I flew to London for what was is arguably the largest alternative festival in the UK, Vans Warped Tour. The size may not be the same as it’s American cousin but, the pop-punk energy did travel across the Atlantic. For most the Vans Warped tour would have started on Sunday but, for me it stated at the warm-up gig on the Saturday at The Old Blue Last.
Starting this weekend off for me was Beautiful Bodies, and I have never seen a band so pumped to be play a show. They started the show with singer Alicia Solombrino in the crowd. They have this late night bass beat that is so infectious that it just makes you want to jump around. This is a rock band with none of this America pop rock I have seen so much recently. Alicia has a vocal range that just eats into you and won’t let go. The fact during ‘Capture & Release‘ she lassoed me with the mic cable shows the willingness to get involved with the crowd and they where constantly jumping off stage into the crowd to have fun. Their energy gave you the feeling of invincibility and I may or may not have started a mosh pit during their set.
Next up were Forever Came Calling. Instantly I was shocked by the singer Joe Candelaria’s vocals. I was expecting a more docile tone but what I got was an energetic, almost high tone. They provided a high energy performance with thrash guitars and heavy drums. Plenty to jump around to and plenty of pop punk energy to keep you going all night long. As much as I really enjoyed their set they had a very generic American pop punk sound to me and I would have liked to see them grow from this in the future.
Headlining tonight were Trophy Eyes, I missed a lot of their set as I got hurt in the mosh pit. Now this happens from time to time and if you ever go into a pit be aware you will end up with bruises and possibly worse. That being said when a bitch ass kid comes up to me and says “I heard your scared.” to which I reply no. He continued on until he says “You should be scared of me.” Then, during the first song he did everything he could to hurt me in the pit (this is not moshing). Within a minute I had a dead arm and by the end of the song I had been kicked, punched twice and God know how many charges I took (this killed my back and I suffered for days afterwards). By the end of the first song I had to leave the pit. At this stage the staff of The Old Last Blue came to my aid with ice packs etc and can’t thank them enough for there help. The first rule of the pit is don’t be a dick and the second rule is don’t be a dick. In every pit I have been in if someone is being a dick normally the pit ‘sorts’ that person out but, that did not happen tonight. Also someone got there noise broke in the pit by the same guy (sorry rant over back to Trophy Eyes). From what I saw of this punk rockers on stage they really know how to bring the party. They gave everything on that stage and are adding to an impressive list of live bands coming from Australia. John Floreani’s vocals are one with a distinctive screech (however this was very worn and cracked at the end of there set). They provide a very heavy almost metalcore drums to there live show and they have plenty of guitar riffs to keep the crowd going. When they do slow it down there are nice hooks and Trophy Eyes played a tight set.
Sunday rolled in with the main event at Alexandra Palace and with the doors opening a little late, when the excited crowd were let in, what started in at a trickle quickly turned into a tide with the security trying their best to stop everyone from running though to the main hall.
Twin Wild provided a good start on the Jagermeister Stage, bringing a vibrant alt-rock sound and being the only band actually starting at 2:30pm which gave them a captive audience. With grouped riffs and silky vocals, this set the stage for the rest of the day to be good. That being said they suffered from sound issues from the get go and this never really got fixed during their set. This is always a worry for any opening band at a festival.
Heading over to the East Monster Stage starting a little late were The World Alive, they took to the stage and the crowd when ape shit crazy. At 2:45pm this was going to be a mad one. The crowd had their their fists in the air and were jumping around. They had the crowd eating out of their hand by the second song and the first of the many pits that would be happening today, opened up. With their speedy riffs and heavy screams, for a band I had not see before I was impressed. Getting the entire crowd to get on their knee and then exploding into an air show they clearly care for the crowd and strive so they have a good time. Telle Smith (lead singer) crowed surfed at the end of their set with some fans trying to steal his shoes.
Next up on West Monster Stage were Ghost Town who brought what I can only call electric alt-rock. Their slower rock sound provided a soulful-feel backed up by the singer’s smooth vocals. Some of the crowd did seem more interested in Brian Star at the side of the stage than actually listing to the band though. ‘Out Alive‘ is a great live song as it can get everyone clapping along and the drum solo was something I loved and so did the crowd with Kanye’s backing track being beamed out just for the hell of it.
