The Vans Warped Tour. Twenty-Three years of a traveling road show that showcases a plethora of bands. Some people thumb their nose up as it being full of emo wannabes or full of bands no one has heard before. But those people ignore the fact that this is an institution. Twenty-three successive years of promoting hundreds of bands on a full summer tour. It’s pretty much the longest most successful American festival; it rivals the festivals in Europe.
Ghost Cult caught up with the festival early in the season in a sweltering Phoenix, Arizona. The temperatures beached 120F but it didn’t stop the faithful from congregating in a large field at the edge of the city. Vans Warped Tour boasted seven stages and sixty-five bands. You read that right – sixty-five bands! And it ran like clockwork! It was German efficiency at its best.
I arrived knowing only six of the bands on the bill. One opened for Metallica (CKY). Two old school bands from my youth (Sick of It All, Municipal Waste). My woman crush (Alestorm). The best live band ever (Hatebreed). And finally, the always a gory time (GWAR). I came away a bona fide fan of three other bands and saw many more that were really good live.
Some of the highlights include Bad Cop Bad Cop. They have a new album out called Warriors. They played some good old-fashioned punk music. It was simple and infectious. They were hella fun to watch. Song highlights include ‘Not My First Rodeo’, ‘Retrograde’, ‘Amputations’, and ‘Victorian’. Barb Wire Dolls were full and robust. I saw that having a huge appreciation for stellar bass work. This band had less than a hundred people. They should have had a way bigger crowd. It’s like Nirvana meets Berlin with a Rage Against the Machine core. The stage just next door hosted The Dickies at the same time.
Sylar drew a huge crowd of admirers that day as did Boston Manor. Boston Manor’s music is golden. Like, if you could hear a colour, Boston Manor would be golden. Thy embody the Warped Tour ethos – summer, fun, happiness. William Control quickly became a favourite of mine. William, the lead singer, embodies Bryan Ferry with a new romantic grace. William is a Roger Daltry league showman swinging his mic around. You can tell he really appreciates the fans and security. William Control is genuine. Candiria is another band I fell hard for. Their grooves have groove. Live, Candiria is a psychedelic prog-funk tech death jamfest. I look forward to integrating more Candiria into my life.
That leaves me ending with three bands that make the price of admission totally worth it: Alestorm, Hatebreed, and GWAR. I am massively in love with Christopher Bowes. How can one not be. He wears a kilt, plays keytar, and makes pirate music. Hatebreed, well if you haven’t seen Hatebreed live, shame on you. SHAME! Experiencing Hatebreed live is the best thing you can do for your soul. They and the audience give 110% on 11 from start to finish. GWAR is spectacle. They put the show in showmanship. From the costumes to the props to the acting; everything is for the audience’s enjoyment.
Warped Tour is a great way to support the bands you love old and new. Each band has their own tent where you can buy merch, get autographs, and meet the band members. There is no pretentious poser rock stars here. Everyone is congenial. Many musicians I interviewed told me it’s like hanging out with your friends. Even the security people were super chill and friendly. ProEm kept people me hydrated, kept me from getting lost, and were just eh nicest most professional outfit I’ve encountered. At 2110 hours, the sun is down and there is a lovely breeze. The die- hard Warped Tour attendees are still here paying obeisance to their musical heroes. That’s what Warped Tour is all about. Twenty-three years on; the traveling circus rolls into town, pitches its tents, trots out their wares, and opens their arms to the loving embrace of millions of worshipers across the USA.
WORDS BY VICTORIA ANDERSON
PHOTOS BY ORIGINATE DESIGNS PHOTOGRAPHY