Warped Tour is a rite of passage — and not just for teenagers who attend but also for the scores of acts that play the summer festival each year. Though there's a lack of the kind of old-school punk acts that came of age with Warped — NOFX, Pennywise, Bad Religion — the tour is still a major platform for both established and up-and-coming rock, punk, and hip-hop acts. Kid Rock is a Warped veteran, as are Fall Out Boy, Paramore, Eminem, and Sugar Ray.
Vans Warped Tour
Credit tour founder Kevin Lyman for the festival's continued viability with 15- to 25-year-olds, which make up the majority of its audience. It's also remained affordable: Ticket prices are still south of $50, and attendees can bring a parent along for free (and drop them at the reverse day care). Though it seems like the day will go on forever, the event ends at 8:30 p.m. With more than 90 acts on the bill, it can be a little daunting to figure out which ones to check out. Here are some recommendations to help lead the way.
If it weren't for the British accent of Moose Blood singer/guitarist Eddy Brewerton, you'd never know these guys were from the United Kingdom, given their worship of late-'90s American-style emo acts like Jimmy Eat World and Brand New. Their 2014 debut, I'll Keep You in Mind, From Time to Time, rewinds the clock ten years to a time when muscular riffs mingled with delicate guitar passages and lyrics about being young and heartbroken or, conversely, head over heels in love, were de rigueur. "Do you want to come over late to my house and watch American Beauty in the dark," Brewerton sings on "Gum." "I'll hold your hand until the very end, and we'll stay up late until tomorrow starts." If lyrics like that make you nostalgic for 2002 or, perhaps, Deja Entendu, Moose Blood will delight.
Jewish rapper Kosha Dillz rhymes in English, Hebrew, and Spanish, often within the same song, segueing seamlessly from one to another like a multilingual Macklemore. He often combines humor with politics to biting effect. "We both like China when it's imported," he raps on "No War," a Diwon-produced track from last year. "We both been arrested and gotta do the court shit." Dillz is so dope, his website was hacked by ISIS — seriously. He's also a freestyling whiz, as he demonstrated at this year's SXSW. Just look for the guy in the yarmulke trying to rhyme something with "yarmulke."
Two guys and a girl from England called the Kenneths are on their first U.S. tour, serving up energetic, Clash-inspired punk rock — and boasting management from Mumford & Sons bassist Ted Dwayne.
New Jersey's Senses Fail deftly shifts between melodic emo tunes and hardcore fury with lyrics steeped in Buddhism that focus on openness, connection, and living healthy. It's a striking juxtaposition and one that's on full display on the band's sixth LP, Pull the Thorns From Your Heart, which arrives this week. You won't want to miss the band's new LP or the live set, fronted by bearded badass Buddy Nielsen, who has an excellent command of the stage as well as a remarkable collection of ugly Hawaiian shirts.
Pop singer Bebe Rexha may be a bit out of place on the guitar-heavy tour, but the Albanian-American's got cred. She was in a band with Pete Wentz (Black Cards), cowrote "The Monster" for Eminem and Rihanna, and sings the hook on Cash Cash's EDM hit "Take Me Home." Now the 25-year-old is going solo. If you need a respite from the day's testosterone, Rexha is your antidote. Her latest single, "I'm Gonna Show You Crazy," has a driving hook and personal lyrics that ought to resonate strongly with many of the tour's female attendees.
Canadians the Dirty Nil combine gritty garage rock with pop tendencies à la the Replacements. Call it sweaty hard rock for hard drinking.
Remember James Franco's grill-wearing, cornrow-having character Alien in the movie Spring Breakers? He was largely informed by Houston rapper Riff Raff, a low-brow performance artist whose star continues to rise. Rolling Stone called the lyrics from his debut LP, Neon Icon, "nonsense masquerading as new-age or dumb masquerading as self-aware." But he told TMZ he's recruited some big names for his next album. "Drake might come through," he said. "Wayne, Weezy. I already got Bieber on the album." Whether you think he's a joke or a genius, you won't want to miss his set, which includes a DJ, a live drummer, and probably lots of neon.
Christian act August Burns Red is one of the most furious bands on this year's Warped. Its seventh album, Found in Far Away Places, is out July 7; Alternative Press says the work helps the band members "further distinguish themselves from the metalcore pack."
Black Veil Brides are Mötley Crüe for millennials. They're from Hollywood, are heavily tattooed, enjoy hair spray and eyeliner, and have a singer with better looks than range. Though the Brides play a heavier brand of metal than the long-running '80s icons, the homage is undeniable, from stage attire to showmanship. Also like the Crüe, BVB is best enjoyed live, where the energetic live show can elevate the material.
If you need a break from some of the day's louder acts, stop by the Acoustic Basement Stage, which features Brian Marquis, whose debut album, Blood & Spirits, features the infectious "From Boston," which could be the best acoustic track Dropkick Murphys never wrote.
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!
This year's Warped welcomes both Miss May I and Memphis May Fire, two similarly named Warped vets who each released a well-reviewed album through Rise Records last year. You can count on both acts to deliver a set with pounding, thrashing guitar riffs and guttural vocals that wind their way to melodic choruses.
Girl-fronted pop-punk trio Candy Hearts will put a smile on your face and a bop in your head and promise to leave a chorus or two stuck in your craw.
Though Pierce the Veil took last year off from Warped to make album number four, the San Diego quartet released a new song from those sessions in advance of this year's tour. "The Divine Zero" is classic PTV: intricate guitar work, stop-start rhythms, and the urgent, high-register vocals of Vic Fuentes. Lest you think otherwise, band members keep things extreme in their hobbies as well. Guitarist Tony Perry was injured in a mountain-biking accident just days before the tour, suffering three broken ribs, a torn shoulder, a collapsed lung, and a broken sternum. The band will still appear but without Perry until he's well enough to return.
After a year away, Warped vets Blessthefall are back on the tour. The Arizona metalcore band will debut songs from its fourth LP, September's for Those Left Behind. "As a band, we are constantly trying to outdo ourselves and take a step forward with each record," says singer Beau Bokan. "We've taken a giant leap forward and are at our absolute best as musicians and songwriters." Pro tip: If you pre-order the album before the show, you can cut in line at the band's merch-tent signings, a staple of Warped Tour.