Last Saturday, fans of emotional rock flocked to San Manuel Amphitheater for a nostalgia-fueled night featuring some of the biggest, most influential bands of the genre in the past decades (including a few from last year’s tour). The annual Taste of Chaos festival’s stellar lineup caused thousands to brave the heat and long lines in the name of screaming lyrics held near and dear to their hearts.

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All photos by Stephen J Branagan

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The final stop of the nationwide tour was in Southern California — where else? — and throughout the evening, it was clear the bands had bonded over the prior two months. Already having come up in the same era and playing songs they’ve been performing for decades, the bands spoke like family and thanked each other for inspiration (then and now).

Heat climbed into the nineties as the first wave of bands who hit the mainstream emo scene began the day. Concertgoers were surrounded by merchandise tents, food trucks, carnival rides, and giant inflatable Rockstar Energy Drink bottles (the festival’s sponsor). These diehards came to sing along to emotional songs, some of which they’ve been singing for over a decade.

Many of those in the crowd has spent hours rocking out to The Early November, Hot Rod Circuit, Reggie and The Full Effect, and The Anniversary (the band’s first time performing together since their breakup in 2004) by the time Senses Fail took the stage, but the group quickly rallied the crowd with some thunderous double bass and gave them adolescent flashbacks with the songs “You’re Cute When You Scream,” “Lady In The Blue Dress,” “Rum is for Drinking, Not Burning,” “Buried A Lie,” and “Bite To Break Skin.”

Saosin, with Anthony Green at the helm, appeared onstage underscored by the Game of Thrones theme song. Green’s impressively high register held strong through “Racing Through A Red Light,” “The Silver String,” and “Third Measurement In C,” and the frontman cheered “Yes!” over and over when looking out on the crowd. He told fans, “It makes me so happy to look out and see you all having a good time. Nothing takes away my stress like live fucking music.” The feeling was unquestionably mutual.

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The Starting Line kicked off their set with “Up and Go” as fans enthusiastically scream/sang back with pointed fingers. Lead singer Kenny Vasoli gushed, “We are stoked to be playing with The Get Up Kids for the first time!” and thanked fans for keeping the band “in the realm of relevance” before performing other classics like “Making Love To The Camera” and “Leaving.” Their now-timeless emo hit “Best of Me” held some of the most symbolic lyrics of the day as fans sang, “We got older but we’re still young. We never grew out of this feeling that we won’t give up.”

The Starting Line

One of the most revered bands on the bill, The Get Up Kids, took the stage next. A seminal band in the indie/emo-rock scene, The Get Up Kids brought the hits as well, including “Holiday,” “I’m A Loner Dottie, A Rebel,” and “Red Letter Day.” Frontman Matt Pryor’s signature voice hasn’t lost an ounce of angst over the years, and while their set may not have been the most high energy, it certainly elicited heartfelt memories of growing up and falling in love as fans cheered for each song.

The Get Up Kids

Pryor praised the next group, post-hardcore band Quicksand, citing them as “the reason we started our band.” The crowd, however, noticeably thinned out as the group’s much heavier rock music accompanied the setting sun. Chugging guitars propelled Quicksand through songs like “Fazer” and “Omission.” Although the group performed hardcore hits like “Dine Alone” and “Thorn in My Side,” lead vocalist Walter Schreifels shimmied in slow motion through some songs, arms spread, lovingly taking in the moment and diehard fans.

Quicksand

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