Perfect blue skies and T-shirt weather welcomed the daylong Lake Tahoe Is For Lovers Festival June 24 at Harveys Outdoor Arena. With a lineup consisting mostly of early 2000’s pop punk and emo bands, the beautiful conditions were not lost to those onstage. With performers heavy on a very specific era and style of music, it seemed like each of the 10 groups took a moment to acknowledge how thankful they were to have fans who would hit capacity at such a beautiful venue 20 years later.
With a lineup and atmosphere curated and designed by the band Hawthorne Heights, Harveys took a break from their more casino-demographic-friendly lineups, and instead filled the venue various photo ops, onsite makeup artists excited to “Myspace your face”, and a Dunk The Punk fundraising dunk tank. The normal floor seating had been removed, and green turf laid down which did well to facilitate the circle pits that would ensue.
Ten bands would play throughout the day – from the ‘90s alt rock of Reno’s Bug Bath to the pop funk of the Bay Area group Just Friends. But it was the meat of the lineup – those emo and pop punk bands who were existed in the age where their teen angst could spread like wildfire across a scene of angsty kids with AOL connections – that elevated the show.
Ohio’s Hawthorne Heights took the stage – not as headliners, but in the middle of a lineup where they were quick to tell everyone how excited they were to continue to have the chance to play with the bands that inspired them – and drove the point of the day home: that this so-called phase everyone went through in the early 2000’s has apparently lasted long enough that those in the crowd were now bringing their own children to see these bands.
“If you guys let us, we want to be the emo Grateful Dead! We want to keep playing for all of you until we’re all in our 80s,” hollered Hawthorne Heights’ vocalist JT Woodruff from atop the barricade as he was forced to dodge crowd surfers who sailed in his direction atop the audience’s upstretched arms.
Plain White T’s inspired many in the crowd to slow dance together atop the turf to the group’s love songs, while Yellowcard repeatedly thanked the crowd for still wanting to hear the 20-year-old album that that changed their lives, right before playing their “Ocean Avenue” album in its entirety as the roar of the capacity floor singing along was deafening at times.
Jimmy Eat World ended the night just after sunset as the Tahoe stars came out over the faint silhouette of the treeline surrounding the venue. With several of the artists sharing stories about how they first heard and became fans of the other bands playing, or talking about sharing Warped Tour stages with the other bands nearly two decades ago, or playing new material to an excited reaction from the crowd, Lake Tahoe Is For Lovers Festival felt almost like a victory lap for what is fondly remembered for being a teenage phase with some forgettable fashion choices years ago. And while the event as a whole was set up with a fest atmosphere in mind, it was without a doubt the bands who put on just as energetic of performances now that ruled the night.
– Shaun Astor