I started paying attention to the punk rock scene when I was in early middle school, about the time that my clinical depression really started to rear its ugly head and I found that the Top 40 scene just didn’t represent the feelings that were wreaking havoc in my head (and it was getting annoying, besides). Bands like My Chemical Romance (now unfortunately defunct) and AFI took over my music library, and before long I had branched out into [a few different varieties of] metal and screamo, hardcore and varying strains of punk rock and alternative.
And then I discovered the music festival to end all music festivals: Vans Warped Tour.
Dish Network used to feature FUSE, which was covered with WT programs in the summer, and my only lifeline to culture that didn’t involve cowboy hats or country music. At that point, Warped was almost entirely metal/core and grungy punk rock outfits that were a little on the stripped out side. Pennywise, for example, was a staple (but it’s been a long time since then and I don’t remember other names, although I could probably hit up the Google). Since then, Warped Tour has morphed into something a little different, something a little more inclusive, maybe. The metal and the hard rock and the stripped out punk music is definitely still around, but it’s scheduled alongside pop punk and hip hop and EDM, straight up pop music, etc.
Warped Tour has become something new entirely in the past 10 to 12 years, and although there are probably some purists who are really strung out about it, I think it’s great. Hip hop and rap have infiltrated almost every genre of music we care about, just like EDM/dubstep or even autotune, so it makes sense to start including some of those acts in the Tour. There’s more genre crossing-over now than I feel like there ever has been, especially in the punk rock scene, or, more aptly, the Vans Warped Tour scene.
So what does that mean for me? It means that now, more than a decade after I discovered the event that made my heartrate increase (in part because I was a 9 hour drive from the nearest event location, and there was no way for me to get there since my parents just didn’t understand–#growingupemo, right?), when I am finally able to attend a date, 1800 miles away from home, I’m looking at a group of artists that represent the diversity of my current music library, which has been developing over the past several years. It also means that there’s a significantly more mixed type of attendance at events, people who are there for entirely different scenes but all for the same reason: because live music is the shit. As a student of American culture and sociopolitics, this is exciting.
I went to Mansfield with my boyfriend, and we were late, because mornings are hard. But we got there in time for Hands Like Houses, which is one of the handful of bands on my “Absolutely Cannot Miss” list (one of whom I missed. #Sadface). Aside from their perfect hair and adorable accents, the Australian outfit absolutely killed their set Tuesday afternoon. Trenton Woodley has a voice to make a girl swoon (not to mention a smile), and the energy they presented was infectious. It was definitely the best way for us to have started the day—and their announcement probably helped. New album in November—wut wut!
We went straight from HLH to Riff Raff. Now that’s a transition I never saw coming, lemme tell you. We didn’t stick around for the whole set because we had other places we needed to be, but we were there long enough to watch the energy of the amphitheater completely shift over, which was fascinating from a sociological standpoint.
We watched The Wonder Years and Man Overboard play pretty solid sets on the Shark and Unicorn Stages respectively before August Burns Red tore it up. There’s something deeply satisfying and enjoyable/amusing about watching the higher pitched screams come out of this brunette’s mouth. I don’t know quite what it is, but every time I watched him scream I just grinned like an idiot. It was a really good set, and even though I don’t really listen to them on my own, I was suitably impressed.
At this point, I split off to go watch Slaves on the Kevin Says stage because they were at the top of my “Cannot Miss” list. I discovered Slaves and Jonny Craig about the time that I was going through a really rough breakup in January, and their album really helped me through it. It wasn’t that the lyrics were relevant, or even that I could connect to the messages so much as it was a body of really gorgeous work that featured strong emotion and a struggle. I don’t pretend to know Jonny Craig or his struggle, nor do I pretend that his music “saved me” because (1) I didn’t need saving and (2) I always do that myself, but it was a soundtrack of deeply emotive struggle and it came into my life right when I needed it. He was nice enough to take a picture with me, and then to humor me and hug me, which made my whole damned day, even though it probably wasn’t REALLY that big of a deal. It just felt like it to me.
Anyway. <cough/> I stood front and center for the Slaves set, up against the barricade, because that’s straight up my favorite place to be. (I almost never get to be there when at shows with other people because I’m respectful of my companion’s space and comfort, but it always makes me a little sad to be as far back as is desired. Oh well.) It was short, but it was really powerful, and the crowd responded really well to them. There’s a lot of conflict surrounding this band and particularly the vocalist, and while I can see where it comes from and why, but… that’s another subject for another day.
