Warped Tour 2012

Every summer, teenagers and young fans alike have gathered at their local stadium parking lots or open air fields to see some of their favorite bands play at various music festivals and tours. Since 1995, The Vans Warped Tour has celebrated the biggest names in punk rock and extreme sports and has since grown in order to accommodate the changes that time has brought us. The tour has since opened their arms to more hardcore acts as well as metal, ska, reggae, as well as the various punk sub genres and have in turn widened their audience and has become one of, if not the largest touring music festival in America.

America is slowly but surely catching up on European-Weekend-Music-Festival bandwagon, but a tour like Warped Tour compacts almost as many bands as a three-day music festival into one long, but exciting day. In today’s economy, the average Warped Tour attendee is able to see at least ten of their favorite bands for the price of maybe two and still have money to spare on a t-shirt or whatnot. It’s nice for someone who loves this type of music, but may not be a big fan of camping. I for one would like a whole weekend metal festival, but that’s a rant for another day. Let’s get warped!

July 18th, Scranton: This was seriously the day that just would not end. I’m currently working in south Jersey and so I decided that since Scranton was about a four-hour drive and the gates open at 11:00, I would wake up at five, get an early start, and everything would be good. But as everyone knows, nothing ever goes the way you expect it to at Warped Tour. I somehow woke up, turned off my alarm, and went back to bed. Not good. I woke up at 7, sprang out of bed and quickly got ready and was out the door in the next ten minutes and on the road. Trying to drive as fast as I could without breaking any laws, I journeyed through thick and thin. I’m not usually an angry person in a traffic situation, but since I was already fairly late and a stickler for punctuality, I was freaking out to say the least. For the most part, traffic was actually spaced out perfectly, but there were a few crashes close to the venue, which made for some congestion. I didn’t make it to the venue until around 11:30, but since the venue is on top of a mountain, I had to park at the base and take a shuttle bus to the top. After that, I found out that I had to take a separate shuttle all the way over to the other side of the venue in order to pick up my press wristband and ticket. After all was said and done, I didn’t make inside the actual venue until about 12:30 and missed one of the bands that I was looking forward to the most. We Are the Ocean, a four piece post-hardcore band from Essex, appeared at the Scranton show, but not the Camden show. I was gutted at missing them, but was able to see Title Fight, another band that didn’t appear at Camden, so I was very pleased at that.

When I first walked in, I caught the last half of I Fight Dragons‘s set. I Fight Dragons are a unique, nerdy rock band that combine video game aesthetics and sounds to hard riffs and anthemic choruses. One of their members even found a way to rig a Guitar Hero guitar console to actually produce sound and uses that as well as a keyboard station rigged with triggers and other techy devices to give their sound that gamey vibe. I’ve never seen or heard anything quite like this band and I can’t recommend them enough. I was surprised when I heard they were playing because they are not well-known as all, but I hope this tour really broadens their audience. After their set, I walked around and got a feel for how the stages were placed and how I was going to plan my day. That’s when the rain started to come. It seemed like the clouds came out of nowhere, but soon enough thunder followed, and then it started pouring. Most people took refuge under the main tent where Sleeping with Sirens were currently playing (probably the only people who benefitted from the rain). Others were making the most out of the weather by sliding in the mud on the lawn. It eventually let up, but almost as soon as it had cleared up, it was back again for round two. This time it was coming down in buckets and with the potential for hail, the powers that be were forced to suspend the day until the rain let up. I was worried that my camera was ruined and praying that everything would turn out all right because to be honest, it had been a pretty shitty day so far. When the rain finally let up, a lot of bands were either moved back and were rushed through soundchecks or just cancelled all together. Thankfully, this was not the case for Title Fight and without a soundcheck, the band gave a blinding performance. This is a band that have really grown into themselves and have really honed in on what makes them brilliant and has since expounded upon it with their latest release Shed. Truly a special moment for this band to be playing very near their home town with crappy weather and a decent, but loyal crowd.

Next up was The Ghost Inside, one of the best hardcore acts on the bill. Having just released a new record a few weeks ago, the band were  stoked to have new music to play to one of the largest tours in America. The new songs translated just as well as the older tracks and the band were fantastic both days. I’d seen them before for the first time when they were on the All-Stars tour last year. I wasn’t too familiar with them, but they were one of the best bands on that bill. Now I’ve seen them three times and they just don’t disappoint. Another band that don’t seem to disappoint are Motionless in White. I’m not really a huge fan personally. I think they’re good at what they do, but there are other bands that are better and I don’t think it’s fair for people to judge them because they wear makeup. But the crowds that that band brings in are enormous. They had one of biggest crowds on both days and obviously have a really loyal fan base. I must say though, to their credit, they aren’t bad on record, but they are much better live.

