It’s hard to believe that this year was the 21st edition of Vans Warped Tour. The tour is the largest of it’s kind in North America and has played a big part in the success of so many alternative bands that have gone on to headline their own tours and sellout arenas on their way to super stardom. After a 2015 tour that seemed to be directed toward more of a younger audience, this year’s incarnation had a much different feel to it. With bands like Sum 41, Good Charlotte, New Found Glory and Yellowcard on the bill for some or all of the stops, this year felt almost like a reunion.
It had been a minute since I had covered Vans Warped Tour. The past few years for me saw scheduling conflicts and such, so I ended up “watching” the tour vicariously through acquaintances of mine. This year however, I had an open calendar and with some of my new favorite bands like Against The Current and Sykes playing, as well as some of my old favorites such as Yellowcard, I knew I had to be there at White River Amphitheater in Auburn, WA to check it out.
After a pretty mild summer in the Pacific Northwest, Mother Nature brought the heat (as she usually does) for Warped. Although the thermometer read around 92 degrees, the humidity made it seem even hotter and many of the stages had ground readings well over triple digits. White River Amphitheater, about a half hour east of Tacoma has recently been the spot for the Washington stop, taking over for The Gorge, an even hotter venue just east of the Cascades.
After getting my credentials and signing up for interviews, I ventured to the Poseidon and Cyclops stages at the actual amphitheater. These were the only two stages that actually gave crowds a bit of a reprieve from the scorching sun as they were both under the cover of the amphitheater’s roof. As I walked in, I could hear a British accent speaking to the crowd, an accent I would quickly find out belonged to Gustav Wood of the London based band, Young Guns. The band’s high energy was the perfect way to kick off the day for me and Wood’s genuine love for the tour and their fans was extremely apparent throughout their 30 minute set.
After Young Guns’ set, Warped Tour regulars, Chunk, No Captain Chunk! tore into their 30 minutes in front of a decent sized crowd. One of the first things I noticed upon entering the venue was how many people had Chunk, No Captain Chunk! merch on, a true testament to what the tour can do for bands like them. The Paris natives kept the energy going, playing both new material and fan favorites before launching into an unexpected cover of Smashmouth’s “All Star”. It’s no surprise they’ve gathered such a following over the past few years, Chunk, No Captain Chunk! puts on a hell of a show.
Next up, I had to take care of a few of the early interviews I had signed up for and although I would have loved the ability to be in multiple places at once, science hasn’t quite gotten us there yet. Thankfully though, our new contributor, Sarah Draughton joined me a little bit later to help with a bit of the load. After doing early interviews, we headed back to the Cyclops and Poseidon stages where some new flavor had taken the mics.
If you haven’t heard of the band, Sykes, then let me try to give you an idea of what they’re like. Led by front woman, Julia Sykes, the trio might remind some of an edgier Lenka or even Ellie Goulding mixed with Daft Punk. The sound isn’t the first thing you would think of for Warped Tour, but that’s why it’s absolutely perfect for Warped Tour. Their set was absolutely fantastic as Julia slammed away on the synths only to stun those of us who hadn’t seen a Sykes show before by completely shredding on her electric guitar to end the set. It was easily one of my favorite moments of the day.
Shortly after Sykes’ show ended, Los Angeles by way of Boca Raton’s, The Heirs started up. Some may remember the brother and sister duo of Brandon and Savannah Hudson from America’s Got Talent. The young siblings absolutely rocked as Savannah took over the venue with a stage presence you would expect from a veteran of the music business. Although there were some issues with sound levels (not any fault of the band whatsoever), Savannah’s voice powered through it. The band threw in a cover of Kanye’s “Love Lockdown” for good measure. Needless to say, I was extremely impressed.
After several more interviews, it was time for me to see one of my favorite band from my high school years, Yellowcard. Earlier this year, the band announced that after Vans Warped Tour, a North American tour following it would be their farewell. For this set, I ventured to the Journey’s Left Foot Stage that had been baking in the sun all day. As I said earlier, the temperature near the asphalt read well over 100 degrees and it didn’t take long for everyone to be covered in sweat, even just standing there. The Florida natives took the stage with one of their bigger hits from the past, “Lights and Sounds” and from there launched into some of their newer tracks including “With You Around”. Around the midway point of the set, lead singer, Ryan Key organized a giant mosh pit that circled from one end of the crowd to the other. Even with the looming danger of heat stroke, hard core fans didn’t seem to mind as they thrashed from one track to the next. Key once again addressed the packed audience, asking fans if they were “ready for a few songs from an album called, Ocean Avenue?” The crowd roared in response, sending Key and the gang into “Way Away”, “Only One”, “Breathing” and “Ocean Avenue”. I doubt the band realized how fitting many of the lyrics from those tracks would be one day when they first wrote them years ago, but I caught bittersweet smiles from Ryan Key and violinist Sean Mackin as the crowd belted the words back to them. It was absolutely perfect.
Against The Current would finish up my day at Warped. I was very excited for their set, as we have been singing their praises a ton here at Lemonade since we discovered them earlier this year. Led by the tiny and adorable, while also powerful and kick-ass, Chrissy Costanza, Against The Current – much like many of the bands – at Cyclops and Poseidon also powered through wonky sound issues and rocked their set anyways. Although Costanza mentioned possibly doing the show laying down (in regards to it being the second to last stop on the exhausting tour), you never would have guessed how tired she was, as she zipped around the stage, jumping, fist pumping, and head banging along the way. The set list featured a mix of songs off their Gravity EP, as well as their debut full length album, In Our Bones, highlighted by tracks like “Talk” and “Wasteland”. Like I said, I was stoked for their show and was not disappointed in the slightest.
We have covered a ton of concerts and festivals here at Lemonade, but there is always something about Vans Warped Tour that is special to me. It’s a tour that harnesses all the angst, feelings, and passion that goes along with the music it supports and focuses it in the most positive ways possible. Whether it’s the multiple tents that offer help, education and information or the feeling of unity and inclusiveness between hundreds of bands and fans who are distinctly alternative, Vans Warped Tour is an important piece of American music history and culture.
I want to give a big thank you to Danielle Mardahl and the Vans Warped Tour crew for keeping everything much simpler than pretty much any other festival out there when it comes to media. They honestly make a hectic day so much easier. I can’t imagine how exhausted they must be after the tour. We are honored to be able to cover it and can’t wait to see what next year has to bring.
Stay tuned, interviews from the day to come later this week!
Editor in Chief of Lemonade Magazine
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