Vans Warped Tour means one thing when you live in South Florida – hot, worse, humid. We know this, but year after year we hit the festival bright and early hoping not to miss any of our must see bands. And with Warped Tour throwing bigger and better lineups at us every year, I don't see anyone giving that up anytime soon. Where last year felt populated by the pop punk and new age alternative crowd, this year touched upon every point of the “rock” spectrum. From early emo kings Hawthorne Heights, to rappers like Sammy Adams, to the deathcore heavyweights Carnifex, all the way to the the blood spewing entertainment of Gwar, there was easily something for everyone to enjoy. While Warped Tour may be known for their teenage fan base, this was one of the most diverse crowds we've seen in quite time at Warped, from an older gentleman rocking out with his younger kids, to the baby we passed chilling in it's stroller.
Sunday, July 2nd the tour rolled into West Palm Beach at the Perfect Vodka Amphitheater. Despite already knowing we were in for a brutal day, the Warped Tour crew made it easy to stay ahead of the heat sickness with plenty of free water stops, covered misting pavilions, and the healthy constant reminder to “drink water!” All of these efforts were in addition to the festival making the call to push festival doors back from 11 am, to 12:30 pm, which seemed to work very well overall, cutting out ninety of the hottest minutes of the afternoon. We made sure to be there right when the gates opened to grab a schedule for the door and catch as many bands as possible. Unfortunately the stages were skewed from the normal layout, with the Journey's Left and Right Foot stages split across the grounds, and not set up next to each other, instead the Left Foot stage sharing space with the Hard Rock Stage in the amphitheater.
Thankfully since I arrived so early I was able to figure out where everything was set up and caught Sweet Ascent from Kansas on the Skullcandy stage kicking off the day.
Bad Seed Rising followed, the youngest band to sign with Roadrunner Records. This was our second time catching them this year and they should definitely be on your “watch” list if they aren’t already. Singer Francheska Pastor has some serious screaming skills, and these guys keep getting better every time we see them. Movements played the Full Sail stage, and the four-piece Southern California band is bringing a fresh new sound to our emo revival. They have that angsty sound we all loved in high-school, but with a fresh less whiny sound which is definitely a plus.
Australia’s Hands Like Houses opened up the Journeys Right Foot stage with their 2015 single “New Romantics.” The band’s six song set hit all their singles going as far back as 2013’s “Introduced Species.” The band filmed the performance of their latest single “Drift” putting together a video of their time on Warped Tour this summer. Singer Trenton Woodley crowd surfed during the song, getting the early crowded amped up for their day. While most bands top out Warped Tour with a backdrop (at most), Our Last Night uses both fog machines and water hoses shaped like claws to drench the crowd during breakdowns. They opened up their set with “Broken Lives” and kept the crowding jumping up and down all way way through their cover of Ed Sheeran’s “Shape of You.” I knew I had to catch American Authors after their “Best Day of My Life” song claimed residence in my brain for months back in 2013. I hadn’t heard much else from the band since, but without even knowing any songs I had a blast watching them on stage, especially when the banjo came out. Warped Tour definitely needs more banjo picking next year!
The hordes of teenage girls amassed around the stage for Neck Deep and Andy Black. Wales’ pop-punk Neck Deep were also one of the few bands to have any defining factors on stage. A cityscape in the artwork style of their upcoming album for The Peace and the Panic decorated the stage, and the band had insane amounts of energy so late in the day for how hot it was. Finally the smudged eyeliner (Was it intentional? Was it the heat?) newage goth girls of Warped Tour flocked to the stage chanting Andy Black’s name. I was never a huge fan of Black Veil Brides, but his solo stuff was a whole other show entirely. Black still knows how to command an audience, and he owns that stage. First though when he came out? My god he’s really tall.
Popping over to the Mutant North stage we caught Being As An Ocean and Fit For A King. Texas’ Fit For A King have been steadily gaining popularity in the metalcore scene; with bassist Ryan O’Leary pulling off some killer jumps in the ridiculously humid weather, you knew this band was here to rock.
Thrashers Municipal Waste took to the Hard Rock stage flanked by images of D. Trump blowing his brains out. The band played charmers like “I Want to Kill the President” and “Thrashin’ of the Christ.” These guys were so much fun on stage, even though they were shredding on their guitars, the band were entirely animated on stage, and were interacting with the crowd both in the pit, and sitting in the amphitheater. The Hard Rock stage also boasted punk rock’s Anti-Flag. The early 90’s band is still coming to the stage and putting on fun performances and killing high jumps better than most younger kids on stage! The band preached tolerance and acceptance in this world, a common theme throughout the Warped camp. Much unlike Anti-Flag, a band who's name I didn't catch spent most of their set berating people for sitting in the "Olive Garden seats." Maybe it would have been funny the first time, but after consistently hearing him complain about people sitting, I laid down across a few seats to take a breather.
The Journey’s Left Foot Stage had some of the most diverse sets of the day. Rapper Sammy Adams thanked the crowd for coming out to see him, as his music was much different from most of the bands performing, but his energy was infectious and I was happy I caught him. Singer Jaret Reddick of Bowling For Soup welcomed the audience by assuring them he “had not eaten the singer of Bowling for Soup” he’s just been eating a specialized diet for the past decade. Bowling for Soup’s set is everything an old school fan could have asked for, hitting all the classics like “High School Never Ends,” “Ohio (Come Back to Texas),” and “1985.” More importantly they played the Phineas and Ferb theme song and a killer cover of “Stacy’s Mom” that had the crowd going wild. Hawthorne Heights thanked theirs fans for coming out to see them after so long, and dedicated the set to the old school fans with “Ohio is for Lovers” and “Niki FM.” Old school Warped veterans CKY brought some of their new songs to the crowd, and it was great to see them returning with new music. New Years Day always puts on a great show with guitarist Nikki Misery being one of the most entertaining guys to watch live. Luckily for the goth kids the band performed inside the amphitheater, giving them a break from sweltering in the sun in their corsets (seriously how were they wearing those?!). While we usually use Warped to catch bands we haven’t been able to see elsewhere, there was no way I was missing I Prevail. Since catching them earlier this year they’ve quickly become one of my favorite bands to see with every member jumping across the stage. During “Pull the Plug” screamer Eric Vanlerberghe ran through the amphitheater and into the VIP seating area, screaming along with a family happy to join in.
We closed out the day with GWAR, and this crowd knew what to expect. Tons of white T-Shirts crowded infront of the Mutant South stage to get their own personal souvenier from the show. Now I’ve seen Gwar plenty of times but this one felt more like “spray them with Blothar’s dick blood to keep them cool since it’s boiling outside” and less the normal theatrics. I mean there was a ton of dick blood. And regular blood. And slime. They were pumping out so much goo, the ground was becoming flooded – it was insane. The set started with a murder to “War Pigs” and kicked immediately into “Saddam a Go-Go.” They ended the set with “If You Want Blood (You’ve Got It)” and we most certainly did.
Best Overheard: Singer of Silverstein, Shane Told, going on a rant about Trump and the MAGA’s ending with “Yeah, I see you down there, motherfucker, and you better get out of here before I come shove that hat up your ass.” The uproar of the crowd was insane, Warped is about tolerance and positivity, after all.
Best Scene: Security guards being mentally prepped before Gwar, and being convinved to put on ponchos because “yes, you’ll need them.” Follow up scene? The same security guards going with the flow, and a few throwing up the devil horns to rock out. We can convert anyone at Warped Tour.
Note to Future Selves: Yes, you’ll need the sunscreen. Yes, drink the water.