Just like thousands of other people, attending Warped Tour has become a tradition of mine. Each year (or at least for the past two), my friends and I headed out to Cricket Wireless Amphitheater in Bonner Springs, Kansas to hang out, hear some great music, and buy merch. This year wasn’t any different. As a day, it has its ups and downs, and the experience varies person to person. Considering that Warped is one of my favorite events of the year, I figured I’d do a recap of what my experience was like hour by hour. Let’s call it a live blog. Well, it’s not exactly live since my date was over a week ago. How about a “not-so-live blog?” There, that sounds more correct.
7:10 – Waking up/preparing for the day
I attended the Relient K concert in Lawrence, Kansas the night before, so saying I was really tired would be an understatement. This was my pre-Warped face (if you can tell, I’m already really out of it):
After showering, I collected all of my gear for survival. As you can see by the image below, I tried to pack light to prevent a heavy load from holding me back while walking around and/or moshing:
My Warped Tour kit:
- String backpack
- An unopened bottle of water (yeah, I learned that after getting to my friend’s house)
- Pen (preferably one of those two-headed Sharpies with both a fat and skinny end, but I didn’t have one)
8:30 – Breakfast at Big Biscuit
You’re probably wondering why I’m up so early. The reason: breakfast. I met up with all of my friends and we ate at a place called Big Biscuit in my hometown. Considering that it’s a local brunch restaurant, we were not only the only Warped attendees in the joint, we were also the youngest people there. Needless to say, we stuck out. But I was too busy wolfing down my plate of biscuits and gravy to really care. I knew it would be my only meal for the next 12 hours, so I wanted to make the most of it.
The obvious Warped tip is to stay hydrated, but one thing people forget is that it’s important to hydrate before the show also. I drank a couple of bottles of water beforehand, and my friends stopped at a grocery store to get a few Monsters. Regardless of what you’re putting into your body, it’s important to drink something before jumping around and moshing all day. My only suggestion is to hold back on the alcohol. It may just be me, but I like to remember the concerts I go to.
10:15 – Arrive at venue
We arrived at the venue around 10:15 and bought our tickets. Last year, These Hearts played outside the gates before the show. This year, I didn’t recognize the band playing outside the gates, although The Ongoing Concept was supposed to play before their van broke down a few weeks ago. Tip: bring three canned goods and you will get in before everyone else. Another tip: you’ll get in even sooner if you secretly jump in near the front of the line. Honestly, no one really cares if you cut, since everyone gets in before any of the bands start. It just gives you more time to plan out your day if you’re OCD like me and need to have everything scheduled in advance.
After buying my ticket, I ran into a few people from Substream Music Press. A girl asked me if I wanted to buy a magazine. I replied, “No thanks. I already have a subscription. By the way, I write for you guys.” She kind of shrugged it off and walked away. Isn’t it wonderful how great I am at starting conversations?
I also heard that the Westboro Baptist Church was going to picket the show, as Attila frontman Chris Fronzak formally invited the congregation of homophobic so-called “Christians.” Either I need to upgrade my contacts prescription, or Westboro was too busy to show up. Or maybe they were too scared they’d get jumped by Black Dahlia Murder fans. I’d love to think it was the latter.
Side thought: when will Westboro ever give up – or at least fade out?
10:45 – Get into venue
After waiting in line for less than half an hour, we got into the venue. Immediately, everyone ran down to where schedules were being sold. People will always tell you that it’s easy to just take a picture of a schedule on your phone, but I prefer to just buy the paper and bring a pen to make notes on it. Here’s a picture of my schedule:
My friends and I scheduled out our day in advance. We attempted to choose a meeting spot, since the service at Cricket Wireless Amphitheater sucks (oh, the irony), but we just figured it’d be easiest to just go our ways for the day and hope we run into one another eventually. Last year, I basically stuck with my group since I didn’t want to see any bands by myself. This year, I just said screw it and chose who I wanted to see individually. None of my friends wanted to see Hands Like Houses, Motion City Soundtrack, or Sleeping With Sirens, but luckily we were basically going to stick together for most of the day.
11:10 – Handguns’ set
Alas, the day began with a little pop-punk. I had to choose between Handguns and Like Moths to Flames, and although the latter is getting a lot of attention, I’m not a big fan of 30-minute-long breakdowns. Well, except The Acacia Strain, but that’s another story. So I went the pop-punk route with Handguns, and I’m glad I did. The only song I knew was “Porch Light,” but I found myself really into their performance. Vocalist Taylor Eby called for a circle pit, and the anxious crowd followed. I got right into the middle of the action. The band’s energy was just as impressive as their cohesiveness. The guitars were bouncy, the melodies were juicy, and Eby’s passionate vocals wrapped everything together with a giant bow.
