"What a difference a year makes" -- that was the thought I've had over the past week when I reflect back on this summer's Vans Warped Tour. I had a blast seeing how just 12 months time has treated various different bands, such as Yellowcard, Breathe Carolina, Of Mice & Men, and Memphis May Fire, to give a few examples. This year's Warped Tour had an absolutely stacked line-up, one that you couldn't help but have a blast the entire day, regardless of who you saw (well, except if you accidentally stumbled near Blood On The Dance Floor's atrocious display).
The Seattle date took place at the White River Amphitheatre, specifically in Auburn, WA. After dramatically altering my schedule to make it on time, I was able to get where I needed to go with relative ease -- the venue staff couldn't have been more helpful, they saved me a good amount of valuable time, especially when I found out via twitter that Memphis May Fire would be going on at 11:30am, 30 minutes after gates opened.
After quickly checking in with the very helpful Bethany Watson at the press area (which was in a nice air conditioned room, with Wi-Fi access!), I decided to start my day off with a bang and catch Memphis May Fire at the Monster Energy Stage. If there was any band that has gone through a tremendous amount of growth over the past few years, it's definitely this band. I remember the last time I had seen the band was at The Pit in Jacksonville, FL, when the band was touring on their new album, Sleepwalking. Fast forward to summer 2012, and the band sounds far from similar, much more to what you'd expect from a "Rise-core" band, not that there's anything wrong with that though. For being so soon after gates, the crowd was quite significant, definitely filling out a large majority of the viewing area. Vocalist Matty Mullins had the crowd bouncing for most of the set, but that's about as active as the crowd got, as they loudly sang along to songs such as "The Sinner" and "Prove Me Right".
After puttering around for a good 30 minutes checking out merch, I headed off to the Kia Soul Main Stage to watch Of Mice & Men, eager to see what they had to bring to the table since the last time I had seen them. This was the first time seeing them since clean vocalist/bassist Shayley Bourget left, and they've had fill ins since then, such as Joel Piper (Confide, Olivia The Band), and currently Aaron Pauley (Jamie's Elsewhere). I can confidently say that Of Mice & Men have never sounded better, everything has been elevated to a higher level -- vocals, instruments, the works. The highlight of the set was one of the new tracks that surfaced on the re-release of the band's sophomore release The Flood, "The Depths" -- the madness and intensity of the track came through in a bigger way live, and the crowd ate it up. The band's upcoming third full length record is already on my "most anticipated" list for 2013, I have no doubts that this will be their finest work.
From there, I went back to interview Matty Mullins of Memphis May Fire, and then catch up with David Schmitt and Kyle Even of Breathe Carolina. It was great speaking with them.
Rushed over to catch A Loss For Words in the Acoustic Basement, something that definitely was worth getting there early for -- it was packed! Vocalist Matty Arsenault was in good spirits, and even whipped out a cover of Miguel's "All I Want Is You". Throw in "Hold Your Breath", "My Girl" (The Temptations), "So Contagious" (Acceptance), "Pirouette", and "Mt. St. Joseph", and you got yourself a great time.
Went rushed back to cut a short interview with newcomer band Oh No Fiasco. If you're a fan of Pierce The Veil, you might recognize their vocalist on the last track of their new album, which is what most people associate with when they hear of this new band. Interviewed Machine Gun Kelly, who was about a foot and a half taller than I thought he was going to be -- he's super lanky, but super cool at the same time. I never got a chance to see a large majority of his set over the weekend, but I heard him cover Limp Bizkit's "Break Stuff" as I was passing by to catch another set.
Every Time I Die mercilessly took the Monster stage by the throat, and ripped through crowd favorites such as "Wanderlust", "We'rewolf", and "No Son Of Mine". Seeing ETID is always a good time, and if you're not banging your head the entire time, you're doing it completely wrong. My only disappointment was with the amount of people that showed up, there should have been ATLEAST a couple hundred more people punching each other, having a good time. I can't wait for the band's headlining tour in the fall, especially since Letlive. is on it, who knows what sort of shenanigans will go down?
