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.
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.
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!