For the last 20 years Kevin Lyman and the Vans Warped Tour have been bringing the best of the general alternative music scene to a city near you. What started as a tour of ska and punk bands has now developed into a showcase of the best in pop punk, alternative rock, metalcore and even hip-hop and electronica. The Vans Warped Tour is a place for young people to pay one price and spend the day in a parking lot watching their favorite bands, buying merch, supporting a cause, meeting like-minded people, and having a good time. On the other side of things, Warped Tour also gives bands a chance to expand their fan base and establish themselves as performers, be it on the rookies Ernie Ball stage or the veterans on one of the two sponsored main stages. Over the years Warped Tour has helped to launch acts such as Fall Out Boy, Paramore, My Chemical Romance, MxPx, Avenged Sevenfold, and Rise Against and continues to help artists to this day. I’ve decided to focus my recap of the weekend on the four bands whose live shows really blew me away, those being State Champs, Neck Deep, Real Friends, and The Story So Far.
State Champs are, hands-down, my current favorite band. I featured them a few weeks ago in a hump day post and I was absolutely elated when I got to see and meet them twice in one weekend. They were the first act I saw on Warped Tour this year, in fact I would have missed their set in San Antonio had the stage not been the first one you see upon entering. Even though it wasn’t quite noon yet State Champs came out full force, ready to start the day with their classic pop-punk energy. Watching this band you get the feeling that they are up there doing exactly what they love most, it’s all smiles and laughs and cheers on stage with State Champs. Almost immediately after their set they do a signing at either their tent or the Glamour Kills tent and you get the chance to say hi and get some signatures. Meeting this band was unlike any other band I had met, they are incredibly laid back and down to Earth guys. They’re so casual that it’s almost hard to believe these are the same guys who just killed it on stage not an hour before. We visited their tent numerous times over the weekend and the guys are almost always hanging out there, drinking a beer or talking to fans or both. I loved this band going in to Warped Tour but after seeing how laid back they are my admiration of them only grew. Their music is incredible, their stage presence is awesome, and they’re just cool dudes! You can pick up their debut LP The Finer Things here and catch them on the Journey’s stage on Warped all summer!
Neck Deep is a British band hailing from a small town in North Whales and since being formed in 2012 they have released 2 EP’s, toured numerous continents, signed and released a full length through Hopeless Records and won a Kerrang! award for Best British Newcomer 2014. I realized this weekend that Neck Deep have a very passionate and dedicated following and after seeing them live it’s not hard to see why. Everyone, on stage and in the crowd, is dancing, singing, jumping and generally having a great time. The band is very energetic and personable on stage, it’s as if they’re just as excited to see you there as you are to see them. They even go so far as to point out kids they recognize in the crowd from their past shows, including one girl I met in Dallas who went to all three of the Texas Warped Tour dates and was front and center for all of Neck Deep’s sets. Towards the end of their set they play their immensely popular song “Part of Me” and the smiles on stage when they hear the crowd singing every word are truly priceless. Despite recent rumors, Neck Deep will be playing every date of the entire Warped Tour and I would highly recommend catching their set at the Kevin Says Hard Rock stage. Right after Warped the lads will be touring festivals across the U.K. and Europe and then headlining a tour in Australia with State Champs in the fall, so catch them while you can!
This next band is a self-proclaimed group of “Illinois sad boyz” called Real Friends. I can guarantee that their set is the only place on Warped Tour where you can find a group of bros in a circle pit literally hugging it out during the last song. Real Friends stands out the most to me through their honest and passionate lyrics, penned by bassist Kyle Fasel, who also does spoken word poetry which he posts here. Fasel’s lyrics, when paired with singer Dan Lambton’s incredible vocals, creates something incredibly real which you do not want to miss live. After a few rounds of singing “If you never break / You’ll never know how to put yourself back together” you just might find yourself hugging a few bros in the pit as well. I had the pleasure of meeting these boys at a signing in Dallas and they are all very warm and welcoming, definitely living up to the name Real Friends. The boys are releasing their first ever full-length album July 22, 2014 through Fearless Records and if you’re not already excited about it you should be! In the mean time you can pre-order the album here and catch them on the Journey’s stage on Warped Tour all summer!
My last band, The Story So Far, is the band I knew the least going in to Warped Tour and that is something I deeply regret. TSSF is some classic, angry, pop-punk from Walnut Creek, California and they are awesome. Their crowds at Warped Tour were consistently the largest and most passionate crowds I saw all weekend. I watched TSSF play one of the last sets of the night in San Antonio and one of the first sets of the day in Dallas and they brought killer energy to both shows. These crowds blatantly disregard any warning about crowd surfing or moshing, they’re just out to have a good time, and they definitely succeeded. Unfortunately for me, I was one of those people who only know the chorus of the song, but their live show left me wanting more and they are definitely a band I will see again. The Story So Far just released an acoustic EP called Songs Of which you can get here, and you can find them on the Kia Soul stage at Warped Tour!
One moment I keep going back to from this weekend was during Real Friends set in San Antonio. Before the last song Dan Lambton gave a little talk about how much he loved Warped Tour when he was younger, he said that no matter what you wore or what music you were listening to you were still cool because you were there at Warped Tour. He said it taught him a lot about doing things for yourself and what you like and not worrying what other people thought about you. It made me think a lot about how Warped Tour has shaped me through my adolescence and now into young adulthood, the music, the people, and the community surrounding Warped Tour gave me the support I needed to become the individual I am today. I went to my first Warped Tour when I was thirteen with my best friend who is now my oldest friend, I’ve known her for ten years and even if we go months without talking we can pick it up again at the drop of a pin when we need each other. Warped Tour has become more than just a music festival not just for me, but for an entire community who may feel like a misfit but can find themselves in this music. In one weekend I got a chance to see and meet some of my favorite musicians, and I am just as grateful for that experience as I was when I first went seven years ago. So thank you to Kevin Lyman and all the wonderful people who make Warped Tour happen, I already can’t wait for next year.