The car next to us is packed with five shirtless guys shredding air guitars and enthusiastically drumming on their dashboard to Simple Plan. Typical drivers would roll up their windows and avoid eye contact, but we turn up The Dangerous Summer and rock out alongside them in our Volvo. Today is Friday, July 1st, and music lovers are flocking to Warped Tour’s Pomona stop, eager to hear their favorite bands and wander the fairgrounds in search of new music, free stuff, and fellow fans.
Attendees of Warped Tour usually have one or more of the following: tattoos, piercings, colored hair, gauged ears, or Converse sneakers. Normally frowned upon by mainstream society, these “punk rock” characteristics are not only welcomed at Warped Tour but encouraged. Less Than Jake even pulled a twelve-year-old boy onstage during their set to shave his Justin Bieberesque locks into a bonafide punk rock mohawk. But we’ll get to the legendary ska/punk band’s set in due time…
12PM: The temperature has already reached ninety degrees as we enter the Pomona Fairplex, where the festival has unfolded into a sprawling layout of eight stages, dozens of tents, and over sixteen thousand fans, according to Warped Tour officials.
The day’s first bands take their respective stages as we explore the non-music elements of Warped Tour, including an inflatable slip and slide, a zip line, and a half pipe.
It makes sense that Vans, a major skateboarding clothing company, brings a half pipe to Warped every year for skateboard enthusiasts. This year’s ramp is found next to the Teggart main stage, and several young skateboarders are taking a swing at it. Skateboarder Shane Allison says, “It’s all about having fun out here. You bring your own board, and they let you skate. It’s awesome skateboarding next to your favorite band.”
Since its launch in 1995, the Vans Warped Tour has been showcasing both legendary and brand-new bands of all genres. Originally, the festival was synonymous with the punk/alternative music and lifestyle, but it has developed into a musical vacation spot for lovers of not only punk, but hip-hop, metal, indie, and electronic music as well. Here all music fans have the opportunity to be represented, whether it is onstage, in a booth, or just as they roam the grounds. There was so much to see that we (LAMB writers Kendra Vaughan and Mary Bonney) had to split up to cover even a fraction.
1PM: (Mary) Kicking off my Warped Tour experience, Hellogoodbye starts their set with the sugary, up-tempo “Finding Something To Do” off their latest album, Would It Kill You? Lead singer Forrest Kline swings the guitar and encourages the crowd to clap along as Andrew Richard first shakes a tambourine and then brings out an electric ukulele. When the band launches into their most recognizable, dance-inducing song “Shimmy Shimmy Quarter Turn,” the crowd goes wild. For the rest of the set, the audience dances along with Hellogoodbye and their energetic, super poppy synth music.
2PM: (Mary) A Day To Remember draws a huge crowd at the Teggart Main Stage, and as the band comes barreling out with the intense “I’m Made Of Wax Larry, What Are You Made Of,” you can hear fans scream-singing, “Don’t blink, they won’t even miss you at all!” Jeremy McKinnon runs across the stage, points at crowd members, and fervently pumps his fist in the air. Mosh pits pop up during the set as the group performs more high-energy songs off their newest release, including “All I Want,” “2nd Sucks,” and “All Signs Point to Lauderdale.” A Day To Remember’s unique blend of hardcore and pop punk leaves the crowd bruised, battered, and begging for more.
2:30PM: (Kendra) Unwritten Law was my first stage stop of the day. These fellas are no strangers to Warped and landed on the 2011 tour to promote their new album, Swan. Their set list stuck to their hits, though, pleasing the crowd with “Seein’ Red” and “Up All Night,” two of their biggest radio successes. After flipping a finger to the sun, lead singer Scott Russo launched the band into another string of mosh-inducing songs, rallying the crowd against the heat. These alt-punk legends were a great way to start out a day of new experiences.
3PM: (Mary) Although Relient K has over eight albums’ worth of songs, they wisely choose to perform crowd favorites such as “Who I Am Hates Who I’ve Been” and “Be My Escape.” The band even throws in a couple of cover songs, asking if there are “any girls out here who like to have fun” before covering Cyndi Lauper’s “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” and “Crazy” by Gnarls Barkley. It feels less like a set from a band trying to promote their new album and more like a short concert by Warped Tour veterans just having a good time.