After snagging a tiny snack, Yellowcard took the Kia Soul Main Stage. I would be absolutely lying if Yellowcard wasn't one of the tightest and most entertaining bands on the tour, they sounded just as incredible as they did when they supported All Time Low last year, if not more. The band treated an extremely enthusiastic crowd to hits such as "Breathing", "Only One", and "Lights and Sounds". The highlight of the set was not their closer, which was obviously "Ocean Avenue", but it was "With You Around" -- the call and response part was absolutely MASSIVE, nearly everyone in the crowd sang along and rocked the venue. I cannot convey how disappointed I am in the fact that the band's fall headliner (with The Wonder Years!) doesn't come to the Northwest, just doesn't seem fair! But I'm pretty sure it has to do with the Warped Tour touring clause.
I rushed and barely made it in time to hop side stage to see the first half of Breathe Carolina's set at the Kia Rio Main Stage, which was located inside the actual Amphitheatre. As mentioned in the first paragraph of this entry, "what a difference a year makes" -- the amphitheatre was filled with fans jumping and singing along to the words. Out of all the bands on this tour, Breathe Carolina definitely had the biggest production -- lots of fog, lights, banners, etc. People seemed to respond best to their current single, "Hit and Run", which bodes well for the band's continued Top 40 Radio dreams, which they first achieved with "Blackout".
After watching Breathe for 20 minutes, I took off to the Monster stage again to catch The Ghost Inside, which arguably is one of my favorite bands. But don't think I didn't stop for 5 minutes and cut a rug to MOD SUN/Pat Brown perform on the House of Marley stage -- it was nice to those guys get a decently sized crowd, especially after the work he's put in over the last 3 years.
Ended up at the Monster stage just in time to graciously be allowed sidestage, and enjoy The Ghost Inside's set. I think it's fair to say I'm extremely biased towards this band, so I'll hold off on the praise. They came out to the ol' "California Love/Anchorman Cannonball" intro, and ripped into "Unspoken". Vocalist Jonathan Vigil wasted no time with stage banter, except to tease Vancouver Canucks fans, and to praise his beloved L.A. Kings (He was wearing a Jersey at the time). "Faith or Forgiveness", "Provoke", "Greater Distance", "Outlive", "Chrono", and "Between The Lines" all were fit into the band's 30 minute action packed set. 7 Songs!
I then went off to team with I Call Fives and hit the "End of the World" party, featuring one of the coolest bands from Oregon, Larry And His Flask -- those guys are so cool!
Woke up way too late, and rushed to get to the press area in Portland, barely got there in time.
It only took me about 10 minutes to appreciate the previous day's venue, and immediately feel the deepest amount of contempt for the day's venue, the Rose Quarter Riverfront, which was just barely large enough to fit everything inside it. The walkways to the bathrooms and Monster/Tilly's stages were extremely narrow, which made for a good 10 minute trek to one's desired destination, no matter how much pushing and shoving you did.
I started my day off with Falling In Reverse on the Kia Soul Main Stage, and my first thought was "How in the hell did this many people get here in time for an 11:45 time slot?". It was a PACKED (and rabid) crowd. Say what you'd like about the band and whatnot, but they sounded crisp. They were about 10 minutes into their set when someone walked on stage and told them they needed to stop playing immediately. I figured it was a gimmick to rile the crowd up some more...it wasn't. Turns out, it was someone sent to inform the band that the Fire Marshall is having a fit right now, and could pull the plug on the entire day. After 15 more minutes of waiting, the band came out and finished their set, without any cutting of songs. The band's final single from The Drug In Me Is You, "Good Girls Bad Guys" closed out the set, which seemed to be the crowd favorite. As for the Fire Marshall, he laid down the law and canceled some signings.
I Call Fives were playing acoustically at the DigiTech stage, and it was cool to finally get to see a set in some way, shape or form. The band's new self-titled album is definitely one of my favorites so far this year, and it's cool to see people show them some love. It was cool to hear songs like "Elevator Music" live, one of the first songs I had heard from the band.
I caught the second half of Four Year Strong's set on the Kia Soul Main Stage. I enjoyed the set for what it was, but I still couldn't help but feel some serious nostalgia for the days when Josh Lyford was in the band, it just wasn't the same. That being said, they're still a great band, and I'm sure I'll continue to come out to support them, they're much better than a majority of the bands on the tour anyways. I thought "Heaven Wasn't Built To Hold Me" was a nice touch to their set.
