The Vans Warped Tour has once again spent the summer journeying throughout the US and Canada, much to the delight of music fans across the sonic spectrum. This year’s line-up is quite possibly the most diverse in the tour’s 17 year history and its recent stop in Cincinnati, OH, was no exception. Featuring over 80 bands playing on eight stages, concert-goers in Cincinnati were treated to a full day of music, fun, and unfortunately, heat. But breaking a sweat never hurt anyone (unless it was accompanied by a brutal sunburn) and PopMatters was there to brave the elements and present you with some of the best bands, moments, and memories of the 2011 Warped Tour.
The Devil Wears Prada
The Devil Wears Prada are the definition of a Warped Tour success story. Beginning their journey towards the main stage back in 2008 while in support of their album Plagues, The Devil Wears Prada have experienced an incredible rise on their way to headliner status. Last year’s brutally heavy Zombie EP served as an eye-opening experience for the band’s detractors and likely a foretaste of this fall’s Dead Throne. Prada’s energy and presentation have gone off the charts, and the band is playing better than anyone on the tour. Their live set is composed of tracks across the band’s growing catalogue and is more intense than perhaps any live performance in recent memory on Warped. The Devil Wears Prada have become a must-see act and their loud, exciting, pummeling set is certainly not for the faint of heart.
Biggest Crowd Pleaser
A Day to Remember
A Day to Remember were last seen at Warped while playing the Hurley Stage in 2009. Even two years ago, the band was outdrawing a majority of the main stage bands, and it was clear that they were on the verge of a breakout. With the release of last year’s What Separates Me From You, A Day to Remember has grown into a scene giant and easily drew the biggest crowd of the day in Cincinnati, filling the entire main amphitheater. Playing a set list that touched on albums across their discography, the band blasted through heavy numbers like “2nd Sucks” as well as some of their poppier material such as “Have Faith in Me” before bringing down the house with finale “The Downfall of Us All”.
The past three years of Warped Tour have served as an opportunity for redemption for electronica/metalcore act Attack Attack!. Their first stint on the tour found the band bouncing along to pulsing synth beats while singing painfully auto-tuned vocals behind spastic screaming. Over the course of the past three years (and three different lead vocalists), the band is finally coming into their own and finding a more mature sound. Sure, there’s still the occasional dance-beat breakdown and some horrendous song titles (“Smokahontas”, “Sexual Man Chocolate”), but Caleb Shomo’s work as lead vocalist has vastly improved a band that is beginning to embrace their heavier side and pull off a much better live performance.
The Wonder Years
Although the Lansdale, PA, pop-punk act has been rolling since 2005, this year marks the band’s first appearance on Warped Tour (and it’s about time). Having just released one of the most highly-acclaimed pop-punk albums in recent memory in the form of Suburbia, I’ve Given You All and Now I’m Nothing, The Wonder Years are riding high and putting on one of the best performances on this year’s tour. Storming through a setlist with tracks from Suburbia as well as last year’s The Upsides, the band’s energetic live performance, anchored by frontman Dan “Soupy” Campbell, is as entertaining to watch as it is to listen to. Here’s hoping for a main stage slot next year.
Best Hip-Hop Act
Gym Class Heroes
While there’s a host of good indie hip-hop on this year’s Warped Tour (we’re looking at you, Grieves), Warped vets Gym Class Heroes take the cake. Having come off of 2008’s somewhat disappointing outing The Quilt, Gym Class is back and ready with an upcoming return-to-their-roots full-length The Papercut Chronicles 2. Having taken off considerable time last year for front man Travie McCoy to promote his solo project, the band is back with new material, including their lead single “Stereo Hearts” featuring Adam Levine of Maroon Five. They also played hits such as “Cupid’s Chokehold” and “Cookie Jar” along with Travie’s solo hit “Billionaire”. With their refreshing brand of full-band hip-hop, it’s looking like 2011 is going to be return to form for Gym Class Heroes.