Shade is hard to find at the Pomona Fairplex, and fans huddle under unoccupied tents and in the shadows of palm trees. Heat exhaustion, one of the few but major downsides of Warped Tour, begins to kick in for Kendra, and we go on a hunt for the Klean Kanteen hydration counters. The California-based company produces a line of reusable steel canteens and joined this year’s tour to provide free water for overheated fans.
Jasmine McAfee, “We have hydration stations set up at our booths for fans to fill up for free. It seemed like such a great idea I’m surprised it hasn’t been here before. Personally, for me, it’s great being able to help kids be hydrated all day. Kids come with a set amount of money for the day, and they choose to spend it on merchandise or food. People look at us when they’re filling up and say ‘Thank you,’ so we know they’re appreciating it, which is awesome.”
4PM: (Kendra) I knew I wouldn’t want to miss the Bots’ performance after I talked to the band members in the press area. At eighteen and fourteen years old, Mikaiah and Anaiah Lei are the tour’s youngest ever participants. Now touring for the second time with Warped, the duo is setting a great example for bands that may have lost sight of punk’s original sound. With just a guitar and a drum kit, these brothers produce a sound much bigger than the stage they were on, bringing to mind the music of Minor Threat and Black Flag.
Since the Bots are still fairly unknown, the crowd was small and movement was scarce, but that wasn’t going to deter Mikaiah from having a full-on punk show. After encouraging his brother to continue his drumming, Mikaiah dropped his guitar and leapt into the crowd, pulling teenage boys into a circle mosh pit and joining them in running a few rounds before leaping back onto the stage and laying into his guitar like he was mad at it. The back-and-forth banter between the brothers reminds you that these kids are doing this for their love of music and the fun it allows them to have. Don’t be fooled by their angelic, youthful appearance, though; their sound could have easily fit in with the 1970s London underground scene.
5PM: (Mary) Compared to the draw of other acts that performed on the Ernie Ball Stage, There For Tomorrow’s crowd is a bit smaller, but they made up for size with enthusiasm. Devoted, predominately female fans scream back at the band with the lyrics of “A Little Faster,” the breakout track from their 2009 release. The group then passionately performs songs from their recently released album, The Verge, as guitarist Christian Climer oscillates between powerfully shredding his instrument and flashing a killer smile at girls in the audience. As singer Maika Maile wails into the microphone for the anthem-filling choruses, someone brings the There For Tomorrow tent’s flag into the pit and proudly waves it. Maile notices, raises his arms towards the fans, and motions them to sing along with their cover of The Foo Fighter’s “All My Life.”
5:30PM: (Mary) Jordan Witzigreuter, better known as The Ready Set, draws a large audience, thanks in part to Pete Wentz and MTV, who took this electronic pop musician under their wing. While The Ready Set consists solely of Witzigreuter, he explained in our interview that touring with a full band allows his set to have more of a “rock show” feel.
The set opens with The Ready Set’s touring guitarist Deryck Stanek beating a large, clear floor tom filled with gold glitter in time with the thumping intro music. Witzigreuter runs on stage and begins “Young Forever” as girls explode into screams for the J-14 pinup-worthy singer. His voice is flawless as he runs from side to side, encouraging the audience to clap along and barely pausing between up-tempo tracks “Limits” and “More Than Alive.” He ends with the smash-hit, crowd sing-a-long “Love Like Woe,” which has seen major radio play and MTV coverage this past year.
As we wander from stage to stage, we notice more and more music fans covered in brightly colored body paint. Peace signs, hearts, and music notes are scribbled onto stomachs and rainbow handprints are slapped across legs. The paint traces back to Canvas, a Florida-based non-profit dedicated to keeping art in schools, which was accepting donations in exchange for neon paint.
Other charitable organizations’ tents could be found throughout the festival, proving that punk kids care too. Non-profits present at Warped include To Write Love On Her Arms, Music Saves Lies, peta2, Invisible Children, and the Keep A Breast Foundation.
Jessica Rainer works with the Keep A Breast campaign, which is on the entire Warped Tour this year and is the organization responsible for the attention-grabbing “I Love Boobies” bracelets.
