Even as I become increasingly jaded with each passing year, I always look forward to the Vans Warped Tour. No matter the circumstances, I end up having a blast and finding more than enough excellent bands to watch. The one aspect I do not look forward to, however, is the weather. You see, the tour has a long-standing history of bringing torrential rain and/or record-breaking heat to Massachusetts. But when the weather forecast for the July 19th stop at the Comcast Center in Mansfield, MA was in the the 80s, I knew I was in for a good day.
This year's festivities kicked off for me with All Time Low on the Kia Soul Stage - the main stage, that is. The magic of Warped Tour allows arguably the biggest bands on the tour to play shortly after doors open. Despite the early set time, they had a good crowd and put on a fun performance. In the opening three songs that I caught, Jack Barakat amassed four bras on his microphone stand. (Ladies: aren't those things expensive?) Barakat was particularly exciting to watch, not just because he made sexual hand gestures and wore a shirt that said Boner on it, but because of his high energy. Frontman Alex Gaskarth remarked that it may already be the best show of the tour. I'm sure bands make this stock comment all the time, but so many have said it about Boston-area shows that I have to believe most are genuine.
Following three songs, I rushed over to the amphitheater to catch the latter half of Man Overboard's set on the Tilly's Stage. They were fun as always. The crowd was into it, particularly with the closer, "Love Your Friends Die Laughing," which remains a perfect singalong song. Immediately after their set wrapped up, Senses Fail took the other side of the amphitheater, the Kia Rio Stage. The band is a former main stage act, but they seemed to enjoy the slightly more intimate stage while still bringing a good crowd. They played mostly fast paced numbers, including one of their new songs, "War Paint," which is one of their best yet. I also stuck around for the first few songs from We Are the In Crowd, who brought a fairly diverse crowd in terms of gender and age.
I then went over to the Monster Energy Stage for Every Time I Die. I was expecting a huge crowd, but I think going up against local favorites A Loss For Words cost them slightly. The audience was rambunctious regardless. The band's set was essentially an abridged version of the performance I saw at New England Metal and Hardcore Festival a few months back, but I have no qualms with that. It was an excellent burst of energy, and frontman Keith Buckley remains an absolute beast on stage.
I chose to see Yellowcard over Bayside because they frequent the area much less often. I also had to miss buzz band Dead Sara. Nevertheless, I do not regret my decision. Even the band commented that it might be the best show of the tour after only two songs. Frontman Ryan Key then told all of the people who had never crowd surfed before to lose their crowd surfing virginity on the next song, which resulted in a sea of kids making their way to the barrier during "Five Becomes Four." I was happy to see that violinist Sean Mackin looking healthy despite having recently undergone surgery to treat his thyroid cancer; he even busted out a backflip. The band closed with "Ocean Avenue," which may have been the biggest singalong I witnessed (and participated in) all day.
Back at the amphitheater, Memphis May Fire's large crowd filed out as Vanna took the stage with an equally impressive audience. Given that it was their homestate, the band received a warm welcome. They even played an older song they don't normally do, "A Dead Language for a Dying Lady," and vocalist Davey Muise crowd surfed during the singalong at the end. The performance featured guest spots from a couple of friends, including Matty Arsenault of A Loss For Words on "Safe to Say."
As I left the amphitheater, I caught Miss May I's opening song. I think their new album, At Heart, is step in the right direction for the band. With a bigger emphasis on riffs rather then chugging (although there's a fair share of that as well), it shares more in common with the metalcore acts that came before them than their peers. However, the stage was adorned with large stacks of obviously empty amplifiers, presumably to create the illusion that they are super heavy. Frankly, it was a bit silly.
But that was not nearly the weirdest thing I witnessed that day. As I arrived at the main stage, the crowd was being sprayed with white foam. It was the end of Blood on the Dance Floor's set, and it was worse than you could imagine. Even if we ignore the misdeeds they've been accused of committing and the fact that they have underage girls singing about sex, there is no excuse for what I'm fairly certain was lip synching. At they very least, they were using backing tracks. I understand that they draw kids - in fact, it was actually disheartening to see the size of their audience compared to some of the more deserving acts. I think the line-up this year is great, but "bands" like this are the reason that people say Warped Tour is a joke these days.
New Found Glory's set was delayed due to technical difficulties, but that certainly did not slow them down. They came out in customized, matching basketball uniforms and opened with "Hit or Miss," during which vocalist Jordan Pundik went to the barricade to sing along with fans, eventually ending up in with them. Later in the same song, Chad Gilbert passed his guitar off to Alan Day of Four Year Strong and went down to sing with the crowd as well. They played most of their uptempo hits and even threw in a cover of Green Day's "Basket Case." I thought it was an odd choice for a band with so many singles and fan favorites to spend three precious minutes on a cover, but it was such a solid choice that no one seemed to mind. With their spirited performance (which also included a shirt canon!), New Found Glory epitomizes Warped Tour. Perhaps I'm biased, considering they're one of my favorite bands, but it was my favorite set of the day. By the time they were through, the bad taste left by Blood on the Dance Floor was but a memory.
Since I missed their regular set earlier in the day, I was eager to catch A Loss For Word's acoustic performance at the Acoustic Basement. You can read more details the stage and its performers in my write-up on the Warped Tour stop in Connecticut, but the band brought so many of their homestate fans that they were overflowing from the two large tents.
Perhaps it was due to the fact that they were in their homestate, but Transit deserved to be on a bigger staged based on how many people they drew to the tiny Ernie Ball stage. As their family watched on from the stage, the band played a rousing set featuring material both old and new. It culminated with "Stay Home," during which vocalist Joe Boynton essentially boogie boarded across the crowd on a plastic board before standing atop it, singing and diving off.
Fireworks were up next on the same stage, so much of the crowd stayed put. (Although Four Year Strong were playing at the same time, so some filtered out.) I was happy to hear my two favorite songs from the band - "The Wild Bunch" and "Detroit" - as opener and closer, respectively. Both songs elicited excited crowd participation. Interestingly, the band was joined by a new member who played guitar and keyboard as needed.
For my money, I Call Fives just put out one the year's best summer records, their long awaited self-titled full-length debut. The end of the day was drawing near, and the band drew a modest but enthusiastic crowd. Those who missed the performance will be kicking themselves in years to come when they're playing big tours.
With an 8pm slot on the main stage, Taking Back Sunday was essentially the day's headliner. Frontman Adam Lazzara seemed less concerned with hitting notes and more interested in entertaining himself with his sassy personality and, of course, microphone swinging. That said, the band didn't sound bad. They seemed to enjoy themselves, as did the audience, which may have been the biggest of the day. I was surprised by how many songs written without John Nolan they performed. Naturally, the audience was most interested in Tell All Your Friends material, with "Cute Without the 'E'" receiving a louder reaction than closer "MakeDamnSure."
This year's Warped Tour line-up was good for both nostalgia and promising up-and-coming acts. It covered the entire spectrum of the scene in terms of both genre and time - past, present and future. Per usual, it had a little bit of something for everyone. I had such a blast that I knew I had to go back for the Connecticut stop a few days later. And, of course, I'll be back again next year.