Who knows what the weather will bring during a Texas summer? Humidity and heat are expected, and those elements persist in both rain clouds and the scorching sun. It makes Houston-based festival planning hard. The debut summer for the “Warped Tour replacement” Rockstar Disrupt Festival had to deal with a little bit of everything on Sunday, June 23 – there was, of course, some heat and humidity, but a little bit of rain and a little bit of sun also made appearances. For a festival climate, the dichotomy served attendees well and drove the vibe as it provided both an intimate and raucous experience for all attendees.
Instead of the typical outdoor side stage common to so many summer festivals, the day kicked off with Hyro the Hero onstage inside the House of Blues at their lounge. The word “lounge” invokes dim lights, swaying, and smoky jazz performances, but the native Houstonian’s set embodied a much different spirit. A mosh pit broke out, and some people may have been accidentally punched in the face. I suppose when Hyro yells, “I’ve got a bullet with your name,” though, you might expect some people to get raucous and crazy.
The vibe then transitioned to one more apropos of a lounge. Juliet Simms took the stage with her band, a woman who possesses an ethereal-yet-edgy and captivating tenor. When she stretches her arms out past her sides and shimmies her hips with the music, you’re almost hypnotized with her movement, even more so when it’s paired with her raw vocals. (No woman or artist wants to be merely known as someone else’s wife, but Simms is, in fact, the wife of festival-mate Andy Black.) Simms entered the festival circuit in 2007 when she first began on Warped Tour with Automatic Loveletter. Now, out touring with her own band, her setlist included “Bad Love” and “Wild Child.”
Introducing themselves as having come “all the way from Australia,” Trophy Eyes – fronted by vocalist John Floreani – took the stage next, with Floreani dancing and crooning to tracks off of their 2016 and 2018 albums Chemical Miracle and The American Dream. Floreani looked more like a choir boy than a punk rock band singer, standing upright with great posture as he held his hands behind his back and leaned into the microphone. He would occasionally counter by twirling crazily as the music increased with intensity.
If “Friday Forever” was the only song one caught of their set, they would understand, the song providing a range of motion for Floreani to embrace. “Hurt” compelled everyone to dance right alongside him. Bassist Jeremy Winchester and lead guitarist Andrew Hallett screamed and danced along with everyone else in the crowd. The band ended their set with “You Can Count On Me” and almost everyone joined Floreani in crooning, “But I just sell sad songs to the ones who feel alone / You can count on me when it all goes wrong.”
Four Year Strong
Another unearthed positive of having the first part of the festival indoors is that the lounge was carpeted. No spilled beer, puddles of rain, or slick concrete could precipitate a giant slip during the mosh. Even still if one did fall the crowd adhered to standard pit rules – see someone fall, pull them back up. And with Four Year Strong dominating the stage, every bit of these unspoken rules came into play. The moshing starting early and lasted the entire set, so the carpet saved some face.
The energy in the crowd only existed as a result of the intensity the guys brought on stage. They played passionately through their canon, hitting songs like, “What the Hell is a Gigawat?”, “It Must Really Suck to Be Four Year Strong Right Now,” “We All Float Down Here,” and “Wasting Time.”
The day took a turn from punk to glam rock when Andy Black hit the stage, following Four Year Strong. He used the stage as his catwalk as he ran singing from one side to the other in his leather pants. He officiated as the glam rock darling apparition of Billy Idol. Then, as if hearing the audience’s thoughts, he covered Idol’s classic “Dancing With Myself,” cementing the comparison (and honoring the giant).
Black is a true entertainer and performer, filling up the stage and providing constant interaction well his audience. He’s charismatic and engaging. A wonderful visual up until the end makes him great for a festival lineup; even if you’re not a fan of his music, you’ll surely be entertained. He concluded his set with “We Don’t Have to Dance.”
Sleeping with Sirens
While Andy Black was the glam rock darling on the side stage, Sleeping with Sirens was the darling of the entire day in the House of Blues Lounge. By far, these native Floridians drew the largest and loudest crowd. Who had more energy? The crowd or the band? No one knows, but the vivacity was palpable throughout the entire building.
Moshing was back in spades specifically at the behest of vocalist Kellen Quinn – the audience outdoing that of Four Year Strong – demanding circle pits and to open the pit up. And during “Better Off Dead” from Madness, the crowd abided. They closed out the stage with “two of the best songs (they’ve) ever written,” according to Quinn. These were “If I’m James Dean, You’re Audrey Hepburn” and “If You Can’t Hang,” which he dedicated to anyone “who’s been in a f-cked up relationship before.”
