So on a frosty Saturday morning, I don my American Football shirt, put my tunnels in and get ready to enter the Warped Tour spirit.
A weekend of two stepping, skating and playing ‘spot the metalcore frontman cliché’, all taking place in the stunning Alexandra Palace, all the while resisting the urge to pull up most of the clientele’s trousers that are being failed by their studded belts.
Walking through those massive doors I immediately see the vert pipe emblazoned with the Vans logo, just in case you forgot who was in charge.
Throughout the day young talent is on display and whenever you need a break from the bands you can watch a mix of boarders and BMXers (didn’t laugh at them failing at all, not at all, not even once I promise). Next to the skaters, Neckdeep are already getting an eager Jagermeister stage going, which means crowd surfing breaking out at two in the afternoon.
The area is populated by bobble beanies, a sea of rainbow hair colours and under-agers, I already feel old, but it also means there is no queue for the bar! Warped Tour is a whirlwind of bands. Stage times go up when the doors open and a crowd is staring at the inflatable board trying to pick out who they want to see.
This and the dual main stage set-up means constant bands to see, which also means bands to miss, so we get going.
First up are Crossfaith, appearing on the main stage to the Space Odyssey Theme fist pumping and spraying water. It’s a confident start from the band who last year filled the Kevin Says stage to capacity. Launching into ‘We Are The Future’, the outpouring of energy is incredible and the crowd returns it two-fold, Crossfaith are proving why they deserve to be on the main stage. It’s only three in the afternoon and the huge crowd they’ve attracted has already seen casualties, pits and a massive wall of death.
Dropping into ‘Jagerbomb’ the crowd are singing and dancing along, they deliver as a festival main stage band and create an early afternoon rave in Alexandra Palace- F*ck yes, where are my glowsticks?
Two beats after Crossfaith finish The Wonder Years launch into their pop punk on the East Main stage, an older crowd moving it’s hands in the air and nodding along. While they can’t match the previous energy, frontman Campbell is pulling out the stage moves of a seasoned pro and finishing with ‘Came Out Swinging’ the crowd is singing along.
Next on main stage are We Came As Romans whose dual vocalists rush to the front of stage with attacking verve. These guys mean business, moving between melodic and filthy breakdowns, the bass shaking through the main hall for the first time. While the clean vocals were a little weak, the screams are great and the band is exceedingly tight. Playing ‘Fade Away’ and a cover of The Wanted, they have the crowd’s attention in full and are continuing the party atmosphere.
I head to the small Kevin Says stage, which in the basement with low lighting and side bar has the feel of a pub back room. Dutch Metalcore band The Charm, The Fury are playing their second London gig after supporting Heart of A Coward earlier in the week.
There is a crowd gathering and pitting breaking out, to the point security (albeit a bit heavy handed) step in. It’s well deserved, singer Caroline is working the crowd, her friendly interaction and the enjoyment they have as a band performing together is evident. Her gorgeous clean vocals and powerful low roar complementing the melodic hardcore style of the band.
Check The Charm, The Fury out while you can, they were one of the highlights of the festival for me and won’t be doing small shows for long.
After a turbulent few years Chiodos are back on the main stage, singer Owen return to the mic, and new lead guitarist Erak means they had something to prove. They say their new album is going to have more of a soundtrack feel and they tried to show this- sadly it fell flat to a dead crowd.
Owen screaming “Wake the f*ck up!”, crowd walking and keyboardist Bell jumping around worked to get the crowd moving (long haired, bearded hype man works for me, nom), dropping into the familiar breakdowns the crowd responds. This is a hardcore crowd and they know what they want.
‘No Penguins in Alaska’ gives Erak a chance to show his chops, a lot. To the point it slows the pace totally. He is a fantastic guitarist, but this and the long gaps between songs lose the crowd again. All in all a disappointing show. Luckily Chiodos failing to grab my attention for more than half a set means we head down to check the Kevin Says stage again where a queue has formed outside, The Dirty Heads have filled the small stage to capacity.
Inside, the atmosphere is chilled and everyone has a drink in hand, which makes for a welcome break in the manic world of Warped Tour. Playmates with Rome Rodriguez, you can see the Sublime influence in the stabbing ska rhythms and fast vocals; however The Dirty Heads impart their own distinct style. Gorgeous soft natural singing, with modern rap parts intertwined with classic harsh reggae vocals- Dirty J has an amazing range and is a charismatic frontman with a chilled vibe that marks him out from the rest so far today.
Seamlessly moving between fast reggae breakdowns and soft ska beats, they are effortlessly on point and the whole crowd is dancing along. ‘Lay me Down’ being a particular highlight, with an old fashioned call and response, this band who have already broken America, can easily take the UK.
We stay downstairs to check Peterborough’s We Are Fiction, who released their debut album ‘One For Sorrow’ the previous night. Sound issues plagued the start of the set, the band looking slightly uncomfortable on stage, luckily issues were sorted and they settle into producing a solid performance. Bringing out rapper friend Xidus Pain and a small crowd of fans, the set took a weird turn and by that I mean finishing with a semi power ballad and the crowd hugging.
We leave the dark basement hippie love-in and head back to the main hall, where Billy Talent are drunkenly entertaining an enthusiastic crowd. I still don’t get the appeal, but can’t deny “You’re Much Better Looking When You’re In Disguise” is a catchy lyric and being sung back with vigour.
For the first time there was a festival buzz of excitement in the crowd for Parkway Drive, eager voices chanting their name as the lights dim and the hall fills up. I’ll admit I was not a fan of Parkway Drive, but they do deliver a quality performance. Light beams and ticker tape aplenty, they sound as tight as a scene kids skinny jeans. The crowd go mental, knowing what to expect and this is shown by the call from stage to “start a circle pit”- I find myself on the edge of a five hundred-man circle pit in Alexandra Palace, which is f*cking surreal. Sing along fan favourites such as Home is for the Heartless and McCall playing up to the crowd, I’ve never seen so many teenagers fit along in time to a band. However, I have to admit I am impressed and the end of Carrion sees me a convert to the metalcore side.
We decide to leave Rise Against for their second headline slot tomorrow and go back to the Jagermeister stage for Sublime With Rome. Now I know it’s not technically Sublime and there is only one member left from the original writers, but my inner fourteen year old is ready to fan girl out.
Rome Rodriguez struts out on stage and proves he is more than able to fill some very large shoes. Opening with a blistering version of Date Rape, a sparse crowd was soon populated by skanking and singing along. Rocketing through Sublime classics, Sublime with Rome originals and a bloody brilliant cover of Nirvana’s Drain You – I defy anyone not to have a smile on their face during this set.
Rodriguez, lit roll-up in mouth and shredding his guitar was – and there’s no other way to put it – just cool. Finishing with What I Got and mild guitar destruction is an awesome end to the first day at Vans Warped.