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Sad Summer Festival is becoming a better kind of touring emo fest

Sad Summer Festival is on the cover of Alternative Press’ summer 2023 issue. Read an excerpt now, where the Maine explore becoming a better kind of touring emo fest. Continue reading…



Sad Summer Festival is the perfect event to get into your feels. This traveling emo event aims to improve upon the festival experience with a limited number of shows, fewer lineup conflicts, and more representation. Kicking off July 6, this year’s iteration is set to be its biggest yet with headliners the Maine, Taking Back Sunday, and PVRIS. Read an excerpt from the cover story below, which appears in our summer 2023 issue.

Back in 2019, the Maine founded Sad Summer — the name, the concept, the branding — and for its inaugural run, enlisted friends like Mayday Parade, State Champs, the Wonder Years, Mom Jeans and Stand Atlantic (the latter two bands return to open all dates this year, along with Michigan rockers Hot Mulligan). Warped’s run as a traveling festival wrapped in 2018, and the Maine eyed a similar model, with some key differences: a less grueling number of shows for artists and fewer tough lineup decisions for fans. “Warped and other festivals, your two favorite bands end up playing at the same time, and you have to miss one,” Kirch says. “The idea was one stage. Let’s partner up these bands that would be doing their own headlining tours and make something bigger than the sum of its parts.” 

Read more: The Maine break down every album in their catalog

PVRIS, the third large-print band on 2023’s Sad Summer bill, first hit their stride on Warped Tour in 2015. “It was definitely a this is real moment,” frontwoman Lynn Gunn recalls. As momentum built behind their fierce debut album, White Noise, PVRIS jumped from side stages to the Warped’s main one, but the then-21-year-old Gunn frequently felt disconnected from most of the touring party. “I had a bicycle gang. We would ride to get coffee every day, go find parks, go find fireworks, go anywhere that wasn’t Warped Tour.” From her home in Los Angeles, she speaks with the wisdom allotted from nearly a decade to process that Warped Tour summer.

alternative press sad summer festival 2023 cover


“I didn’t feel comfortable. I had to shrink myself,” Gunn says. “It was very straight, it was very white and it was very male-dominated… Any time we would try to get a certain press feature and expand outward, because we had done Warped Tour, it almost gave us this weird mark because, at the time, everything was coming out about a lot of people’s allegations [regarding incidents related to Warped Tour]. It felt unaligned with my beliefs… It was a big building period for our career, but I would have liked a lot to be better. And I hope Sad Summer can do a little bit better.”

While the live music industry often fumbles inclusion and representation, Gunn’s hope is not lost on the band that founded Sad Summer. “There’s so much that can be improved upon,” O’Callaghan says. 


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