On July 7th, 2017, the long-running Vans Warped Tour took to the BB&T Pavilion in Camden, NJ. A cesspool for ultra-macho frat bros, sceney tweeneys and dads who are looking to relive their glory days of getting loaded and catching the Grateful Dead, the Warped Tour is truly a one-of-a-kind experience. While of a kind, it’s certainly not a kind that one should want to go out of their way to attend after the age of 18, yet there were plenty of 21+’s amongst the hordes of thousands of 15 year olds looking to meet their favorite problematic frontman.
The day started with a headache brought on by the lack of parking. Due to lack of signage it took up to an extra half an hour just to find the parking area, and then there was an abundant charge of $30 to ensure that a concertgoers car wasn’t broken into from street parking a block away from the venue in an incredibly suspicious area of Camden. Thirty fucking dollars to park a car. Ridiculous. That’s only where the nightmare begins though. Once the car is parked and you’ve joined the ranks on line, next comes a Warped Tour staple, annoying band guys following the tour and trying to get you to listen to their shitty EP. After 20 minutes of ignoring said band dudes, you might finally pass through the gates and start your day, but 20 minutes is certainly a pipe dream.
Music begins filling the amphitheater, at certain points there’s an almost beautiful sonic cacophony of dueling sets trying to overpower one another to set itself as the superior stage. An issue that was run into during Hundredth’s set.
Hundredth is hot off the release of their latest record, Rare, and have certainly reinvented themselves. Trading bombastic, melodic hardcore for reserved neo-shoegaze, Hundredth’s set was set to be an interesting one. On this year’s Warped Tour the band has elected to abandon all prior material and only push forward with their latest and proudest release, a risky venture to say the least. Rare is an interesting record, utilizing a lot of synthesis and bolstering a good sense of melody, Hundredth’s set easily could’ve been one of the most exciting of the day. The band however, were clearly exhausted and energy was just not very high. The reception of Rare may play into this performance, but the band insists that they’ll push on with this material no matter what anyone thinks. For the time at warped, the vocals were drowned underneath muddy guitar tone. Their drummer kept a steady beat, but overall the band felt sloppy and unpracticed.
Warped Tour newcomers Microwave, on the other hand, were a complete sonic reciprocal of Hundredth. Microwave is ushering in the next wave of Grunge revival taking to habits of remaining dingy and unkempt, and songs about mundane life and existential dread. Supporting their sophomore LP, Much Love, Microwave has been showing signs of being one of the hottest newcomers to the tour. Their bombastic approach, but attention to dynamics shows that they not only can conceptualize songs and record them to their full extent, but keep the raw energy and emotion alive in a live performance setting. Microwave is definitely one of the bands to keep an eye on after Warped Tour wraps.
In true Warped fashion, around 3PM there was a lull in the days festivities. Most of the prolific bands wouldn’t go one for another few hours, so what’s left to do but stroll and try to stay out of the sun in the downtime.
With an Amphitheatre to cover to heads of all attendees, it made for a good spot to kick back, eat some overpriced nachos and listen to some butt rock presented by scene queen Heartthrob Andy Black. Belting songs hitting topics such as “being invisible”, “she doesn’t love me”, “let’s be heroes” or some vapid garbage like that, Black made himself out to be the spokesperson for whiney white boys who believe the friendzone is real and vaping is a cool past time.
After passively enduring cringeworthy sets and tweeting about how far away from Knocked Loose’s crowd I was going to stand, Boston Manor rolled around to take the stage. Blackpool, UK’s Boston Manor have swooped in to take their place in the British invasion of pop-punk. Amongst the likes of Neck Deep, As It Is, and ROAM, Boston Manor carry the same look and sonic characters of their contemporaries. Though an energetic set, and frankly one of the tightest of day, musically it wasn’t all there. Frontman Henry Cox made for a good time, getting both physically and emotionally involved to the feel of the music and the vibe of the crowd. It made for an entertaining 25 minutes, but their songs are still nothing to write home about.
Immediately following Boston Manor, California Sad Boys, Movements took to the stage. Hot off the release of Outgrown Things via Fearless Records, Movements have made waves with only one EP released and an LP in the pocket. Frontman Patrick Miranda is not only charismatic and charming, but an insightful lyricist and dynamic and well trained vocalist. His range is impeccable and well controlled, but still carries a grit that is sought after within their genre. His screams were guttural, but wholly understandable in lyrical deliverance. Drummer, Spencer York locks in with Bassist Austin Cressey, while guitarist Ira George holds down a tight rhythm with lead guitar loops coming out of a left channel amp. For a group of four, Movements sounded fuller than any other group of the day. There was clear intricate care to rehearse to their best abilities before embarking on this tour. Especially with only on release, the band has a lot to prove in terms of remaining in the minds of music listeners. Movements is the band to keep an eye on, if the performance of a new song was any telling of what’s to come, Movements will be up there with Title Fight and Basement.
After an emotionally tolling set from Movements came time for the Good ole Southern Boys in Knocked Loose. There’s an interesting dichotomy in their set. Their music is so filled with rage and anger, but their stage banter remains soft, graceful and thankful. Frontman Bryan Garrison goes from being the angriest motherfucker on the planet to the most down to Earth, and grateful young man. Knocked Loose is stupidly heavy, they’ve cranked their Peavey 5150’s are far as the gain will go and drop their guitar tunings as low as the strings and neck can take and they just beat the shit out of their instruments. They’re angry, and ready to show no mercy, and are an entertaining set to watch. Barring the douchebag, back-of-the-crowd moshers, Knocked Loose put on an energetic performance and one that rings true to their record.
A take away from the day is that Warped Tour needs to hire better Audio Engineers for their sound. Too often was the vocal drowned out by a drum kit that was overpowering a mix. Being that the event is outside, it makes for a tougher time on the Engineer, however some of the worst sound was in the controlled area of the amphitheater. The only set where vocals were clear and mixed well throughout the entire day was Movements’ set. That’s a shameful number for any audio crew. Get your act together on that Warped Tour.
Overall, Warped Tour is fun for anyone under the age of 20 and over the age of 32, with the mix of new age music, as well as a lot of the older bands on this year’s tour, it made it hard for someone in their mid-20s to feel like they were being catered to whether it was a new band or one meant to evoke a sense of nostalgia. However, Warped Tour is a dying a breed, festivals that travel the country like it have been around for a long time and it’s great to see it still kicking, but the horse is getting on its last legs, so soon it’ll be time to put it out of its misery and not let it suffer any longer.
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