In it’s second year, the UK Vans Warped Tour has a lot to live up to. In the US, the tour is a mammoth 3 month event, showcasing many genres such as Punk, Metal and Rap in the peak of Summer. Although the UK leg only lasts for 2 days and sits in the middle of a cold, miserable November; it brings some of the best alternative bands from all over the world together with a little bit of controversy thrown in for some, what we will call, extra fun. Vini and Solange went along to find out more.
One of the first things I noticed as I walked in to the landmark Alexandra Palace was the range of food, merchandise and activities to enjoy. Entering the Merch Market, I was instantly spoilt for choice. International and home grown UK brands were scattered all around, creating a very fun and friendly atmosphere, something that the US Warped is renowned for. Hundreds of fans lining up for signing tents and meeting members of some of their favourite bands is a refreshing sight, bringing a sense of unity which I feel is lost at some major UK festivals.
Bands such as Fact and Attila rip through up-tempo sets across the stages, warming the crowd up for the Saturday to come with some serious crowd surfing. The energy doesn’t stop when upcoming UK pop-punk outfit Neck Deep start the sing-along. These guys fit the Warped bill perfectly, opening up with short but sweet Tables Turned, they get the ball rolling until the audience are screaming every word to the band’s only slow song of the day, A Part Of Me.
The main stage makes a real attempt at offering a diverse selection of genres, with The Wonder Years holding their own to a massive audience earlier on in the day. However, bands such as The Maine disappointingly go under appreciated here. It seems as though most of the younger kids are only interested in one thing, and that’s breakdowns. Luckily, this isn’t a problem; Crossfaith, Memphis May Fire and Chiodos are here to save the day. In a scene over saturated with bands trying to find the quickest and easiest way to the drop, it’s refreshing to see these guys are still interested in actually crafting a song with well thought out structures.
Memphis May Fire vocalist Matty Mullins announces ‘from the moment you walked through that door – we all became a family’. It may already be the dead of night at 6 in the evening, but don’t be fooled. This is Warped Tour, and what better band to remind you where you are than tour veterans Yellowcard? Powering through a set of old and new, Ryan Key gives a shout out to Warped creator Kevin Lyman, thanking him for all the work he has put in to the show over the years. Yellowcard offer a solid performance and do not disappoint the numerous fans of all ages.
Without a chance to catch your breath, Billy Talent storm in with Devil In A Midnight Mass. A riff so powerful that anyone that has begun to become tired at this point is now bouncing off the walls. From beginning to end, Billy Talent have the audience in the palm of their hands. With a perfectly crafted set, the quality of performance is turned up a notch. ‘It’s nice to see punk rock isn’t dead’ jokes Benjamin Kowalewicz.
Thanks to the perfectly timed stage splits, as the last chord of Billy Talent’s phenomenal set rings out, Australian Metalcore heroes Parkway Drive walk on to the East Stage. Parkway are 10 years old now, but age does not show here. From the intro of Dark Days to the end of Carrion, the band pull out all the stops with confetti, smoke cannons and intense lighting to really make this feel like a headline set. Rise Against seem to lack the same feel of a spectacle, but with hits such as Prayer Of The Refugee and Savior making fans lose their minds, it’s hard to criticise. The bands legend status carries them through to the end of the night, and it would be unfair to be dissatisfied after an amazing day of music.
The Sunday looks to be a promising day, starting out with some rap to change up the feel. It all looks promising with a highly energetic set from RDGLDGRN. Even though the crowd is small, everyone is happy to be here. However things have taken a turn for the worst when Californian rapper Watsky makes a 30 foot leap of faith in to a less than willing crowd. Injuring himself and two members of the audience, the music is temporarily halted as paramedics carry the rapper out in a stretcher. Luckily no one was badly hurt from the stunt, but many attendees have definitely been left with a sour taste in their mouths after the incident.
Things get back under way, and people are ready for something heavy. With bands such as Hacktivist, While She Sleeps and Hatebreed; heavy is not hard to find. Whether it be the groovy djent-rap-something-core from Hacktivist, or the simply aggressive Hatebreed and While She Sleeps, there is definitely something for all metal heads to sink their teeth in to. Of course, heavy isn’t what everyone is looking for on this Sunday afternoon, so A Day To Remember make a quick secret acoustic appearance on the Jagermeister stage. For the people who got to see the set, it was a great moment. However, many people were locked out of this part of the arena due to it being ‘over capacity’ which was a huge disappointment for many.
Warped has always been a great platform for upcoming bands to get recognised, so a trip to the Kevin Says Stage was a must. I got to see The First, a melodic rock band from Cambridgeshire, and it’s obvious how high the bar has been set on this stage. Vocalist Benny Salter is definitely in his element, with some powerful clean vocals accompanied by very well written gang vocals and furious screams from guitarist Tim Crane. The audience love every moment of this set, and it’s great to see so many heads supporting the local scene.
A promising, yet disappointing element of the UK Warped is the repeated bands. Although Billy Talent and Yellowcard put on an amazing show the night before, their set lists have not changed for the Sunday which is slightly unsatisfying for many of the let down attendees who have bought weekend tickets and expected something more. Luckily, Rise Against have added a few different songs to the set which does make up for the somewhat underwhelming performance the night before.
Bringing the weekend to a close are Enter Shikari. Being their last UK show for a while, the Hertfordshire boys are ending this event with a party. With an impressive stage set up, and the songs to match, Shikari bounce from classic hits such as Sorry, You’re Not A Winner to some of the more recent hits seamlessly. These guys have earned their stripes it seems, the band that was once questioned for their ways of doing things have now conquered the Ally Pally in a glorious effort.
Although there were many hiccups along the way, the Vans Warped Tour proves to be a great addition to the UK festival circuit. A great atmosphere, extreme sports and amazing food accompanies a spectacular range of bands. My favourite band of the weekend would have to be Billy Talent. They gave everything. Be it some of the grooviest riffs known to man, or the loudest sing-alongs of the two days there is something for everyone in their set – even if they played the same set twice. All we need now is some better weather.
Review by Vini Moreira-Yeoell and Photography by Solange Moreira-Yeoell