Verdict: If you get the chance, see them. And do some posi jumps.
11:45 – I See Stars’ set
Handguns put me in a good mood, so I decided to give a chance to a band that I’m not a huge fan of: I See Stars. Bad decision. Immediately as the electronic-influenced metalcore outfit began, I found myself bored out of my mind. Zach Johnson’s screams were weak and annoying, and Devin Oliver’s clean vocals demonstrate just why pitch correction isn’t an easy cop-out when you have to play live. The crowd seemed into it, but I wasn’t at all.
Verdict: Avoid them unless you love them.
12:15 – Architects’ set
Hoping to wash the bad taste out of my mouth from seeing I See Stars, I went to the Main Stage to see Architects. I had heard an endless amount of good things about these guys, so my expectations were already high. However, the band somehow surpassed them. Their breakdowns were immaculate and the melodies crunched together with technical finesse. I was just mad that I had to leave halfway into their set.
Verdict: For not knowing much of their material, I was highly impressed. Go out of your way to see them if possible.
12:30 – Hands Like Houses’ set
I got the opportunity to hear all of Unimagine before Warped, so you could say I was completely stoked to see Hands Like Houses. The Aussies put on one heck of a performance. I found myself singing along to catchy numbers from “Antarctica” to “Introduced Species.” The instrumentation was dreamy, and the band’s incredible composition really came through live. With their goal of inducing happiness, they were not only able to accomplish such a feat, but they made me feel like I could rise out of my shoes and take over the world. But while I felt uplifted, it took my attention away from a guitar pick that hit me in the chest as the post-hardcore players left the stage. As I came to my senses and bent down to pick it up, a girl ran over and grabbed it. I was angry, but all I said was, “If you want it that bad, you can just have it. I don’t really care.”
Verdict: Superb. They should be near the top of your list.
1:15 – August Burns Red’s set
Since I had already been to several shows this July and one of my friends brought up hearing loss recently, I brought earplugs to Warped this year. Was I really intending to use them, though? I wasn’t exactly sure. More than anything, I wasn’t sure if I was willing to sacrifice great sound quality to protect my ears. But for August Burns Red, I wasn’t taking any chances. I recall saying that they were the “loudest band I had ever heard live” when I saw them at Warped in 2011.
Even with earplugs in, the quintet was just so phenomenal that I didn’t even care. I screamed every single lyric, jumped around to every breakdown, and attempted to dodge every crowd surfer (and failing miserably most of the time). August Burns Red’s sound was so powerful, so heavy, and so perfect in timing that the energy really brought the crowd together. They even jump-started one of the biggest circle pits I’ve ever seen, stretching all the way to the merch tents. The band effortlessly thrusted through tracks like “Back Burner” and “Empire.” Jake Luhrs’ mix of high and low screams were spot-on, and he helped control the direction of the songs. During their final song and fan favorite “White Washed,” I literally felt God’s presence pass through me as I threw my arms toward the sky while screaming the words “You are the salt that’s burning my wounds.” Okay, that might be a bit of an exaggeration, but you get the picture. As I stood in tears, my friends met up with me, in awe of what we had seen. If there was any doubt before, August Burns Red is now officially one of my favorite live bands.
Verdict: Arguably the best band of the day. You absolutely have to see them.
1:50 – Chiodos’ set
Although I wasn’t a huge fan of old Chiodos, I really enjoyed Craig Owens’ project D.R.U.G.S. and their 2011 self-titled release. Still, I figured I’d check out Chiodos because I had some time to kill before letlive. came on at 2:15.
To my surprise, the band played a D.R.U.G.S. song in “The Only Thing You Talk About.” Later, I was told that the song was originally a Chiodos song rewritten as a D.R.U.G.S. song, and the actual title is “Thermacare.” So I guess it was fitting that the band played it live. Other highlights included “There’s No Penguins In Alaska” and a hard-hitting new song called “Expensive Conversations In Cheap Hotel Rooms.” Man, I’m actually getting pretty psyched for this new Chiodos album.
Verdict: Solid, but if you have to miss them, don’t get too down on yourself.
