chainfest 2016

The Chain Reaction in Anaheim, CA has officially existed for 20 years. For those unfamiliar with the music venue, the Chain Reaction hosts all ages concerts for inexpensive prices. The OCWeekly describes it as “the introductory venue for every band that passes through Orange County”. And they’re right – for the past 20 years most bands that have made it big have played here at least once. They decided to celebrate this milestone birthday with a huge festival to host the bands that have played the venue and reached some level of fame.

I bought my Chain Fest ticket months in advance for $63  in total, which is rather cheap considering I had a long list of bands I wanted to see that day. I had been anticipating the events for months as well, a group of my friends were going with me and we made an entire day trip out of it. As a planner type person, I looked on the Chain Fest website for the information I would need to attend the festival. I brought an empty ‘hydropack’ as per the rules, and knew that there would be no parking on the premises, but parking would be offered in nearby walking distance. Once my car of friends arrived at the venue we were incorrectly directed to a street that had no parking on it, so we looped around and asked another Observatory employee where we could find parking. This time we were directed to the correct street and found the parking lot – but for a $20 fee, which seemed hefty, but from the parking lot we walked directly across the street to the venue. So the parking was generally an okay experience, although a bit strange. I guess I kind of expected the employees to know where the parking lot was and also not to pay so much money, but the location made up for it. Plus, parking is always a hassle no matter where you go.

We arrive at the festival and immediately apply sunscreen and make sure our shoes are tied tight. We knew we had a long and hot day ahead of us, but being the exemplary teens we are, we were prepared. I first saw Turnover, who played one of the best sets I’ve seen them play. The band tends to be quiet and not make a huge introduction of themselves, but they seem well accustomed to playing large festivals like this one. The lead vocalist Austin Gentz did mention that this was the 3rd set they had played within 24 hours, but I still couldn’t tell if their quality wasn’t so great. They played their tunes, thanked the attendees and went off on their merry way – I can’t even give any complaints. I also saw Basement, The Story So Far, Citizen, and part of Dance Gavin Dance and Chon’s sets. The most striking of all the sets I watched that day was Title Fight’s, because I’ve never seen them live before and they did a way better job than I expected. I don’t know why, but I imagined Title Fight to be a band who was kind of douchey on stage, played their songs, and walked off as though they were the greatest rockstars ever. Maybe that’s because I think their music is really really great and I correlate great music with douchey band members just wanting the money from playing big shows? (I know, I know its a bad generalization).

Sorry for the tangent, but they absolutely killed it. They had some technical difficulties and played through them without seeming too frustrated or irritable. Title Fight rocks, I love them even more now.  The other bands I saw played awesome sets as well. The music was all well rehearsed, the bands were respectful of the venue, and seemed to appreciate the impact that the Chain Reaction has had on the SoCal scene.

My only complaint is that the festival was organized poorly. I was told on the website I could bring in an empty water bottle to fill up throughout the day, but there were no water fountains or such to fill said water bottle at. Otherwise, a bottle of water was $3 and thats a bit ridiculous to me since I brought my own. The festival also seemed over crowded, too many people were packed in a small space, and the indoor shows were definitely breaking some capacity laws. I cut the Observatory and Chain Reaction some slack though, this is the first of this festival, who knows if there will be another to come, and the bands they booked were killer. Their importance in the California music scene outweighs the planning issues, especially for the reasonable price tag. 8/10; would do again. Happy Birthday, Chain Reaction, we all love you.


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