While the Warped Tour remains a cherished memory of our recent past, its essence continues to thrive through regional events like the California Is For Lovers Fest.
While it’s challenging to envision any new festival stepping into the shoes of our beloved Warped Tour experiences from the past, it’s undeniable the profound impact that the Is For Lovers Festival is now making nationwide.
On the scorching Saturday of August 26th, the festival curated by Hawthorne Heights descended upon sunny Southern California, possibly marking one of the most sizzling concerts ever held in the state.
With just two stages and a promise of no overlapping set times, it was incredibly easy to catch every band on the roster. Kicking the day off, albeit before many concertgoers had arrived at the venue, were Diva Bleach, Winterhaven, and 82Fifty who each performed an amazing set.
As people continued to pour through the front gates, Red Jumpsuit Apparatus was making new fans and appeasing old fans with crowd favorites such as “Don’t You Fake It” and “Face Down.”
Taking to the John Beatz stage across the venue was Arizona’s Scary Kids Scaring Kids. Kicking the set off with “Degenerates,” the band hit the ground running.
Leading the band at the Is For Lovers Fest was vocalist Albert Schweizer who did such an amazing job. The band mostly pulled material from their self-titled album, but mixed in a couple of tracks from their latest release before closing with “My Darkest Hour.”
One of the bands I was really excited to see was Emery. I can’t remember the last time I got to see Emery live, but I can safely say it was before the departure of guitarist/vocalist Devin Shelton.
Though I still yearn for a chance to see the band with Shelton again, I was not disappointed with Emery’s setlist or performance in the slightest. The band played a fantastic set that included “The Weak’s End,” “The Question,” “I’m Only a Man,” and “…In Shallow Seas We Sail.” It was also awesome to see them perform old songs like “Ponytail Parades” and “Walls” again.
Further Seems Forever put on an incredible set which was voiced by 2003’s “How to Start a Fire” vocalist Jason Gleason. Kicking the set off with the titular track from the aforementioned album, the band immediately started pulling the crowd from the other stage and captivated the growing audience until their final song.
Hawthorne Heights delivered an exceptional performance, showcasing hits like “Saying Sorry,” “Dandelions,” and “Silver Bullet.”
Towards the conclusion of their set, they surprised the audience by inviting a special fan onto the stage. Lead singer J.T. Woodruff shared a heartwarming story: over 15 years ago, this fan had sent the band a video of a young kid playing “Ohio Is for Lovers” on the guitar, bringing joy to everyone in the band. To the crowd’s delight, the fan turned out to be that very same young musician, joining the band for a heartfelt rendition of “Ohio Is for Lovers” during the final moments of the set.
Not be outdone, Norma Jean, Bayside, and Touché Amore each delivered extraordinary performances that had the power to transform even the most skeptical concert attendee into an ardent fan.
Sleeping With Sirens took to the stage and kicked off their set with “Apathetic,” which was the live debut of the song.
“Talking to Myself,” “Leave It All Behind,” and “Be Happy” were next in the set and were performed to what may have been the largest crowd for any band performing that day or night.
I was not prepared for what happened next. Thursday took to the stage and stole the show, with what, in my opinion, was the best performance of the day/night.
“For the Workforce, Drowning,” “Autobiography of a Nation,” and “Cross Out the Eyes” are three of my all-time favorite Thursday songs, and is coincidentally how the band kicked off their set. If you haven’t seen Thursday live, be sure to catch them if you get the chance. “Understanding in a Car Crash,” “Division Street,” and “War All the Time” closed out the band’s set and I was left in awe.
Thrice brought the heat as they commenced their set with three of their most powerful songs: “Firebreather,” “Under a Killing Moon,” and “Paper Tigers.”
Throughout the performance, the band delivered what could easily be described as one of their most well-rounded sets in recent memory.
Closing out the night, they treated the crowd to beloved classics like “Silhouette,” “Deadbolt,” and the hauntingly unforgettable “The Earth Will Shake.”
Atreyu was another band that gave an energetic and incredible performance, and their set comprised of songs from nearly every album. It was my first time seeing the band without original vocalist Alex Varkatzas and I was not disappointed.
As the night progressed, it became evident that those who remained in the audience were true Alkaline Trio enthusiasts. While the crowd had admittedly diminished in size, the upcoming sing-alongs would have easily deceived anyone with closed eyes.
Alkaline Trio kicked off their set with the beloved hit “Private Eye,” igniting an immediate chorus of voices from the entire crowd.
Following this energetic start, they seamlessly transitioned into “Blackbird,” “In Vein,” and “I Wanna Be Warhol,” all met with a thunderous response.
The crowd’s exuberant reaction to “Mercy Me” was exhilarating; however, the pinnacle of Alkaline Trio’s performance came during the rendition of “Clavicle.” For me, it was a standout moment, but there’s no denying the sheer power in the collective voices of thousands as they sang the final lyrics of the night during the closing song, “Radio.” It was a memorable conclusion to an unforgettable evening.