Words by Erin Mathis | Photos by Erin Mathis & Keeyahtay Lewis
2015 Vans Warped Tour at The PNC Bank Arts Center in Holmdel, NJ
For music fanatics like myself, summer means one thing: outdoor concerts. This year, like many years past, I attended the great traveling music festival that is Vans Warped Tour. I arrived on the scene a little before eleven in the morning, stepped out of my car, and immediately knew, that it was going to be a long day. The sun was hot, the humidity was high, and the wind was nonexistent. I pressed on, got through the day without fainting, and left the festival feeling as though it was entirely worth suffering through.
First, a note on “staying cool.” In recent years, Warped Tour has done a wonderful job at keeping concertgoers hydrated. Cool Gear International has “Hydration Stations” which allow thirsty guests to waltz on up to a spray nozzle and fill their water bottle for free. In addition, there was a massive inflatable Slip ‘N Slide which many excited teens took full advantage of. Finally, there were a few “misting stations,” or tents with misters, that overheated attendees could stand under to cool off. I commend Warped Tour organizers for putting the safety of their guests first, since the likelihood of heat exhaustion at summer concerts is tremendously high.
The first performance that I checked out was SayWeCanFly in the acoustic basement tent. He’s an artist who rose to fame through his YouTube channel, and is continuously gaining new fans. It was wonderful to see that his tent was overflowing with people (most of whom were swooning teenage girls), and that he is really out-growing the space provided for him at Warped. In fact, he recently signed with Epitaph Records, so here’s to hoping that next year they’ll give him a stage.
Afterward, I grabbed some over-priced food ($10.50 for three chicken fingers and some fries, really?) and made my way over to the Monster Stage, where one of my absolute favorite bands, Escape the Fate, was playing. The crowd was massive, and partook in the traditional “choose your fate” chant to welcome the band on stage. They played a seven song set, opening up with the high energy track “Ungrateful”, and busting out a new song called “Just a Memory” which had a significantly harder sound than their usual songs, but was received positively by the audience. Other notable songs included “Gorgeous Nightmare” which was, as Craig Mabbitt stated: “A shout out to all the sexy ladies”, and their closing song “This War is Ours (Guillotine II)” to which Mabbit jumped off stage and crowd surfed, or more like swam, to. Seriously, he propelled himself forward with his arms, it was insane. I’m sure it can be found somewhere on YouTube after a quick keyword search.
After the sweaty crowd cleared out, I refilled my water bottle and moseyed on over to the Ernie Ball stage, which featured local bands that earned their spot through a Battle of the Bands competition. Pop-punk band Trophy Wives played to a humble, but supportive crowd crowd. They had young faces, and eager and enthusiastic personalities that made for an entertaining set. Their synchronized posi jumps made me smile, and their cover of Bruno Mars’ “Runaway Baby” had the whole crowd singing along. Another standout from this stage was the post-hardcore band Youth in Revolt, who I believe drew in the largest Ernie Ball crowd of the day. Lead singer True Arahill’s vocals were on point, and the set was heavy enough to encourage quite a few fans to form a pit to satisfy their fist-swinging urges.
Speaking of post-hardcore, the band that I was most excited to see was Pierce the Veil. They played for a gigantic crowd from which many heat-exhausted, t-shirt soaked fans escaped. The songs were of course all the crowd-favorites, including “Caraphernelia”, “Bulletproof Love”, and “King for a Day”. The stage featured confetti cannons and smoke jets, which prompted fans to go wild with shouts of excitement.
This year, there were a few bands with a ton of buzz surrounding them. First up: Citizen, who is riding a strong and powerful wave off their recent album, Everybody Is Going To Heaven. Their set was amazing, beginning with “Sleep”, closing with “Speaking with a Ghost”, and featuring “Cement”, which is off the new album. Unfortunately, they performed in the amphitheater, where many amped up fans were unable to fully “express” themselves amongst the clutter of hundreds of plastic fold down seats.
Next up: PVRIS (who pronounce their name “Paris,” btw). It was their first year on Warped and wow, did they draw in a crowd. Teens, adults, boys, and girls—the audience was impressively diverse to say the least. When it comes to lead singer Lyndsey Gunnulfsen (what a fun name), you either want to be her, or be with her. Her lyrics are fresh and potent, and her performance on the Unicorn stage was beyond powerful. She poured herself into the crowd, keeping the energy high despite the drowsy effects of the setting sun. They played popular tracks like “Holy” and “St. Patrick”, and finished on a “heck-yeah” note with “My House”. They happen to be my current obsession, and I was beyond grateful to get the chance to see them live.
Finally, I was impressed at the diversity of all the artists on the bill. In recent years Warped Tour has really branched out genre-wise to include artists of EDM and hip-hop. This year included a bit of indie flavor with bands like Night Riots, who played a passionate set under the pavilion, and had everyone singing along to their popular song “Contagious.”
And of course I can’t get away without mentioning the headliner: Simple Plan. Honestly, I was a bit disappointed and confused with the choice to make them the headliner. Of course, they’re well-known, but how many people, when asked who their favorite band is, reply with: “Simple Plan”? They played late in the day, to an obnoxiously large crowd, and I didn’t care enough to stick around and listen to songs off my first generation iPod.
Overall, despite the sweat and press room confusion, the day was a great success. The bands played their hearts out, the fans were appreciative, and my shoulders were severely sunburned. Can’t wait for next year.