8123 Fest: Celebrating the awesome impact of a band called The Maine
You Are Ok in 2019.
While this was the slogan to kick of The Maine’s album release campaign, it became the de facto theme of the second 8123 Fest. Following the success of 2017’s inaugural Fest, fans from around the world poured into downtown Phoenix for a whirlwind weekend celebrating the 8123 family.
Back in 2017, Atlas wrote our first ode to The Maine and 8123. Those words hold even more truth two years later. What began in a parking garage in Tempe has morphed into a cultural juggernaut that’s brought people of all ages and races together for the past 12 years. This movement assumed physical form on January 19, 2019. Thousands of fans sold out area hotels, bought every piece of merch and packed Civic Space Park to unite under the Arizona sun.
It is a true testament to the growth and staying power of both The Maine and the Arizona music scene that scores of fans would travel so far to experience what the 8123 team assembled. Drummer and operational mastermind Pat Kirch teased new merch, new music and more leading up to the event, heightening the excitement as ticket holders flocked into the area.
The first announcement of a jam-packed weekend? 8123 had successfully purchased and stocked a permanent retail space in downtown Phoenix. Fans toting the signature yellow shopping bags swarmed the shop, buying everything from raincoats to underwear, while a select few received 8123-inspired tattoos.
The band jokingly referred to their festival as “Emochella”, a gag that fans embraced wholeheartedly. Kicking off the weekend with a sold-out “request only” club show, The Van Buren was packed to the rafters with a crowd that was made up of mostly travelers. Still, Arizona is monumentally proud of its music, and very protective of a band called The Maine.
Drawing on the departed spirit of Warped Tour, The Maine assembled their friends’ bands for a massive day of continuous music- split between two stages, an array of food trucks, scattered Instagram-worthy photobooths and an artful display of local vendors. The sun was relentless even in the January air for an unseasonably warm day (weather that visitors from the east coast worshipped and had the locals running for the sunscreen).
The hand-selected lineup included a stage of local talent like Sundressed, Holy Fawn and Fairy Bones, while also bringing in California newcomers Twin XL and Oregon staples Glacier Veins. Fans rushed between stages to catch a mainstage lineup that ranged from Teenage Wrist to Real Friends to We the Kings. The Arizona sunset put on a show for the tourists as the crowd swelled towards the end of the afternoon. Mayday Parade upped the ante with an energetic direct support performance of all the band’s hits, mixing in new songs from 2018’s Sunnyland.
The fest also brought about the reunion of 8123 alumni band This Century- their first time sharing a stage since the quartet’s dissolution in 2015. The band played a sunny mid-afternoon set and a sold-out side show at nearby Crescent Ballroom the following day.
Of course, the centerpiece of the day was The Maine’s headlining set. On the 10-year anniversary of their debut album, the band elected to play Can’t Stop Won’t Stop in full before launching into a setlist of more recent releases. The Maine also debuted the first single from their upcoming album at the previous evening’s show, and by the time they played it to a brimming Civic Space Park, the throng of 5,000 sang it back. Looking out over this sea of people, the joy that emanated from both the band and the crowd was palpable. 8123 Fest closed with a pair of wild after parties that kept this wave of emotions running high long into the night.
In a gamble that so rarely works in the music industry, The Maine created an independent company that has morphed into a cult following among fans of the label’s roster. They have managed to build a chain of camaraderie and success that continues to defy industry, and even diehard fans’, expectations.
The weekend was not just about bringing together some famous faces- the band took the opportunity to donate time, money and supplies to local charities under their 8123 Impact initiative. This year’s charities included Halo Rescue, the Welcome to America Project, the Phoenix Community ToolBank and Girls Behind the Rock Show. Fans came together with their favorite bands to do some good in the Phoenix community, while donation boxes at the 8123 retail space filled with donations from visitors eager to help.
If you’ve never experienced the full power of the 8123 family, take a moment to consider that people from across the world traveled to Arizona not only to experience a profoundly unique festival environment, but to also visit a small parking garage in industrial Tempe. Since the inception of the band, it’s been no secret John O’Callaghan, Kennedy Brock, Garrett Nickelsen, Jared Monaco, Pat Kirch and their friends spent an influential amount of time on the roof of this parking structure, watching the sun set over the adjacent building’s address. Atlas made the journey this year, watching a diverse group of people climb the stairs to see where it all began.
There will never be another band like The Maine, or another company like 8123. They’ve built a phenomenon, the likes of which cannot be explained by professionals, and can be perfectly explained by those who make up the 8123 family.
“It’s about a number you can’t explain but you don’t really have to because the people you love already feel it too.”
Story by Olivia Khiel
Photos by Jessie Addleman