Senses Fail then took the stage on the Kia Rio stage, directly next to the Soul stage. Vocalist Buddy Nielsen sounded absolutely powerful, as the band tore through hits such as "Buried A Lie", "Shark Attack", and "Calling All Cars", and even threw in the massive new single "War Paint". Nielsen's stage banter was in full swing, as he entertained a couple of recent high school graduates in the front row, responding to their sarcastic comments. Near the end of the set, Buddy also mentioned putting out an expensive comedy CD -- whether he was serious or not, I'm not actually sure. What I DO know, is that Senses Fail sounded excellent, and would do well on a co-headliner with a band like Silverstein or Bayside.
Grabbed some water in the tent over, and then walked a few yards back to the Kia Rio stage for Breathe Carolina's full set. I had a great time watching them run through their set, and judging by the size of the crowd and how active they were, I'd say they did too. "Wooly" and "Blackout" rounded out the last portion of their set, before their DJ dropped into a 90 second (or so) dance portion to close things out. Breathe Carolina is definitely an artist to lookout for in the rest of 2012, and onto 2013; every year there's an artist that blows up from the line-up (Past artists include Katy Perry, Mike Posner, Yelawolf), and this year might be the first where said artist is one people are already generally familiar with.
Went to go chat with MOD SUN and do an interview. His work ethic is incredible, and the things he's been able to accomplish on this tour have been great. It really seems like yesterday when he saved the day on Jonny Craig's solo tour in early 2010, when Jonny was too intoxicated to perform at Midnight. Kevin Lyman was excited about having him out on the tour, so at the very least, he's got that going for him. He has Absolutepunk bookmarked, did you know that?
Went to catch most of Title Fight's set before The Ghost Inside were about to go on. Good band, but not necessarily something that I'd listen to everyday. They ended with "Shed", and a lot of people were into that, evidenced by hardcore dancing, which I never quite understood with a band playing like Title Fight.
The Ghost Inside hopped on next, and I was blessed to be invited to watch them from the side again. There's nothing better than seeing your favorite band twice in a row, especially knowing that they're excited to play, and the crowd is absolutely buzzing as well. As the band ripped into "Unspoken" again, that's the point when the dog was let off it's chain -- Portland flat out lost the plot. Now, you can say "Oh, you're just biased because it's your scene, blah blah blah", but I'm making no exaggeration here, they went twice as hard as Seattle did. They played the same set as yesterday, except they replaced "Provoke" with "Shiner", much to the delight of the older fans (from 2008-09, when they used to play the Satyricon in downtown Portland). The Ghost Inside will be direct support to Miss May I, alongside Like Moths To Flame, The Amity Affliction, and Glass Cloud in the fall.
Speaking of Miss May I, as I was making my way across the venue, I caught the last three songs of their set -- "Hey Mister", "Ballad Of A Broken Man", and "Masses of A Dying Breed". Miss May I has pulled a complete 180* since I had last encountered their set in early 2010. I couldn't beg more for Miss May I to get off the stage a few years back, as they performed an awful rendition of the already awful "Swing". Fast forward to now, and I'm excited to see what kind of headlining set they'll put together in the fall, it's obvious they've put in a tremendous amount of work in, and have tried to pull away from their beginnings a little bit.
There's not a whole lot of bands that can flat out command a stage like New Found Glory can, and I was ready for them to take over again on the Kia Soul Main Stage. When I spoke with vocalist Jordan Pundik back in June, literally a few days before he left for this tour, he described the band's set as a "30 minute aerobics workout" -- he wasn't lying! It was absolutely impossible to not get into it, let everything go, and sing along to hits such as "All Downhill From Here", "Something I Call Personality", and the inevitable closer, "My Friends Over You". When we talked, Jordan also confirmed the Sticks and Stones 10th Anniversary Tour, which will happen early on next year -- everyone is super stoked for it! The "Pop Punk's Not Dead" tour was something cool, so I can't wait for this headliner.
I was super hungry, so I did the responsible thing and made the only meal of the day a good one -- A gigantic snowcone for $5. Worth it? YOU BET! It's almost mandatory to get a snowcone every summer.
I went to hang out and check out MOD SUN on House of Marley stage, as a decently sized crowd started to show up. Hate him or love him, he puts as much energy he can into his set. He's consistently jogging, jumping, and shouting at the top of his lungs to the people he considers his friends. 2011 was big year for him, as he did well in the Rolling Stone unsigned artist contest, and 2012 has been an even bigger year. Lookout for big things in the fall, as 2013 approaches.
