The Vans Warped Tour needs no introduction. The legendary “Punk Rock Summer Camp” has been around for almost 20 years, serving as a great place for kids who otherwise feel left out in their hometowns to converge for a common interest: music. This year, Warped Tour’s lineup consisted of some great bands, and some terrible bands. I was really excited even though the average veteran Warped-goer seemed to be less than thrilled with the lineup. But as I entered Comerica Park on a beautiful sunny morning in Detroit, Michigan, I understood why people come to Warped Tour once again. Most long-time fans of the tour won’t base their entire opinion on if they will be attending on the bands on the bill. No, the reason why they go is the nostalgic feeling of the tour. Warped Tour emits a certain feeling in the air that is unparalleled to any other tour out there, but I’m not here to talk about that ecstatic feeling. I’m here to describe to you what bands I saw and if they were worth my time and if they are worth your time on your date.
The first band I saw early in the day at 11:45 was pop act The Ready Set. It was very difficult to watch The Ready Set perform when all you could hear was auto-tune and electronic beats backed by near-irrelevant guitar and live drums. So instead of standing and bearing that atrocity I decided to head over to the nearest stage and wait for one of my most anticipated bands of the day.
Right after The Ready Set concluded on the Tilly’s/AP stage, Go Radio hit the stage 100 feet over on the Nintendo 3DS stage to the elation of their large crowd. Opening with rocker “Kill the Beast,” the crowd fed off the band’s energy wildly. Pushing through a set featuring songs from their latest full-length Lucky Street and their EP Do Overs and Second Chances, Go Radio put on one of the best live sets I would see all day as Jason Lancaster’s powerful vocals surged through the summer air like a bolt of heat lightning.
After Go Radio finished I had a tough decision to make. Should I choose to see Set Your Goals, who was my favorite set of last year or should I be more nostalgic and check out one of my childhood favorites Relient K? After a short discussion with myself, I opted for Set Your Goals and I was slightly disappointed that I did. They just didn’t bring the same energy and commitment that I remembered enjoying so much last year and as I heard whispers of how great Relient K was through the crowd after SYG had finished, I had to slap myself on the wrists for that one, but ultimately continue on with my day.
Right after Set Your Goals left the Advent stage, and after a short wait, my second most anticipated band of the day nonchalantly walked onto the stage. The bassist of this band stepped up to the microphone and simply stated “Hi, we’re Enter Shikari and we’re from 5,000 miles away,” and away they went! Jumping right into “Destabilise,” Enter Shikari quickly became one of the most entertaining bands I’ve ever seen. From all of the crazy trance music sprinkled between their songs to some of the most pleasing stage antics I’ve ever seen (which included guitarist Rory Clewlow climbing onto the shoulders of bassist Chris Batten while they played and sang, and some tricky guitar balancing from Clewlow) Enter Shikari shot to the top of my list of favorite bands to see live.
After Shikari was over, I had some time to kill, so I met up with my friends, snagged a bite to eat and then headed out once again. I had a small gap between eating and the last band that I was truly excited to see, so I scathed the parking lot for interesting bands to see.
First off, I got the beginning of Madina Lake‘s set and even though they didn’t sound that great overall, it was easy to see that all the members were having a great time which was a refreshing site. Next I wandered over to the 3DS stage once again to catch a band I can’t hear enough good things about (especially from fellow MEB writer Pat Haynes). Moving Mountains was a very impressive live band, mainly due to that fact that the deceivingly small stature of vocalist Gregory Dunn didn’t measure up to how intensely powerful his vocals were, especially the unclean moments when Dunn put every inch of his tiny frame into his guttural screams.
After Moving Mountains, I caught small glimpses of hometown pop-rockers Every Avenue and the nostalgia trip and a half that was Simple Plan until I was able to find a nice spot to sit while I watched a band I was very curious to witness.
Ska legends Big D and the Kids Table rocked the stage unlike any other band I had seen throughout the day. The unlikely sighting of horns and saxophones at Warped got everyone around the stage dancing whether they were actually watching the band or not. I only joined Big D’s crowd during their last song, “L.A.X.” which I know very well. Somehow I ended up right in the front row while vocalist Dave McWane dived right into my hopeful arms as he sang the closing words of the song, leaving that moment to be one of my definitive highlights of the day.
Retreating once again to the 3DS stage, I watched Dance Gavin Dance impress a rather large crowd from afar as I anxiously awaited my number one band of the day to take that very stage. DGD’s performance was a rather admirable one as vocalists Jonny Craig and Jon Mess wowed the audience over and over while the rest of the band was just kind of…there. Luckily, the stage presence of the aforementioned duo proved more than enough to make up for their fellow band mates’ lack of it.
Lastly, to conclude my day was the one band I had been waiting for all day. The Wonder Years had my full undivided attention for the next half hour and boy was it a hell of a half hour. Being at the barrier was definitely a plus as the constant eye contact with all the band members was chilling to such a big fan as myself. Mostly playing songs from their last two full-lengths, The Wonder Years shocked, awed and amazed me with every single note, leap, and smile they cracked while performing. The crowd could not have been better and as they concluded with “Washington Square Park” and vocalist Dan “Soupy” Campbell hopped into the crowd for the final chant of “I left a lot of blood in California,” I was reminded once again why this is one of my favorite bands of all time.
So there you have it! Another year of the Vans Warped Tour has come and gone once again and I could not be happier with the result. For all of you out there who have already been to Warped this year, I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did. And for those of you looking forward to your date, remember to have as much fun as possible, and don’t forget the sunscreen!