“The ‘I Love Boobies’ bracelets are four dollars. We know that ‘I Love Boobies’ is an eye-catcher, which we think is a good thing,” Rainer explains. “Even if some kids wear them, it’s a conversation starter. It’s just a good way to kick off a conversation.”
5:30PM: (Kendra) There are almost no words to accurately describe the intense live show that Foxy Shazam provides. Newcomers to Warped Tour, the band was going to make sure this tour would not be their last. Lead singer Eric Nally and trumpet player Alex Nauth open the set a cappella before bringing on the rest of the band. Eric prances, rolls, and jumps across the stage like Mick Jagger after a few hits of speed and some gymnastics lessons. Not to be outdone, keyboardist Sky White, in a role that is generally fairly stationery, leaps on top of his keyboard, pounding one end with his foot and playing the other end quite wonderfully along with the music.
Guitarist Loren Turner thrashes his curly mane in time with Aaron McVeigh’s drums, while bassist Daisy balances his bass upside down with one hand. Alex joins in on the fun and decides to play his trumpet while in a full backbend. Still, Foxy’s theatrics come in at a close second to their unique sound, which has been compared to that of Queen, My Chemical Romance, and The Darkness. As a new fan to this band, I can say this group of crazy fellows is beginning their own genre of music and cannot truly be compared to any existing band. Foxy Shazam is one group to keep an eye and ear on. Did I mention that Eric fell from the stage’s rafters the previous day, resulting in a sprained ankle?
6PM: (Kendra) For a band that’s been around nearly twice as long as Warped Tour, the Florida-based gents in Less Than Jake haven’t lost any steam. The band opens with their smash underground hit “Johnny Quest Thinks We’re Sellouts” and keeps the energy high for the duration of their thirty-minute set. After performing their own renditions of the Animaniacs and Spongebob Squarepants theme songs, the legendary ska five-piece encourages the crowd to start a giant circle pit around two tents, and we happily oblige, darting around the area in a sort of ska-punk running of the bulls, kicking up dust and slamming into each other while guitars and trumpets sound behind us. Less Than Jake definitely put on one of the most high-energy shows of the day.
6PM: (Mary) The Wonder Years’ intense live show and devout fan base prove why this South Philly pop punk band is one of the major up-and-coming bands on Warped Tour. Lead vocalist Dan “Soupy” Campbell told me during our interview that the band performs so intensely they often vomit, and today, it shows. Because the set is only half an hour, the band knows they can perform as hard as they want without feeling ill. Campbell jumps into the air, runs across the stage, and crawls into the audience so fans can sing the celebrated lyrics, “I’m not sad anymore!” As the largest number of crowd-sufers I’ve seen all day stretch out their arms and scream the lyrics back to the band, it’s clear The Wonder Years’ positive pop punk music has struck a chord with fans.
8PM: We reunite for 3OH!3, the high-energy electro-pop duo comprised of Sean Foreman and Nathaniel Motte. Unquestionably the most commercially successful band on this year’s roster, they close the festival by announcing to the largest crowd of the day, “The sun is down and so we’re going to have a dance party!” The pair informs the audience that, “if you’re as hot as I am, you should take off your clothes!” which is met with ear-piercing screams. Only dance-inducing super pop and the fan-driven atmosphere of Warped Tour can turn these last-boys-picked-for-dodgeball-teams into heartthrobs. As the team dry humps the air during their wildly popular single “First Kiss,” the audience continues to throw up their 3OH3! gang signs and loudly sing along. 3OH!3 closes Warped Tour with hits “Starstruckk” and “Don’t Trust Me,” ending the festival on a dizzying high note.
We drive home sun burnt, caked in dust and dirt, reminiscing about the crowd surfers that crushed us and the music that pumped us up. Our wallets are empty, but we’re full of new memories of our favorite bands. To quote The Wonder Years, “We’re this generation’s Outsiders.” Warped Tour is the highlight of the summer for musical outsiders. It provides a music-fueled, accepting atmosphere for the passionate punk rockers of the world. This year’s Warped Tour brought together all kinds of alternative music fans who longed to hear “their” music and relate to other fans and the bands they love.
If SoCal punk rockers missed this year’s Pomona stop, Warped Tour will return to San Diego on August 9th and Carson on August 10th.