Pop Punk Powerhouses Coming to South Street Seaport

The six-act bill at the pandemic-delayed Sad Summer Festival spotlights a resilient subculture

| 25 Aug 2021 | 11:51

After over a year’s delay, Sad Summer Festival, a one-day rock festival, is coming to South Street Seaport’s Pier 17 on August 27. Following the festival’s inaugural run in the summer of 2019, the second Sad Summer Fest’s lineup of six acts showcases a range of bands across the emo, pop punk, and alternative rock genres, from veteran acts to up-and-comers, displaying a resilient musical scene.

The inaugural Sad Summer Fest toured the nation two years ago, bringing a seven-act bill headlined by State Champs, Mayday Parade, The Maine, and The Wonder Years to Pier 17 in July of 2019. The festival’s second installment, initially planned for July 2020 and headlined by All Time Low, was delayed until now by the pandemic and its restrictions on live events.

The Rooftop at Pier 17 is an open-air, outdoor venue, but with concerns over the Delta variant of COVID-19 still present, the Rooftop announced on Tuesday, Aug. 24 that they are requiring Sad Summer Fest attendees to be fully vaccinated or have a negative test from within 48 hours.

This year’s Sad Summer Fest features a six-act lineup. Yours Truly, a pop punk band from Sydney, Australia, who were part of the original 2020 bill, were forced to drop out given the complex current state of global travel. The festival’s opening act is Destroy Boys, a punk trio formed in Sacramento, California in 2015 with an attitude-filled sound influenced by hardcore acts of the 1980s and 90s.

Next up on the lineup is Grayscale. Hailing from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the band began their career a decade ago with an emotional style of pop punk, and have since grown to explore a wider range of sounds, incorporating indie and pop influences. Following them on the bill is The Maine, who, despite their name, hail from Tempe, Arizona. Formed in 2007, The Maine have carved out a recognizable style with their hooky, wistful brand of alternative rock.

Raw Energy

Coming after The Maine is Movements, a group formed in Orange County, California in 2015, whose music tends towards the gloomy, moody post-hardcore and emo side of Sad Summer’s pop punk-adjacent focus. The penultimate act on the festival’s bill is The Story So Far, a pop punk band who came out of California’s East Bay in 2007. The Story So Far are known for their harder-edged take on the genre, drawing influence both from indie’s emotional sensitivity and hardcore punk’s raw energy.

Sad Summer Fest’s headliners, All Time Low are the oldest act on the bill, beginning their career in Baltimore, Maryland in 2003, while the members were still in high school. Over the ensuing years, however, they’ve remained among the biggest names in pop punk with their bright, catchy sound and maturation over time.

Last autumn, eighteen years in, the band saw the biggest chart success of their career with “Monsters,” which topped Billboard’s Alternative chart for 11 weeks. In January, their 2007 single “Dear Maria, Count Me In” went viral on TikTok, starting with a video of a man declaring “Mom, it was never a phase, it’s a lifestyle,” an expression of appreciation for the 2000s pop punk scene whose legacy may be seen in events like Sad Summer Fest.

In the 90s and aughts, Warped Tour was a mainstay of punk, pop punk, emo, and alternative culture, the annual touring festival showcasing dozens of alternative acts in front of hundreds of thousands of attendees nationwide. As these styles fell out of the mainstream around the turn of the 2010s, demand dropped, and Warped Tour’s final installment was in 2019.

While every genre has its time, the existence of Sad Summer Fest shows the resilience of the pop-alternative subculture that has sustained the scene, even at a smaller scale. Emo and pop-punk bands, from the lineup of Sad Summer Fest and beyond, remain active, and continue to release music which pushes the genres they were born from in new creative directions.

These genres could even be said to be having a resurgence, with rappers like Lil Uzi Vert and the late Lil Peep and Juice WRLD drawing heavily from the Warped Tour scene. In the last year, pop punk’s influence has drawn more attention, with chart-topping acts like Machine Gun Kelly and Olivia Rodrigo putting their spin on the genre. A full-on pop punk revival may be on the horizon, but Sad Summer Fest is a reminder that it never really went away.

This piece has been updated to reflect The Rooftop at Pier 17’s new vaccine requirements for Sad Summer Fest attendees.