When the 20th annual Vans Warped Tour kicked off Friday (June 13) in Houston, and fans who couldn’t wait until the cavalcade of punk, emo, metal, and hardcore rolled into their town, the concert was streamed live online all day. The stream of 30 bands spread out over five stages was like being everywhere at Warped all at once, and with almost none of the accompanying festival odors.
In case it wasn’t obvious how hot it was in Houston on Friday from the non-stop references from the stage, The Devil Wears Prada’s Mike Hranica sweating straight through his short-sleeve button up painted a pretty vivid picture. Granted, he and the rest of the band were working on songs like “Assistant to the Regional Manager”, with its barely-controlled chaos and corrosive metal-core fury.
Boston’s Ice Nine Kills impressed with traumatic, melodic metal-core on songs like “The Fastest Way To A Girl’s Heart Is Through Her Ribcage,” but vocalist Spencer Charnas screaming Adele’s “Someone Like You” from the top of the barricade stood out.
Also repping strong for Massachusetts were Worcester’s melodic hard core act Four Year Strong, who stirred up a big time singalong for their track “Wasting Time.” And aside from one of the most scorching guitar solos in a day full of them on “Montauk” from Bayside’s Jack O’Shea, props are in order for frontman Anthony Raneri’s Bouncing Souls t-shirt. It’s important to know your Warped Tour history, kids.
It’s not every year you get to see a kazoo solo, but Beebs And Her Money Makers broke that disappointing trend with a bouncing ska-pop set that also managed to segue a cover of TLC’s “Waterfalls” into Miley Cyrus’ “Wrecking Ball,” which I’m guessing is another Warped Tour first. They even had their own dancing hot dog.
Whistling solos are somewhat more common, but the one on California duo This Wild Life’s “Puppy Love” still managed to stand out in a sea of growling heavy-hitters all day. Their twee-acoustic, harmonized sound on their new Epitaph release Clouded made them the quietest act of the day, which probably came as a much-needed respite for everyone’s ringing ears.
“I want everybody to put a smile on their face right now,” Breathe Carolina’s David Schmitt instructed the crowd midway through an explosive performance of “I Don’t Know,” the trap-infused, electro-pop banger. Although based on the crowd reaction, it didn’t seem like there were many who weren’t grinning from ear to ear already. Things took a turn for the more aggressive when Schmitt invited Telle Smith from The Word Alive to join him for the careening, screamy “Sellouts.”
We the Kings covered a lot of territory in their hit-strewn career, from “Secret Valentine” to “We’ll Be A Dream” (no Demi though), and Clark gave some pretty specific instructions for fans on how to dance to a new song, including moves called the sorority squat, and the wacky inflatable man. Complicated stuff.
Finch, the California screamo favorites who reunited last year for the tenth anniversary of What It Is To Burn, teased some of the new material they’ve been working on “top secretly” as singer Nata Barcalow joked, and it’s got the same melodic intensity as you’d expect. “Who you guys waiting for? Shadows..of…the…Fiery Grave?” he asked of the crowd, poking fun at the scene’s conventional naming pattern.
On the other end of the intensity spectrum, New Jersey pop punk veterans Saves The Day breezed through a sunny-set of a optimistic melodies and lovelorn lyrics like old favorite “Shoulder To The Wheel” from 1999’s Through Being Cool. (S/O to guitarist Arun Bali’s Morrissey t-shirt.)
There was supposed to be a storm coming in, Echosmith’s Sydney Sierota said. “But guess what? We stopped it!” That enthusiasm was on display throughout the California sibling band’s relentlessly upbeat indie-rock set. Sierota came prepared for the downfall anyway, twirling a stylish umbrella over her shoulder throughout “Talking Dreams,” while they all got more reflective on “Cool Kids.”
Less Than Jake played “All My Best Friends Are Metalheads.” It was, predictably, awesome. And I couldn’t help but notice a lot more frequent shots of the front row of the crowd during The Ready Set’s performance, particularly during the herky-jerky quit-loud-quiet dynamic of “Fangz.” Let’s just say that the ladies in the audience were very, very pleased with what they were seeing from Jordan Witzigreuter and the boys.
On the topic of looking good, The Story So Far’s Parker Cannon showed off some serious new ink all over in a typically intense performance. Without a doubt one of the best lineups of the day, not to mention of the past few years, they showed why they’ve been on such a rapid rise since the release of Under Soil and Dirt in 2011 with their hooky, shouted hardcore bromances.
Best crowd pogo of the day goes to Scranton’s theatric metalcore Motionless In White. Always a tough contest.
“Who’s here for their first Warped Tour?” Mayday Parade’s Derek Sanders asked in the middle of an expansive, pop-cum-stadium-rock set of songs like they’re recent “Ghosts” and “Oh Well, Oh Well.” A sea of hands waved in the air. “Beginners! Alright!”
And a shoutout to Boston once again, because pop-funk-r&b bosses Bad Rabbits blew it up behind Fredua Boakye’s powerhouse vocals on tracks like their organ-churning, funktastic “Stick Up Kids.” But Brian Dales of The Summer Set may have been the hardest working dude of the day. Aside from hosting the livestream, he had to punch into his day job where he and the band switched on a dime from the strident power pop of “The Boys You Do (Get Back at You)” to the more broadly-appealing trier “Boomerang.”And they did it all without the help of their guitarist Joshua Montgomery who had his appendix out the night before.
Sure, Yellowcard is all about the fun (and the sads) but violinist Sean Mackin showed a keen eye for safety when he helped direct a fan in distress out of the crowd and toward security. Safety is important you guys! Also: don’t crowd surf. Ryan Key got things back on the path to fun by exhorting the crowd. “If you leave here tonight and you go home and tell anyone you know that wasn’t here you had an amazing time, then you did something wrong,” he said. “You shouldn’t be able to f–king talking when you leave here.” The fans made him proud on “Awakening.”