Here’s a band that I’ve heard nothing but good reviews for, but have never gotten the chance to see them. Every Time I Die were so good it was almost criminal. They also recently released a new record, which has gotten some mixed reviews, but when the band played the new songs, everybody went off like it was any older song. My only complaint was that they didn’t play “Wanderlust”, which is probably my favorite song by them. Otherwise, it was a great show. Mayday Parade were up next. I think Mayday Parade are one of the few really good pop punk bands of the last decade. Bands like Boys Like Girls or Cute is What We Aim For had potential, but faded into oblivion, and All Time Low just started taking steps back, but Mayday Parade have only moved forward. They’re newest record is easily the best thing they’ve done to date and they’re live show showed me that they can bring it live as well as on record. I was surprised by two things about their show. One: The decibel level of the girls screaming for this band was borderline painful (thank god I had ear plugs in) and two: They sounded really fucking heavy. Sharing a stage with the likes of Chelsea Grin, Every Time I Die, For Today, and Memphis May Fire means that you’re dealing with some heavy acts, and Mayday Parade stepped up and showed that they can be just as heavy and still be true to their pop punk ethos.

I left the one stage I’d been camped at all day for another stage in order to see Four Year Strong. I fell in love with this band when Enemy of the World came out and then went back and looked up their older stuff and loved it all just as much, but I can’t seem to follow the band with their newest album. I feel like they lost all of their momentum and even though I applaud them for experimenting, I don’t think it really went well with their sound. Nevertheless, the band were on fire and watching them live made me remember why I loved them, so much before. There’s a lot of standing around with that band just because the two main guys are both guitarists and frontmen so they’re always taking turns, which I think is brilliant. Closing out the day though was For Today, yet another band with a fantastic album recently released and another band that just does not fail live. I’ve seen them five times now and they have never sounded bad. The new songs were absolute highlights of their show sandwiched in between “Seraphim” and “Devastator” as well as few others.

Unfortunately, the rain screwed up all the times and a lot of bands suffered because of it, but all in all the day was alright. Long; but alright. I think the biggest problem was that bands that didn’t get canceled were rushed and so their mixes weren’t as good as they should have been, fair play to all of the workers and staff people involved in making sure things ran smoothly amidst the chaos.

July 20th, Camden: With rain in the forecast, I was worried and upset that there might be a repeat of what happened at Scranton. Waking up to the sight of steady rain didn’t help either, but overall, it was actually near perfect. It was overcast all day with misting occasionally, but no real problems with the weather, so I was happy about that. This time I journeyed with some friends of mine, which made it a little nicer to have the company to talk to about what was going on and sharing our thoughts on our favorite bands. The journey was stress free and it didn’t take long to get in and situated with our schedule. Quick little plug here: While standing in line some guys came up to me advertising their band. Turns out they were members of the band Chasing Morgan, a band that I reviewed a little while back for this very blog. The guys were super nice and even gave me a copy of their CD. I seriously recommend them to anyone who still listens to pop punk.

Getting back to the show, while my friends were getting good seats for For Today, I went and caught Polar Bear Club‘s set. I saw the last half of their set at Scranton, but since I’m such a huge fan, I really wanted to get the whole package. I think this band is absolutely fantastic and should be much bigger than they are. The songs are well written and don’t rely on breakdowns or bass drops to get the people going. It’s very honest and the band give it their all every time they hit the stage. After their set, I went to check out Every Time I Die again. Brilliant as always; no complaints. I had to wait of course and while waiting I saw Memphis May Fire‘s set. I caught a glimpse at Scranton, and was surprised by what I heard. They were really heavy and very breakdown-orientated, like half of the bands on that particular stage, but there was something about them that I liked that I still can’t seem to figure out. I’m going to have to listen to their studio albums and see if I can make the connection there. I then went to check out For Today again with my buddies. This being my fifth time seeing them, I think this show and the show I saw with them as the opening act for The Devil Wears Prada, Whitechapel, and Enter Shikari were the best shows I’ve seen of this band. Another band I would say never fail. In fact, probably the most frustrating thing about Warped Tour to me is that I just want to see all of these bands do hour-long headline time-slots because I honestly feel they could. I could go on for hours on why I love each and every one of the bands I saw, hate the ones I didn’t and still have room to talk about the bands I feel indifferent towards. But I’ve already talked long enough and there’s still so much more to write.

We all moved from the stage For Today were playing on and got a god spot for After the Burial. We had to sit through two other bands first though. “Sit through” sounds negative though and I don’t mean it like that because those two bands were Make Do And Mend and Twin Atlantic, both of which were bands that I had never heard before, but was interested in checking them out. Make Do And Mend are very much in the same vein as Polar Bear Club and of you like one, there’s no reason to not like the other. Very honest  with well written alternative-style punk rock with not a lot of bells and whistles. I thought they put on a great show and was interested in hearing more from them. Same goes for Twin Atlantic, who were a little more on the pop-punk side, but still had some grit to it. Then the big moment came: After the Burial. See, me and my friends are some of the biggest After the Burial fans around and every show of theirs I’ve seen has been spectacular. I personally think they got shafted in terms of their position on the tour. They are on one of the smaller stages and in the middle of day, which means they were followed by bands that were not only worse, but not well-known either. After the Burial have three albums out now and are probably one of the heaviest bands on the entire tour along with Chelsea Grin, Miss May I, and Born of Osiris (who also kinda got shafted because they played an even smaller stage). Regardless, they had a huge crowd and played phenomenally. Obviously one of the highlights of the day.

