Photos by Ben Oliver, Bobbie Jo Parsley, Ryan Gardner, and Amy Willard. Review by Ben Oliver
Whenever the 4th of July comes around each year, you know that one of summer’s greatest pastimes is happening: Vans Warped Tour. It just seems like summer and the festival were made for each other. The annual gathering has now been a rite of passage for several generations. Perhaps best summarized and immortalized by Blink-182: “I couldn’t wait for the summer and the Warped Tour” the phrase now seems forever engrained in pop culture. With the honeymoon phase long gone, 17 years later this seems like a marriage made in heaven. The musical extravaganza created by Kevin Lyman continues to both evolve and innovate. With nearly ten stages of acts, there was also the endless array of merch, non-profit organizations, charities, and more at the Gexa Energy Pavilion. This year’s tour also included a reverse day care for young adults to drop off their parents while they could go rage, an acoustic cafe, and even a silent disco. The theme this year is “Music Makes The World New”, inspired from Mayan culture. It’s interesting to note that the fest has been around so long, it’s now older than many who are attending it.
We began our initial coverage for this epic event as far back as December, when the first round of bands to this year’s line up were announced. The day before Independence Day, the tour made it’s way to Dallas, TX. In the 8 hours we were there, we took over 600 photos, interviewed two bands (Breathe Carolina and We Are The In Crowd), and watched over a dozen live performances! We were better prepared than we have ever been before, headed into this extreme experience. There were a few bands that we weren’t able to arrange an interview with the day of this fest, but we will be following up with them by phone or email soon.
The day started off with
the very first performance we were able to catch, the very popular Of Mice And Men. This is their third Warped tour in a row, and have a new record due out soon. Before they began to play, the large crowd probably numbering upwards of 750, began chanting “we want Austin, we want Austin”. The four piece mostly hailing from Southern California, was founded by Austin Carlile, the original vocalist of Attack Attack!. One of the most anticipated bands to see on this summer’s line up, they didn’t disappoint. If you aren’t familiar with them, this metalcore group would be for fans of A Skylit Drive, Woe, is Me, We Came As Romans, and Asking Alexandria.
Their smoldering set kicked off with quite a bang, as they quickly and confidently took control of the stage. They had a member, Shayley Bourget, depart earlier this year, and unfortunately wasn’t really noticeable as the show was as strong as ever. They had this audience right where they wanted them, despite it only being 1 pm and already near 100 degrees outside. The set started off with Austin holding an American flag, on display for all to see. Throughout the entire performance, he must have covered every inch of the stage. During one point, the lead singer’s own father made an appearance. It shouldn’t be much of a surprise that their intense energy led to a massive mosh pit.
Next up was one our favorites, Funeral Party. Originating from East Los Angeles, the post-punk pals play dance inducing rock. The band is primarily a trio, who recruit additional members when performing live on tour. After seeing a performance, Lars Stalfors, who primarily works with The Mars Volta, invited the band to record in their studio. NME placed them at number 47 on their ’50 Best New Bands of 2010′ end-of-year list.
They are currently still supporting their first release, last year’s The Golden Age Of Knowhere, and have appeared on the Late Show with David Letterman, Jimmy Kimmel Live! and Conan. This band is for those who like Band Of Skulls, Middle Class Rut, and Dry The River. Make sure to listen to their song (you just passed the video) “New York City Moves to the Sound of L.A.”
We left the sun and blistering heat outside and headed towards the main stage, which was covered by a roof. We arrived just in time to catch the punk band Anti Flag. The Warped Tour veterans drew a sizable group who not only watched their every moment, but also participated by dancing and moshing. This was especially true during their most well known songs, like “Die For The Government”. It was so hectic I lost my sunglasses!
One of the day’s best highlights was by another crowd favorite, Every Time I Die. 1,000 or more fans assembled to witness the metal spectacle. The 5 piece from upstate New York ripped through their set, annihilating every ear drum in nearby proximity. It seemed as if both the band and the audience brought equal amounts of exuberance, and together it could barely be contained. It may as well be described as an utter explosion of raw energy and emotion. ETID released a new record earlier this year, called Ex Lives. Their style of metalcore is usually enjoyed by fans of bands like Dillinger Escape Plan, Trash Talk, and Norma Jean.
After the thrilling demonstration, it was then back inside onto the main stage again, this time for Pierce The Veil. The San Diego four piece are one of 2012′s most anticipated, and are no strangers here at Warped. They looked and sounded great, and their new record Collide With The Sky should be out this month. They were also able to assembly a large gathering. After catching a few songs, we next caught Iwrestledabearonce. We weren’t very familiar with them, but were nonetheless impressed. Their lead singer, a female who lives in Dallas, just discovered she was pregnant so they had to find a replacement for her quickly.
As we were walking around, we also passed by and caught glimpses of other shows in progress, namely Yellowcard, Motionless In White, All Time Low, Born Of Osiris, and Ballyhoo!. We were able to see a few more shows, one of the best being Champagne Champagne. They are a new hip-hop trio from Seattle, with two MC’s and one DJ/band member. Pearl Dragon looks like Wiz Khalifa when he wears sunglasses, minus the tattoos. Sir Thomas Gray wore a t-shirt that read “I Want To Buy Some Drugs.” They executed songs from their new EP Private Party, such as “Black Bart Simpson”, “Jennifer’s Body”, and my personal favorite, “Starfucker”. To me, they kinda sound like a crossing of Flobots with Shwayze. I’m really excited and looking forward to seeing them again. The small audience was most likely due to this being their first Warped appearance.
Another great part of the early evening was LA’s Dead Sara. I first observed them live a couple months back at another one day festival called Edgefest. They group has improved even in that short space of time, no doubt thanks to relentless touring. This was yet another instance of an amazing artist with a crowd much smaller than they deserved. This didn’t stop the performance from still being epic, and nearly everyone singing aloud to “Weatherman”. Everyone needs to witness lead vocalist Emily Armstrong wail and scream, and leap off their really tall amp live in person.
The rest of our time was spent watching headlining acts like Breathe Carolina, The Used, and Taking Back Sunday. They undoubtably drew some of the largest, and most expressive, fans of the day. The first two bands both played inside the main arena in the pavilion earlier in the day, while Taking Back Sunday closed out the fest outside later in the evening. It was my first time to watch Breathe Carolina, and hopefully won’t be my last. They had one of the most lively and entertaining sessions of the day, including guests on stage sporting water guns! Probably the most well known performers of the event, The Used and Taking Back Sunday proved they were still relevant and failed to disappoint. They both pulled out older songs that were crowd favorites, and also debuted material from their newest releases.
Vans Warped Tour is always fun and exhausting, and we were thrilled to once again be able to cover it. We will post interviews soon, as well as our Top 25 Indie Picks, and later this summer our Top 10 Unsigned Bands. Be sure to scroll down for a ton more photos, as well as check our Facebook and Instagram.