From there, I had a friend get really sick due to the heat, so I was unfortunately unable to see All Time Low or Pierce The Veil close out the tour as I had planned.
- Kleen Kanteen: Please, keep providing water, but don't lay on the guilt trip when we don't buy your overpriced canteens.
- I bumped into Skinny Lister on numerous occasions over the two days, and every time they were extremely polite and fun to be around! I hear they drew quite a crowd too!
- Two Mainstages (Kia Rio/Soul) were really cool -- I'd like to see the main stages return to 40 minutes, and some smaller stages knock down to 25 minutes (Kevin Says)
- For the love of everything good and holy, continue to have the Acoustic Basement every year. It's too good to not have every year.
- Bands/Artists I'd like to see for next year: Steel Panther, Story of The Year, P.O.D., The Cool Kids, Trapped Under Ice, Take Offense, Grave Maker, The Classic Crime, Bring Me The Horizon, Stick To Your Guns, Silverstein, Terror, First Blood, August Burns Red, The Ghost Inside
- Every artist that plays on Mainstage should have to earn it, no exceptions. Most bands that were on the stage this year definitely earned it, but some definitely did NOT (looking at you, Blood On The Dance Floor)
- Monster Energy should definitely still continue to sponsor the tour. Not only are their "Rehab" flavored drinks incredible, but their truck giving free full-sized cans to fans in an air conditioned area is amazing every-single-year. THANK YOU.
- Less bands on the Tour
- Earlier gate times to help with schedule -- Numerous fans on both dates were upset because they didn't get inside the gates in time for an 11:30 time slot, even though they were near the front of the line. Even cutting gates back by 30 minutes would help a lot.
- Give the First-Aid personnel a significantly larger area to work with. There were FAR too many people dropping in the Portland heat, and I know for a fact that we weren't the hottest date on the tour.
SPECIAL THANKS to: Bethany Watson (Warped Press Coordinator), Amy Willard (Pit Reporter), The entire I Call Fives camp, Jonathan Vigil & Jim Riley of The Ghost Inside, and Kevin Lyman.
Ed Sheeran has sold over 1 million copies of his debut album, "+" outside of the United States; not a bad accomplishment for a 21-year old fella from the United Kingdom. It's my opinion (as well as other artists such as Enter Shikari and letlive.) that Sheeran will be one of the biggest acts to explode this year in the United States; his connection to fellow act One Direction couldn't hurt either, could it?
I went to see Sheeran on a blustery Wednesday evening as part of Snow Patrol's U.S./Canada headlining tour. After watching the live stream of his SXSW Nikon Showcase, I knew I had to make it out to see him in person.
One of the things that sets Ed apart from other singer/songwriters is his utilization of the loop pedal, and boy, does he know how to use it; he uses it to create multiple harmonies/effects to make it seem like he's not the only one standing on stage. Crowd participation was well encouraged, as he had the room form a 'choir' of sorts for his opening song, "Give Me Love"; the all-ages section was far more eccentric and willing to get rowdy, as opposed to a large majority of the older folks in attendance for Snow Patrol, who seemed to have no clue what was going on. The lyrically fast-paced and closing song "You Need Me, I Don't Need You" also encouraged crowd participation, as simple as the chorus was; shouts of "Hell yeah!" and "Yeah Motherfucker Yeah Motherfucker Yeah!" were also part of the call and response shenanigans.
His set was 30 minutes long...but he only played 4 songs. While most people reading this would think that it's absurd that he wouldn't play atleast one or two more songs, they also don't realize that 3 of the 4 songs in his set were dramatically lengthened. And I can appreciate that he would care enough to put such an emphasis on his live set to do that; some artists drone through a few songs and promptly leave the stage.
Sheeran later came out during Snow Patrol's set to perform the song "New York" with vocalist Gary Lightbody; afterwards, he made his way outside of the venue to sign autographs and take pictures with everyone that wanted one.
As mentioned, I believe that between the success he's accumulated throughout this long tour, as well as appearances on Carson Daly, Jimmy Fallon, and Conan O' Brian, Ed Sheeran is ready to explode in the United States. Only time will tell how fast his growth will be -- as more and more people check out his debut album, as well as his EP with Yelawolf, his growth is imminent. He mentioned to me that he will be back on a U.S./Canada headliner in the Fall; he also confirmed to me that Portland is a tour date on that headliner, so I definitely will plan on coming back out for a longer set.
