"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.