Since its creation in 1994, the Vans Warped Tour has proven to be one of the most consistently successful annual traveling festivals in all of rock.
As much as Warped has acted as a showcase for up-and-coming bands and a home-away-from-home for aging, fully tenured punk-rock icons, it has also offered fans considerable bang for their considerably dwindling entertainment bucks.
Warped packs as many as 100 bands onto its several stages across the span of some 12 hours at each stop on its annual summer run. For a reasonable ticket price – under $50 for a general admission all-day pass, when Warped stops at the Darien Lake Performing Arts Center on Saturday – the Warped attendee can roam the grounds, taking in a steady rotation of bands spread across the festival. Don’t like what you’re hearing on one stage? Walk a few hundred feet to the next one, and perhaps it will suit you better.
On occasion, however, Warped can feel a bit overwhelming. With so many bands performing on so many stages, the Warped attendee needs to maintain something resembling organization and efficiency. That means staying well-hydrated throughout the long ordeal, particularly if you’re spending hour after hour in the direct sunlight – something that’s inevitable, unless you stick to the two stages located within the covered main amphitheater area, in which case, you’re going to miss an awful lot of great stuff. It also means getting your hands on a schedule and plotting the course of your adventure – never too tough to pull off at Warped, since organizers always make schedules available to attendees, and surprise they generally stick to those schedules!
Warped started life as a punk-rock festival, and to a certain degree, it remains one today. Many acts who have made Warped part of their yearly itinerary are back on board this year, and their inclusion in the roster lends an air of authenticity to the experience, as if to suggest that Warped has stayed true to its original modus operandi.
That said, Warped is also all about giving new bands an opportunity to strut their stuff in front of a large and generally very attentive crowd. For many artists, Warped can represent a real career breakthrough if not a direct launching pad to bigger and better things, then at least a step down the path toward broader success.
Bearing this in mind, I’ve gone through the roster of bands slated to play the Darien Lake stop on Saturday – more than 90 of them! – and separated out all of the acts making their debut as a Warped Tour member. Of those Warped “virgins,” I’ve narrowed things down to the artists I think are most likely to make a major impact at Saturday’s show.
Here, then, are the Warped Tour first-timers you don’t want to miss Saturday.
This UK foursome has been turning heads across the pond over the past few years. Alvarez Kings have described their sound as “progressive pop,” which makes sense. There is indeed a nod to the garage rock of bands like Jet and the Blue Van in the band’s mix, but so, too, do sophisticated and angular guitar lines make their presence felt. And the full-throated vocals and reach-for-the-sky choruses suggest a debt to the best efforts of the Jam. Of this year’s Warped first-timers, Alvarez Kings make the top of the must-see list.
Quite likely the band on this year’s Warped Tour with the lowest median age, Los Angeles alt-pop quartet Echosmith is composed of siblings Graham, Sydney, Noah and Jamie Sierota. The Sierotas range in age from 14 to 20, but already, the group’s blend of straight pop and mild electronic elements has earned the Sierotas a deal with Warner Bros. Kids who love Owl City and Neon Trees will eat this stuff up at Warped.
One of the leading lights on the contemporary British metalcore scene, Architects make their Warped debut with a sound that has evolved from hardcore, thrash-infused beginnings into a much more grandiose, melody-conscious, light/shade dynamic. A new twist on a tried and true formula for heaviness.
Grant Harris, aka GOLDHOUSE, is a U.S. DJ and remix engineer who has been building a considerable buzz through live appearances and the underground success of last year’s “The Morning After” mixtape release. This may well be remembered as the year when Warped fully embraced electronic dance music, and GOLDHOUSE is one of the more cutting-edge artists in the genre.
Billy the Kid
Billy is a she, in fact, and not so much of an outlaw. Billy Pettinger is a Canadian singer-songwriter, whose debut effort, “The Lost Cause,” was produced by Raine Maida of Our Lady Peace. Pettinger’s music boasts a lovely high-lonesome lilt that suggests a feminine perspective on Ryan Adams’ blend of country, pop, rock and folk. “Stars Exploding,” her just-released new collection, ably marries the sweetness of the Kid’s melodies with a tougher urban perspective.
Lionz of Zion
My pick for the sleeper hit of this year’s Warped extravaganza, Greenville, S.C.’s Lionz of Zion blends reggae, funk, soul and good old rock music into an infectious, groove-centric whole. Live videos on YouTube suggest that this is a band for whom uber-tight ensemble performance is a paramount concern. There’s something delightfully subversive about a jam band infiltrating a punk festival, too.
Fronted by the aggressively lovely Anna Worstell, this Nashville-born band marries electronic dance music to real-time band performances. The group’s bio claims that the Five Knives sound is “best described as a blend of M.I.A. and Nine Inch Nails,” and that’s pretty much on the money. Five Knives are dragging ’80s synth music and ’90s industrial kicking and screaming into the present day.
Already a huge star in her native New Zealand, Wigmore is eyeing a multinational takeover, and this year’s Warped Tour is a smart place for the launching of that offensive. Her multi-idiomatic sound boasts elements of pop, rock, folk, alternative and more traditional singer-songwriter fare, and her startling good looks aren’t likely to halt Wigmore’s ascent. A definite “don’t miss” for this year’s Warped.
Art of Shock
The hard rock/glam boogie/metal hybrid that owned the Sunset Strip in California at the tail end of the 1980s and into the early ’90s stubbornly refuses to die. Art of Shock is the latest in a long line of gritty hard rock bands to emerge from a generation that was busy being born while Guns ‘N Roses released “Appetite for Destruction.” This three-piece blends a power trio’s tenacity with the sleazy funk of the Hollywood night life.
All of these acts have played Warped tours past, most of them no strangers to fans who have attended the tour’s stops at Darien Lake over the years. Each of them is worth catching again.
Alternative pop with a slightly dark and menacing underside.
I scream, you scream, we all scream for Screamo.
The goofiest hip-hop/EDM duo this side of LMFAO returns for further hijinks.
Reel Big Fish
A Warped Tour without ska-punk would not be a Warped Tour at all.
Big D and the Kids Table
This punk/hip-hop/ska hybrid always delivers the goods at Warped.
Black Veil Brides
You think you’re hot out there in front of the stage? Try dressing head-to-toe in black goth clothing and guyliner, with tons of hairspray in your ’do. This band of metallic gender-benders always kicks up a ruckus at Warped.