Top 10 Sets at Vans Warped Tour 2014

Vans Warped Tour and I both turned 20 this year, so, out of tribute to my pre-teenage punk rock roots, I had to check out the NY show. The tour stopped at Jones Beach this summer, which was a way better venue for Warped than Nassau Coliseum. The inevitable heat that plagues the Warped Tour experience was suppressed by the warm breeze on the beach, so it was bearable during the day and beautiful in the afternoon.

Though the line-up wasn’t as beefy or countercultural as it has been in VWT history, there were some kick-ass sets of all different genres – from comic ska, to hip-hip metal, to rhythm & blues, and of course some angst-ridden hardcore punk.

Warped is such a cool experience, whether you’re into moshing and metal, or not. It’s cheap, it’s a crazy diverse line-up of artists who really want to be there and interact with their fans, and no matter where you live – it’s most likely going to a cheap venue near you.

The tour returned to its roots with this year’s performers, but I really dug it. The top 10 most kick-ass sets at Warped Tour NY this summer were…

1. Beebs & Her Money Makers

The first set I saw at Warped was psychedelic ska group, Beebs & Her Money Makers, a perfect band to start the day rocking out to. I met them at Warped last year, and fell in love with their comic rock style and funky fusion of ska, swing and blues. Sweet, jazzy front-lady, Beebs, is backed by some awesome musicians including a soulful saxophone and flute player and a bad-ass female trumpeter. I got to catch up with them about the “stupid-delic” Wurst Album Ever that came out in May & tour-appropriate breakfast arrangements after their set.

As far as the performance, the band never fails to spread the funk and put on a memorable show. Back in November, I saw BaHMM & Reel Big Fish when they stopped at the Best Buy Theatre in NYC. The crowd went crazy when Beebs started singing. As a ska band that got together in 2010, they were totally rocking a Reel Big Fish crowd in 2013; and, just like last summer, BaHMM rocked the crowd at Jones on Saturday. The sunshine, flying confetti and funky roaring brass were all the things I remember loving about Warped tour, and Beebs’ set made me immediately glad I opted to attend this year.




Check out BaHMM on Youtube.

2. Less Than Jake

Less Than Jake is one of those bands that’s bad-boy teenage charisma only gets more raw as they get older. They love what they do, and the animated chaos of their set totally catalyzed that beachy Ska feeling at Warped. The highlight of their performance was “All My Best Friends are Metal Heads,” an exhibition of the fact that LTJ’s performance hasn’t gotten grays yet- it’s as youthful as ever.

I talked to vocalist/guitarist, Chris DeMakes, about Tommy Ramone, touring, and Pezcore – the band’s first album that was produced in 1994, the same year I was – he was hysterical and humbled by the way the fans reacted to the old-school digs.

LTJ had a lot of fun on stage and the set was real. They even poked fun at the unrealistically uptight venue security, which, across the board, the bands haven’t been pleased with this year – See The Story So Far Vocalist Fights with Security Guard at Warped Tour – It was great to see the timelessly funky vets and they were one of my favorite bands on the tour.


Check out Less than Jake on Youtube

3. Bowling For Soup

Bowling For Soup was one of the bands in the lineup that I was most excited to see at Warped- having spent most of my bus rides listening to songs like “High School Never Ends,” and “Girl All The Bad Guys Want.” The set list was everything I was hoping for – lots of their hits and a really high-energy, old-friend-feeling performance.

This is a straight up, funky, smart-ass punk group that totally appreciates the high-strung interactivity of the Warped crowd. Angst-ridden high school kids and bands like Bowling For Soup are a match made in heaven, and they the guys rocked the crowd, playing the songs we grew up with, while showing us that growing up is lame.

4. Mod Sun

Mod Sun’s set was in later in the afternoon, when the sun started to go down on Warped, the sky was pink and most of the metal heads had hit the road. His hippie smooth hip-hop came through with the perfect note to wind down on.

Mod Sun, an independent artist who spent the later half of last year touring with Hoodie Allen, has since been spreading love and tie-dye across the nation on tour trademarking the “hippy hop,” and bringing out the smiley stoner side of everyone in his crowd. His hazy voice and vibrant stage presence were perfect for the chiller late-set atmosphere.