2:15 – letlive.’s phenomenal set
My entire day was centered around the set of one band: letlive. If there was any band I had to see, it was them. If anyone wasn’t at their set, they really need to get their head screwed on right. These guys put on the craziest performance I have ever seen (and will probably ever see). Vocalist Jason Butler did some wild things on stage (and off stage). He rolled himself up in a rug, he pulled his pants down during the verse of one song, and at one point, he wasn’t even on the stage at all, as he ran over to a metal Verizon Wireless sign and climbed it. But the band’s excellence in sound assured that Butler’s antics weren’t just a distraction.
As he began talking to himself during “Muther” while hitting himself in the face, I was on the verge of an emotional breakdown. Never before have I felt so emotionally drawn to a band. Butler gave everything he had during letlive.’s performance – so much, in fact, that he couldn’t even find it in himself to do a second spoken-word verse. Just when I thought August Burns Red had blown me away, letlive. found a way to double the onstage capabilities of the Pennsylvanian metalcore outfit. They were pungent, substantive, emotional, heavy, and reckless – everything that punk and metal should be nowadays. I really have no words for how amazed I was by these five musicians. It was truly something special.
Verdict: If you miss them, I really hope you get down on yourself.
3:00 – Bring Me the Horizon’s set
With their incredible follow-up to There Is A Hell Believe Me I’ve Seen It, There Is A Heaven Let’s Keep It A Secret, Bring Me the Horizon is becoming a more fascinating band with each passing day. I convinced my friends to see them, even though they weren’t too familiar with the group’s more recent material. Luckily for me, they started with a boatload of new songs, and that was sure to grab the attention of any doubters in the area. “Shadow Moses” was just as thrilling live as it is on record, and “Go to Hell for Heaven’s Sake” found the crowd singing along with vocalist Oli Sykes during its catchy chorus. Sykes tried to get the crowd involved as much as possible. He screamed out expletives while calling together a circle pit (which, sadly, kind of fell on its face), and he attempted to get over 100 high-fives during one of their later songs.
My biggest complaint would be his vocals, as they were a bit overshadowed by the preciseness of the instrumentation, but I’m getting nit-picky at this point. It’s tough to say whether or not Bring Me the Horizon was the star attraction of this year’s Warped Tour, but just from seeing their enormous crowd and larger-than-life presence, I could definitely see it.
Verdict: Completely worth seeing. Oli Sykes needs to wash his mouth with a bar of soap, but what else is new?
3:30 – Stick to Your Guns’ set
My friends and I left Bring Me The Horizon’s set a few minutes early so we could catch Stick To Your Guns. These guys have become one of my personal favorites over the past year or so, and I was excited to finally see them live. Sadly, I was so worn out from the previous few acts that I sat in the amphitheater seats to watch the band play. As a whole, the band rumbled through their setlist with little to no flaws. The melodies clicked together to create a raw, fast, and heavy hardcore sound as they played some songs off Diamond. The drums sounded like shotguns as they backed each track with sturdy beat work. I was really fond of what vocalist Jesse Barnett had to say, as he called on fans to live with hope, unite together, and focus on the world in need. It’s a powerful theme captured in tracks like “Empty Heads” and “Such Pain,” two of the most energetic songs the band blasted through during their potent performance.
Verdict: See them. You won’t regret it.
3:55 – The Chariot’s set
The Chariot is just one of those bands that is so good live that you wonder why some bands have such lackluster performances. For one thing, The Chariot lives for their live performance, which only rivals letlive. in its meshing of chaos and melody. And for another, these dudes just have some spirit and poetic enthusiasm about them that most bands today do not possess. While introducing each song, vocalist Josh Scogin shouted out the names of local barbecue restaurants as the “new” titles of tracks like “Forget” and “Love.” As if the group didn’t have enough meaning in their music already, now they’re adding the flavor of good Kansas City eats to their eclectic menu of savory songs. And for dessert: Stephen Harrison playing some snazzy guitar riffs in the middle of a circle pit:
Verdict: Oh sorry, did you say something? Wait, you’re actually asking me if The Chariot is worth seeing? Stop fooling around, you silly goose, you.
4:10 – The Wonder Years’ set
After my bad fortune at a Story So Far show earlier this year – which included me getting kicked in the face, losing my hat, and getting a beer poured all over my shirt – I was a bit hesitant to see a pop-punk band for a good while. Considering my great experience at Handguns’ set, I figured that The Wonder Years were a band that I needed to see. And I was glad I didn’t miss them. The band/crowd interaction was beautiful as fans shouted out the words to “Local Man Ruins Everything” and “Dismantling Summer.” Two years ago these guys played a much smaller stage, but there’s no wonder that they’ve grown in popularity. People love their live show, people relate to their records, and they’re just a blast in general.
