The 20th annual Vans Warped Tour is back this year and the daylong, traveling festival will look the same in many ways. It will again be at Darien Lake – this year on Tuesday – and feature more than 100 bands both new and old. But Warped Tour has seen many changes through the years, mostly in the kind of music it offers audiences. While a lot of hardcore music and old-time favorites like Yellowcard will be there, many bloggers and Internet voices lament that the music has drifted far from the original punk roots of Warped Tour.
The festival is still a place for young, up-and-coming acts to display their talents. Now, however, there is increased variety in the musical styles, with more bands that fall outside the stereotype of spiked mohawks and tight black pants.
And maybe this is not such a bad thing for concertgoers who have grown up with – and maybe out of – the Warped Tour.
Then, something wonderful happened. My family moved to California, the place it seemed all of these bands intimately knew. (Yellowcard’s “Ocean Avenue” comes easily to mind.) Not long after, though, I discovered non-angsty music and grew out of that phase in my life as most kids from 2004 did.
One such act is Watsky, who I actually discovered, if you can call it that, just as I was discarding my checkered slip-on Vans and studded Hot Topic belts. He went to my small high school in San Francisco. He was the much older, cooler class president who performed at assemblies.
Warped Tour still displays the newest punk and hardcore rock. However, for those of us who have moved past that phase in our lives, there are other bands and styles of music to explore and enjoy. Watsky is one that you should check out. His music is somewhere between poetry, rap and hip-hop. His lyrics are smart, yet relatable and sometimes subversive.
I had forgotten about Watsky until last summer, when I saw him in what I considered to be the most unlikely of places: the Ottawa Bluesfest. His stage presence is energetic, and he plays well on the likable dork stereotype. I definitely will be at his show on Tuesday and that’s not just because of an old, schoolgirl crush.
Here are other non-punk/hardcore bands to see:
Formed in 2007, this pop/R&B/soul group hails from Boston and is an upbeat band with music good for dancing. The five members form a multicultural group with a sound reminiscent of Outkast’s more poppy numbers.
Back for its second Warped Tour season, this young, alt-pop band is made up of four siblings. Sydney Sierota, the only sister, is the lead vocalist. Their sound is sweet and refreshing yet developed. If you didn’t catch Echosmith last year, they are definitely worth catching this time around.
With unique, strong vocals, this R&B singer/songwriter has a look and feel like Amy Winehouse. Her songs are both lighthearted and heavy, but she has a memorable presence no matter what she is singing about.
Some of the band’s older songs might fit in better at Warped Tour, but its newest album (2013’s “Forever Halloween”) has a softer, more mature rock feel to it. They would do well for fans of the Killers.
Wind in Sails
Singer-songwriter Evan Pharmakis left his hardcore band Vanna to have a solo career, the result of which is Wind in Sails. The music is a far cry from his hardcore days. It’s soft and calming. It could even be described as almost folklike.
Others outside the punk-rock genre to check out:
Captain Capa – German electronic.
Mod Son – self-proclaimed “hippy hop.”
NiT GrIT – for the electric crowd.
Pacific Dub – fun, summertime music.
PVRIS – cool, female vocals.
Air Dubai – interesting mix of rock, hip-hop and electronic.
K.Flay – indie hip-hop.
Nick Santino – indie rock.