5. Protomen

Protomen is 9-piece robotic rock-opera group, doing this Queen-esque metal-theatre thing. They’re the type of band that just likes to do it big – very theatrical, and committed in a fun, explosive way. They’re liable to break out into Pat Benatar or Meat Loaf at any time, with their own strange video game interpretation.

The guys, on the “no moshing” rule implemented at Warped this year, told me the importance of “the leverage to mosh” – saying “It’s necessary – I remember doing it, I don’t know why, it was one of those ‘I’M FIFTEEN AND I HATE EVERYTHING’ things. Security can’t stop that at Warped Tour.” The gritty mega man rockers were totally inventive and they easily earned a spot in my top 10 with their genre-bending rock set.




6. Yellowcard

The punk veterans agreed to rock Warped tour over a decade after the birth of Ocean Avenue, and came through with hits like “Way Away,” and “Awakening.” This was the first time I saw them live and I have a new respect for the band after hearing some of the intimate acoustic interpretations of their older songs. They’re definitely an awesome band to see live, especially if you grew up listening to the Lights and Sounds and Paper Walls. They’ve slowed down a bit and created off of their more sincere side, but stayed true to their punk rock sound and attitude. Yellowcard at Warped 2014

7. Pacific Dub

These Surf City rockers tore up the stage early in the day with their heavy west-coast rock melodies and smooth reggae flow.


Check out Pacific Dub

8. The Story So far

Cali Punk band, The Story So Far‘s hardcore groove reminded the crowd what Warped Tour is all about and featured songs of 2013’s What You Don’t See.





Raw female-fronted Alternative group, PVRIS, took the Earnie Ball stage later in the day, and though the audience was small, the energy was anything but dwindling. Lynn Gunn’s sultry-punk vocals were the perfect blend of edgy and emotional and the band sounded great live.



10. J & the 9s

THIS was a sick set. The flamboyant sequin-saturated lead singer, J9, and the Zeppelin-esque flute melodies and rock riffs made Brookyln’s own J & the 9s‘ set a trippy explosion of sex-appeal and funk.


J9 at VWT NY (Photo Courtesy J & the 9’s Facebook page)

Over all, Warped Tour is always a recklessly stimulating event, and a perfect platform to manifest the rebellious frustrations of the teenager deep down inside all of us. This year’s line up took the energy of the concert in a totally different direction than previous years, back to the mission of the tour to expose intense committed experimental acts while providing a strong countercultural experience for kids who come to rock.

I’ll NEVER be too old for the “Punk Rock Daycare” that is Vans Warped Tour, and I’m proud to say I spent Saturday head-banging at Jones Beach in honor of my middle school self, who rocked out at Vans every year and occupied the AIM screen-name LittleMissTBSx121.


Check out some footage of VWT 2014 HERE!




Strawberry Fields Beatles Tribute at B.B. King’s

I stroll by B.B. King’s Blues Club on West 42nd every so often when I take the long walk home from work, but I haven’t ventured inside the venue since last April when I saw B.B. King himself perform. The king of blues put on an incredible show, of course. He sang his heart out, and even at 87, he had this crazy soulful energy that had me jumping out of my seat. Both his voice and his guitar playing were as phenomenal as ever. It was definitely one of the most remarkable shows I’ve been to, and I felt blessed to be within 50 feet of the legend.

Last weekend, a colleague of mine invited me to the Beatles tribute brunch at B.B. King’s- Evidently, this happens every Saturday at noon and I had no idea. The band, Strawberry Fields, consists of Tony Garofalo (John Lennon,) Billy J. Ray (Paul McCartney,) John Korba (George Harrison,) and Michael Bellusci (Ringo.)

It’s evident that all the original Beatles were supremely talented and innovative musicians, but there are a few factors that, I believe, were especially imperative to their success – one of them being a perfect demonstration of showmanship and what it means to be a performing band, another being the individualism and complexity of each of the band members’ relationships with the music. This is what made me particularly interested in seeing Strawberry Fields perform. I have never seen a Beatles tribute band, and I was a little apprehensive to the idea that the energy of the Beatles could be manifested into the modern world.

