Vans Warped Tour July 23rd @ Cricket Wireless Amphitheater
Despite a weather forecast of all thunderstorms and gale-force winds, Warped Tour at the Cricket Wireless Amphitheater was sunny and hot for most of the day. A huge crowd of mostly teenagers filled up each of the Warped Tour’s multiple stages to watch over 60 bands play. The tagline for Warped Tour this year is “Best Day Ever,” and it might have been just that.
The first band of the day was Handguns from Buffalo, New York. Their brand of pop punk music is a throwback to early Green Day and blink-182 and mostly shies away from the melodic hardcore stylings of most other bands on this tour. Playing just after 11 AM didn’t hinder their performance in any way and the sizable crowd returned all of their energy. All of their songs have lighthearted music with unusually bleak and emotional lyrics – sort of pulling off what the Smiths did so long ago.
Architects took the main stage just after noon and the British metalcore band did their best to separate themselves from their stylistically similar and much more popular British mates in Bring Me The Horizon. While the majority of Architects’ music follows the standard metalcore/deathcore formula, there are a few flashes of unexpected influences, such as a groovy southern drawl that sounds not so unlike Every Time I Die. Unfortunately, they relied too much on breakdowns and generic riffing to really make any new fans. More than a few fans showed up for them, getting a pretty nice response early in the day.
A giant crowd gathered in front of the second stage for New Jersey’s Man Overboard. The band released one of the three big pop punk albums earlier this year with “Heart Attack” and the huge crowd let them know that it had made waves in the music scene. Their usually mid-paced brand of pop punk came across loud and angry in a live setting, setting off multiple mosh pits and unlimited crowd surfers. There was lots of singing along and their entire set was met with enthusiastic applause. The band uses three guitars and at times seemed a bit too loud, but it all evened itself out throughout the performance. One of the best new-school pop punk bands for sure.
There were more than a few oddball choices for Warped Tour this year, from a smattering of underground hip-hop to dubstep artists, a lot of different genres were represented. However, the ones that suffered the most were the odd-man-out band Defeater. Defeater is a part of “The Wave”, which includes post-hardcore/emo bands such as Touche Amore, La Dispute, etc. Their old-school metalcore songs came across well with the crowd, but the dynamics were lost on the big, open-air stage. Defeater needs to be seen in a basement or a 100 person capacity bar, not the Warped Tour. For what they had to work with though, they put on an admirable performance.
Kevin Lyman has always filled up the Warped Tour with underground, independent hip-hop, and it was none more prevalent than with this year. Despite every other MC act being dwarfed by local hero Mac Lethal, the king of nerdcore hip-hop, MC Lars, got the first big crowd of the day on the relatively tiny Spotify stage. He has a way with words that no other quirky nerdcore rapper can even touch, making Hamlet and Edgar Allen Poe poems into infectious, Nintendo beat-laden rhymes that had the crowd going crazy. At one point, he brought up someone from the crowd to be his hype man on a track, and even hopped off the stage to join in a circle put that broke out. Move over mc chris, MC Lars is the king of the geeks.
Back on the main stages, blessthefall was performing their by-the-books post-hardcore/melodic metalcore to a good-sized crowd and although their music definitely isn’t anything special, their performance was high energy and fun to watch. At one point the vocalist traversed the gap between the two main stages and interacted with the crowd waiting for the next band and got everyone to participate. Again, the music wasn’t that great at all, but blessthefall are entertaining to watch.
The biggest crowd of the day was for Bring Me The Horizon. The crowd was jam-packed all the way behind the sound tent and only intensified as the English metalcore band’s performance went on. With the opening chords of “Shadow Moses”, a giant wall of death took place in the crowd and the mosh pitting didn’t stop for the entire set. During one song, the crowd ran a giant circle pit around the sound tent – that alone was a site to behold. But during their song “Diamonds Aren’t Forever,” lead vocalist Oli Sykes said he was going to sit on the stage with his hand outstretched and he wanted to set the world record for most high fives in a song. For the next five and a half minutes, it was the most chaotic crowd experience on the face of the Earth. There were more bodies climbing on top of other bodies crowdsurfing than there were people standing on the pavement. A lot of the crowdsurfers came from the very back of the crowd, swimming all the way to the front, over the railing, and slapping the enthusiastic singer’s hand. It was truly a sight to behold. No matter the viewpoint on their music, no one can deny that Bring Me The Horizon puts on one of the greatest live performances today.