Down at the Kevin Says Stage the transmogrified The Hype Theory now know as Tigress took to the stage. They have changed their sound, so it is less pop-punk and more rock. This seem to have re-energized them and it seemed that they are having much more fun on stage. They provided riffs aplenty and Katy has somehow made her voice even more enticing. I can’t even say how much I enjoyed this set, I will have to invent a word….What I am trying to convey is their sound has this freshness about it but it is not out of control or without structure. Finishing with their latest single, ‘Future‘ this left the whole crowd with a smile at the end of the set.
I hung around the Kevin Says Stage for Allusondrugs and they seem to be taking forever to get ready. That is when I realised it was Boy Jumped Ship were sound checking. I asked around and eventually, someone showed a tweet from the bands saying “Unfortunately we won’t be performing..” (https://twitter.com/allusondrugs/status/655728183392776192).
Heading over to the Jukely Stage now to see the New Grave band Fearless Vampire Killers. I have said this before about them and will say it again, with this band it is like you are getting two for one; with Kier Kemp and Laurence Beveridge swapping between lead vocals and playing guitar it makes their set so fresh. Having seen these guys a few times already this year it was strange not to see them headlining. This however seemed to free them up and they were genuinely shocked by how many people were there to see them play. They have an infectious pop beat that makes you take notice but they have a lot of experimental sounds in there too that makes you need to hear them live to experience it. With emo rock lyrics and a full on rock guitars, on stage they have a pop-punk energy and it was clear they are there to have fun and make sure every member of the crowd has fun too. They provided what was for me the stand out of song of Warped Tour UK which was ‘Neon Dance Floor‘… when this went off, the crowd (including myself and even some parents that weren’t hiding in the parent creche) were all dancing along…fantastic scenes.
ROAM were next on the Jagermeister Stage and they are exactly the type of band I like to see live. They bring a pure pop punk energy to their set and I like how these guys are flying the flag for British pop-punk and are not trying to copy the American pop punk scene. This is shown in singer Alex Costello’s vocals as he is not trying to sing in an american accent but brings a English south coast (almost London) accent to his vocals. They have a rhythmic tone that is tied to their energy which makes you want to jump around like Chris Cross (again I may or may not have started a mosh pit but I can confirm I could no long jump after this set and walked with a hunch for the next week). Combined this was some great riffs and you have a band that are a joy to see live.
Next on the same stage was Chunk! No, Captain Chunk! They brought a fusion of pop punk and punk hardcore to the stage and it was interesting hearing a Parisian sing and speak with an american accent and if it had not been for the cracks at times (and the fact that I knew they were from France) you would have though that they are from the USA. Their records don’t do these guys enough justice, they have so much energy on stage and I love these guys for this (this is why I love live music so much). At the mere mention of “I am nothing like you” Bertrand Poncet (singer) asked for the crowd to go crazy and they did filling the area with what can only be described as beautiful chaos. There is that heavy drum sound in there that I love, mixed with speedy pop punk guitars giving a great blend of energy and chaos. But the crown in the jewel for most in attendance is there Smash Mouth cover of ‘All Star‘. The crowd were the maddest I had seen all day, all fighting to get to the front to sing into the mic and even getting on peoples shoulders and crowd surfing.
Next I when to the Kevin Says Stage to see the New Grave band Creeper. This was the only time I had any trouble getting into see a band. As there was a queue and the room was full. Lucky for me I slipped in using my press pass as an excuse to jump this queue (sorry, not sorry). With an army of fans at the front all wearing their creeper jackets the band took off. They clearly are they to show you a good time and seem to have a punky spirit. They have a misfit sound that really works on stage with the light, rock drums that suddenly shock you with the occasional heavy kick. The same can be said about the guitars but the other way round, providing heavy riffs and suddenly dropping a pop hook on you..it was impressive! They switch things up a lot during their set even mixing in a punchy chorus melody here and there. Mix this with Will Gould’s haunting voice and you have a band that are a sight to behold live. When they jumped into ‘VCR‘ the crowd went wild, even singing the chorus word for word, this song alone justifies all the hype that surrounds the band. These guys will explode next year and you will be seeing them everywhere. They ended there set with ‘Novena‘ which for me was a strange song to end a set with. Instead of leaving with the blood pumping and a smile on my face like the rest of the rest of the set did, it left me feeling melancholy.
