Warped Tour Day is always the best day of summer. For the past five years, I’ve endured terrible sunburns (because sunscreen is for wimps), crippling hunger and thirst (Why pay for expensive food and water when I could buy merch instead?), 100+ degree weather (Texas gives zero fucks about my well-being), and worst of all, whatever new fad the scene kids are into these days (Is that a tail hanging from that kid’s back pocket? Why is there hair like that? What exactly is a Blood On the Dance Floor and why does that shirt terrify me?) – all in the name of seeing a whole slew of bands on the same day. It truly is a wonderful event that brings together bands and fans from across all genres together for the common goal of enjoying music. To honor the end of this year’s tour, I thought I would give out some awards from the San Antonio date.
The Your Barriers Are No Match For Me Award for “Best Crowd Interaction”
To The Chariot, who tore through their set with the intensity of a bulldozer and left me absolutely floored. Before Warped, I hadn’t seen The Chariot live. I had, however, always heard about how great they were, and how much of an experience their show was. But I was initially a bit skeptical about their Warped set. I wasn’t sure whether they would be able to fully replicate their live show in this setting, with a short set, in the heat, and most importantly, with a barricade. But within the first ten seconds, The Chariot quelled all of my fears. They scoffed at the idea of security guards and a barrier, with guitarist Stevis Harrison hurdling them to thrash around with his guitar in the crowd. He even galloped around in a massive circle pit, all while continuing with the thundering riffs. Vocalist Josh Scogin, not wanting to be left out of the fun, front-flipped his way into the crowd multiple times, flinging his mic into the crowd and letting the riled up fans lead the way. It was as fun of a set as I saw all day, and I’m glad to say that The Chariot did not disappoint.
The Jethro Tull Award for “Best Use of an Unconventional Instrument”
To Hey Ocean!, whose use of a flute was one of the most unique and interesting things I saw all day. Frontwoman Ashleigh Ball used a loop pedal with her flute to create leads that really brought a special, creative tinge to the music. Ball brought an immense presence to the stage and shined vocally as well. While the band’s brand of pop music is a bit too sugary for my taste, Hey Ocean! brought a lot of energy and creativity to the stage.
The Lauren Niedzielski Award for “Band Most Likely to Blow Up in the Mainstream Scene”
To the UK natives Alvarez Kings. When I listen to new music, I often base whether I think they could be a popular band in the mainstream consciousness by whether or not my little sister would like them. That’s not a shot at her musical taste, but she is definitely more in touch with the music on the radio than I am. So when I show her music and she enjoys it, it proves that the band has something that resonates with a larger audience. And even though I only caught the tail end of their set, it was abundantly clear to me that Alvarez Kings possess that sort of accessibility. Their self-proclaimed “progressive pop” style of music has elements of catchiness while maintaining an aggressive edge. Their set was spot on and definitely piqued my interest in checking out their music further.
The Karaoke Award for “Best Relationship Between Performer and Musician”
To Ace Enders, whose acoustic set hit the audience like an emotional freight train. I was incredibly bummed that I missed The Early November’s set earlier in the day, but there was no way I would miss Ace’s solo set. As I took my spot at the Acoustic Basement Stage, I looked around to see the tent nearly filled to capacity with anxious fans. Ace came on to roaring applause, played two songs, then, to the almighty joy of everyone in attendance, said he would take requests for the rest of the set. Immediately, “Ever So Sweet” was suggested, Ace obliged, and the entire crowd erupted into the most grandiose of sing-alongs. The noise was deafeningly beautiful, and Ace seemed genuinely taken aback by the reaction. He admitted that that moment was one of the greatest he had ever experienced as a musician, and not in the way that every performer says this city is their favorite (I witnessed at least five bands claiming that San Antonio was their second home. For their sakes, I certainly hope it’s not), but in a way that seemed truly sincere and emotional. He powered through a handful of other requests, complete with help from the eager crowd, and ended his set with “Something That Produces Results.” The crowd’s response was again overwhelming, with Ace forgoing his microphone to join the crowd in their spirited refrain of “Clever/Clever is all/But you’re never wrong.” It was truly an amazing moment that might end up being my favorite performance I’ve ever been a part of.
