"All we ever wanted was a cool, dry place to rest our bones / Not to drift along with this current forever, not to have to sink alone."
Not only were the above lyrics, taken from A Loss For Words' "Wrightsville Beach," the most enthusiastically chanted singalong at the Warped Tour's Acoustic Basement at the Comcast Theatre in Hartford, CT on July 22, but the stage also gave the words new meaning. The Warped Tour was founded on in-your-face punk rock, but sometimes it's nice to take a break from the loud music, blistering sun and throngs of people. Of course, you'll still want to enjoy music with like-minded individuals, so the Acoustic Basement the perfect getaway.
The stage, the brainchild of Brain Marquis, is a brand new addition to the Warped Tour. There are other sponsored tents that feature sporadic acoustic performances, but this is the first one dedicated solely to regularly scheduled artists. The stage is actually two large tents - it had to be expanded, as one wasn't enough - with a small platform for performers. Some of them are on the tour as solo acts, while others are taking on double duty with full band electric sets on other stages as well.
Typical for Warped, the Acoustic Basement changes locations each and every day. On this particular day, it was situated a bit too close to one of the main stages, and the noise could be heard during quiet moments. Thankfully, the tent is equipped with a good P.A. system to drown out the external sound. Refreshingly fast paced, each musician performed for about 20-30 minutes, with only 10-15 minutes in between each.
Geoff Rickly was a late addition to the tour and took the stage early, but he brought a handful of dedicated fans. (Unfortunately, some passersby didn't know who he was; I actually heard someone look at their schedule and say, "This is Gee-off Ricky.") Since putting Thursday to rest late last year, the frontman has been focusing on solo material as a creative outlet. He is happily independent, stating that he has no need for a label or management. Instead, he has a mailing list and will free music to anyone who signs up. The independence seemed to invigorate Rickly, and the new songs - including one that began as a United Nations track - sounded great. He also threw in covers, such as Buzzcocks' "Ever Fallen in Love (With Someone You Shouldn't've)," and a couple of Thursday cuts, ending the set with an acoustic rendition of the band's "Turnpike Divides."
Owen Plant brought a distinctly different vibe to the stage. One half of The Sunshine Brothers, Plant uses his Jamaican ancestry to infuse reggae into his brand of folk. He made good use of two microphones, layering one with delay effects. I'm not familiar with his songs, but the music and the atmosphere created by it were chill.
Acoustic Basement mastermind Brian Marquis took the stage next. Combining elements of acoustic, folk, blues and country, his solo material is quite a departure from his work in Therefore I Am - but it's equally impressive. He played a mix of original material and eclectic covers, ranging from Bruce Springsteen's "Terry's Song" to Ryan Adams' "To Be Young (Is To Be Sad, Is To Be High)," which can be found on his new EP, Beneath the Cover is Earth.
Chuck Ragan's foot-stomping performance hardly left time for him to breathe between songs. As far as acoustic material goes, it was positively rambunctious. His gruff vocals and guitar were joined by Jon Gaunt on fiddle and Joe Ginsberg on upright bass, giving his performance a fuller sound. I was hoping for a Hot Water Music song or two, but Ragan didn't so much as mention his recently reunited band. (He did, however, play "Cursing Concrete" from his folk side project Rumbleseat.) Regardless, the original material sounded great.
Make Do and Mend were excited to be back in their homestate. Frontman James Carroll and guitarist Mike O'Toole's all-too-short performance largely consisted of material from last year's acoustic EP, Part and Parcel. The release seemed to go under the radar, but I think it's excellent. The acoustic songs translated well live, including their cover of Touche Amore's "Home Away From Here," a unique take on a great song. The set concluded with a rendition of "Night's the Only Time of Day," featuring a brief interlude with the chorus of Carly Rae Jepsen's "Call Me Maybe."
