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High Notes: 8123 Fest

We celebrated 10 Years of The Maine in style.

Written by Shelby Elizabeth • Photography by Ashly Nicole, Live Nation • January 30, 2017

Last weekend on January 21, 2017, Rolling Stone coined “Arizona emo group," The Maine, celebrated their 10th year of being a band. The band and their independent record label, 8123, decided to throw a music festival for such an occasion.

Luckily, I got to go see the band—who I’ve also been following for a decade—perform with some of the best bands from the alternative/punk scene in the late 2000s.

First up we had John The Ghost. John The Ghost is an offshoot band made up of members of a bunch of different 8123 bands. Led by The Maine's lead singer, John O’Callaghan, John The Ghost is a whimsical counterpart to what The Maine traditionally releases. Including longtime friend and former member of A Rocket to The Moon, Eric Halvorsen, they kicked off the day with good energy.

Staple Arizona bands played throughout the day, including This Century and Wanderer, but nothing excited me more than seeing Brighten get back together to jam out. If you’ve been around the alt scene for a while you’ll know Brighten in their own right were one of the most musically diverse bands of the pop punk resurgence days. While most people were putting out pop vocals and hard-hitting drums, Brighten was offering a softer, more laid back rock’n’roll style vibe. While the vocals were still pretty pop-centric, seeing Brighten come back on stage and play songs like “Love Me Honestly,” reignited my feelings for them.

Right after Brighten, another staple member of the 8123 family, Nick Santino, brought out his new band Beach Weather to play a set that stunned me. Having been a huge Rocket fan, it’s hard to see Nick doing anything else. But the combination of their single “Chit Chat” and the new music on the EP were not only catchy, but full of a spark that I hadn’t seen from the frontman in quite some time.

That being said, having A Rocket to the Moon’s members Nick Santino, Justin Richards of Brighten, Eric Halvorsen and Andrew Cook back on stage was one of the highlights of the entire festival. Maybe it was seeing an entire crowd sing “Baby Blue Eyes,” again or it could have been the rant about Myspace that Santino had to go on, but the boys seemed to soak in being right at home performing. “Oh Dakota…” we’re still in love with A Rocket to the Moon too.

A Rocket To The Moon 💖😭🙌🏼

A video posted by Shelby Elizabeth 🎶 (@ohhayshelby) on

A Rocket to the Moon brought nostalgia to a new level on the stage right before This Century went on. Getting inside for This Century was an impossible feat. Arizona fans are loyal, and it warmed the hearts of anyone onlooking to see the dedication to the bands that have made 8123 such a family.

The newest to the 8123 family, The Technicolors, are the perfect hard rock contrast to the rest of the bands’ chilled out vibes. While most of the fest was comprised of these staple throwback bands, The Technicolors added that “new blood” that any avid festival-goer looks for. With the stage presence of The 1975 and the musical capability of The Maine, they’re easy to get addicted to. It helps that lead singer Brennan Smiley channels his inner Bowie with every sway of his hips and hidden eyes behind white-rimmed sunglasses.

The night was topped off with the two most popular bands to ever leave the Phoenix area in alternative music — The Summer Set and The Maine.

I ain't missing you 🙌🏼🖤

A video posted by Shelby Elizabeth 🎶 (@ohhayshelby) on

For many Summer Set fans, this night was a chance to get a blast from the past and a look into the future. While the setlist (seen below) was comprised solely of music of their two most recent albums, The Summer Set went on stage owning their image in a fashion we’ve been seeing since 2009. While they took us back to '09 with their performance, it was lead singer Brian Dales’ very “woke” statement’s about the Women’s March that reminded us how much a voice musicians have.

Between the “wokeness” of The Summer Set and their incredible performance, it was slightly difficult to see how The Maine would top their performance, and coming from a long time attendee of The Maine shows, I was looking forward to seeing the change up for this show.

With lead singer John O’Callaghan dressed in a floral suit that looked lifted from a'70s prom (or retro couch upholstery), I knew I was in for a good night. The five men that make up The Maine are the most in sync band I have ever seen live. From stopping the set for a “Q&A session” with their fans, to a firetruck from the Phoenix Fire Department honking at them, the bells and whistles only added to that magic their ten years together had created. Kicking things off with “We All Roll Along” from their first album Can’t Stop Won’t Stop, the setlist was filled with gems from each of their albums. Drunken family members screamed along lyrics as loud as their fans, and even during a hiccup in the acoustic song “Take Me Dancing” — which they incredibly improvised with full band until John’s acoustic guitar was fixed — no one in the crowd was left bored or emotionally untouched from the evening.

GIRLS DO WHAT THEY WANT so appropriate today.

A video posted by Shelby Elizabeth 🎶 (@ohhayshelby) on

The Maine truly brought the fans into their family and ten years of being a band who are unashamedly themselves with the eccentric banter on stage between songs. It was impossible for me as a fan and an observer to not tear up as they ended the evening with “We’ll All Be” off their debut album. The night ended just as perfectly as the day's beginning, with a giant smile on everyone’s face. It was the single most connected performance I have ever seen at a show, and I can’t wait to see The Maine continue on for another 10, 20, 100 years.