This year's Sad Summer Fest kicks off today, boasting an exciting lineup ranging from Waterparks and State Champs to Mayday Parade and Hot Milk. But before you head out to join the fun, get to know the women behind the scenes. From tour managers to photographers, see how these women make magic happen all summer long.

LISA BROWNLEE (Tour Manager)

What does your role at Sad Summer involve?: I advance the tour package covering all backstage logistics, catering, finance, merchandise, security, etc. with both artists and venues. I handle day-to-day road management of the tour, making sure we have a seamless show from load in to load out and everything in between. There are endless moving parts to a tour this large, and it takes an entire team to make it happen. I simply help provide the tools everyone needs to get their jobs done safely and efficiently.

What was your career path to get to where you are today?: I started touring about 25-plus years ago. My roots have always been in touring festivals. I started at Lollapalooza in the beginning and then did 24 years of the Vans Warped Tour in many roles, including tour manager. There have been plenty of festivals in between, but I cut my teeth a long time ago and have learned a lot since then.

What are the most challenging and the most rewarding aspects of your role at the festival?: When you’re moving a large group of people and things from venue to venue each day and doing 12 to 14 hours of work on show days, it can be very tiring yet very rewarding. When you are the tour manager, there are no “off days.” There are only “non-show days.” Even on “non-show" days, you are still advancing shows, still handling hotels and still taking care of the crew. Sad Summer Fest is also a passion project for me, so I love being a part of a strong professional team and continuing to grow the brand. I hope it will be around as long as the Vans Warped Tour was. 

What do you love most about Sad Summer?: The team I work with and the kitschy assets like DJ Bear and The Barbie Photo Box.

What advice would you give to someone wanting to work for an event like Sad Summer?: Anything is possible if you want it badly enough. Never be deterred and follow your passion. Align yourself with your future and then manifest it! Find a good mentor and ask lots of questions.

Who are you personally most excited about seeing at the festival this summer?: Everyone, everything and all the smiling faces coming and going at every single show.

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[Photo courtesy of Lisa Brownlee]

BLAIR ADOUR (Head Administrator) 

What does your role at Sad Summer involve?: Oh jeez, we all wear so many hats! Being a small team keeps us humble. We’re just trying to make this fest run. I assist in the agency side of the fest, which means I spend a great deal of time routing the tour. We start by finding the best places to put the fest in each city. From there, we work on deals for the shows, artists and then contracting all these deals. Once we lock everything in, we start on marketing. I help set the tour up with each promoter; we prepare ticket links, artwork, marketing plans and so much more. We’re lucky to work with great promoters who grind on the tour to make it an amazing experience. I like to say I bring the good vibes, give input on our sick merch before it goes off to be printed and I’m a meme creator, but the team would roll their eyes at this statement.

What was your career path to get to where you are today?: I graduated undergrad with a degree in audio production. I quickly realized that although I loved doing sound for shows, it wasn’t exactly what I wanted to do in live music. So, I pivoted and applied for a job at a talent agency. I had no idea what I was getting into, but I started to realize this job was exactly what I was looking for. I started out as an intern in the music department and moved my way up over the years. My boss Mike and the two other partners of Sad Summer, Tim and Josh, had me come on board and work on this festival, and I’m so glad they did. 

What are the most challenging and the most rewarding aspects of your role at the festival?: Before the festival even ends, we are thinking about the next year. You have to get ahead of routing the tour to make sure it logistically makes sense. It’s mentally exhausting trying to focus on the current year but also planning ahead so early on. The most rewarding part of the job is going to the shows and seeing all of our hard work pay off. We have a small team and watching fans have a great time makes all the long days worth it.

What do you love most about Sad Summer?: I grew up in the scene in Syracuse, New York. I went to Warped Tour and so many shows throughout upstate New York. I look back fondly on those times. Working on Sad Summer makes younger me so proud. Building this festival each year with such an amazing team is special. We pour everything we have into it. 

What advice would you give to someone wanting to work for an event like Sad Summer?: The first thing I would say is to understand that finding your path is fluid and not linear. Your first job or gig will most likely not be perfect, but take what you can from each opportunity and keep pushing. It’s a hard industry, but stay true to who you are and you’ll find your place — it just may take some time.

Who are you personally most excited about seeing at the festival this summer?: I’m very excited to see Waterparks. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen them perform.