Koji is perhaps the most humble person in the music industry today. His authenticity oozes from the stage. In addition to his usual material, such as his rousing cover of the Bob Dylan/Old Crow Medicine Show tune "Wagon Wheel," he showcased some new songs from his forthcoming album. He didn't play his typical closer, "Spring Song," opting instead end with one of the new songs. Not only does it not have a title yet, but Koji stated, "I barely know the words, but I understand its meaning." That goes to show you how genuine he really is.
The largest crowds of the day came for the stage's final three acts, beginning with Transit. As with their electric set, singer Joe Boynton and guitarists/vocalists Tim Landers and Torre Cioffi gave it their all. They may not have hit every note perfectly, but they more than made up for it with passion - plus they had a large audience singing along. They played five songs from their latest album, Listen & Forgive, before closing with an older track, "Outbound."
Bayside frontman Anthony Raneri brought the biggest crowd, which spilled out from the pair of tents. He began the set by professing his love for Connecticut and revealing that he was there with the rest of the band just before Warped started to record something (although he would not say what). He then went on to play "Don't Call Me Peanut," the first of a few Bayside favorites. He also performed one of his solo songs, "Sandra Partial," and his cover of Smoking Popes' "Megan," which tops the original.
A Loss for Words was the stage's final act. As a local band, I have seen them many times over the years, and they never disappoint. I am constantly impressed by Matty Arsenault's voice; I rank it among the best in pop punk, even after having already performed with the full band earlier. He puts those pipes to good use during these acoustic performances and maintains his stage presence as well. Accompanied by guitarist Marc Dangora, the pair played a half an hour's worth of crowd pleasures, including the aforementioned "Wrightsville Beach," the fan-requested "Face to Face" and their covers of Acceptance's "So Contagious" and The Temptations' "My Girl."
Not only did the Acoustic Basement provide refuge for lucky music fans, it also showcased genuine talent from real humans. There were no rock star attitudes, no gimmicks, no egos, no auto-tune. Everyone was there because they wanted to be, and the performers all took the time to express their honor to be a part of the stage. It was great to see all of Marquis and company's hard work pay off. As an added bonus, the stage was done at 6, so even after having spent the entire day there, I had a few hours left to catch other acts (although I gladly would have stayed for more).
Warped Tour founder Kevin Lyman would be crazy not to bring back the Acoustic Basement next and every year. In addition to those artists highlighted above, performers such as John Nolan of Taking Back Sunday, Mike Herrera of MxPx, Kristopher Roe of The Ataris, Vinnie Caruana of The Movielife/I Am the Avalance, Man Overboard, Into It. Over It. and more have graced the stage on other dates. I hope this is the first of many successful years for the Acoustic Basement, as it has the potential to become a crowd-drawing staple of the Warped Tour.
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.
I can't think of a better way to start the Warped Tour than by seeing one of my favorite bands, so I didn't mind that The Wonder Years were playing so early in the day at the Mansfield, MA date on July 13. (I had to sit through The Ready Set, who played on the other half of the amphitheater's stage, first.) Despite being among the earliest acts, a throng of kids were piled into the pit area and stadium seats to watch one of modern pop punk's finest. From the opening "Local Man Ruins Everything" to the closing "Washington Square Park," the band's half hour show set the bar high in terms of both band performance and crowd reaction for the remainder of the day.
Unwritten Law began playing next, but I was rushing across the crowded landscape to make my way to see Set Your Goals. I only caught their first three songs - "Exit Summer," "Echoes" and "Goonies Never Say Die" - but it was nice to hear material from all of their releases. Even in that short time, vocalists Jordan Brown and Matt Wilson made their way down to the barricade to allow emphatic fans to sing along.
It's always a blast to see Patent Pending, and Warped was no different. The band unfortunately played on a stage that was not listed on the iconic blow-up schedule, but their small yet loyal fanbase sought them out. Frontman Joe Ragosta was as off-the-wall as ever, with the outdoor atmosphere lending additional opportunities for fun. He jumped around on stage, went to the barricade so fans could sing, crowd surfed and even jumped into the crowd and lead them in running around the sound booth. Despite blowing the stage's generator twice in the span of about 10 minutes, the energetic gang didn't miss a beat.
