A year ago there were no shows to attend, let alone tours or festivals. As we claw our way slowly out of the darkest time in recent history as music fans, and concert goers (and photogs and writers too) the specialness of even the average show is not going to be taken for granted right now. So the return of Chain Fest, which has sprouted a life of its own after a humble beginning as the flagship event for Anaheim, California’s Chain Reaction, is huge for fans and really, the entire SoCal scene. While Chain Reaction remains a vital venue for bands, Chain Fest has kind of become a monster, growing every year and expanding to the Fivepoint Amphitheatre. When it was announced for 2021 and sold out pretty fast you could tell the excitement was high. Chain fest not only features special bands from Punk, Indie, Emo, and post-Hardcore, but always features bands doing special sets you can’t see anywhere else. We are all kind of living in a 2021 Punk version of Almost Famous where “it’s all happening” all the time!
Even with Acceptance dropping off the bill (see you next time gang) the lineup was stacked. Most of the lineup that was meant to be Chain Fest 2020 was back this year. Openers such as The Summer Set and Envy on The Coast matched were great choices to kick things off. Most of these bands haven’t played a show of any stripe in the last few years due to the pandemic. Envy On The Coast followed in the footsteps of co-headliners Taking Back Sunday, showing the depth of Long Island, still churning out talented bands.
After another band reunited – Cartel, performed songs from their 15 year old opus Chroma. How is this album 15 already? Cartel was always criminally underrated, perhaps owing to their scrappy Atlanta roots. Hopefully they are back to stay. Each band got to play a near full set, which is great for veterans like Anberlin,who leaned into their legacy for their show.
More of the as-advertised exclusive sets followed next with Mayday Parade – playing most of A Lesson in Romantics (Fearless Records), and Circa Survive performing all of their classic Blue Sky Noise (Atlantic Records) album. If you at this show for these once-in a lifetime sets, and you love these bands, pinch yourself.
The co-healiners TBD and Jimmy Eat World – true to their roots – and taking a recent page out of Metallica’s book, performed a secret show at Chain Reaction the night before. Imagine the going from that vibe of a few hundred people to this venue the next night? It must have been something surreal for the bands. Unlike some of the early day bands, both of these scene veterans have made the most of the return of touring, playing festivals as they criss-crossed the USA, to mostly sold-out crowds. Either band could headline this show, but together it was a pretty great time for fans. We are looking forward to many more Chain Fests and shows at Chain Reaction for years to come.
PHOTOS BY MEG LOYAL PHOTOGRAPHY