Back to the Jagermeister Stage to see Moose Blood. I had heard a lot of good things from bands at various shows this year up and down the country and was excited to hear them play live. These guys did not disappoint. They provide a pop punk meets emo sound that works really well live. With the fast pace of ‘Bukowski’ to the slower ‘Gum‘ they provide a great contrast showing that they can provide the energy of punk with the thought provoking emo. Like ROAM’s vocalist, Eddy Brewerton doesn’t try and sing with an American accent and has a southern English accent that adds to the emo sound. The speedy punk guitar alongside Eddy’s fun vocals means you will really enjoy the set. These guys want to give you more and seem to be looking for one more thing to add to live sound but, they do not need to do this they already have it. They did take a break in their set to thank everyone for showing up to see them saying “that they thought they would be playing to an empty room”. The crowd soon corrected them on this fact and Moose Blood are truly brilliant.
Over at West Monster Stage Reel Big Fish took to the stage. The veterans of ska punk really know how to work the crowd and know exactly what crowd they are playing to. They threw everything at their performance. Their cover of ‘Take on Me‘ definitely won over any of the younger fans that were unsure. The highlight from the performance was ‘Suburban Rhythm‘ which they repeated several times in different genres with with singer Arron Barrett encouraging everyone to mosh, ska dance, square-dance, rave and circle-pit depending on the genre. I think that everyone that saw them tonight had a good time and was not disappointed (and isn’t that the goal of a live performance?). I would go and see them again as a headline band as I know I will have a good time.
To the first of the Co-headliners, Asking Alexandria took to the East Monster Stage. with their new singer Dennis Stoff they really got the crowd whipped up into a frenzy and had an amazing stage show with pyrotechnics which you could feel the heat off. They had a heavy drum beat that does get your head nodding and have some proper meaty guitars. However they did not blow me away. They remind me of why I stopped going to see screamo bands and the reasons I don’t like screamo bands. If you want a mosh pit this is the perfect band for it. There are parts where they don’t scream and Dennis shows his impressive vocal range at these moments but there wasn’t enough of this. They have cemented my belief that you need to bring more than heavy drums, guitars and a screamer to this genre. They are not for me and I will not be going to see them again.
The last band of the night were Black Veil Brides. I had heard a lot of negative things said on a lot of forums about these guys and was expecting the worse. That is not what I got, what I got was full on entertaining rock. What I think a lot of peoples issue is with the bands fan girls and there “OMG! Andy’s ribs!” and comments like that. If you can get past that you will hear a great band. Yes the majority of people at the stage were in the 14-18 female bracket but, these are the people who spend the most on music and they are the ones that decide what is cool and what is not. Tonight they provided a full stage experience with pyrotechnic and lights. They are also not a band to stand still on stage bringing with them platforms to dress the stage with so they all could move around to elevated positions and get every member of the crowd involved. I saw some parents (brave enough to leave the creche) sigh with relief when these guys were not another Asking Alexandria (some even smiled). Yes Andy Biersack does scream at times but that was few and far between, he has an almost icy clean vocal delivery. There is an old school rock / metal feel to Christian Coma’s drumming that reeled me in to this band. I was just going to watch twenty minutes of there set (After hearing Asking Alexandria) and head to the bar but, this kept me there. There are lots of guitar riffs and hooks to keep all but the most critical entertained. They reminded me a lot of Nine Inch Nails and they won me over and I am now a fan. I am glad that I got to see them play live and if it hadn’t been for Vans Warped Tour this would have never happened.
This just leaves me with the task of choosing my favourite set. I am really torn as there were so may great performances. The three main contenders are; Fearless Vampire Killers, Chunk! No, Captain Chunk and Creeper. I really enjoyed Fearless Vampire Killers and I think it is the best I have see them play. Creeper would have won this if they hadn’t left me feeling so melancholy at the end of their set. So I am giving it to Chunk! No, Captain Chunk!