I headed back to the amphitheater for The Dangerous Summer and caught the tail end of Simple Plan's set, who had a huge crowd. Much like Sum 41 last year, Simple Plan should have been on a bigger stage, because people were interested in seeming them - be it for nostalgia or otherwise. They closed with "I'd Do Anything" and, grievously, the place cleared out while The Dangerous Summer got started. The non-believers were treated to the excellent opener "Where I Want To Be" as they exited. The humble remaining crowd enjoyed themselves as the band played material from both of their albums until the fervent conclusion of "Work In Progress."
Not long after this, the rain began to fall. Massachusetts seems to be cursed for Warped weather. Tradition dictates that attendees must suffer through record-breaking high temperatures or a violent downpour of rain. Luckily, I found refuge inside because I was filming an acoustic session. On the downside, the rain forced me to miss one band that I really wanted to see: Foxy Shazam.
The rain let up by the time that A Day To Remember took to the main stage - which featured giant, animated renditions of their faces hovering over the platform. Not surprisingly, the band had the largest crowd of the day. Scene kids, hardcore bros, tweens and punks alike flocked to watch as the Florida quintet played their signature amalgamation of hardcore and pop punk. During "Heartless," vocalist Jeremy McKinnon called for the classic Warped Tour circle pit around the sound booth and later had the crowd divide down the middle for a pseudo-wall of death. Needless to say, the crowd was into it.
I saw A Skylit Drive play their last song, "Too Little Too Late." I'm not a fan of the band, but thy brought a good sized crowd to the small stage. Following them was Terrible Things. I was disappointed to see that only a handful of people were there to watch such talented musicians, but they still rocked it. The band's members are no stranger to Warped: vocalist/guitarist Fred Mascherino played it in both Taking Back Sunday and The Color Fred and drummer Josh Eppard played while he was in Coheed and Cambria. They recently lost Andy Jackson of Hod Rod Circuit fame from the line-up, but they were tight as a trio. Their set concluded with a portion of Led Zeppelin's "The Song Remains the Same" before segueing into their own "Revolution."
The show ended on a heavy note this year. The last band to play on the second page was the The Acacia Strain, who were introduced by frontman Vincent Bennett as "the fucking outcasts of this tour." The self-proclaimed angry band proceeded to play what was quite possibly the heaviest set of the day. They had a relatively small crowd, since it was the end of the day and they went on at the same time as fellow heavy-hitters August Burns Red, but they still had a rambunctious pit brewing from their homestate crowd. After they ended with a slowed, heavier-than-ever version "Carbomb" to give fans one last chance to mosh, I caught the last couple of August Burns Red songs. They always put on a good show with solid musicianship.
Warped Tour was as fun as always this year. I missed a lot of bands that I wanted to see and hardly had time to check out the vendors, but that's to be expected with such a hectic schedule. The line-up offered plenty of talented groups no matter what your preferences are. In the coming weeks, I will be posting acoustic sessions from Relient K, Less Than Jake, Unwritten Law, Terrible Things and Patent Pending. Lastly, you can see all of my photos from the show at alexislegend.com.
I've been an avid attendee of the Warped Tour for the better part of the last decade, but the last few years have made me question whether or not I would continue what has become a summer tradition. The line-up has consistently decreased in quality, making it obvious that I am loosing touch with the current music scene, but I ultimately end up having a good time and catching at least a few good bands. With a decent line-up for the gig's 16th anniversary, I was happy to cover the Massachusetts date of the tour this year.