It’s debatable on who are the current kings of pop punk, but the highest charting band of that style in recent years are The Wonder Years. After their latest album, The Greatest Generation, hit #20 on the Billboard 200, they’re finally reaping the rewards of their years of tireless touring. On the main stage, they played to a woefully underwhelmingly-sized crowd, but there were still lots of singers and dancers. Vocalist Soupy still put on an empassioned performance with a few jumps off the drum riser and ended the set by going into the crowd and getting mauled by rabid fans singing his lyrics. The Wonder Years deserve a much more feverish crowd with a much better reaction to songs – they shouldn’t be judged on an early evening set on The Warped Tour.
Usually, the worst bands and the worst genres evolved over time from respectably good bands and genres. Silverstein was at the forefront of the post-hardcore/screamo movement of the late 90s/early 00s along with Thursday, Senses Fail, and others. Although their pioneering movement spawned countless upon countless terrible bands, the old-school sound of Silverstein was actually pretty comforting to hear. Silverstein doesn’t really rely on gimmicky breakdowns or chiding the crowd to jump or sing along, and they don’t need to. There were plenty of old-school fans in the crowd that were still full of energy in the hot sun at five o’clock. Silverstein ended their set by setting up the first ever Wall of Death in the band’s history, according to the singer. It was a fitting end to a very memorable set.
If the amount of fangirls sporting band tee’s determined the headliner of Warped Tour, the undisputed leader of the festival would be Black Veil Brides, and it wouldn’t even be close. The band plays by-the-books pop hard rock/pop metal and their gothic image with sugary-sweet clean vocals attract every tween thinking that rebellion is just about how much eyeliner is applied. To be fair, Black Veil Brides is Avenged Sevenfold. That’s not even a hyperbole or anything, they sound exactly like Avenged Sevenfold. Anyone who says different is lying. So although each song sounds the same, the band can definitely play their instruments and know how to throw in gimmicky breakdowns and guitar solos to entice even the most stubborn metalhead to tap his foot along with the beat. Just don’t expect anything deep from them.
Just like apple pie is to America, ska is to Warped Tour. And who better to get to play than the third-wave gods themselves, Reel Big Fish? The band came right out and launched into their huge hit “Sell Out” and the crowd didn’t stop skanking until the end. There’s just something about hearing punk with brass instruments that just makes everyone want to move. Vocalist Aaron Barrett had hilarious between-song banter and performed a duet with the singer from Beebs And Her Money Makers that showcased just how good he really can sing. After many songs about cursing, beer, and cursing about beer, they closed their set with a cover of A-Ha’s “Take On Me” which surpasses the original and crosses the line of “corny cover” to “amazing take on a pop classic.” Reel Big Fish IS Warped Tour.
Taking the stage well into the evening, death metal veterans The Black Dahlia Murder slayed a weary crowd and probably scared away most of the dispersing crowd from Black Veil Brides. The band obviously accepted to play the Warped Tour to try and gain some new fans, and they are by far the most talented band on the festival from a musical standpoint. The second they kicked into their opener “In Hell Is Where She Waits For Me” the crowd was sharply divided: pop punk kids who couldn’t fathom what they were seeing, and rabid, violent moshers who were obviously there only for this band. Although the crowd reception wasn’t nearly what it could’ve been at a headlining show from them, the band was all smiles and shredded through their much too short set, ending with a particularly devastation rendition of Funeral Thirst. Hopefully, they’ll return around here on a headlining tour soon.
Although some of the Warped Tour’s biggest bands had still not played at the time, most of the crowd bowed out of the amphitheater around seven o’clock. The weather was hot, the crowds were huge and the good times were had. Another winning year for Warped.