Verdict: A must-see. If you’re sad, they’ll turn that frown upside down. Plus, who doesn’t love Soupy Campbell? I mean, come on.
4:40 – The end of Beartooth’s set
I had mixed feelings when Attack Attack! broke up earlier this year. While I felt the band had much potential still to be unlocked, I figured this would be vocalist Caleb Shomo’s opportunity to pull an Austin Carlile by starting a new band that is even better than its predecessor. Now, Beartooth isn’t even close to as big as Of Mice & Men yet, but I have a feeling they could be in a few years. Their only day on Warped Tour was the Kansas City date, and I had them fairly high on my list of bands to see. Since they’re not well-known yet, they played on the Ernie Ball Stage. This hurt their sound quality a bit. The guitars were strickening, but the melodies lacked the punch that you would get on one of the bigger stages.
Shomo was the best part of Beartooth’s performance, as his emotions really bled into the songs that the band played. As he prepared to play “I Have a Problem,” he told the crowd, “Now, I hate playing this next song. I absolutely dread that it exists, and I dread that I have to sing it even more. But I have to. It’s my therapy.” Then the bass drum kicked into action, the guitars shredded the track to pieces, and Shomo was an emotional wreck from start to finish. Beartooth may not have been the best band at Warped as far as sound goes, but I know in a few years I’ll realize how privileged I was to see them before they got big in such an intimate environment. People got so into them that circle pits formed during the last song:
Verdict: You won’t be able to see them again on this year’s tour, but if they come anywhere near your hometown, make the effort to go see Beartooth.
4:40 – Rest/buying merch
After jumping around to Beartooth, my exhaustion really began to set in. I wanted to check out Silverstein at 4:45 but I was just too tired. So I decided to spend the next hour or so walking around the tents, buying merch, and chatting with people. I ended up buying a Hands Like Houses tank, mostly because none of my friends are into them, and I wanted to get something unique to our group. Yeah, I’m such a hipster. Also, because I’m such a hipster, I got the first Story So Far record on vinyl. God, I am just too cool:
I then took a seat in the grass so I could rest and drink some water. Half of my group of friends ended up leaving at 5:30 because they didn’t care about any of the bands left. I was staying no matter what. To me, it’s a disgrace if you leave Warped Tour early – even if you don’t like the headlining band(s).
I was surprised to see most of my friends leave early. The thing I was most surprised about, however, was that I wasn’t approached by a Hare Krishna monk all day. I have one of their books from the past two Warped Tours, and was hoping to add another one to my collection.
Side thought: See? A Christian supporting a Hare Krishna monk. Now I doubt Westboro would’ve been so open if they had somehow gotten into the show.
5:50 – The end of The Amity Affliction’s set
After an hour of rest, I caught the final few songs of The Amity Affliction. I’ve never really been into their music, but I have heard “Open Letter” dozens of times, and it was the final song the band played. I found myself singing along to the chorus. Man, it’s so catchy.
Verdict: If you have the opportunity, catch at least a few songs.
6:25 – The beginning of The Black Dahlia Murder’s set
One of my friends really wanted to see The Black Dahlia Murder, so we made a deal that I would stay for a few songs if he would join me for a few songs from Motion City Soundtrack. We ended up leaving after two songs or so. The band was excruciatingly heavy, and even though I wasn’t familiar with any of their material, I enjoyed what I heard.
Verdict: If you think the world is a pile of garbage, then you may find yourself right at home. I don’t exactly feel that way. Still, they’re definitely worth a glance.
6:30 – Motion City Soundtrack’s set
I only got to see the first half of Motion City Soundtrack, and that was a letdown for me because the only songs I knew were their final three. That being said, the pop-rock quintet was still charming to watch. You could tell vocalist Justin Pierre was really enjoying himself on stage. With every action is an equal and opposite reaction, but the crowd was just as satisfied with themselves as Pierre. So science can go suck it.
Verdict: If you enjoy nostalgic punk music, you should get a whiff of these guys. And go see The Early November as well.
