For 24 years, the Vans Warped Tour has been a mainstay of the summer, with the touring music festival becoming a proving ground for young artists before their breakthroughs. The likes of Blink 182, Paramore, Avenged Sevenfold, No Doubt and The Black Eyed Peas all got their start on the tour. Over the years, Warped Tour became known as the place to check out hot new rock bands, with the majority of the mainstream rock/punk sound of the ‘00s forever being tied to the tour.
However, in recent years, the demographics have changed significantly as the new generation of teenagers are simply not as interested in guitar-based music anymore. After years of dwindling attendance, founder Kevin Lyman announced earlier this year that this would be the final time Warped would make its annual cross-country voyage. The tour rolled into the Shoreline Amphitheater last Saturday to a massive sold-out audience, giving the festival a proper send off.
The Warped Tour has always been known for its diverse array of musical acts, and that was indeed the case on Saturday as the likes of Four Year Strong, Unearth, Senses Fail, Tatiana Demaria, Simple Plan, Black Veil Brides, Every Time I Die, The Used and Nekrogoblikon each delivered powerful sets. As 20,000+ fans descended on the Shoreline on a warm summer day, it was clear that both the fans and the bands were going to make the final Bay Area stop on the Warped Tour a memorable one.
Four Year Strong brought their powerful blend of pop-punk and melodic hardcore to the main stage, powering through a sizzling 30-min set (it should be noted that every band plays a 30-min set). One of the highlights was a particularly fierce version of the anthemic “Heroes Get Remembered, Legends Never Die,” which saw Dan O’Connor and Alan Day trading off some impassioned vocal lines.
Unearth has earned a reputation as one of the fiercest metal bands out there, and they certainly proved that during their set. The five-piece wasted no time in pummeling the audience with warp-speed thrash metal riffs and brutal hardcore-influenced breakdowns. The band opened with the ferocious “My Will Be Done,” which saw guitarists Ken Susi and Buz McGrath trading off dense guitar riffs and impressive solos. Halfway through the set, vocalist Trevor Phipps announced that the band would be releasing a new album this fall before introducing a new song in the form of “Incinerate.” As you can imagine from the title, the song was a real scorcher and featured plenty of aggressive breakdowns and harsh backing vocals from bassist Chris O’Toole.
Senses Fail brought a high-energy stage show, trotting out in some stylish looking summer clothes as they tore through the storming post-hardcore of “Rum is for Drinking, Not for Burning.” As the circle pit opened up and the throng of sweaty bodies began to mosh, it was clear that this was going to be one of the more energetic performances of the day. A few songs later, just as the energy began to drop a bit, Senses Fail rolled through a medley of famous metal songs that began with the furious blast of the System of a Down classic “Chop Suey.” For the next few minutes, the band roared through snippets of “Break Stuff” by Limp Bizkit, “Bodies” by Drowning Pool and “Bulls on Parade” by Rage Against the Machine. The band closed out their set with the rollicking fury of “Bite to Break Skin,” a piercing blast of melodic vocals and chugging guitars.
With a small crowd of loyal fans gathered at the front of the stage, Tatiana Demaria rocked through a tight set of new material from her upcoming solo record as well as some classic songs from her time fronting the band TAT. Demaria’s new material relied on plenty of stellar guitar lines and high-energy vocals, combining rock swagger with punk intensity. Playing in a power trio format, Demaria and her band were full of pulsing energy, tearing through song after song with reckless abandon.
With a legion of fans packing the front of the stage, Black Veil Brides ripped through a solid set that was a showcase for the band’s anthemic metal. The group opened with the shredding thrash of “Faithless,” a song that combined aggressive guitar riffs from Jinxx and Jake Pitts with plenty of tight drum patterns from Christian Coma. What makes Black Veil Brides so strong on the live stage is the fact that they had plenty of fans shouting along to each song, making for some particularly powerful moments.
Frontman Andy Biersack was in fine form, working the crowd and hitting all the right notes as he easily moved from throaty hardcore growls to clean melodic singing. Halfway through the set, the band rolled out an old classic in the form of “Knives and Pens,” their first big single from their debut album. Riding a tight series of catchy guitar riffs, the song got the crowd loudly singing along to every word.
It was fitting that a band like Simple Plan, who has been a frequent mainstay on the Warped Tour since 1999, would be on the tour this year. The band’s anthemic blend of power-pop, punk, and emo really translated well to the live stage. Simple Plan had the whole audience singing along as they ripped through a tight and efficient set that spanned their entire career.
A particularly memorable moment occurred as the band played through their all-time classic “Welcome to My Life.” The whole crowd was screaming along to the song’s infectious chorus. Frontman Pierre Bouvier sounded particularly impressive, as he thanked the fans for their commitment to the band and to the Warped Tour. Another highlight was during the performance of “Just a Kid,” as We the Kings singer Travis Clark came on stage and Bouvier took to the drum throne to allow Chuck Comeau to take the mic and play the role of frontman for a few moments. As Comeau remarked to the crowd, “I always wanted to be the lead singer in a rock band, and now I get my chance,” before launching himself into the crowd as he surfed around on a sea of hands, screaming out the final lines of the chorus.
As the sun began to set and the temperatures began to drop, Every Time I Die kicked up the intensity, delivering a jaw-dropping set of brutal hardcore-influenced metal. The band opened up with the furious stomp of “Map Change” a sizzling blend of ear-catching melodicism and bone-crushing hardcore, with lead singer Keith Buckley alternating between harsh growls and clean singing.
Before introducing the next song, Buckley paid tribute to Pantera drummer Vinnie Paul Abbott, who shockingly passed away a few days ago. Another tribute came towards the end of the song “Floater” as the band launched into the pummeling breakdown of the classic Pantera song “Domination.” Every Time I Die kept up the intensity for the remainder of the set, whipping the crowd into a fury as a blur of bodies smashed into each other in the chaos of the mosh pit.
The Used brought a powerful set that drew upon their classic back catalog to the mass of fans that had gathered in front of the Journey’s Left Foot Stage. The band opened up with the stomping anthem “Take It Away” a song driven by the powerful vocals of Bert McCracken and the slithering basslines of Jeph Howard, whose lightning-fast runs up and down the fretboard gave an added dimension of movement to the song.
The Used kept up the intensity for the remainder of the set, as McCracken urged the crowd to start moving and singing along. Before the final song of the night, which came in the form of the early classic “A Box Full of Sharp Objects,” McCracken gave a brief Shakespearean soliloquy before the band launched into an impromptu cover of “Smells Like Teen Spirit” by Nirvana. The tactic worked as the crowd responded accordingly: with fans jumping up and down singing along to the song. While The Used have matured and grown as a band over the course of their career, they still keep the same youthful intensity they had back when the group first came together in the early ‘00s.
As the vast majority of concertgoers flocked to the main stage to watch All Time Low perform the final set of the night, a few brave souls ventured to the opposite end of the Shoreline to see the incredible goblin-themed metal band Nekrogoblikon. The six-piece band specializes in zany and technically complex metal that draws on epic power metal as well as brutal death metal. Of course, the band’s hype man John Goblikon serves as the perfect comedic foil to the intense music, as the whole goblin-dressed-as-a-businessman thing really gets the crowd hyped up. While the band mainly played new material, they closed out the set with the old classic “Powercore,” a song that blended dark black metal intensity with brutal breakdowns and a catchy chorus which saw frontman Nicky Calonne showing off his soaring clean vocals.
While it is sad to see the Warped Tour come to a close after such a long and successful run, this final version was the appropriate send-off, with plenty of incredible musical moments to leave a lasting impression in the minds of fans.