The thing that initially stuck out to me about Strawberry Fields was the precision of the drummer. It’s difficult to verbalize the abundance of attributes that set Ringo Starr apart from the norm as a drummer, but overall, Bellusci mastered Ringo’s “feel.” (Check out 13 Reasons to Respect Ringo Starr.) Although not a technically great drummer, Ringo is severely underrated. Nobody can sound exactly like Ringo and that is a fact. Ringo’s after-the-beat solid steadiness on the drums was arguable the foundation of the Beatles performances. It’s really extraordinary, and you can hear it songs like “Rain,” regarded by Ringo as some of his best work (and I couldn’t agree more.) Of course, “Ticket to Ride” is a masterpiece – the way the cymbals build up into crescendo and explode. This unorthodox artistic drumming is something I wasn’t expecting to be duplicated.

Though not a virtuoso drummer, one of the reasons Ringo is so badass- and probably the reason Paul McCartney still regards him as his favorite drummer, even after working with brilliant drummers like Steve Gadd and Jeff Porcaro- is clean calculation. It’s mathematics, really, in terms of his understanding of song structure and form. Ringo’s unconventional nature was probably a product of a combination of analytical innovation and simple technicalities that worked to produce the way they did by chance (like the fact that he led with his left hand.) Bellusci got this. I was most impressed by his delivery and his robust connection with Ringo’s work.

The band began with the early Beatles songs, mop top hair and black suits, and killed the psychedelic era of Sergeant Pepper in the second half of the show. They don’t look exactly like the Beatles, but they have the sound and the mannerisms down completely. The guys are hysterical, really conversational with the audience, which was made up of all different generations. I was pleasantly surprised to feel pretty close to how I presume I would feel at a real Beatles show. I definitely recommend going to see Strawberry Fields at B.B. King’s. If you are a Beatles fan, you’ll love the band, if you’re not -or you’re of my generation and your hyperactive desensitized millennial mind cannot appreciate it – it’s, at the least, a great opportunity to bond with your parents.


Macklemore & Ryan Lewis FREE SHOW May 22!


Microsoft is opening a new retail location in Paramus, New Jersey (Garden State Plaza) on May 22, 2014. The grand opening event will feature a free performance from Macklemore and Ryan Lewis at 5 PM in the West parking lot of the mall.

The store will be distributing free tickets to the show to the first 1, 500 customers in the building when it opens at 11 AM, so fans hell-bent on seeing the Grammy Award winning pair are advised to start lining up on the eve of the opening as early as 10 PM. So, for those of you with no personally hygienic opposition to sleeping on a New Jersey sidewalk, bring your sleeping bags!

In all seriousness, though, the event is for a great cause. The Microsoft retail store is donating $1 million in software to local community organizations. If you can, visit the Garden State for a night and enjoy the grand opening of the Paramus Microsoft store and a free performance from the sexy and self-made hip hop duo.


Fleetwood Mac Missing McVie No Longer


The Rumors are true, Christine McVie is rejoining Fleetwood Mac! McVie, who left Fleetwood in 1998, is back in action with the classic rock group and planning a U.S. tour! Check out the dates here.

“Don’t Stop” was one of my first favorite songs ever, back when I was still learning to speak and sing, rocking out in a car seat. There’s something about McVie’s voice that is so cathartic. While Stevie’s voice, although undeniably cathartic, for me always represented darkness and lust, as opposed to imperfect, mortal love that I could relate to as a kid. McVie has a nurturing tone, less seductive, more real-life.

McVie brings to Fleetwood something that compliments the sultry sinful sound of Stevie Nicks, that being a mellowing, sincere voice of happiness. Something about her vocals in songs like “You Make Loving Fun” and “Over My Head,” exemplifies a relatable giddiness that is imperative to those records- records about feeling high on love, being humbled by the vulnerability of being infatuated with someone else, being shyly and certainly over your head. All of these emotions that are part of falling in love were first made relatable to me by the gentle honesty of McVie’s voice.

Songs like “Little Lies” denote the way Nicks and McVie compliment each other naturally and effortlessly. Both women are essential to different personalities of the band, different characters – McVie’s voice, seemingly designed for lyrics like “Say That You Love Me,” “Oh Daddy,” and “Over My Head,” contrast Stevie’s voice, made to sing “Gypsy” and “The Chain.” Both symbols are necessary for the empathy of Fleetwood Mac’s music.