We went over back to the stage For Today were on and waited through Motionless in White‘s set so that we could see The Ghost Inside. Now when I say “we,” I really mean my friends because I has the press passes that allowed to go on the other side of the barrier and take photos of the bands, so I had no trouble getting a good spot for any band. The Ghost Inside played another stormer of a live show and I’m a real fan now because of seeing them on this tour. Like I said I had seen them before and was blown away, but now I’m practically addicted to them. I bought their newest CD Get What You Give at the show and have been listening to it a lot since. We then had some time to kill before Born of Osiris went on so we hung out in the pavilion. My one friend was actually really looking forward to seeing Breathe Carolina so the timing worked out well for him. I’m not a real fan of that band in particular, but loads of people seem to dig it and my friend enjoyed the show, so I’m glad that he was happy with their performance. Before Breathe Carolina came on, we were watching Falling in Reverse, another band that I really do not care for, but are unfortunately massive. I’m not one to judge a band by their looks or appearance, but I just want to punch all of those guys in the face. At least a band like Motionless in White has an image that reflects their sound and lyrics, but you don’t get that with Falling in Reverse. It’s just so unconvincing. They look like Motley Crue’s worst nightmare and try to sound like everything, but sounding like nothing. I have a female friend who is absolutely in love with them and so I felt obligated to at least give them a shot because I’d heard the album and I wanted to let her know  if they sucked or not. I thought they did, but the rest of the place didn’t seem to think so because the pit area was going mental. Fair play to them I guess.

Another unfortunate situation was Born of Osiris‘s set, which I found rather dull. The band like to move around a lot when they play, but the stage was so small it was hard for all of them to properly get into it. The sound overall was kinda flat and made the band sound thin, which is not how they should sound at all. It wasn’t that bad, but I’ve seen them do better, so it was disappointing in that respect. Thankfully though, Streetlight Manifesto were everything but disappointing. This is a band that are basically the kings in modern-day ska music and write some of the best songs period. I love this band and my only wish was that they could have played longer. Somewhere in the Between is almost a perfect record and seeing them play that live front to back would be incredible. Maybe in five years they will. Their set seemed to last only five minutes while Taking Back Sunday‘s set seemed to last forever. They played right before Streetlight, but it seemed like they played a full headliners set. I’m not complaining because I like Taking Back Sunday, but because I’m not as familiar with their songs like I am with Streetlight Manifesto‘s, made their set seem longer that it actually was. They were fantastic though and it made me want to revisit their past. Another band I want to revisit their past now is Yellowcard. Following swiftly after Streetlight Manifesto, Yellowcard played a show signaling the end of a hiatus and the beginning of another chapter in this band’s legacy. I think the album they put out last year was the best thing they did since Ocean Avenue, and they pretty much played songs off of those two records, so that was great. I think the biggest moment of the entire day was when the band broke into “Ocean Avenue.” The crowd was singing just as loud as the band were playing and there was an endless stream of crowd surfers cascading off the rails. It was ridiculous. It’s funny to think about it now, but Yellowcard are probably the biggest selling band on the entire tour this year, apart from maybe New Found Glory. Both band’s are huge heritage acts and sold lots of record back in the days when people still bought that shit. Them playing “Ocean Avenue” just reminded me of how big that song truly is and what an anthem it has become over the years.

Finally, the last band that I saw was Miss May I. I thought they were absolutely fantastic. The new album is killer and the new songs absolutely slay live. “Hey Mister” is a fucking rager and the rest of the set was just as well. But I think I must be missing something. Why is it the band feel they need to prove and constantly remind people that they are a metal band? What, just because there’s some clean vocals doesn’t mean they can’t be metal? There must be some sort of animosity towards this band from the metal community, but I can’t see why there would be. To me, Miss May I are a metalcore band. They’re just as metal as Bullet for my Valentine, Avenged Sevenfold, or any other really popular metalcore band from the last decade. They’re certainly heavier at times than those bands, but that doesn’t necessarily make them more metal or less metal than those bands. I wouldn’t go as far as to say that Miss May I are just as metal as Slayer, but there should be no doubt that they are a metal band. It puzzled me as to why Levi’s final words were, “We are Miss May I and we are a fucking heavy metal band! Stay metal!” I think the problem is that the majority of people who go to shows like Warped Tour don’t generally like metal  music as a collective term because they jump to the conclusion that all metal bands are like Slayer or Cannibal Corpse. They prefer the metalcore bands that use more clean singing than aggressive singing so the regular imbecile doesn’t seem to make the connection that these bands are just as metal as any other band to come out of the past two decades. I’ve been rambling long enough so I think I should quit while I’m ahead. After going to these shows though it has really made me think and try to understand the people and the culture more. I’ll probably come out with a series of rants about what I saw and what have you.

Sorry for the super long review. There was a lot to see and a lot to talk about. I hope those of you that weren’t able to go find solace in these reviews and I hope that those of you that did go to the show are reminded about what an awesome week it was. I was fortunate enough to see two shows, but I hope you all enjoy these regardless of if you were there or not.

Luke Helker

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