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[Photo courtesy of Blair Adour]

CHELSEA DUNSTALL (Publicist, Logistics Support, Nonprofit Partnerships Manager)

What does your role at Sad Summer involve?: Every day is a little bit different! I’m the tour’s publicist, so I oversee press for Sad Summer. I also handle all nonprofit partnerships, sustainability efforts, our Safer Spaces initiatives, daily volunteers, logistics support, which includes things like crew travel, and whatever else is tossed my way.

What was your career path to get to where you are today?: My first ever experience in the music industry was volunteering as a member of street teams for labels and artists. From there, I had my first paid gig as crew at a local venue. I then went on to work in publicity for a PR company. Fast forward to now, and I’ve been working for 8123 as a day-to-day manager for around nine years now. Sad Summer Fest was co-founded by Tim [Kirch], who I work with 8123, so I came along as a packaged deal.  

What are the most challenging and the most rewarding aspects of your role at the festival?: The most challenging for me is that we take on the tour in addition to everything we did before the tour was developed. So it is a lot of extra work — especially as a small team. The most rewarding thing for me is being able to combine my passions of environmentalism and philanthropy with music to create something much bigger than just a show. I love to seek out opportunities where I feel like we can use this platform that’s been built to elevate important messages or support nonprofit work.

What do you love most about Sad Summer?: I love being able to contribute to creating a space where people are going to make lasting memories with their friends. We all have memories growing up of shows that we won’t forget, and I hope we can now put that together for others. 

What advice would you give to someone wanting to work for an event like Sad Summer?: To get involved, in any way you can, to start! Work for a local venue to see how an event like this is run, volunteer for a festival in your area and ask lots of questions along the way. Learn as much as you can and build an idea of what you want to do. This industry is so heavily reliant on networking, so getting out there to get your feet wet really is important.

Who are you personally most excited about seeing at the festival this summer?: The whole Sad Summer Fest crew and team! We have a few new faces who I’m looking forward to meeting, but since we all live in different places, I’m also excited to see everyone in person again!

GLENN CUMMINGS
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[Photo by Glenn Cummings]

STACIE GEORGE (Senior Vice President, Booking for Live Nation Northeast)

What does your role involve?: I currently lead a team of 10 people that books, schedules and promotes live performances of artists and comedians from all genres across New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. We execute a concert strategy from start to finish. Our team starts by researching an artist and then booking the artist in the right capacity club or theater, ensuring they perform to the right audience size. Once booked, we oversee the marketing, advertising, show announce, ticket on sale and production.

What was your career path to get to where you are today?: I started as a DJ at WKDU 91.7 FM in Philadelphia at Drexel University. I only went to Drexel because I wanted to be on the punk-rock radio station. I started promoting my DJ nights with friends around the city. When I graduated, a small club called The Khyber, which was 220 capacity, asked me if I wanted to book bands there.

At the time, I didn’t know anything about booking bands, but I grew up going to punk shows my friends put on in VFW halls and basements, so I already had the DIY mentality. I accepted the position and was so successful that I picked up three more small clubs in two years. From there, Live Nation recruited me to be a talent buyer in Washington, D.C. and Baltimore, Maryland. After a few years in D.C., I moved up the East Coast to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to book shows across the Philadelphia DMA for five years. Currently, I am based out of the New York City office, still living my childhood dream job of booking punk bands, as well as all other genres of music and comedy. 

What are the most challenging and the most rewarding aspects of putting on a show like Sad Summer?: With a huge team working behind the scenes to produce a festival like Sad Summer, making sure the day runs smoothly, managing the logistics and ensuring each band hits the stage on time can be challenging. But seeing the fans connect with their favorite artists in the live setting is the most rewarding, and we get to take part in watching that fan-to-artist reaction every day. 

What do you love most about Sad Summer?: The curation of the lineup each year. I love all the bands that play the festival.

What advice would you give to someone wanting to work in a role like yours one day?: Treat everyone you meet with the same respect you would want for yourself and be ready to work hard. This job is 24/7. We are booking bands, handling logistics all day and then going to the concerts at night. You have to love music to do this job. I also serve as a mentor with Femme It Forward Next Gen Mentorship Program, offering one-on-one coaching and sharing my expertise and knowledge in helping groom future business leaders, particularly young women of color. 