At The Skylines opened up the show, and it’s another band that does the two vocalist sing/scream combo with the shredding guitarist – not particularly something that we haven’t already seen a million times before. That being said, out of all the bands that I’ve seen play that style, At The Skylines performed quite well; the intensity and fervor shown by the band isn’t often matched. Vocalists Mark Barela and Chris Shelley are both talented at their respective vocal styles. Although he might not like it, Barela screams are closely similar to that of Austin Carlile, vocalist for Of Mice & Men; Shelley has some serious pipes, something I didn’t expect to translate well live. The lead guitarist of the group shredded like his life depended on it, and was fun to watch throughout the set. My only complaint is that I heard the same breakdown over and over and over again; it seemed so formulaic and lazy.
At The Skylines have the right tools to really go places; if they utilize more of Shelley’s vocal abilities and reduce the number of breakdowns, they have some serious potential to release a great sophomore record.
letlive. took the stage next, and I was excited! I had missed this band a grand total of 5 times due to bad luck. I’m going to be blunt – if you haven’t seen this band play, you need to do whatever it takes to see them. Vocalist Jason Aalon Butler is an incredible performer live, you’ll be glued to his antics the entire set; examples include him pulling his shirt over his face, shove the microphone into his mouth, and climbing on top of tall speakers. Aside from that, the band understands the importance of dynamics; they kicked into overdrive for “Renegade 86”, and understood when to flip the intensity on and off for “Day 54”. Their entire set was such an experience, I was cutting a rug the entire time – it would’ve been a crime not to.
It’s so hard to write about the band, because they speak so well for themselves with their performance; they easily fit into the upper echelon of live bands such as The Chariot and Grave Maker. I am extremely excited to see where their upcoming sophomore album takes them. If you’d like to hear a particular song from them, be sure and ask them, they don’t bite!
After a bit of delay, the lights dimmed; in fact, this was the darkest the venue had ever been in the many times I’ve been there – Enter Shikari was ready to go on. Two rotating spotlights made a slow creep around the walls, occasionally stunning a few people in the crowd; a large upside-down triangle fixed to the wall began to shine a bright hue of red, mixed with powerful shots of white light. “System” was the first and definitely most appropriate song to start this set; we all shouted along with vocalist Rou Reynolds before the song abruptly flowed into “Meltdown”, in which all hell broke loose. The fixed triangle violently emitted red and white light, blinding all hardcore dancers that immediately broke out to tear up the dance floor.
The band then proceeded to run through songs such as “Gandhi Mate, Gandhi” and “The Feast”. Long time crowd favorite “Sorry, You’re Not A Winner” made an appearance early on in the set, as the majority of the crowd knew exactly when to clap along.
In spite of other big tracks making an appearance such as “Search Party” and “Arguing With Thermometers”, the set hit its most epic point right before the encore. Enter Shikari ended a initial 15 song set with “Enter Shikari”, which left the crowd rattling the venue with “AND STILL WE WILL BE HERE, STANDING LIKE STATUES”; they continued to roar this line until the band came back for a two song encore.
The encore consisted of two songs – “Return to Entergiser” and “Sssnakepit”; while you might think that this would be a fairly quick punch to end the night, the band refused to let people go home without dancing. The two songs were both extended to allow people to let loose and shuffle their feet, myself included.
One of my favorite things about Enter Shikari’s live sets is that they mix things up for people that come out; you’re going to get various extended introductions and remixes by artists such as True Tiger and Ram, which are even more of a treat for long time fans of the band.
It was highly evident that everyone who was in attendance was there for Enter Shikari, which made things far more enjoyable than past experiences; the band really got a chance to shine and show America how they execute a headlining set. Without a doubt this tour was Enter Shikari’s biggest moment in America; they weren’t held back by a limited set time, the spotlight was on them for once. Although the production and crowds are a far cry from what one would experience in the U.K., what WAS here was incredible to soak in.
Enter Shikari is a band that mixes hardcore elements with dubstep/drum ‘n’ bass, which has a large appeal to a few demographics of people. I look forward to the band growing in popularity, and coming back to America in early 2013 for another rowdy and memorable performance.