It has officially been a week since The Maine’s second “8123 Fest.” An event that brings established bands, as well as up and coming groups, to downtown Phoenix, AZ for a weekend of music, art, and fun. This was a weekend of many firsts for me: my first time attending the Fest, my first time flying alone, and my first time in Arizona. Despite all nerves regarding traveling, I was still more excited than anything else.
Friday, January 18th, for me, started at 3:30 a.m. as I left my dorm and took an hour-long bus ride to the airport where I then had a five-hour plane ride across the country. Upon landing, I met my friend, hopped on the bus to downtown Phoenix, and walked a mile in the beautiful sun to The Maine’s popup shop. Here they had a $5 tent, a wall full of art, a tattoo artist doing consultations, a wide variety of new merchandise, and a section dedicated to art that fans made relating to the band.
After the popup shop, we dropped our bags off at the Airbnb and then raced to the Van Buren, where The Maine was holding the kickoff event for the Fest—a request show. I was more excited for this event than the rest of the weekend. After releasing a song only two days prior, I was sure I would hear it. While waiting in line we made friends with people from all over: Brazil, New York, Scotland, and more. Eventually, we entered the venue and listened to a energetic set by the opening act, Wanderer.
The Maine was taking a long time to come on stage, and I was starting to feel light headed from the lack of sleep and the long travel day. Pat (The Maine’s drummer) soon came on stage to explain the wait. There were still a lot of people outside waiting to get in, and the band wanted to make sure everyone was there for the show. The wait was well worth it, opening with their new song, “Numb Without You.” The crowd went wild. The energy never dropped from there as some of my favorite songs were played like “My Hair”, their cover of “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun”, and “Vanilla.” They closed the show with “Black Butterflies & Déjà Vu”, but the Fest had only just begun.
Saturday was the main event. Doors opened at noon, giving those up until 2 a.m. from the request show some much-needed rest before a long day. The food was great, and there were lots of options for vegetarians, which I was thankful for seeing as most of my sustenance that weekend came from McDonald’s fries. The park had a multitude of things to do aside from listen to bands at the main and side stages. There was a giant tent with merch from various bands in attendance, a “cacti garden”, the (un)lost tent (a cool, comfortable hangout place), a van to sign, a popup record shop, and even a coffee cart (I’m sure Real Friends enjoyed this).
Aside from the various attractions there was the music itself. The Technicolors, This Century, Real Friends, We The Kings, Mayday Parade, and the other acts got the crowd loose and wild. Mosh pits started as early as 4 in the afternoon and did not stop until the final song of the night. Each band left everything they had on the stage. Many acts took a page out of The Maine’s book and played songs they rarely perform such as Mayday Parade’s “I’d Hate To Be You When People Find Out What This Song Is About.”
In-between sets people usually go on their phones and ignore their neighbors, but at the Fest everyone was getting to know one another instead. We were able to meet people that shared the same love for music as we did. During this time, I watched a group of people learn about The Maine and 8123 and then later saw them jam out to the songs during their set. It was amazing.
Finally, it was time for The Maine to play “Can’t Stop Won’t Stop” in full. Every moment was magic, but the most incredible part of the whole weekend was hearing thousands of people from all over the world sing, “8123 means everything to me,” the iconic line from “We All Roll Along”. I get chills every time I think about it. During the classic “Girls Do What They Want” everyone expected them to call a fan on stage, as their tradition. The fan they called on stage happened to be the band’s first Myspace friend and was at their first show where he said there were about 7 people. The crowd went crazy for him. In the middle of the song John jumped onto the fan (Richard’s) shoulders as they sang together. “We’ll All Be…” brought the album to a close, but the beautiful moments continued.
In a break between the album and playing their newer songs, John took a moment to speak to the crowd. He talked about how we are all alive for a moment and how fantastic it was that we were all here, together, for this one. The night continued with hits such as “Am I Pretty” and “Bad Behavior.” In typical The Maine fashion, the show ended with “Another Night on Mars.” Hearing the song with so many people singing along was surreal enough, but then John jumped into the crowd and, while stretched out on top of the audience in the Arizona moonlight, sang “on our backs under the stars as we sang as we sing.” It was a night I will remember forever, always with a smile on my face.
Following the Fest was the afterparty. We sang, danced, and laughed when Pat and Dan from Real Friends fell off of the exercise bike. It was a giant party that left a smile on everyone’s faces, including Jack from All Time Low who showed up in a crown and a leopard coat. Ted Lavender, the bassist from A Rocket To The Moon, stole the night in his bedazzled white jacket and flowing white pants. He brought the house down with his energy and enthusiasm as he danced across the stage, ran on the bike, and carried Pat around, all while screaming about how alive he felt. He embodied the feelings of everyone in the audience as well.
This weekend held some of the best days of my life. I will never forget the names or the faces of the wonderful people I met in line for food, in-between sets, or just walking down the street. Words cannot do justice to the feelings emoted in McDonald’s parking lots, airport bathrooms, dollar general checkouts, and all the other strange places the 8123 family made feel like home. The only thing that comes close to bringing these feelings into words are the songs sung by the band people traveled across the world to see for a weekend that turned into a unforgettable memory. 8123 has room for everyone and anyone, as long as that person is just as kind and loving as the band who created it. The amount of joy that was brought to so many people in just three days was inspiring to see. I truly feel so blessed to be alive in the same moment as the wonderful humans in and behind the scenes of The Maine and 8123. Until next time Arizona…
Preorder The Maine’s seventh album, released on March 29th, and get tickets for their upcoming tour here: https://www.themaineband.com