Mix of Old and New Bands Marks Successful 22nd Year of the Warped Tour.
– review of the Warped Tour at the Perfect Vodka Amphitheater (West Palm Beach).
Thousands of people lined up in the sweltering heat to hear their favorite bands in this year’s edition of the annual Vans Warped Tour. Combining a mixture of old school punk, thrash metal, a bit of ska and the hottest up-and-coming bands, the festival brought together an eclectic mix of fans from all over the generational spectrum for a day of fun in the sun. Transforming the venue and the surrounding South Florida Fairgrounds into a curious sideshow maze of performance stages, band merchandise tents and a myriad of sponsors championing their various causes and products, the festival was a much larger concert than anything usually held at the venue. It included a colossal seven stage set-up ensuring a constant stream of uninterrupted music of your genre of choice. Even in the scorching matinal hours when the doors to the festival first opened, thousands of fans, both young and old, were already lined up at the entrance hoping to get a chance to see their favorite bands up close and personal.One of my favorite things about this festival was Warped’s decision of forgoing the usual seating arrangement in lieu of making the entire concert general admission. Excited concert-goers were able to get into the pit area of the large amphitheater stage and see their beloved musicians put on a show from within spitting distance, and the smaller local bands had a chance to play on a much bigger stage and in front of a far larger crowd than they normally do. The impressive variety of vendors peddling their various wares provided devotees with heaps of clothes, cocktails and confections on which to invest the crisp dollars burning a hole in their pockets.
In the past few years, Warped Tour had focused on attracting a younger crowd with their selections of bands that they have played on the tour. This year, however, marked a return to the old school roots of the festival, with a diverse line-up of old-school punk and metal performing along with trendier acts and drawing a large group of older fans. Punk rock made a triumphant return to the fore-front of the festival, with Warped alumni such as Strung Out, Hawthorne Heights and Anti-Flag performing. Anti-Flag has performed on the Warped tour for an incredible 20th time in the festival’s 22-year history. The punk legends played songs from their two most famous albums, Die for Your Government and For Blood and Empire, to much acclaim from the crowd.
Hardcore veterans Sick of It All made a triumphant return to the Warped tour stage after a 20-year absence from the traveling festival. Smashing through hits such as My Life and Step Down all while maintaining the frenetic energy the group is famous for, brothers Lou and Pete Koller led the crowd through a rousing set filled with shrieking and circle-pits.
Warped Tour stalwarts The Ataris also appeared, jamming through a few songs from their most well-known records, Blue Skies, Broken Hearts… and So Long, Astoria, before finishing their set with a couple of covers from Jawbreaker and Don Henley. Vocalist and Guitarist Kris Roe showed no sign of slowing down after their 22-year career, leading the rest of the band on a blistering performance that drove the crowd wild.
Bowling for Soup also joined the festival for a few days, and West Palm was one of the few places they could stop this year. The fun-loving band, whose line-up has remained consistent since 1998, performed a variety of songs, including the theme song they performed for the show “Phineas and Ferb,” as well as their most recognizable song, 1985.
Unlike the past few years, which were a little lax on the metal bands, this year Warped brought out a line up full of heavy hitters from both past and present. This decision proved very fruitful for the fest, as it drew a crowd full of people that you would normally find pitting out at the Poorhouse on a Friday night at a sludge show. Warped veterans Hatebreed, who last played Warped tour in 1998, returned to South Florida with a powerhouse performance, kicking off their set with their hit To The Threshold. During the entirety of their 25-minute set, the circle pit did not stop moving once, as singer Jamey Jasta jumped around the stage like a 12-year-old hopped up on chocolate and Mountain Dew, finishing off their time on stage with I Will Be Heard.
Due to overlapping set times, I was only able to catch the last couple of songs from After The Burial. Guitarist Trent Hafdahl showed off his 8-string guitar chops as their performed songs from their latest album, Dig Deep, while singer Anthony Notarmaso drove the gathered horde wild with his growls.
Finally, as the scorching sun was starting to set, the main event of the night began. As Black Sabbath’s War Pigs played over the speakers, the costumed members of GWAR emerged on stage, dragging out a caricature of a “whiny emo kid.” Before the band began playing, I wondered if the large-scale nature of the tour would prevent them from having their usual “blood and guts” setup. That question was quickly answered when the head of the aforementioned caricature was torn off, spraying the crowd with fake blood as the band launched into their first song Saddam A Go-Go. The group’s original bassist Mike Bishop came back to the group and took over vocalist duties after the groups original vocalist Dave Brockie passed in 2014, and the group dedicated their song Crack in the Egg to him, while bringing out water-cannons filled with “blue goo” to spray the crowd with. The monster metal band concluded their stage time by covering a timeless classic, AC-DC’s If You Want Blood as they brought out a stagehand clad in a Donald Trump costume. The members of the group proceeded to tear off the ribcage and decapitate the effigy as fake blood sprayed out of the neck hole over the overjoyed crowd.
Overall, I would say this year’s edition of the Warped Tour was an enormous success. The eclectic lineup provided something for fans of all ages to enjoy, and the many various tents full of merchandise provided a welcome escape from the sweltering heat and free merchandise for those brave enough to deal with the sponsors’ spiel. I personally could have dealt without the fake blood getting sprayed all over me at the show, but the rest of the crowd didn’t seem to mind. I look forward to seeing what Kevin Lyman and the rest of the Warped Tour crew have brewing for next year!