-Words By Steve Gemmell, Photos by Tim Becker
This years 20th run of Warped Tour stopped in Camden, New Jersey last Friday and photographer, Tim Becker and I were there to cover it in all of it’s glory. Before I dive into talking about which artists highlighted the day and gave the fans something to remember after they leave, I want to discuss what’s it like for anyone who has never been to Warped Tour. Doors open before noon and the music starts up right away and doesn’t stop till the sun goes down so brace yourself for one long hot day of punk rock chaos and Warped Tour fans wouldn’t have it any other way.
The venue, Susquehanna Bank Center, is transformed into 10 stages located throughout the venue and parking lot. The set times and stages are posted on a giant inflatable board so fans can create their own itinerary of where and what time their favorite artists are playing. The venue sells programs that outline the set times, but I noticed many fans taking a photo of the board instead. Perhaps future Warped Tours will have apps available for phones, since that seems to be the way our future society operates everything these days. Has Skynet taught us anything people? Okay enough about that, let’s get back to the review.
Once you get a basic plan for your day, the next step is locating all 10 stages spread throughout the venue. I felt like a mouse running through a maze trying to locate stages. Some of the stages, like the Journey’s and Warheads Stage, were actually one large stage split into two. I found that to be a fantastic idea as one band would finish their last song and the next band would start on the opposite stage. For the rest of the stages, they were located in the parking lot of the venue surrounded by a sea of tents featuring the artist’s merch tables, various vendors, non profit organizations and promotional media. I recommend anyone who goes to Warped Tour to take some time to visit these various tents to truly have the full experience of the festival. Of course there are vendors giving out free samples of products like Warheads candy, Squatch jerky and even Trojan Condoms. That’s right folks I said condoms, free condoms. It’s nice to see a company promote safety like that, but those free condoms turned out to be used as balloons to be bounced around by the crowd during performances.
Warped Tour organizers do a fantastic job to help people stay cool and safe while being out in the sun for 10 hours. Fans are allowed to bring in a book bag containing sun lotion, unopened bottle of water and a towel to help stay cool and dry. They offer free bottle refills, misting stations and even a giant inflatable slip n’ slide that many fans took a part of. I was definitely a hot one, but the organizers set up ways to stay cool while still having a good time.
Now let’s get to the most important part of this review, the music. Diversity was the theme of the Warped Tour this year. The 10 stages were set up to specific genre’s of music and style. Beatport Stage featured DJ’s and MC’s spinning, the Acoustic Basement stage featured, as you could of guessed it, acoustic bands. The Monster Stage featured the leaders of screamo/hardcore/metal, while the Warheads Stage featured pop punk/emo artists. A pleasant surprise this year was the Conquer Shiragirl Stage, which featured bands fronted by females.
I will say these ladies know how to rock and hold down their own with the boys in other bands. I caught a set by Long Island natives, Blameshift and their singer, Jenny Mann, really impressed me with her vocal range and stage presence. Mark my words, keep an eye out for this band in the future. The Kia Soul and Electric Soul Stage featured many fan favorites like The Devil Wears Prada, who got the crowd into a frenzy of head banging, mosh pits and crowd surfing thanks to vocalist Mike Hranica’s deep screams and the bands hardcore sound.
Yellowcard drew in a large crowd once they hit the stage. After asking the crowd “Where are we, Philadelphia or Camden?”, they kicked things off with “Lights and Sounds” followed by hit after hit like “Way Away” and “Ocean Avenue”.
Coming all the way from across the pond was Enter Shikari. Just joining the tour only two days prior, Enter Shikari came out blaring as the singer jumped into the crowd first song in. Their hardcore punk sound mixed with a dash of electronic beats stood out from the rest of the artists on Warped Tour. Their political lyrics didn’t seem to reach most of the fans in the crowd until the singer declared “Fuck racism, sexism, homophobia, bigotry and the one percenters!”, to which the fans cheered on with fists in the air.
The only let down on that stage came from the band Of Mice and Men, who drew the largest crowd of the day. Coming off having landed #4 on the Billboard Charts with their new album and an Upcoming European Tour with Linkin Park, Of Mice and Men were who the majority of the fans came to see. Their set time was at 7:10 but did not go on till 45 minutes later for some unknown reason. When they finally hit the stage they treated fans to only two songs due to them being late and the next band was set to start soon. This led to fans booing and tossing plastic bottles at them on stage. Many attendees spent the price of admission just to see them and in the end only received two songs.
The highlight performance for me came from the band Every Time I Die on the Monster Stage. If you have never seen them live I highly recommend it as they know how to get the crowd in an uproar that doesn’t stop. Singer Keith Buckley came out and declared to the crowd “This area where we are playing is like the Island of Misfit Toys, so lets have a good fucking time everybody!”. Just as they opened up with “Floater” so did the mosh pits as the singer immediately joined the crowd. During their last song, “No Son of Mine”, both guitarists jumped off the stage and finished playing while surrounded by their fans who jumped at the chance to take photos of this moment. After they finished they continued to shake fans hands thanking them for the good time.
Warped Tour continues to be a “must see” summer tour for fans of punk rock and the various other genres that have branched off from punk. Whether you’re young or old, you’re still a kid at heart once you’re at Warped Tour surrounded by fellow fans who you get to share a care free day with. As a fan of Warped Tour, both as a kid and now as an adult, I tip my hat to Kevin Lyman, the creator of Warped Tour. Thank you for 20 years, and here’s to another 20 more.