Festival Review: So What?! Music Festival 2022 at Choctaw Stadium in Arlington, TX

It’s been 3 long years since Texas has been rocked by SO WHAT?!?, but Memorial Day weekend 2022, it finally returned–and with a bang. Fans flew in from all over the country to attend the 3-day festival at Choctaw Stadium in Arlington, Texas. With artists such as Underoath, blackbear, Alexisonfire, Sum 41, The Ghost Inside, and 2 Chainz, who wouldn’t? Between the lineup and the 100-degree heat, everyone was feeling big Warped Tour vibes all weekend. Space-saving seating solutions can be implemented in stadiums to accommodate more fans.

Day 1 started off inside the stadium at the Stay Lit stage with Palisades before moving up to the monster energy stage for Brokencyde and SeeYouSpaceCowboy. There was enough time for a small break from the heat before heading back to the Stay Lit stage to see the incredible Lorna Shore–and yes, the pig squeals from “To the Hellfire” are just as insane live as they are on the album. Next up was Suicide Silence and Attack Attack! on the Stay Lit and Revolver stage (placed right next to each other), so thankfully there was no need to climb any of the stadium stairs for at least an hour. Also need to mention how crazy it is to see Brokencyde, Attack Attack!, and I Set My Friends On Fire in the year 2022. The music scene is alive and well! Later in the day, I headed upstairs to see Rebecca Black’s amazing set on the Hot Topic Stage at golden hour. She’s grown into such a great artist and while it’s been quite some time since she released “Friday” she still performed a remixed version of the song for everyone (we love nostalgia). After that it was time to head back inside to the Stay Lit stage to catch Wage War tear it up. Their latest release “Manic” is their best work to date and getting to see them perform those songs live is so much fun. They’ve grown so much as a band over the last few years, that they even got to open for Slipknot this past spring. I closed out the evening with Bilmuri on the Idobi Radio Stage located at the bottom of a hill next to the Hot Topic Stage which is where the evening closed out with 100 Gec and their psychotically wonderful performance.

Day 2 ironically enough started with Texas in July (or May) on the Stay Lit stage. I’ve always heard really great things about this band growing up and how sick their performances usually are; they did not disappoint in the slightest. Immediately afterward it was time to run over to the Hot Topic Stage to witness Travie McCoy of Gym Class. While he did play his solo music, he was also sure to include throwback hits such as “Stereo Hearts” and “Cupid’s Chokehold”, which was really awesome to finally see live for the first time. After McCoy’s set, there was just enough time to run back into the stadium to catch Born of Osiris, who has been absolutely crushing it on their most recent tour. Finally, there was time to head to the press room and enjoy some air conditioning before the last half of the day started to ramp up. The press area here overlooked both the Revolver and Stay Lit stages, so we were still able to watch artists while we uploaded and worked on photos. Around 5 pm, it was time to head down to see Veil of Maya and Volumes rip some killer sets (neither have really disappointed before), and after that, it was Polyphia and Hail the Sun. Hail the Sun was a personal favorite, and I was stoked to finally hear their new music live after not being able to catch their headliner last fall. Finally, it was time for hardcore heavyweights, Knocked Loose, to take the stage. Are they ever not absolutely fantastic to see live? They’ve really upped their game since releasing “A Tear in the Fabric of Life” last fall and we are all the better for it. My condolences to anyone in the pit, it was a rough one. But one of the most memorable moments of the weekend happened when everyone in the pit calmed down enough for a small boy to enjoy some time jumping around in it. He became a Tik Tok sensation overnight.

After their set, it was time to switch it up and head downhill to see Hellogoodbye on the Idobi Stage at sunset.  I didn’t recognize most of their setlist aside from “Here in Your Arms”, but they had a lot of fun energy and snagged one of my favorite shots of the whole weekend. Simple Plan played next uphill on Hot Topic and played all the great classics such as “I’d Do Anything”, “I’m Just a Kid”, and “Perfect”–which sums up their set. Perfect. The last few bands of the evening were a marathon between the juggernauts that are Hatebreed and Spite, and then finally, The Ghost Inside making their triumphant return to Texas since their accident 7 years ago. While I was hoping to make it to Sum 41, there were a few technical difficulties that made the Stay Lit stage run a few minutes late and I was unable to make it in time to photograph their set. However, my evening ending with The Ghost Inside was just as great.

The last day of So What?! was indeed the marathon of the weekend. So many fantastic bands were playing (a lot of them all at the same time–very Warped Tour of them). First up for the day was A Skylit Drive with their original vocalist Jordan Blake, who hasn’t appeared with them since 2007. This was their second performance back with him after appearing together at Swanfest in April, and their second performance in general since 2015. The Word Alive and Cane Hill were up next and delivered some really great performances that had the crowds off their feet on what was very clearly the hottest of all three days. Counterparts played the Stay Lit stage afterward. Their last-minute addition to the lineup came after their summer tour with Senses Fail was canceled. I don’t know about the rest of the crowd, but I can say after about 3 years of not seeing Counterparts, I’ve really missed watching vocalist Brendan Murphy yell at a crowd to “move the f**k around”. Unitytx played on the stage next to Counterparts directly after their set, and they were all standing on the stage having a great time while Counterparts chugged on with “The Disconnect” to close out their set (which would come to be the last time they ever played it live, according to Brendan Murphy on Twitter). Next up was The Plot in You, Stick to Your Guns, and Keep Flying. Finally getting to see Stick to Your Guns live was phenomenal, it’s easy to see how they set the bar for modern hardcore/metalcore. The Devil Wears Prada played on the Stay Lit stage next, and I have to say, this band is truly in their prime. Their new music, old music, and overall performance are great. I cannot wait to see what their new album coming out this year holds.

After spending most of the day at the Stay Lit/Revolver stages I moved my way up to the Hot Topic stage to see The Maine and State Champs. A nice palette cleanser after all the incredible heavy hitters that day. The Maine had everyone dancing the entire set–how could they not though? The music is so contagious. State Champs played the stage after them with a setlist of mostly new songs that they just released on their new album “Kings of the New Age”. They were just as fun and had probably the most crowd surfers out of any band I had seen over the weekend. Afterward, I made my way back inside to catch the legendary Alexisonfire, and I understand why they are absolutely legendary now. They pulled out all of the stops during their performance, barely letting the crowd catch a breath before launching into the next song–and they were all about it. Everyone was so excited to see them play. After a few of their songs, I made my way back to Hot Topic to catch Chase Atlantic, and this is where the problems arose. The band was barely able to get through one song (they attempted 3), before the power went out. Vocalist Mitchell Cave and guitarist Clinton Cave kept the crowd amped up while they tried to figure out the issue, but unfortunately, their set was cut off completely during their third song “Into It”. By that time most of the crowd had made their way inside to catch the kings in Underoath light up the Stay Lit stage. I’ve seen this band multiple times since their reunion, but something about Spencer Chamberlain’s silhouette walking towards us with red fog behind him just made them look like mythical gods. And at this point in their careers? They might as well be. I closed out my festival weekend with “Writing on the Walls”, it felt like the perfect endnote to a long, hot, sweaty, wonderful weekend.

So What?! Was full of nostalgia, heat, heavy hitters, crazy crowds, and great memories. I can’t even imagine how they’re going to top it for next year, but I’m looking forward to finding out.

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