6:45 – Secrets’ “secret” set
We left Motion City Soundtrack halfway through because I wanted to see Secrets play on the Kevin Says Stage. But when we got to the stage, a reggae band was getting ready to come on. Later I would find out that Secrets’ final date on the tour was the one previous to mine. It just figures that the schedule accidentally puts them on there. But at least they spelled most of the band names right this year. No more “Bless the Fall,” “Man Over Board,” or “Memphis Mayfire.” It’s just a nit-picky thing of mine, so if you’re the guy who puts the schedules together, don’t get too down on yourself. Just be more careful on the schedules. Tip: if you’re a fan, check to see who’s playing your date in advance in case of scheduling mishaps.
7:15 – While She Sleeps’ set
My friends and I awkwardly sat down in the middle of the crowd to watch While She Sleeps. It wasn’t really a problem until the band noticed that we were ruining their goal of getting the entire crowd involved. I think vocalist Lawrence Taylor called a circle pit just to spite us. We ended up standing for the rest of their set. The instrumentation was nearly spot-on and the Englishmen were a spectacle to watch, even if we were too tired to jump around.
Verdict: If there’s nothing else going on, you can’t go wrong with While She Sleeps.
7:40 – Sleeping With Sirens’ set
I get made fun of for liking Sleeping With Sirens, but even I find fault with their new album. It’s not harsh to say that these guys may be a tad bit overrated. But, because I had nothing better to do, I watched most of their set. Unfortunately, some really tall dude in his 30s with a full beard ran up behind me yelling “Kellin! I love you!” as the band began. He sang along to every single song as he breathed down my neck, and every time I took a step to move away from him, he followed. That wouldn’t have been a big deal if Sleeping With Sirens had put on a stellar performance, but it was anything but stellar. Kellin Quinn only sang half of the vocals, as he held the mic out for the crowd to sing the other half. The irony: only the young girls could be heard, and their voices were even lower than Quinn’s. While they weren’t terrible, the band just didn’t go above and beyond like similar artists Bring Me the Horizon and A Day to Remember do live, and I felt very disconnected from the performance.
Verdict: If you only like manly music, you’re better off staying away from them. But if you’re any bit curious, or you’re just like that guy who screamed every single lyric into my ear, you should see them.
8:05 – Oh, Sleeper’s set
Before Warped, I compiled a list of my most anticipated bands. The ones in yellow are my top five, the ones in green are 6-15, and the ones in bold are bands that I’ve never seen before:
As you can see by my complicated system, I have way too much time on my hands. But out of all the acts, I had Oh, Sleeper as my number one most anticipated. Children of Fire is turning into one of my favorite metal albums of all-time, and I assumed that the band’s high-octane metalcore style would translate well live. Without a doubt, it did. New songs like “Endseekers,” “Hush Yael,” and “The Pitch” were just as nasty as older tracks like “Son of the Morning” and “The Finisher.” Sadly, I missed both The Story So Far and We Came As Romans to see them, but I was completely engulfed in Oh, Sleeper’s set. You can tell from this picture (posted on guitarist Shane Blay’s Facebook page) that Stephen of The Chariot really enjoyed them as well:
Verdict: See them. And buy their bright green tank.
8:45 – Leaving the venue
I wanted to stay for the final few songs of We Came As Romans, but I was just too worn out. Plus, I’m the only one of my friends who loves their music, and I’ve already seen them twice. So my friends and I left the venue and headed home.
On our way out, we were approached by a few people. One of these people was really cool, and she was selling giant photos she took of musicians playing on this year’s tour. I bought a picture of Jason from letlive., and my friend bought one of Jake from August Burns Red. Here’s one last look at Jason, just to remind everyone of how passionate this dude is, and to exemplify just what is to love about this tour:
But the other person was a tad disrespectful. Here’s a tip to any local band that is shot down by fans who are in a hurry: stay composed and don’t get mad. Yelling “fuck that shit” to my friends and I just because we didn’t want to listen to your demo doesn’t make me want to suddenly support you.
9:30 – Eating at Applebee’s and watching terrible movies
A perfect way to end a perfect day, my friends and I took advantage of the Applebee’s half-priced appetizers after 9:00 deal. I felt like a Catholic at midnight the day after Good Friday as I chomped down on hot wings and cheeseburger sliders.
Then, I made the greatest mistake of my life. I went over to a friend’s house and began to watch Movie 43. Gross. After 20 minutes, I went home and crawled into bed exhausted, but also depressed over the fact that I would have to wait another 365 days (give or take) to attend Warped Tour again.