It’s hot, not too humid, and not really that hardcore, but still kind of – it’s Warped Tour at West Palm Beach’s Cruzan amphitheater.
2014 proved to be a pretty strange year for Warped Tour. After Warped 2012’s heavy concentration on the scene’s most “hype” bands at the time (Sleeping With Sirens, Pierce The Veil, Of Mice & Men, and so on) and Warped 2013’s pop punk powerhouses (The Story So Far, The Wonder Years, Man Overboard, and so on), Warped 2014’s line-up seemed to lack a strong genre to focus on. This, along with the presence of older bands, definitely seemed to disillusion a lot of people, eliciting “WARPED SUX THIS YEAR” tweets and stubborn refusals to buy tickets until the “good bands” were announced.
What a shame for them; this year held strong. While it wasn’t a metalhead’s dream or a pop punk kid’s fantasy, the 2014 Warped line-up had a little bit of something for everyone.
Take State Champs, who played first in the amphitheater, for example. Although they’re nothing groundbreaking to pop punk, they still kicked off Warped Tour’s split main stage with an undeniable energy that the crowd reflected. The pit audience pointed and pushed, singing along to the stick-in-your-head choruses that State Champs singer Derek Discanio managed to nail at only 11:15 in the morning. State Champs’ set list consisted of a good balance between fast-paced (their song, “Elevated”) and groovy (“Prepare to be Noticed”). Even non-fans would consider State Champs’ energy admirable, to say the least.
And while the crowds’ energy didn’t hold up quite so well in the heat, the bands’ did. Cute Is What We Aim For, playing another relatively early set, came out swinging with songs both old and new, nudging the nostalgia even out of warm fans. The band urged the audience to sing along, even if they didn’t know the words. “If you don’t know the words,” Shaant Hacikyan, the singer, yelled, “make ‘em up!” It only reinforced the acceptance of everyone at Warped.
Yet you can’t get more acceptance than that of The Maine – John O’Callaghan, the singer, dedicated the band’s entire set to Pitbull. Although it seems like a silly remark, the band’s performance was far from it – The Maine, perhaps one of the best bands on this year’s Warped Tour, played one of the most interestingly upbeat and emotionally raw sets of the day. Their slow, build-up of an intro into “Run” seemed almost visceral, and their invitation of a fan onstage during “Girls Do What They Want” was incredibly interactive. And they changed their songs. “Growing Up”, which was released as a slow song, was sped up, and “Misery”, the band’s final surprise song, featured a hard-hitting riff not present on the original track. For not being on Warped in five years, The Maine still know how to rock a crowd in only half an hour.
The Acoustic Basement tent was always ready to catch you when you fell tired, which would be expected about halfway through the day; upbeat acts like Allison Weiss and Better Off stripped down to only acoustic guitars and maybe some small form of percussion. Even I the Mighty, who played a full-blown post-hardcore set in the sun, went acoustic for half an hour to show off singer Brent Walsh’s beautifully controlled voice.
Because Warped just isn’t Warped without at least one huge “scene” band, a mob headed over to the amphitheater shortly after I the Mighty’s acoustic set to see Sleeping With Sirens. The post-hardcore band returned to Warped Tour to play all of Florida’s dates, of course blessing the entire state with their presence. It was a pretty satisfying set, even more so for fans of the band’s latest album, which strayed far from their original style. Sleeping With Sirens played four of their older songs, including their first huge hit, “If I’m James Dean, You’re Audrey Hepburn”.
Less Than Jake, who played right after Sleeping With Sirens, warranted more glory than any of the other bands that day – July 26th, 2014 at Warped West Palm Beach marked their 365th Warped show they ever played. The ska punk band rocketed t-shirts, balloons, and inflatable guitars off the stage, and they even brought out their blond-haired mascot. One of the members of the audience who so happened to catch an inflatable pink guitar was brought up on stage, and Less Than Jake invited him to air guitar for a whole song. Their whole set felt like a huge party, and people like to party.
Across the parking lot were Real Friends, one of pop punk’s most emo bands. With hard-hitting beats and a call for a circle pit, the band’s songs, both old and new, took the crowd on quite a ride. Plenty of short, fast songs carried all the vivacity that’s expected from Real Friends, but with “I’ve Given Up On You”, the crowd was almost in tears just before the end of the set.
Protomen played the stage next to Real Friends, right after their set finished. Protomen emerged in matching black formal outfits and silver face make-up. Besides resembling an Insane Clown Posse denomination, they also covered an Iron Maiden song. To reiterate: there was something for everyone at Warped Tour 2014.
We Are The In Crowd, yet another strong band on the tour in 2012, put on one of the most “hardcore” pop rock shows of the day. Guitarist Cameron Hurley and bassist Mike Ferri swung their guitars over their shoulders, and lead singer Tay Jardine climbed into the crowd towards the end of their set. They played songs both old and new, from “Never Be What You Want” on their first EP to “The Best Thing (That Never Happened)” on their latest full-length.
Back at the amphitheater, Parkway Drive, an Australian metalcore band over a decade strong, were laying down the law of metalcore sets at Warped. As the band headbanged in unison, crowd surfers sailed over the expanse of a full pit, and Parkway Drive seemed to have picked their heaviest and most well-known songs just for the tour.
The Story So Far, who played right after on the other side of the amphitheater stage, provided a refreshing change of pace with their pop punk. The shifting tempos of their songs allow breathing space for not only singer Parker Cannon, but also for the crowd, who were still bent on filling in Cannon’s missed lyrics. Cannon urged the crowd to go wild, however: “We don’t have that sign that says you can’t [mosh or crowd surf]… You won’t get kicked out.”
And at 8:15 on the dot, the amphitheater’s last act emerged onto the stage. Of Mice & Men, the scene kings of metalcore, opened their set with “Public Service Announcement”, one of their newer songs that sounds more nu metal- and hardcore-driven than anything else. Much like Parkway Drive, Of Mice & Men played a relentlessly heavy set, which was only broken by “Would You Still Be Here”, one of their later, slower songs. They closed with “The Depths”, which exclaims, “I just want you to jump with me!”
For the most part, Warped Tour 2014 was not built to please any single genre. More nostalgic bands like Saves The Day, Yellowcard, Four Year Strong, and Bayside proved that they were still ready to take on Warped, and younger acts like Air Dubai and Plague Vendor established themselves on the festival tour’s stages. Perhaps more than anything else, this year’s Warped Tour was meant to unite the old, new, and everything and everyone in between.