LIVE REVIEW: So What?! Music Festival – 4/27-4/28/19 @ White Oak Music Hall, Houston, TX

After a two year hiatus, Third String Productions hosted the So What!? Music Festival at the White Oak Music Hall. Metal fans arrived in droves to see a lineup that boasted huge names like Parkway Drive, Killswitch Engage, and Beartooth. With only a few vendors, four food trucks, and an area for band merch, this festival intended for little else to distract people from the music. The sun was out in full force the whole weekend with only a slight break provided by the wind, but that didn’t stop the crowd from going full out in the pit.

– DAY 1 –

The Stay Sick Records stage inside got started around 1 P.M. with Blood Between Us, a heavy group based out of Texas City, Texas. Post Profit, a Dallas local, took second place in the Battle for So What!? to play day one. These kids are talented, energetic, and humble. If they are not on your radar, they should be. As the day progressed, the music inside gradually shifted from metal to a hip-hop/trap metal.

The main stage kicked off around 3 P.M. with Be//gotten, another Dallas local. This dual-vocalist, experimental goth rock troop is as entertaining as it is talented. They have a look and attitude that pushes its way past the barricade. Afterlife followed them and made me a fan almost instantly. A metal band based out of West Palm Beach, Florida, they have a hip-hop influence and have executed it beautifully. SHVPES, a melodic hardcore band from Birmingham, United Kingdom, was certainly on my list to see. I was highly impressed with Griffin Dickinson’s crowd control.  I could go on forever about all the amazing acts: Erra, Hands Like Houses, Crown The Empire, Of Mice & Men, and, of course, Wage War all sent the crowd into an absolute frenzy, even with the baking sun.

The transitions between bands were seamless. With very little dead air between sets, you had to pick between two bands most of the day. As a photographer, being able to only shoot the first three songs instead of the whole set made it difficult to catch all the bands I wanted to see.

Beartooth @ So What?! Music Festival. Photo by Brently Kirksey.

This is the first time I’ve seen We Came As Romans since the tragic passing of Kyle Pavone. I love that they are carrying on and keeping his legacy alive with the music he helped create.  I was most looking forward to the self-proclaimed trap metal group Bone Crew, who headlined the Stay Sick stage on day one. Made up of Fronz of Attila and Da Boi J, this was the very first live performance by the duo and it showed. Fronz was as entertaining and fast-paced as always, but J did not seem ready for the stage at all. He was winded not even two songs into the ten song set and did not move much. He missed versus and the ones he did hit had no power behind them. This was a major let down for my high expectations. Beartooth headlined the main stage on day one. I’m not much of a fan but the crowd loved it.

– DAY 2 –

The Stay Sick stage kicked off at 1:10 P.M. with the main stage starting an hour later. Godhand was the first band to catch my attention. They are beatdown as hell and no-holds-barred as fists and feet swung about in the pit.  I moved outside to the main stage to catch UnityTX. The front man, Jay Webster, was a little under the weather, and the sound engineer wouldn’t raise the volume, so he was having to strain to be heard. Webster got very frustrated and took it out on the microphone, to the point of being warned by stage staff to cut it out.

The main stage got almost 10 minutes ahead of schedule, causing me to completely miss the chance to photograph Traitors, who where high on my list. Bummer. Kublai Khan took the stage next and brought the movement out of the hot and sweaty crowd. I bounced between the two stages to catch the bands I hadn’t heard of, but had to focus mostly on the main stage due to the offset of time and not wanting to miss any of the major acts. Intervals broke up the swing of things with their melodic instrumental set, but was still highly accepted by the crowd who seemed to enjoy the break.

Veil of Maya kicked off the five big acts to close out the festival on Sunday evening. The pit, whose participants I’d seen throw down all day in the Houston heat, sparked to life with a renewed vigor. You could tell that Lukas Magyar, lead singer for Veil of Maya, was feeling good that evening. He excitedly thanked the crowd for all the enthusiasm and movement they offered. Up next was another Dallas native, Fit For A King, who dominated the big stage. I was stoked to see them on a larger stage and hear the song “Deathgrip” live. After The Burial was the final opening act and was much heavier. The pit got intense and almost doubled in size with bodies flailing into bystanders.

After that, there was a longer lull than normal between the sets, due to changing from two setups on stage at once to just one setup. Killswitch Engage came on around 7:30 to a roar of applause from the crowd. They took best set of the weekend in my opinion. Front man Jesse Leach was down on the guard rail within 30 seconds of being on stage. He spanned almost the entire length of the guardrail as he chose fans to scream into the microphone with him, causing havoc for front security. The set picked up and the onslaught of bodies coming over the rail was immense, like an attack on the front line. The amazing security staff scooped up countless people. I would actually like to give a shout to a security guard, who goes by Psycho. He made sure everyone had water and was okay the entire day. That man deserves a raise and a promotion.

Parkway Drive2
Parkway Drive @ So What?! Music Festival. Photo by Brently Kirksey.

The final act of the night, and the most anticipated band in the festival, was Parkway Drive. The sun had finally set, and we got the full effect of the remarkable White Oak Music Hall main stage. The fog machines brought by Parkway were phenomenal. An outside stage with a solid breeze usually means they have little to no effect,  but that stage was engulfed the entire set. The hour long set was filled to the brim with breakdowns and heavy riffs. I was thoroughly impressed with the live show, and plan to delve more into their music.

The day-to-day execution by the event staff was awesome. Everyone was extremely helpful and took care of whatever they could. The food trucks were delicious, the lines stayed at a manageable level, and I never saw a line for the restroom. Overall, the festival was a blast and I was pleasantly surprised by the level of efficiency and organization I witnessed.

– Brently Kirksey

– click to enlarge photos – 


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