Who are you personally most excited about seeing at the festival this summer?: LØLØ

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[Photo courtesy of Stacie George]

MONA WHETZEL (Assistant Tour Manager)

What does your role at Sad Summer involve?: Assist with day-to-day operations such as event setup, maintaining the production office, overseeing production runners, etc. Managing festival merchandise and reconciliation with promoters. Supporting management, bands and crew as needed. 

What was your career path to get to where you are today?: I graduated from the Art Institute of Seattle with a music business degree. For several years I freelanced as a bookkeeper and business consultant; these skills come in very handy when doing many of the organizational and financial parts of working in music and event production. I have worked many different jobs related to music and event production, learning from each one, and slowly growing contacts and connections.

What are the most challenging and the most rewarding aspects of your role at the festival?: The most challenging thing for me is the lack of sleep! Working on a touring festival means you are up early and get to bed late, and you just keep moving the entire day. On the plus side, it is so rewarding to help build such a special experience for so many people to enjoy. Walking through the crowd and seeing people having the best day of their summer is incredible.

What do you love most about Sad Summer?: The people. The SSF crew and bands have such a great vibe and positive attitude that the long days fly by! Saying goodbye to everyone at the end of the tour is the only thing that makes the Summer truly Sad.

What advice would you give to someone wanting to work for an event like Sad Summer?: Start where you can and learn everything you can. Volunteer, take any small jobs, find a professional to apprentice with or look for an internship at a company you admire. No matter what role you are working in, show up with a good attitude, work hard and be truly helpful and kind. 

Who are you personally most excited about seeing at the festival this summer?: I am excited to see Neck Deep and the Summer Set live again.

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[Photo courtesy of Mona Whetzel]

KELLIE McCARTHY (Journeys Rep)

What does your role with Sad Summer involve?: This year I am running the Journeys activation which includes a photo op, scavenger hunt, handle guest list and employee hang-out area. Last year I helped with setting up VIP, building the props, helping at merch and other daily tasks that the tour managers needed assistance with.

What was your career path to get to where you are today?: I started working music festivals in 2016 by chance. A friend I volunteered with at Warped Tour got me my first “music industry” job at Coachella, and from there I jumped on to my first Warped Tour. Then I networked and made connections for future opportunities! 

What are the most challenging and the most rewarding aspects of your role at the festival?: This will be my first year doing this role, so I’m sure the learning curve will be the most challenging. The most rewarding aspect will be being surrounded by many music industry professionals and getting to learn more from them! 

What do you love most about Sad Summer?: I love the edgy pink aesthetic they have going on. They do a great job of making everything feel inclusive and exciting. The photo ops are super cute, and they make for great memories. Of course, seeing my favorite bands every day doesn’t hurt either!

What advice would you give to someone wanting to work for an event like Sad Summer?: Volunteer! That’s how I got my start. I also recommend picking up local VIP and merch gigs. People will notice hard workers and will remember your name for the next time they come around or may be a good connection to have for a future job opportunity.

Who are you personally most excited about seeing at the festival this summer?: I may or may not have seen them well over 100 times now… but State Champs! See all of you in the pit!

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[Photo courtesy of Kellie McCarthy]

BRIDGET CRAIG (Mayday Parade’s photographer)

What does your role at Sad Summer involve?: I create content for Mayday Parade's social platforms.

What was your career path to get to where you are today?: I started photography in high school and fell in love with it. I started photographing shows at local venues of friends until I got my first tour in 2018. I’ve been touring full time ever since. 

What are the most challenging and the most rewarding aspects of a festival tour?: The most challenging is how many moving parts are involved at all times, but the most rewarding is seeing all of those parts come together.

What do you love most about Sad Summer?: I love how the festival brings everyone together and gives people a space to be who they are. 

What advice would you give to someone wanting to get into a role like yours?: Photograph anything and everything all the time. Practice, practice, practice. People will take notice!

Who are you personally most excited about seeing at the festival this summer?: The Summer Set!

GLENN CUMMINGS
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[Photo by Glenn Cummings]

SALMA BUSTOS (Content Manager, Photographer, Videographer)

What does your role at Sad Summer involve?: My role at Sad Summer is the content manager. I will be documenting the entire festival, performances and its attendees all summer long!