Once I had all of my press issues sorted out, I was immediately faced with a tough decision when I saw the giant, inflatable schedule for the day. Every Time I Die, Four Year Strong, and Polar Bear Club were all playing at around the same time. I decided to go with Every Time I Die since I had seen them least recently. They always put on an energetic set, so it was a great way to start the day. I was happy to find that they still played Hot Damn-era songs ("Ebolorama", "She's My Rushmore", "Floater", which featured a wall of hugs) along with the newer material. They closed with "We'rewolf", and I rushed to see a couple of Four Year Strong songs. They brought a big crowd for their home-state show, and every one of them was singing along as they ended their set with "Heroes Get Remembered, Legends Never Die".
There was a little break in the afternoon, which I spent doing press and checking out some of the booths. Amongst the plethora of ugly, flashy band merchandise and dehydrated kids puking, there was some cool stuff to be found. Andrew WK had his own "party tent" where he appeared to meet with fans; there were skateboarders riding on a half-pipe; Trojan gave out free condoms; Wonka gave out free candy; Truth spread information about the dangers of tobacco via games of Simon Says with onlookers. (Note: Truth bears no responsibility for content created by third parties.)
I spent much of the remainder of the day at the main stage (dubbed the Teggart Stage), beginning with We The Kings. Highlights of their set included a solid cover of Jimmy Eat World's "The Middle", which vocalist Travis Clark professed to be his favorite song, and "We'll Be A Dream" with Cassadee Pope of Hey Monday filling in for Demi Lovato's part. All American Rejects, who drew a big crowd, followed. I don't know if the heat got to him or he's always like this, but vocalist Tyson Ritter had some ridiculous stage banter between songs. Clad in a white suit in the blistering heat, he rambled on about a number of things in what I assume were attempts to be humorous but came off more crazy than anything. They played all of the expected hits, including "Dirty Little Secret", "Move Along", and "Gives You Hell", the latter of which proved to be great for crowd participation.
Alkaline Trio followed. While I don't dislike their new material, I was happy that their set contained a lot of old material, including fan favorites like "Private Eye", "Stupid Kid", and the set-ending "97". I was a little disappointed that "Radio" was left out, but I can't complain after hearing all of the other great songs. It was during their set that the rain began to fall. While it wasn't nearly as bad as the torrential downpours of the two preceding years, it continued for the remaining three hours of the show. Then it was Motion City Soundtrack's turn, and the big crowd didn't seem to be bothered by the rain. Fans sang along especially loud to the band's hits, "L.G. Fuad" and "Everything Is Alright".
Reel Big Fish, whose tent provided me with some cover from the rain, was up next. I only caught a few of their songs - fan favorites "Sell Out" and "I Want Your Girlfriend to Be My Girlfriend Too" among them - but they were fun. I then ran to the pavilion to see Sum 41. I caught the last song by The Casualties, who proved that there are still some punk bands on Warped. Sum 41, despite not being on the main stage, brought in a huge crowd who went wild for the older material. I stayed for about half of their set, but apparently I missed them cover the Rolling Stones' "Paint It Black" and end with "Fat Lip". Disappointing, but I knew I knew I had to be back to see Andrew W.K.
I can't think of a better way to end Warped Tour than with Andrew W.K. Unfortunately, many people seemed to disagree, as the place had nearly emptied for the final performer. Regardless, Andrew came out with "It's Time to Party" and didn't stop until his set concluded with his breakout hit, "Party Hard", with the stage filled with bodies. It was the perfect way to cap off a fun day.
It's difficult enough trying to catch all of the bands you want on the tour, but adding press coverage to the day only ups the stress. I did film acoustic Backstage Sessions with Emarosa, VersaEmerge, The Swellers, AM Taxi, and We Are The In Crowd, which will be available for your viewing pleasure in the near future. Unfortunately I somehow missed all of those bands' live sets, but you won't be disappointed by their acoustic performances.
With a diverse line-up, Warped Tour has something for everyone. It's great to see that the tour is still going strong after 15 years. We can complain all we want about how it has changed over the years, but it simply wouldn't make sense if it was ran the same way now. At the end of the day, it still provides the same kind of affordable fun for music fans.