On the latest big metal tour, featuring Every Time I Die, The Acacia Strain, Vanna, Hundredth, and up-and-comers No Bragging Rights, I got a fair slice of genres, from hardcore to punk to metalcore to Southern metal. With Every Time I Die continuing to dominate the metal scene and The Acacia Strain just destroying everything in their path, I knew I was in for a wild ride with the two bands holding the spotlight. And while these two acts stole the show, the openers did their fair share of warming the crowd up a bit. Here are my reviews of each individual set from the tour’s stop in Lawrence, Kansas.
No Bragging Rights: The first band to play was No Bragging Rights, a hardcore group out of California. While they were just a warm-up for the rest of the show’s stellar lineup, they put on a solid performance. This band was excruciatingly heavy. The guitars tore through each song with brutality and tenacious finesse, and Mike Perez’s screams – though not being particularly unique – fought alongside such punishing instrumentation with abrasive tenacity. These guys reminded me a lot of Stick To Your Guns and other hardcore bands with punk roots. The only difference is that No Bragging Rights added a few more cleans into the mix, and they offset the heavier sections of their songs in the best way. Their performance wasn’t anything outstanding, but for hardcore, this band got the job done. Rating: 3.5 / 5 stars
Hundredth: Out of all the bands performing on the tour, I was more excited for Hundredth than any of them. Much of that excitement was because I had never seen them perform live before, and I didn’t know what to expect. Sadly, I was disappointed. Whether it was vocalist Chadwick Johnson’s obnoxious spitting (which, according to one of my friends is apparently a “hardcore thing”) or the band’s lack of energy, I didn’t find myself completely enveloped into Hundredth’s performance. From the crowd’s reaction, I could tell they weren’t too into it either. Apart from some hardcore dancers, nobody was really moving. While the instrumentation was firm and nothing sounded out of tune, these guys failed miserably in potency and overall crunch. They made some of my favorite songs, including “Weathered Town” and “Live Today,” sound uninspired. And when an inspirational band in such an inspirational scene does that, you know something’s wrong. Rating: 2.5 / 5 stars
Vanna: Vanna made up for Hundredth’s poor performance. I wasn’t a huge fan of the band going into the show, but their tantalizing set changed all of that. They were heavier live, and angrier, too. Vocalist Davey Muise looked like a bearded Seth Rogen. Not only was his facial hair intimidating to the typical concertgoer, but his sweltering screams were as well. As the band began he made a rally cry to people struggling with work and school, and told them that it is the time to forget about all of that and go crazy. That statement was followed by excruciatingly powerful breakdowns, intense melodies, and catchy clean vocals, and everything clicked together excellently. Unlike Hundredth, I found myself going nuts to these guys. Vanna is one of the few bands that is better live than on record, and since they tour a lot, I’d be happy to see them come around my hometown again soon. Rating: 4 / 5 stars
The Acacia Strain: In 2011 I attended my first Warped Tour. Now at this time I wasn’t much into metal, but one of my friends motioned me towards the stage where a band called The Acacia Strain was playing. I was hooked. They were not only the heaviest band I had ever heard (at that time), but they mixed energy and anger into one monumental entity. Seeing them play again on this tour was a treat for me, and while I didn’t enjoy them quite as much, they put on a solid performance once again. My only complaint was that the instrumentation was too loud and it was hard to hear Vincent Bennett’s vocal growls. But even if they were a bit faint behind the ruckus of guitars, drums, and bass, the band was a well-oiled machine on stage. Everything felt compact and the band was as ferocious as ever (albeit their colorful shirts didn’t help). Though I’ve seen better performances, it was great getting to see these guys dominate the stage once again.
Rating: 4 / 5 stars
Every Time I Die: Just like The Acacia Strain, I saw Every Time I Die for the first time at Warped Tour. And these guys absolutely killed it when I saw them last year. As a white sheet was removed to reveal a huge glowing “I,” I knew I was about to witness something immense. And that’s just what Every Time I Die was – immense. The guitars were spot-on. Andrew Williams and Jordan Buckley hit every note with precision and assured that they were putting their everything into each song. One thing to note: Every Time I Die mosh pits are insane, and their fans are huge. Many of them looked like lumberjacks (no joke). I struggled to maintain myself in the pit, and since I’m a pretty weak guy, I decided to view the majority of the band’s set from the back. And even from far away, these guys sounded incredible. Any metal band that both a) sounds good and b) makes for intense mosh pits and gets the crowd involved has perfected the craft of playing live shows. There’s no doubt that Every Time I Die has done so. Though their best cuts come from their latest album, Ex Lives, even their older songs sounded great. I was disappointed that they didn’t play “Revival Mode,” but maybe I was just too into their set to care. Rating: 4.5 / 5 stars