What was your career path to get to where you are today?: I started by shooting local shows through a publication and started to create my digital portfolio that way. 

What are the most challenging and the most rewarding aspects of your role at the festival?: The most challenging aspects of my role at the festival is managing getting content out efficiently, and the most rewarding is getting to cover festivals again.

What do you love most about Sad Summer?: Getting to watch live music all day!

What advice would you give to someone wanting to work for an event like Sad Summer?: Some advice I would give is to start shooting local shows through a publication in your area and to start making friends with the people in the same community as you.  

Who are you personally most excited about seeing at the festival this summer?: Neck Deep!

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[Photo courtesy of Salma Bustos]

GAYLE ALQUIZAR (Tour Manager, State Champs)

What does your role at Sad Summer involve?: I make sure the show happens! I handle the logistics of travel, the show itself and, most importantly, the comfort and safety of the band and crew.

What was your career path to get to where you are today?: I have truly always had a passion for music, but it's been a winding road. I went to college on a music performance scholarship and quit halfway through the first semester. I didn't feel like that was where I belonged, so I went to nursing school. During this time, I was still attending shows and touring with friends when I could. I spent five years as a bedside nurse and loved it, but eventually felt burnt out. During fall 2021, I was so happy to have live music back. I thank bands like Northbound, Glazed and Intervention for taking me out and helping me begin working in music full time as a merch manager, TM, really any hat I could fit in the DIY realm. I started touring more and losing money on those tours, but gaining so much experience and unforgettable memories. I wouldn't trade that for any amount of money. Fate had it that my good friends in State Champs were searching for a TM for the summer. I started working for them in May after their European tour, and I've been busy, ecstatic and ready for more ever since.

What are the most challenging and the most rewarding aspects of touring on a festival run?: Challenging aspects definitely involve comfort and logistics. There are always logistical nightmares to overcome, which can create a really stressful environment. However, with a festival run, you know so many of the crew and other bands that it feels like everyone is on the same team and things begin to work out. The support and help from the touring crew on top of when you see the fans enjoying themselves make everything worth it.

What do you love most about Sad Summer?: Live music. I am a fan of live music before I am anything else. Always a cool lineup with great bands.

What advice would you give to someone wanting to get into a position like yours?: Sometimes you're going to have to do the things you don’t want to do to be able to do the things you do want. There will be opportunities you think will be perfect and they turn out to be way less exciting or rewarding than you thought. Sometimes you'll think you found your place, but you grow out of it, and you feel lost. Keep pushing through and working hard, but most importantly, know your worth. The right people will see it one day, and that perfect opportunity is coming.

Who are you personally most excited about seeing at the festival this summer?: Neck Deep, for sure. Also, not to be biased, but of course the kings of the new age, State Champs.

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[Photo courtesy of Gayle Alquizar]

CAITLYN WILLARD (Merchandise Manager for Waterparks)

What does your role at Sad Summer involve?: I handle all things related to Waterparks merch — shipments, tent set up, selling, settlements, etc.

What was your career path to get to where you are today?: My first experience working in the music industry was taking photos for a music blog, and through that, I met a local band who asked me to join them on tour doing photos and merch. From there, I began to network with my peers on tour, which led me to working bigger gigs.

What are the most challenging and the most rewarding aspects of touring on a festival run?: The hardest part is definitely the long days, especially in the heat, but the hangs after load out are the best part.

What do you love most about Sad Summer?: This will be my first time working this festival, so I’ll have to wait and see!

What advice would you give to someone wanting to get into a position like yours?: Working at a venue can be a great place to start. Even if you don’t start in the position you eventually want to end up in, it’s still a great way to get your foot in the door and start making connections.

Who are you personally most excited about seeing at the festival this summer?: I’m most excited to see the catering staff every day. They are the true champions of festivals.

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[Photo by Ben Zucker]

LØLØ (Singer-songwriter)

What was your career path to get to where you are today?: I only started writing songs in high school, but once I started I couldn’t stop. I started putting out original music a few years ago, and I’ve been doing that until now! 

What are the most challenging and the most rewarding aspects of a festival tour?: I’ve actually never done a festival tour — in fact, this will only be my second tour ever! Touring in general is challenging in the sense that it is very mentally and physically draining, but the rewarding part is you get to see so many places, meet so many amazing people, all at the same time as doing what you really love to do. There is really nothing like having a room full of people jumping and singing along to music you’ve worked really hard on.