Main Stage Ready
Formed just last year, this post-hardcore supergroup is composed of former members of Chiodos, Underminded, From First to Last, Matchbook Romance, and Story of the Year. In case you were wondering, yes, all of those bands have expansive Warped Tour experience. Fronted by Craig Owens, D.R.U.G.S. have made a huge impression on fans with the release of this year’s self-titled debut, and their live performance is one of the most energetic you’ll find this summer. The band was able to snag a few main stage dates early on in the tour, but has spent most of their time on the Tilly’s/Alternative Press Stage where they’ve managed to draw some massive crowds. Playing sing-along anthems like “The Only Thing You Talk About” along with mosh-pit-starters like “Stop Reading, Start Doing Push-ups”, their diverse set and wildly-entertaining performance is certainly deserving of main stage consideration.
Best Warped Veterans
Less Than Jake
The ska-punk vets from Gainsville, FL, played their first Warped Tour all the way back in 1997. Now on their seventh trek with the summer festival, Less Than Jake are still as entertaining as ever. Shortly after beginning their set, guitarist and lead vocalist Chris Demakes looked out over the crowd for a moment before remarking “I have fucking back hair older than some of these kids!” Crass, hilarious, and full of punk energy, Less Than Jake is still putting on as good of a show as they ever have, blazing through a multitude of tracks, both old and new. They even took time to pull one lucky fan up on stage to have his hair shaved into a Mohawk during one of their songs. In their own words, Less Than Jake is “punking up Warped Tour, one city at a time.”
On the Rise
The Word Alive
The Phoenix, AZ, metalcore act The Word Alive took their first Warped Tour trip last summer while playing the Glamour Kills stage. This summer, they’ve been bumped up to the Advent stage and are sounding even tighter and heavier than they did a year ago. Since the release of last year’s experimental Deceiver, the band has been touring non-stop and gaining new fans with each show. In a recent interview with Alternative Press, vocalist Tyler “Telle” Smith admitted to being unable to scream when joining the band back in 2008. It’s safe to say that he’s found his comfort zone, as his roaring screams transition seamlessly into clean vocals during his live performance. It’s not hard to imagine The Word Alive playing the main stage in the very near future.
In a day full of swearing, crude stage banter, and general punk rock revelry, isn’t it nice to have a thirty minute set from a band who smiles and chooses to use words that wouldn’t make your mom blush? Okay, maybe it’s not for everyone, but it’s hard not to leave Relient K’s set in a good mood. These pop-punk vets have been rolling for over a decade and seem to only be getting better. Playing Cindi Lauper’s “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” from their recent covers EP Relient K is for Karaoke while tossing beach balls into the crowd, Relient K is the equivalent of a cracking open a fizzy soda on a hot day. Fan favorites such as “Be My Escape”, “High of 75”, and “Devastation and Reform” were also on the setlist along with tracks from 2009’s Forget and Not Slow Down. They may be getting older, but the guys in Relient K are still just as bright and filled with as much youthful energy as ever.
Before Mayday Parade could take the stage to perform a single note of 2007’s A Lesson in Romantics, lead vocalist Jason Lancaster was out of the band. While Mayday went on to play those very songs penned by Lancaster over the course of a couple different Warped Tour runs, Lancaster was hard at work in his new band, Go Radio. After the release of a few EPs, Go Radio released their debut full length earlier this year titled Lucky Street. Now, on his first Warped Tour, Lancaster sounds better than ever and Go Radio’s set is a must-see. Filled with poppy, driving guitar riffs and the always incredible voice of Lancaster, Go Radio is making their mark on the scene and appears to have a very bright future ahead of them.
Best On-Stage Collaboration
Jeremy McKinnon and Mike Hranica
In a day packed with numerous bands playing 30 minute sets, there’s plenty of free time for the each band’s respective members and you never know who might show up on stage with who. During A Day to Remember’s performance of “I’m Made of Wax, Larry, What Are You Made Of?”, Mike Hranica of The Devil Wears Prada arrived to share vocal duties with Jeremy McKinnon during their screamed duet amidst the song’s bridge. Plenty of head-banging and fist-pumping ensued, much to the crowd’s delight.