab spots near the barrier. About half way through, she gave a pep talk to the crowd on the topic of purpose: "If you don't believe your life has purpose, then you're fucking lying to yourself". She went on to energize the crowd to go out and find their purpose in life. As amazing as their set was, I had to leave early to catch another act I had been looking forward to seeing: Issues.
I had heard a lot of talk surrounding Issues and even heard Tyler Carter's solo EP, but I had never had a chance to catch them in action, until now. I made my way to the photo pit and immediately noticed Deryck Whibley looking on, anticipating their set. His stamp of approval made me more anxious to witness the metalcore outfit in all their glory. Throughout their set, everyone in the band was energetic and interacting with the crowd, pointing out those who were singing every syllable of their songs. Even more security had to come to the main stage to catch the crowd surfers as I was constantly watching my back for flying limbs.
Once again, I ran back to the black stage inside the hangar to watch one of the two bands on the lineup that were coming back from a moderately long hiatus. Chris Carrabba was the original lead singer of Further Seems Forever, but left to form Dashboard Confessional. Over the years, they've had numerous line up changes, including Carrabba reuniting with the band briefly in 2010 until 2012. After a three year hiatus, this is the band's first performance with Jason Gleason as lead singer again since 2004. It was safe to say that this performance was much anticipated and by the crowd's reaction, they were savoring every moment. Gleason wriggled around on stage, frequently sauntering up to the front to sing with the fans. I can't wait to see what Further Seems Forever is up to in the months to come, but as of right now it looks very promising.
Afterwards, I high tailed it over to the outdoor stage to see an artist I had been personally anticipating the most, Yelawolf. As the only rapper on the bill, I had no idea what to expect from the crowd. Travis Barker, his co-collaborator on the Psycho White EP, was the first to walk out and played drums for the entirety of his set. He kicked off his set with "Outerspace", a hard hitting anthem that got the crowd fired up and immediately grooving to his southern rock sound. Yelawolf drew an enormous crowd, both his hardcore fans and those that were intrigued by his sound. Towards the end of his set he asked the crowd who owned his album Love Story. As hands shot up, he yelled, "Liars! We didn't sell that much." Then he encouraged anyone who had not already bought the album to illegally download it. He also encouraged them to burn 20 copies for other friends who didn't have it. By far, Yelawolf's set was the best of the day and even though he didn't play my personal favorite, "Daddy's Lambo" I was still grooving throughout his entire set.
Up next was August Burns Red, a vastly different sound than that of Yelawolf's southern rock rap. August Burns Red is one of the hardest hitting metalcore bands in the game. I knew that their performance was going to draw massive crowds and even bigger mosh pits. The amount of security guards nearly doubled and the crowds began to push against the barriers, squishing those closest to the stage. As soon as the first song came on, bodies began to fly on top of the crowds and even a few were mangled, not lucky enough to have a solid landing on the opposite side of the barrier. This Grammy nominated act was one of my top performances of the day. Even if you aren't a fan of their music, their set was amazing to watch with Jake Luhrs' extreme passion and their constant movement across the stage.
The next two bands before the most anticipated performances of the day, Underoath and A Day To Remember, were The Story So Far and The Wonder Years. These pop punk outfits were the perfect build up to ADTR. Both have dedicated fans who passionately sang every lyric as they crowd surfed to the front. The Wonder Years front man chose to briefly speak about the current political climate, urging everyone to get out and vote. He voiced his opinion on Trump and it was made evident that he was not fond of the controversial newfound politician.
Underoath, the main reason I was attracted to the festival in the first place, was the final band to perform before ADTR. I was excited to see the original, full lineup that included Spencer Chamberlain and Aaron Gillespie. My inner high schooler was crying, having listened to They're Only Chasing Safety on repeat. (I discovered the album well-after it was originally released, but nonetheless I was obsessed). Their performance was everything I needed/wanted and more. It was very obvious that they were excited to be back on stage and loving every moment. The crowd returned that love via screams of "OMG this is my favorite song!!" or "I've been waiting YEARS to hear this one!". Underoath's upcoming tour will be an impassioned gathering of die hard fans and it should not be missed for anything.
At last, A Day To Remember was due on stage and the first several songs were off their first album including hits like "Downfall of Us All" and "I'm Made of Wax, Larry, What Are You Made of?". I certainly wasn't the only person visibly pleased by their choice of songs to start their set. As the pyrotechnics went off during the first song, the crowd was mesmerized and we all knew we were in for an amazing show. A little ways through the set, they teased the crowd with a snippet of their new single "Paranoia", eventually playing the entire song. As I made my way through the crowd, I was shocked to see so many kids. I don't mean teenagers, I'm talking 6 month old babies strapped to their mothers' chests to 7 year old kids on their fathers' shoulders. It became clear to me by the end of the night that this was not just a festival for teens and adults, it was a family affair. Even the kids knew the words and were hypnotized by the lights and big balls ADTR unleashed on the crowd. This may have been my first year at Self Help Festival, but it certainly will not be my last.