Of course, they played “Leave It All Behind” off of their forthcoming album, which, when combined with this stellar performance, reminded fans that Sleeping With Sirens is still relevant and killing it with their new music. They closed out the lounge in the most appropriate way, allowing festival-goers to appreciate the intimacy and coolness of the venue.
Next up? Big hitters show up on the main stage.
Memphis May Fire
Memphis May Fire opened the main stage with a dynamic inspirational performance. Common to their approach to life, it was full of gratitude.
They played music off of their most recent album, Broken, but didn’t leave fans of their old stuff without, also running through some older tracks. Before “Alive in the Lights,” vocalist Matty Mullins encouraged the audience to pursue their passions no matter what anyone says; additionally, he showed thanks to fans by telling them that “The Sinner” was recorded in a storage unit and that the song changed their lives – but that it only truly changed their lives because of the fans. Memphis May Fire was a crowd favorite of the day and did a heck of a job kicking off the main stage.
The Story So Far
The energy nosedived a bit when The Story So Far took over. The band moved around very little. The performance lacked dynamics, but it’s hard to be disenchanted with a group that expressed so much gratitude for their platform and fans. Vocalist Parker Cannon started out by paying thanks to the moment, saying, “This is pretty sweet,” and later followed up thanking everyone in the audience for supporting the band: “We’re very happy to be here.” Tracks during their set included “Light Year,” “Clairvoyant,” and “If I Fall.”
Circa Survive brought the energy back, assuming the stage when The Story So Far was done. Vocalist Anthony Green started out by saying, “This is gonna be awesome. Let’s dance!” And? It was awesome. The people danced.
Between the trippy visuals, haze, and intense performance, the set was fantastic, one of the best of the day. The blues, pinks, lights, mad energy, groovy moves, and riffs made for an immersive experience. Green said, “It’s impossible to express just how thankful we are to be able to play for you.” When they finished the crowd was compelled to demand an encore. Thankful to play, more thankful to witness.
Many fans had been waiting for this moment: The Used, a cornerstone of alt-rock sainthood, were the penultimate performers. Vocalist Bert McCracken dedicated their set to true Used fans, the ones that have embraced them throughout the years. This dedication proved to be his way of foreshadowing because the band largely played older songs like “Take It Away,” “All That I’ve Got,” and “Taste of Ink.” For someone who has never seen The Used live but jammed their music since 2002, this set was a dream come true.
The audience let loose, sang along, and filled in the lyrics for the band when McCracken acquiesced. McCracken joked with the crowd, but he also got serious with fans. He shared that, “(We last) played here in 2004 with a really special band, Linkin Park. … I was the lowest I had ever been on tour. I was feeling really suicidal, and because of Chester (Bennington, Linkin Park vocalist who committed suicide), I am here right now. This song is for anyone who has had their life changed or affected by music.” The entire crowd sang along as they honored Linkin Park by covering “Shadow of the Day.”
The Used integrated other artists’ songs into their set, such as “Killing in the Name” by Rage Against the Machine and Oasis’s “Wonderwall.” They also integrated other artists; during the band’s hit “A Box Full of Sharp Objects”, Kellin Quinn of Sleeping with Sirens joined McCracken on stage and lent his startling-yet-comforting vocals and screams to the track.
As the set ended, fans demanded the band play on after their set time was done. Top to bottom, the performance was exhilarating and even the encore wouldn’t be sufficient. Fans truly didn’t want their set to be over.
It’s a good thing Thrice was on next, another alt-rock cornerstone with fanatical fandom. The band was set to close the day, doing so with black and white lights, raw vocals, and pristine guitar playing.
Unfortunately, a number of fans left after The Used; it’s a shame because Thrice, an emotional band that plays with their hearts on their sleeves, resonates deeply; their music stirred the hearts of everyone there. They played “The Artist in the Ambulance,” “In Exile,” and “Black Honey”; in particular, “Black Honey” felt intimate despite the grand distance between the stage and most of the fans. Heads banged with vocalist Dustin Kensrue as he emphasized his lyrics: “I keep swinging my hand through a swarm of bees / I can’t understand why they’re stinging me / But I’ll do what I want / I’ll do what I please.” The quartet didn’t abandon their newer work either, playing “Deeper Wells” from their most recent EP.
Disrupt’s lineup lacked little for the progressive punk, rock, and emo fan. Anyone who’s looking to thrash, sway or dance can find a vibe with one of the bands. (Though moshing was on display, it didn’t have many bands you’d have seen from a Warped Tour Monster Energy stage, like The Chariot or letlive. provided in years past.) Disrupt’s lineup did provide a healthy combination of intimacy and mischief to make a great summer day experiencing live music. Easily, it was worth the day out.