Vinoy Park, St. Petersburg, FL (7/29/12)
By ALYSSA HOLCOMB
Photos by Alyssa Holcomb & Kaley Klingler
The Vans Warped Tour is notorious for at least 3 things: ridiculous heat waves, strange tan lines, and massive amounts of music. Growing up, I always wanted to make the trek to the open area filled with tents boasting band merchandise, sponsors throwing free stuff to the crowd, and bands walking around the sun-soaked field as if they were part of the fan-filled crowd themselves. Yet, up until this past Sunday, I hadn’t gotten the chance to earn my oddly shaped sunburns at the expense of rock and roll. I learned some tricks of the trade (which I will intersperse throughout this entry for any fledgling Warped Tour attendees!), listened to bands old and new, and sweat under the blistering Florida sun with just as many music fans as the eye could see. This year’s Warped Tour was certainly as raucous, ridiculously humid, and radical as I expected!
Band Highlight #1: We The Kings
My first band of the day was Bradenton’s own We The Kings. Fully reveling in their hometown glory, the band was fully charged and setting the proverbial (and pun-related) stage for the sheer energy that the Warped Tour always maintains. Singer Travis Clark, complete with his signature long orange mane, was consistently hopping around the stage, indulging the audience and truly the image of a happy, grateful hometown hero. All of the band member’s mothers, noted Clark, were present at the set, again really highlighting the homecoming feel of the show.
Continually, this band’s fans were arguably some of the most dedicated and engrossed, fully reveling in all of the pop-rock hooks of songs like “Check Yes Juliet” and “Skyway Avenue”. For my first set of the afternoon, We The Kings certainly kept the momentum going!
After refilling our water bottles and lathering on another level of sunscreen (Tip #1: Seriously, drink as much water as you can and never stop putting on sunscreen. Your entire body will thank you later.) , my group headed over to the Kia Soul autograph area to wait in line to see one of the tour’s main headliners: alt-rockers Taking Back Sunday. Being a fan since my middle school years, this was the band I was most excited to see. We stood in the scathing sun for a meet and greet session, and practically melted with gratitude when our long wait was rewarded with ice water-drenched bandanas to cool ourselves. In addition to TBS, pop-punk quartet All Time Low also appeared for a daily autograph signing, their female-fueled fan base showing up tenfold to catch a glimpse of the cheeky group.
Along with TBS and ATL, many groups at Warped Tour give signings and acoustic performances all around the venue. (Tip #2: Buy or write down the all-day schedule to check for performance times, random signings, and acoustic performances. You don’t want to miss a special opportunity like those!) It really made the entire experience more fan-friendly!
Band Highlight #2: Taking Back Sunday
Taking the main stage mid-afternoon, the veteran rockers immediately launched into some of their more known songs, including “Error: Operator” and “Liar (It Takes One To Know One)”. Despite singer Adam Lazzara seeming slightly under the weather, the band really played to the crowd. With this year being the 10th anniversary of the band’s signature EP “Tell All Your Friends”, the die-hard fans were especially entertained with their older selections. Additionally, the sheer amount of people that showed up for the band’s set proved that their status as one of the headliners was surely sealed.
Band Highlight #3: All Time Low
One of the most pop-oriented groups of the day, All Time Low truly reveled in the mainly female-based audience. With random articles of underwear being thrown left and right (Tip #3: While you should wear comfortable clothing, if you happen to find yourself throwing articles at the stage, be sure to bring extra coverage…), the crowd was certainly excited to hear the band play songs like “Damned If I Do Ya (Damned If I Don’t)”, “Lost In Stereo”, and “Dear Maria, Count Me In”.
The band, who are known for their cheeky banter in between songs, had a youthful arrogance about them, but focused on the energy of the crowd more than anything, proclaiming the audience to be “the best” of all three Florida dates.
Band Highlight #4: Of Mice and Men
Unbeknownst to me, I found myself among the intense crowd that was the Of Mice and Men fan base (Tip #4: Double check your set times and stages, just in case…). I was left ducking and moving around to avoid the flying limbs and random objects that filled the air when the metal group took the stage. Immediately launching into a multitude of songs filled with hard thrashing guitars and guttural screams, security appeared in full force and eventually removed the photographers from the press pit earlier than usual. Even though they were not necessarily my taste in music, the dedication and intensity that emitted from both the band and the crowd showed that, on all levels, Warped Tour houses a variety of music and fans that fuel it (Tip #5: Go to a variety of stages and bands’ sets. You could possibly find something new that you enjoy, or that you may not…nonetheless, it’s another new experience!).
Band Highlight #5: Breathe Carolina
My favorite set of the day was by this electro-pop duo. Walking out on billowing clouds of smoke, they immediately set off on a bass-pounding, pop-punk set, including chart-topper “Blackout”, latest single “Hit and Run”, and relative oldie but goodie “Hello Fascination”.
The group was constantly moving, particularly the blonde-hair whipping Kyle Even, thrashing and jumping to the break-neck beats. The crowd followed suit time after time, making this set one of the more dance-oriented of the day.
Band Highlight #6: Yellowcard
The second-to-last band of the day, Jacksonville natives Yellowcard were another band that reveled in the hometown feel that St. Petersburg housed. With fan-favorite songs like “Only One” and “Ocean Avenue” mixed with newer songs like the Warped Tour special “Always Summer”, the crowd was particularly into this set. Singer Ryan Key (despite wearing a t-shirt sporting the Georgia Bulldogs logo) was very sincere when he addressed the obviously appreciative crowd. The upbeat yet relaxed pop-rock feel mixed with the (finally!) setting sun was the perfect ending to the day (Tip #6: Even though it may be hot, stay all day…some of the best bands and sets are saved for last!).
Between the sets, in front of and behind the stage, and all around the open-air venue, the entire Warped Tour atmosphere was just as rambunctiously fun as I thought it would be. For fans of rock, metal, electronic, and more, this is absolutely one of the top tours to attend. As for my last tip, lucky #7? Always remember to have fun. Bring your friends, bring your sunscreen, bring your water, and bring a ready ear…there is always something different for everyone at the Vans Warped Tour.