The Danny Glover Award for “The Biggest ‘I’m Too Old For This Shit’ Moment of the Day”
To Run DMT, and all the other electronic artists there. I understand that Warped Tour has a strong history of getting musicians of different genres to perform, so it makes sense that they would jump on the EDM bandwagon that has taken the music world by storm. But while I understand their reasoning behind the choice, I don’t think I will ever understand the appeal of the music. I ended up watching a bit of Run DMT’s set while I was browsing the merch tents, and I left in utter confusion. What was he actually doing up there, other than jumping around? Why was everyone so enthralled by repetitive beats and bass drops? What was I missing? I’m still not sure, but what I do know is that the kids were all about it, and that, in my 21 years on Earth, I’ve never felt more like an old man than I did while watching that set. I’m pretty sure at one point I actually pulled my pants up to my chest and told those kids to get off my lawn, but I can’t be sure. All those wub-wubs were making me delirious.
The Tom Brady In the Snow Award For “Best Performance In Less Than Ideal Conditions”
To Forever Came Calling and Citizen, for putting on splendid sets despite indifferent crowds. Both of these bands played on the Kevin Says Stage – along with Hey Ocean! – in the slots before a popular, generic metalcore band closed the stage out. While it is understandable to camp out at a stage to catch your favorite band, this group of people were uninterested in the bands currently playing and weren’t afraid to show it. You could visibly tell that it was throwing the band off a bit, but they maintained their composure and rocked the stage. Now, I don’t mean to sound like the preachy old man here, but is it really that hard to let the ten people who actually want to see the band playing get up front and enjoy themselves? Is it really necessary to obstruct other people’s enjoyment so that you can be right up front for see some shitty ten-piece band run through breakdown after breakdown over techno beats? Sorry, I’ll step off my soapbox now. Anyway, despite the noticeably bored front of the crowd, as called out by the Citizen guitarist, both bands put on extraordinary performances, with Citizen playing several songs off their newest record, Youth, which translated perfectly live.
Side note: Shout out to the girl next to me before Forever Came Calling’s set, who after looking around at the crowd, turned to her friends and exclaimed, “I’m pretty sure everyone is here just to see Issues.” She then looked at me as I shook my head side to side so hard it nearly flew off my shoulders. Moral of the story: Don’t judge me, little scene girls.
The letlive. Award for “Most Destructive Set, Both Musically and Physically”
To letlive. and their mammoth performance. I’m going to go ahead and name this award for the band and put it on hold for them for the foreseeable future. letlive.’s set was truly a force of nature and obliterated everything within a ten-mile radius of the stage. From a musical aspect, the band was at the top of their game, all the way down the line. The guitar riffs were devastating and the rhythm section made the songs sound colossal, especially “27 Club” and “Banshee,” the two new tracks that they played. Those two songs really shone live, sounding even better here than on the record. From a performance aspect, the band didn’t pull any punches either. Frontman Jason Aalon Butler destroyed a solid amount of their equipment (R.I.P. to the two amps and sheets of plywood that he deemed unworthy of being on his stage) in addition to swan diving over security into the crowd multiple times, before topping it all off by abruptly abandoning the stage to sprint halfway across the parking lot and disappear out of sight, only to reappear running across the top of a line of port-a-potties. Once he had sufficiently shown those port-a-potties who was boss, he raced back to the stage to finish the song. It was the most chaotically magnificent set I saw all day, and really cemented letlive.’s standing as one of the best live bands in the scene.
In addition to these, The Wonder Years, Handguns, and Defeater turned in solid sets. All these, together with all the awesome behind-the-scenes work, made 2013 one of the strongest Warped Tour years I have ever attended. And now, the countdown begins: only 365 days until next year.