Review: Vans Warped Tour

Photo by Jon Medina Photography

It was a wretchedly humid day with the heat index making it feel over 100 degrees. The sun wasn’t playing either as there wasn’t a cloud in the sky to shield any of those oppressive death rays from above. It was a day you wanted to stay inside and thank the gods for the gift of air conditioning.

But for those of us that were brave enough to battle the heat and humidity, it was a day of punk rock, anarchy, and all out fun at the Vans Warped Tour.

For many, the Vans Warped Tour is just as much a summer tradition as the obligatory family car trip to Florida. Except with much less whining and hopefully better music. The organizers seemed to be well aware of these new traditions with families going to the Warped Tour together. One perk for kids bringing their parents who may not enjoy the music or just need to take a break in the action is “Reverse Daycare.” Parents can “chill out” in an air-conditioned tent away from the music and heat as their kids enjoy the show.

Despite the heat, Riverbend was packed with freaks, geeks, and music lovers of all kinds. If you haven’t been to a Warped Tour before, it can get a little overwhelming with all of music, signings and events going on. It can also be frustrating for the Warped Tour vets when some of the bands you really want to see have conflicting schedules. (I’m looking at you Suicide Machines and GWAR.) Unfortunately, you can’t see everything at Warped Tour, but it is fun trying.

I started my day with the group Bad Cop/Bad Cop. I had not heard them before and was honestly just hanging out in the PNC Pavillion to hide from the sun’s brutality. This all female group of “womananarchists” played some really great sing along pop punk that reminded me of good ol’ days of “Riot Grrl” music. Definitely, a band to keep an eye on. These girls are gonna go places.

Next up for me was Anti-Flag. I’ve been a fan of their “Street Punk” music for some time now and have seen them live a few times before. The group was as solid as ever as they made my day by playing, “Die for the Government.” Now, I’m not sure if has to do with the band getting a little older but it seems they are getting a little softer. During the end of their set, they had the crowd form a wall of death and replace it with…hugs.

Alestorm had one of the most fun sets of the day and it was a shame they couldn’t have played a much longer set. I mean, it’s not every day you see a guy wearing a kilt playing a keytar sing about pirates as he chugs a beer. They worked the crowd into a frenzy as they played “Drink”, a song about drinking and stealing rum. Things that pirates and concert attendees love best.

Municipal Waste played a set of kick you hard in the face thrash metal the spawned several old school circle pits. It was like a flashback to 1987 with the group’s raw and energetic sound that got the kids moving despite being later in an already exhausting day for most concert goers.

The last band for me was the legendary, controversial and almighty GWAR. The sun was starting to set and the heat gave a slight relief. I was tired and ready to pass out but when those costumed maniacs took the stage, I was instantly rejuvenated. If you’ve seen a GWAR show before you know what to expect. Fake blood and other colorful liquids drench fans as the band puts on a stage show filled with murder and mayhem. Donald Trump was among the victims as a figure featuring the President’s likeness was disemboweled in front of the crowd. GWAR ended their set with an AC/DC cover of “If You Want Blood (You Got It.)”

As I walked to my car that evening battered, bruised and exhausted, I began to curse to myself realizing I had to be up early for work the next morning. But I wouldn’t have changed a thing and I’m already looking forward to next year.