Behind All the Metalcore and Rough Edges, The Warped Tour Revealed a Kindhearted Center
Vans Warped Tour if you’ve never been feels a little bit like culture shock.
The phrase “rough around the edges” comes to mind. The first sign this festival
would be like no other I’ve been to came before Warped Tour day even arrived,
when I realized I couldn’t find the schedule anywhere online. I knew from the
website which bands would play, but at what times was a total mystery—turns out set times don’t
come out until the morning of the show. I arrived around 2 p.m., just in time
to miss the band I’d been most looking forward to see, Microwave, from Atlanta,
who went on a half hour earlier. That’s another thing about Warped Tour: The
sets are super short, only a half hour each, so you need to plan your day right
away when the schedule is released if you don’t want to miss anything.
Aside from these logistics, Warped Tour also differs from other music festivals in its general atmosphere. Anyone with sensitive ears or eyes should be warned that the Warped community most certainly does not keep it PG. Profanities dart through the air like swarms of mosquitoes, and simply standing in a crowd can turn hazardous at any moment as bodies become bumper cars in mosh pits, pushing, pulling and tossing themselves and others in every direction. And though each stage had a big sign reading some variation of, “NO CROWD SURFING. Landing on your head hurts. Only dumb people crowd surf,” attendees either took this message as a challenge or they didn’t read the signs, because you’d be hard pressed to count the amount of people partaking in this activity at any given time.
Over at the Hard Rock stage, The Adolescents were thrilling another crowd with their punk rock antics. I caught the tail end of their set. “Milwaukee, that’s the good land, right?” singer Tony Reflex asked. “Cheese, beer, Fonzie, sausage,” he listed, getting some laughs before launching into “California Sun.” When I made my way over to Full Sail University stage shortly after, UK rock band Boston Manor were a sight for sore eyes. I didn’t know their music, but there was something familiar, or less intimidating maybe, in their pop-punk sound than the agitated sets I’d just come from. And then frontman Henry Cox spoke. “This next one’s about hating every fucking inch of a person and wanting to kill them,” he said, “but not having the guts to fucking do it.” Alright, so pretty violent, but I still enjoyed their set. “Trapped Nerve” and “Laika” are two songs that particularly stuck out. Judging from the physically enthusiastic but quiet crowd response when Cox prompted shout-alongs, I’d bet most people there were new listeners and that the band made quite a few new fans. Cox was constantly coercing the crowd into moving, clapping, dancing and smooshing closer to the stage.
Australian punk rock band Trophy Eyes took the stage after Boston Manor. They pulled a larger crowd, playing “Heaven Sent,” “Chlorine” and “Daydreamer” during their brief set, charming observers with their friendly faces and dance moves. On my way to Journeys Left Foot stage afterwards, I caught some serious screamo pirate vibes from the Hard Rock stage, noteworthy if just for the novelty of it. The band was Alestorm, a UK metal outfit with real spunky stage presence. I heard only two songs, “Alestorm” and “The Sunk’n Norwegian,” but that’s more than I’d been planning to stay for.
Alestorm’s humorous set was a good segue to Attila at Journeys Left Foot. Attila are metalcore and play correspondingly morbid songs, and their frontman Chris Fronzak is a hoot (can I call such a badass a hoot?). “Every single one of you has a hater,” he said, looking around the audience. “And you know what we say to haters; put your middle fingers up!” And like that, hundreds of people were middle-finger-fist-pumping to the beat. If that wasn’t shocking enough, “Party With The Devil” was another good jolt to propriety—in a fun way. The lyrics “666, party with the devil, bitch” became a miniature, rude anthem that echoed through the stadium. Neck Deep, another pop-punk band from the UK, followed next with songs a bit more sensitive. Dressed in a hoodie that read “Have Hope,” frontman Ben Barlow had the crowd feeling simultaneously riled up and softhearted. They played a mix of older songs like “Lime St.” and “Gold Steps” along with brand new ones like “Where Do We Go When We Go” and “Happy Judgement Day.” What might have been the day’s biggest mosh pit ensued they played “Motion Sickness,” and those not in the pit jumped up and down enough like they were trying to bust a hole in the ground.
As intimidating as Warped Tour seemed at times, what quickly became more apparent that there’s a kindhearted center behind the rough exterior. For every tattoo/piercing pop-up shop, record label tent or merch table, there was a charity/non-profit tent alongside it. PETA, To Write Love On Her Arms, Hope For The Day and many more organizations were camped out to advocate for their causes. Warped Tour isn’t just a festival, but a community of badass, caring people who, bonded by music, come together to make their world a better place.