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So What?! Fest 2023: Fans and bands do their best to beat the heat on a scorching day one

It’s a wet hot Dallas, Texas, summer and the heat coming off the Fair Park lots couldn’t stop hordes of music fans from descending on the 2023 So What?! Music Festival. With fours stages, countless bands across boundless genres and staff armed with water guns, Atlas joined all the fun with some of our favorite artists.

Ladies Run This Scene

Two of the hottest acts on the lineup covered the spectrum between nostalgic neon-pop and the next wave of metalcore- we’re talking about Millionaires and Scene Queen of course. Hannah Collins, otherwise known as Scene Queen, strutted onstage to (in her words) “put the c**t in country”. The crowd did their part to scream the words to “Pink G-String”, “18+” and more.

This year’s lineup revived some MySpace staples and Millionaires was at the top of everyone’s throwback playlists for the weekend. The trio dolled themselves up in their iconic teased hair, big bows and unapologetic attitude to get the Hot Topic Stage dancing.

The Emo Revival Marches On

Nostalgia was the biggest draw for us this year and we got our fill when The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus took the stage. Their energy hasn’t wavered in over 20 years of making music together and singer Ronnie Winter still wears his hair long and his v-neck shirts deep. You couldn’t have told us it wasn’t 2006 when “Your Guardian Angel” kicked in or when Dave Escamilla joined the group onstage for “Face Down”.

Breathe Carolina may have reinvented the name as more of a DJ-based endeavor but David Schmitt dusted off hits from Hello Fascination and Hell Is What You Make It for a scorcher of a set that drew fans in like a magnet. The biggest surprise of the day was realizing just how many tracks we all remembered the words to and no one stayed still when “Blackout”  came 

The Jack Daniels Stage also boasted an appearance from Forever the Sickest Kids and, despite their gray hairs, the band pulled up like Warped Tour never ended. Who could possibly stay still when “Hey Brittany” or “She’s a Lady” is playing? While the band might not be climbing scaffolding anymore, the spirit of that musical era was front and center all day long.

Spotlight On: The Creative Control Tour

The Used and Don Broco are currently out on a massive US tour and Dallas was treated to their stop as part of the festival. Fans camped on the barricade in the blistering heat all day for a chance to jump with the irresistibly catchy Don Broco. By this point, the sweat was running in rivers but the band didn’t let the sun stop them from delivering a performance almost as hot at the surface of the parking lot. They even slowed things down for the perfect catch-your-breath moment to the stunning “One True Prince”.

The Used blanketed the main stage in pink and white flowers- a stark juxtaposition to their heavy rocking sound. Another band with two decades in the game, their set took the audience on a journey through their eras. Fans swayed to “I Caught Fire”, headbanged to “I’m a Fake” and screamed their approval to a feature appearance from Rob Damiani on “A Box Full of Sharp Objects”. The sun set on a perfect performance  before the close of a scorcher on day one.

Food, Fun and Beating the Heat

The Fair Park grounds provided a beautiful backdrop for this festival and attendees wandered through a plethora of food trucks, stopped to watch acts- corndogs and lemonade in hand- browsed shirts and trinkets and took shelter from the late afternoon sun with two indoor stages. 

A stroll through the indoor portion of the fest put a curious audience in front of multi-genre acts on the Monster and Hot Topic stages and Atlas closed the night with a brutally heavy performance from masked Russian hardcore heavyweights Slaughter to Prevail.

Check out all the photos from day one! 

Story and photos by Olivia Khiel

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