Usually for those hitting up the Warped Tour bright and early in the midday, you don't have to sit in a long line of traffic. Not this year. Traffic for the Summer Adventures at Fair Park bled into the traffic going to Gexa, so a usual short drive turned into almost a half-hour. I missed Mixtapes, a promising young band from Ohio, play the Kevin Says stage.
Planning a day at a festival in 103 degree heat takes some picking and choosing. Motion City Soundtrack? Hell yes. Forever Came Calling? Sure. Acoustic Basement tent? That's a great respite from the heat, metallic guitars, and double-bass beats. There were hours between my must-see acts, so to soak everything else in, I rarely stayed in one place for an extended period of time.
And oh the sights of Warped Tour. There was the Truth dance contest, which is always a hit with teenagers, along with a small group of Hare Krishnas wanting to talk to impressionable youth and maybe sell a book or two. In fact, as far as ambiance goes, the only really noticeable difference this year was the frequent use of hashtags on T-shirts, banners, and even a stage's name. Ah, marketing for the Now! generation, all in hopes of showing some kind of attention to a brand name, no matter how short the amount of attention given.
But enough about the 360-degree marketing. There was music to be heard!
The first band that caught my ear that I wasn't familiar with was Stick to Your Guns. Ending their set on the DOMO stage with a tune that sounded like Thursday, I wanted to hear more. Mere seconds later, Hawthorne Heights started playing the Tilly's stage, which was right next to the DOMO stage. I've never cared for this band's music back when they were on Victory Records -- I found their music strictly for those who have yet to graduate high school. With what I heard from them as a now-independent band wasn't much different
Venturing out to one of the large stages, I caught a little of Upon a Burning Body. Though their sound fit the metalcore formula of chugga-chugga guitars, punishing vocals, and pummeling beats, the five-piece was dressed sharply in dark gray suits. They even did a demonic take on "Deep in the Heart of Texas."
To kill some time, I hit up the Lone Star Percussion tent for a drum lesson. Since my last proper drum lesson was at last year's Warped with these guys, I hoped a year of practicing had improved my basics. I came away thinking I should take more than one lesson a year if I ever want to be friends with a metronome.
Motion City Soundtrack began as I did some paradiddles on a practice pad, but they were in a close earshot. They sounded crystal clear with their extremely enjoyable mix of The Cars and The Get Up Kids. Showcasing some new material from their forthcoming album as well as playing classics like "Everything Is Alright," the band is still vital as ever.
An hour later, on the same stage, a massive crowd gathered for Chiodos. When the six-piece played Warped a few years ago, it was one of biggest draws of the day. The same happened again this year, as the band continues to fill a void for those who can't entirely embrace Killswitch Engage or Lamb of God and miss Underoath. Frontman Craig Owens might alternate between singing like a toddler melting down in a Walmart checkout lane or like he's holding his testicles for dear life, but that doesn't stop people from worshiping the ground he and his band walk on.
About a hundred yards away, William Beckett played the Acoustic Basement tent. When he fronted The Academy Is . . ., he and his band sounded and looked like Taking Back Sunday's little brothers. Now as a solo act with a bandanna, sunglasses, and tight-fitting clothes, and the comparisons to TBS's Adam Lazzara continue.
Many acts noted how there were only a couple of days left for the Warped Tour. Dallas has usually been at the beginning of the tour's run in years past, but surprisingly, the acts all seemed intact and in good shape. Some of the bands were that way because they were only playing the Texas dates, like Bowling for Soup. David Hale, manager for the band, joked, "We're older than everybody else. We're in worse shape!"
The afternoon slowly moved along as the temperature rose. It was a good time to sit and relax in the shade watching the DOMO and Tilly's stages. Boy bands with guitars (Allstar Weekend, Action Item), elder statesmen (The Early November), and younger acts (For The Foxes, New Year's Day) were tolerable and gave me enough strength back to finish the day.
Trekking over to the Kia stages, it was hard to tell the difference between people walking around stages and those in line for an autograph and picture with a band. There was a tent for people who wanted to pay good money for a drum lesson or a songwriting lesson from some of the bands on the tour.
Hometown favorites Bowling for Soup played to a large and happy crowd with plenty of their best-known songs and sophomoric humor.
The sun started setting as some of the best surprises of the day played the Kevin Says stage. Heritage, extremely bland name aside, played an energetic blend of reggae, rock, and world music. Pot wasn't necessary to enjoy this, but many tokes were taken during their set. Forever Came Calling, the underdogs featured in the Warped Tour documentary No Room for Rockstars, proved they should play larger stages. The four-piece played a kind of SoCal pop-punk that has been done right in a few decades.
Nearby, Charlie Simpson wound down the Acoustic Basement set with a very charming set, accompanied by a harmonica player. Proving there is much more to life than playing in a British Blink-182 knockoff (Hey, anybody remember Busted?), Simpson displayed maturity and restraint with his tunes. Younger singer/songwriters, take note of this guy.
Silverstein and The Wonder Years played very satisfying sets as the sun continued to fall. Silverstein might still play in the boundaries of their early influences like The Get Up Kids and Grade, but damn, they were able to do something most of the other heavier acts can't: carry a melodic tune that felt sincere in between moments of detuned rampage. And The Wonder Years packed a good punch of emo-tinged punk as tents were broken down and small amounts of sunburned and dehydrated people left the venue.
Important merch question: If you bought a vinyl LP from a band and carried it around with you, did it warp because of the heat?
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Frequently-seen T-shirt purchased at the show: A variety of colors with the phrase Keep Calm and Get Naked.
Oddest tattoo spotted: A headshot of Ron Burgandy on a woman's left arm.