What do you love most about Sad Summer?: I love that there are so many different bands performing! I can’t wait to see everyone and get to know everyone. I also love that it’s called Sad Summer because that’s very cute and emo.

What advice would you give to someone in a band wanting to be on a tour like Sad Summer?: Work your ass off. Write a million songs, play a million open mic nights and put yourself out there as much as possible. Hard work pays off, and if you keep going, you will eventually get there!

Who are you personally most excited about seeing at the festival this summer?: Hot Mulligan! I am their biggest fan.

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[Photo courtesy of LØLØ]

JESS BOWEN (Drums, The Summer Set)

What was your career path to get to where you are today?: I started playing drums at the age of 11 in my school jazz band, which then led me to playing in a blink-182 cover band with Stephen and John Gomez.  After several years of playing together with different band names and member changes, we started the Summer Set in 2007.  Stephen and I started our freshman years in college, only to have our band signed to its first record label soon after, so we dropped out to start touring and recording our first album immediately. Since then, I've been touring nonstop and even started playing with other artists such as 3OH!3, Lights, Alice Glass, Tessa Violet and more.  

What are the most challenging and the most rewarding aspects of a festival tour?: I think there are a ton of rewarding aspects to being on a festival tour, but to me, the most rewarding aspect is being able to play in front of audiences that you get a chance to win over because there's so many different types of bands on the tour that draw crowds you might not have ever played in front of otherwise. The most challenging aspect would probably be trying to pick which songs to fit into a 30-35 minute setlist, considering our band is going on five albums now!

What do you love most about Sad Summer?: Well, I haven't done the tour yet, but I can imagine I'm gonna love every part of it! I love the feeling of being in a punk-rock summer camp, meeting and hanging with new and old friends, and I absolutely love having a routine every day.

What advice would you give to someone in a band wanting to be on a tour like Sad Summer?: Just keep working toward it! Our band started by playing as many shows locally in Arizona as possible, which led us to playing more shows regionally, which led to touring nationally. You just gotta keep working toward it and making those connections!

Who are you personally most excited about seeing at the festival this summer?: Lisa Brownlee, Hot Milk, LØLØ and all the women on the tour!

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[Photo by Yising Kao]

HAN MEE (Vocals/guitar, Hot Milk)

What does your role with Sad Summer involve?: Throwin’ a massive party, that’s my role!

What was your career path to get to where you are today?: Me and Jim [Shaw, vocals/guitar] have been in shit loads of crap bands. We’ve put on shows in Manchester, England for years, and had every band and his dog stay at our house. Gradually, we built a name for ourselves in our city. We started Hot Milk 'cause we wanted a vessel to be ourselves and show others they can be whoever they want to be, unapologetically. It’s always about the show being a full-on expression of energy.

What are the most challenging and the most rewarding aspects of a festival tour?: I love people. I love the variety and exciting and interesting people. I love the mad, the weird and the downright strange, so I can’t wait to meet absolutely everyone I can and learn from every person I meet. I’m from a working-class town in the north of England, so it’s so interesting to me to grow and experience life through the eyes of people on the opposite side of the world. I wanna connect soul to soul. That’s the reward; the challenge is actually looking after myself. I forget to eat most days and drink too much pretty often, but I got my boys, and we are a fuckin’ family who argue like hell but love even harder.

What do you love most about Sad Summer?: I’ll let ya know after week one, but I’ve heard some good shit. Ya better not let me down!

What advice would you give to someone in a band wanting to be on a tour like Sad Summer?: Just find who you are 'cause fake don’t fuckin’ last. If you’re in a band that wants to take it seriously, then take it seriously, but don’t forget it’s gotta be fun. Find people who will end up as your family — it’s hard, but they’re out there. You spend more time with them than your actual family. You gotta trust everyone around you 'cause when shit hits the fan, you only have each other. To be on a long tour like Sad Summer, you gotta have some resilience.

Who are you personally most excited about seeing at the festival this summer?: I’m just buzzin’ to be there and show the people what Hot Milk are made of! I’m excited to make friends with anyone that’s got kind and good intentions running through their veins. 

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[Photo courtesy of Hot Milk]