Van’s Warped Tour 2011
with Against Me, Gym Class Heroes, The Wonder Years, Sharks, Of Mice and Men, The Ready Set, and more
Central Florida Fairgrounds, Orlando, FL • July 29, 2011
The Van’s Warped Tour is an endurance test in more ways than one. How long can I withstand 105° temperatures? How many bands can I see before the sun bakes me to a crisp? How much disposable music can I endure in hopes of stumbling upon sonic satisfaction? And, for those of us lugging 20 lb. camera bags around the shade-less fairgrounds, how much can my muscles take before my body insists that I sit down and take a break?
Four hours, 15 bands, and five 24 oz. bottles of glorious water later, my arms are aching, my shoulders are burnt, and a shower sounds like a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Musically, I enjoyed less than half of the bands I saw today, yet I’m already looking forward to next summer’s tour.
Now in its 17th year (the festival’s almost legal to vote and buy cigarettes!), the annual event is a rite of passage for some, a summertime tradition for others. How did the little-festival-that-could turn into the most successful touring fest EVER? By constantly evolving with the times — catering to the current generation’s definition of what’s Punk or Alternative while still throwing a bone to the older fans.
Those veteran fans can be spotted scanning the inflatable set times schedule and mumbling, “I’ve never heard of any of these bands!… Thank God [insert old punk band name here] is on the tour!”
The “old school” pickin’s were slimmer than usual for the Orlando date of the roving fest, leaving bands like Florida-grown Less Than Jake and Against Me to hold the reins.
Against Me, who are breaking in a new drummer, have only gotten better over the years. The older songs (“Don’t Lose Touch”) still ignite, but the new ones bear the mark of matured songwriting (“White Crosses”). This band has been quietly building up momentum for 14 years, and could very well blow up at any time Ã la Green Day — if only they could score that one breakthrough single.
The big billed bands on this year’s tour seem pretty mild, except to the throngs of young fans who flock early to the main stage to get up close to them. A Day to Remember, Gym Class Heroes, The Devil Wears Prada — they sound more like book titles than bands, but they stir up the dust. Gym Class Heroes, led by colorful front man Travie McCoy, is a versatile band that mixes hip hop into its otherwise pop-punk stylings. Samples are slipped into the band’s otherwise live production which, in the very least, sets them apart from your average DJ/MC who may rely on loops and prerecorded tracks to lay the foundation for their rhymes.
Though the big stage was the obvious place to find some of the largest crowds of the day, as is often the case, some of the smaller stage acts have been building up speed over the course of the last couple of months and dominated from the far reaches of the fields. Of Mice and Men turned a lake-facing stage into a tornado of bodies, especially once singer/screamer Austin Carlile (whose old band Attack Attack! tore up the main field early in the day) jumped out into the crowd.
Screamo bands are always a big draw, but one of the most exciting sets of the day was put on by a pop-punk band of unassuming-looking dudes called The Wonder Years, whose song “Don’t Let Me Cave In” has the pop sensibilities of Fall Out Boy. Crowd surfers flooded the pit instantly, causing the band’s own crew to jump in with a helping hand for the overwhelmed hired hands. The smile that crept its way onto singer Dan “Soupy” Campbell’s face at the sight of the unending rows of excited fans said it all: this band is blowing up, and they are only beginning to realize it.
Simple Plan, young veterans who have been around long enough to have shared playgrounds with Good Charlotte, inspired plenty of tears of joy amongst their followers. When front man Pierre Bouvier began the set by leaping down into the arms of front row folk, the hysteria levels began to escalate. Also causing mounting levels of hysteria were metalcore screamers Asking Alexandria, whose main stage time slot turned up the heat on the already scorching fields.
As has become tradition, some of the best-quality music was performed on tiny stages in front of even tinier crowds. Sharks, an English band whose style falls somewhere in between The Lemonheads and The Clash, are one of the most exciting groups to slip onto the Tour’s bill — though too few will see them. The Exposed, another band of punks from overseas, are like a young Rancid — complete with the fashionable duds, somewhat snotty attitude, and slightly ska-tinged street punk.
There was punk of both the pop and street variety, metalcore, emo, and everything in between to be found readily — you could even find country flavored r’n’r if you stumbled upon Lucero’s toned-down set, but what about some reggae? The Aggrolites always deliver the goods with their self-described brand of “Dirty Reggae” and Mojo Morgan, a Jamaican man whose lineage is plum full of reggae artists, gave the spectators a taste of Toots & the Maytals’ influence. When he brought his son out to join vocals with him, it was officially the most adorable moment of the day.
…well, unless you count The Ready Set’s Jordan Witzigreuter. The Justin Bieber of the tour, he not only supplied the sugariest pop, but he was responsible for the highest-pitched squeals. Bouncing about, flinging his hair around like an accessory, the little guy was cute as a gumdrop, but musically, about as filling. The high-calorie intake kept the dangerously dehydrated concert-goers going, as did the enormous sno-cones and fried foods that lined merchandise row.
If only I could split myself in two and be in more places at once. I missed many performances — some of which, I’m sure, I would have wished to see. Such is the dilemma of these massive, buffet festivals. One person can only see so much, and it’s all about the choices.
My advice: get to the site early, pay the $2 for a schedule, and plan your day wisely. Plan on moving around A LOT, and drink water until you feel like you’re gonna burst — and then drink some more. Warped Tour: it’s as much about the hydrating as it is about the music.
Galleries of live shots from this show: www.jencray.com
Van’s Warped Tour: www.vanswarpedtour.com &end;