By Jay Tilles
Now in its fourth year, the ADTR-curated one-day hard rock festival ignores the mainstream and does it so successfully; indeed, the music business would be wise to sit up and take notice. The lesson: by catering to a loyal fan base and not stretching too far from that. To put it in old-school terms, you earn trust and credibility with a subculture that cares about such things. To use the language of 2016, you “build a brand.”
Although some of the bands on the bill lack mainstream recognition, none lack rabid fans. The lineup features A Day To Remember, August Burns Red, Issues, Further Seems Forever (How to Start a Fire), LetLive, Tonight Alive, The Wonder Years, The Story So Far, Crown The Empire, Cruel Hand, Yelawolf, Thy Art Is Murder, One OK Rock and Night Verses.
One hotly anticipated performance this year is the reunion of Underoath. Having broken up in 2013, the Tampa, Florida band reunited in late 2015 with the same lineup that recorded their seminal album, They’re Only Chasing Safety. “We heard they were playing shows again and we wanted to get them before anyone else, because that record means a lot to our whole genre,” ADTR frontman Jeremy McKinnon explains to Radio.com.
But adding a reunited band isn’t the only thing ADTR has up their sleeves.
“This year we’re amping up the production,” reveals McKinnon. “There’s definitely going to be some surprises that I don’t think people that have grown up with our music have seen at festivals.” McKinnon says that having three successful fests under their belt, they’re now afforded the ability to put more money into the show. That’s something that’s important to ADTR. “We’re the headliner this year and we’re definitely going to do more than what people expect.”
But the festival comes from humble beginnings and was never intended expand past it’s base. It’s the opposite of pretentious. Self Help doesn’t pretend to be Lollapalooza, Coachella, or Bonnaroo with bands from every genre, dance-tents and a multi-million dollar budget. Self Help has always been about celebrating the genre. It’s worth mentioning that the genre doesn’t get much attention in the mainstream press, or from the aforementioned festivals. And that’s the beauty of it. Fans travel great distances to hang out in a parking lot in the middle of San Bernardino; they come for the music and the unity the show delivers. It’s a sea of young people who know the words to every song from every band on the bill.
The bands feed off this energy. McKinnon notes that he’s seen a pattern with this festival. “I’ve seen multiple bands—that have played a lot of the years—play their best sets that I’ve ever seen them play at this festival just because of how into the show the crowd got. It pushed everybody to play at another level that I haven’t seen these guys do.”
“The vibe is just really cool at this place for some reason. We’re really excited to do it again.” And right now, it looks like they’ll be doing it for years to come.
At the time of posting, a handful of tickets are still available for Self Help Fest via Ticketfly.