The bands becoming a staple in rock and roll had everything to do with this versatility. It’s hard to fathom that the same group that made Mr. Wonderful, made Rumors. Although Mac’s earlier albums were missing the creativity and chemistry of Buckingham Nicks, Jerry Spencer and Peter Green were the perfect vocalists for Mr. Wonderful. 

Stevie, as a vocalist, has a gift for catalyzing thought, self-discovery and revelation. Songs like “Dreams,” and “Landslide,” feed self-awareness and reflection. That self-awareness, her independence and her mysticism make her relatable the more confident, proud side of a woman, while McVie, connects with the weaker, more vulnerable side. All people posses a balance of both these personalities. That’s what makes Fleetwood so rare, McVie’s and Nicks’ presence in the group allow them limitless scope of perspective, and the ability to appeal to both sides of a heart in love.

Since the very beginning of the rock group’s reign, the various vocalists of Fleetwood Mac have shared a supernatural ability to capture emotions on all ends of the spectrum. I am thrilled to hear that McVie has reunited with the group, and seeing her lovely self on stage with Fleetwood Mac again is going to be an emotional experience.

Dropkick Murphys Wrap up St. Patrick’s Day Tour at the House of Blues

A fiction-worthy perfect St. Patrick’s day experience for a college student goes something like this…

BOSTON – St. Patrick’s Day parade and Dropkick Murphys’ sold out show at The House of Blues… and fiction-worthy, it was.

Dropkick is unreal live. The celtic rockers sold out at least five, if not all six of their Boston shows. Fans were invited on stage at the end of the show to sing “Kiss Me, I’m Shitfaced” with the group, and the energy was electrifying. Lucero and Skinny Lister were great opening acts, and the finale of the tour in their hometown was as rowdy as one would presume, in the greatest way. The crowd welcomed the band like old friends. Anthems like “Shipping up to Boston” fueled the wild atmosphere, and irish or not, everyone in the house was beaming with excitement.

DKM has made a name for themselves creating passionate punk anthems based off traditional Irish music they grew up with, and their recent 8th studio album Signed and Sealed in Blood debuted at #9 on Billboard. While staying true to their roots, they’ve delivered an edgy boisterous twist for the punk rockers and moshers in their audience they so dearly embrace.

The luck of the irish was trademarked by the group with their performance at Game 6 of the World Series at Fenway park, a major victory for the Boston Red Sox. In fact, of the six games Dropkick has performed at, all of them were winning games for Boston.

At the House of Blues show, the band also paid an emotional tribute to the victims of the Boston Marathon Bombings, during which photos of those who lost their lives were presented behind the band. Dropkick has showed their support for those affected by the tragedy through their organization The Claddagh Fund. Ken Casey and Dropkick Murphys have raised over $300,000 for those affected by the Boston Marathon Bombings.

If anything yells Boston pride, it’s the boys of Dropkick Murphys wrapping up their St. Patrick’s day tour to a packed audience in Boston, and the show was electrifying. Overall, the experience was a delivery of radiating energy by a supremely talented group of celtic rockers to a totally faithful and adoring audience.








The Black Keys go Scott Lewis




So THIS is where Patrick’s Carney’s instagram posts are coming from…

The Black Keys have left fans parched for what feels like an eternity, but thirst no longer, because the Keys are back and still raising the bar in modern rock. The wait for the Black Keys anticipated 8th studio album isn’t over yet, but the series of uncomfortable videos and pictures preceding the LP have been launched. And what better place to release a cryptic, kooky teaser video announcing the name and release date of the album than Mike Tyson’s twitter. Some things just make sense.

The unorthodox broadcast revealed a trippy teaser video announcing the album title, Turn Blue, and release date, May 13. The announcement came via one matter-of-fact tweet from the boxing legend that read, “Turn Blue.” with a Youtube link to the video, which features a spinning pink record and a passionate hypnotherapist. I can’t think of anyone more qualified to share this bizarre seduction with the world than Mike Tyson.

The band also released their first single from the album yesterday. “Fever” is a sexy screechy twist on a really groovy melody. Very acid rock meets pop rock. There is something seriously sexy about Dan Auerbach’s voice, too. Overall, “Fever” is just that, hot with a weird subtle hint of sickness.