The only thing I’m upset about regarding the Slaves set is that it was at the same time as the Icon for Hire set, and they were another band on my “CANNOT MISS” list, and… <sigh/> I had to miss them. #Bigoldsadface. I expect that they’ll be back, though. I mean, I did move to a cultural epicenter. Hurray for civilization. Moving on.
I was actually pleased to see The Kenneths (although I really only just saw them while we walked past on our way to something else, because time) on Warped this year as well, because it’s really a fall back to the aforementioned stripped out punk rock that Warped used to be chock full of. They’re a London-based outfit, and man, do they look their part. Mohawks and grungy, ripped clothing all the way. They were a unique unit amidst the rest of the acts I encountered in Mansfield, which is maybe sad from a nostalgic standpoint, but I feel like, based on the exploration I do in the scene (of which, I admit, there hasn’t been nearly enough of lately because life post-university is weird), that section of the scene has grown rather small. It’s becoming phased out, in a manner of speaking, although I will never call it obsolete. As long as there are listeners, a genre is never obsolete. Besides, they have things to say and a solid medium with which to say it. More power to them. They’re good to watch live, too, what little I saw.
I introduced my boyfriend to Silverstein, who were a staple in my high school playlists, while we waited for Senses Fail, per his request. The SF vocalist has recently come out as Queer, and took the set as an opportunity to remind people that homophobia/transphobia/using “faggot” as a pejorative is really shitty, and that anybody who didn’t see a problem with it should really just leave, because punk rock is and has always been about uniting the counter cultures and representing the people that the mainstream neglected. (It made anybody who left at that point look a little suspicious, haha.) Knowing about the recent ongoing drama with Attila and God only knows how many bands in the scene, it came off a little pointed, a little more angsty than it otherwise might have, although I certainly can’t blame him for his frustration and hurt.
I’m going to immediately point out that I have no idea if Buddy Nelson had Attila in mind or not, because I don’t know anything about that relationship or if there even is one, and I’m not going to make any further comments about Attila because I am not suitably placed/informed to make comments.
After Senses Fail, we caught the end of the Four Year Strong set before Pvris hit the Unicorn Stage and stole the whole damn show. Lyndsey Gunnulfsen is gorgeous and has one helluva voice, and, if I’m going to be fully honest, they were probably my favorite performance of the entire day.
We pretty much ended the day with Bebe Rexha, with whom I have a sordid love affair. Just kidding, but seriously, she’s kinda bomb. Infiltrating the mainstream by writing songs for a ton of hit artists including Eminem and Rihanna (e.g. “Monster”), David Guetta and Nikki Minaj (Hello “Hey Mama”, wherein she actually sings the hook), Bebe (pronounced ‘Bee-bee, fyi) is probably the most “pop”-esque artist on the Warped Tour lineup, alongside Metro Station, who were in the Top 40 a few years ago. (Oh my God, wait, wasn’t that in like, 2008 or something? Uff dah). At least of the names that I know (and I’ve looked into almost all of them). Bebe writes some really strong lyrics and some hella fine hooks, not to mention infectious melodies. Her stage presence was a little sporadic, but it made sense all the way through. She hit the stage in a leather jacket over her crop top and leggings, and I don’t know how she kept it on as long as she did. I was dying in shorts and a tank top all day. (Granted, I’m from the Midwest, where heat does not invite humidity to play. This whole being hugged by the air thing takes some getting used to.)
That was pretty much our day in a nutshell… a long… explanatory nutshell… =D haha. It was a really great experience, and it was definitely worth the wait. Warped Tour isn’t what it was when I discovered it, but I reject the idea that it’s a problem and celebrate the evolution of the scene. Anybody who knows anything about me knows that I’m all about evolution and growth, and not just on a personal level. Warped isn’t just an annual series of events, it’s a culture, and culture that refuses to evolve with its members is a culture that eventually phases itself out of existence. Letting Warped breathe is the only thing that will allow it to continue, because, lets be serious: being a hipster is fun, but only when there are events that like, you know, alive.
PS–I was taking these pictures on my phone, so the quality really isn’t that great. I wish it was better. But I am (somewhat unfortunately) not a professional photographer and therefore lack a good camera. Maybe someday.