For the third consecutive year, the Vans Warped Tour rolled into the Comcast Music Center in Hartford. The weather was gorgeous except for a bit higher temperatures than last year. However, this venue lends itself well to offering relief from sun and heat as the amphitheater is opened and the grounds have more than one group of trees to provide shady hide-aways.
This year’s line-up was had a bit more hard-core and pop music than last. Bands such as Devil Wears Prada, August Burns Red, and Blood On The Dancefloor shared stages with 3OH3, The Ready Set and main headliner, Paramore. However, in between all that were the bands and artists that are the heart of Warped. Punk, ska and alt rock could be found scattered throughout the mayhem and the teenies.
Coming in the gate we got a street serenade from Larry And His Flask. This group from the Pacific Northwest started out as street musicians so they love doing the wandering minstral thing. They also had a regular set later in the day at the KevinSays stage.
There were well known groups such as ska royalty, Less Than Jake who did an impromptu barber gig during their set, relieving a kid of his Beiber-cut and sending him home with a mohawk. Their set also resulted in one of those real “Warped moments” when McLars randomly joined them on stage to rap along through one of their songs. Less Than Jake included another Connecticut guest member at this stop, Chris Rhodes from the Mighty, Mighty Bosstones played alongside his CT ska brother JR Wasilewski. Real die-hard Nutmeg ska fans also know these two from the legendary Spring Heeled Jack. The whole band had everyone skanking, laughing and just having a great time.
For those not interested in the punk-gone-pop power headliners from Tennessee, the night closed on the Tilly Stage with another New England ska staple, Big D and The Kids Table. Even though theirs was the last set and positioned up against Paramore, they got a decent turn-out and had a great time with the audience. The Beantown band was stoked and the energy did not back off even to the last note.
The Tilly stage was actually half of the main amphitheater stage with Ninendo DS taking the other half. Sitting back and relaxing with a cool breeze was a pleasant way to experience Moving Mountains, Relient K, The Ready Set and Every Avenue along with Big D.
Moving Mountains is all about the guitar effects and they do them well. Even though at times the connectivity of the band as a whole felt a little disengaged, on the whole it was some really good alternative rock.
Relient K made a triumphant return to CT after being away for a while. They still have that perfect combination of musicality, fun and spirit. The band is so well connected and whether it was a cheesy cover of a Cyndi Lauper classic, well known tracks from days gone-by or songs from their last album, it is still great music made even better when performed live. This band definitely enjoys playing together and hopefully, will continue to do so for years to come.
The Ready Set is pop band. But they’re good pop. It’s really surprising they’ve only had one radio hit so far and are not bigger than Beiber. Their front man has a great voice and the band works together like a well-oiled maching. Their stage show is full of production without being austentacious. They definitely had the 14-18 girls swooning and even guys were into their driving bass beat. These kids are good and really deserve a shot as some serious pop stardom.
Every Avenue are a standard rock band from the Motor City but they have a lot of power and energy. There were a number of kids in the crowd that were familiar with them and sang along. They have great stage presence and put on a really good set.
The only other mainstage set this reporter made sure to squeeze in was Los Angeles metal rockers Black Veil Brides. Not normally what I listen to, this band really deserve the rocket to the top that they are on. The charisma rushes off the stage like a tsunami and pulls the crowd back with it into the music. But it’s not just stage presence, costumes or good looks this band is made of, they are truly passionate artists. The musicianship of all the instrumentals are spot-on and in perfect synch. The drumline is crafted with precision and vocals pull the performance together into a masterpiece. Black Veil is not just a rehash of K.I.S.S. They are far more exciting, talented and committed to their art, as the large bandage around Andy’s torso attested to.
On Ernie Ball, late in the afternoon, exhausted was the last thing anyone would have expected the members of Terrible Things to have been. These guys got stuck at the border crossing back into the U.S. for five hours. They arrived at The Comcast at 2 p.m. with a 4 p.m. set time which they were not late for. Ripping through tracks from their debut album along with throwing in a little Led Zeppelin and a song from Fred Mascherino’s previous solo project, The Color Fred, this trio from Philadelphia tore it up. People not familiar with Terrible Things may have stopped to listen when they recognized Fred from his previous bands, Taking Back Sunday and Breaking Pangea. If they stayed it was because, along with Brian Weaver and Josh Eppard, Terrible Things makes good music.
Kevin Lyman works hard with his team every year to try to put together a successful caravan of musicians, non-profits and crew. There will always be hits and misses. Die-hard VWT veterans will complain that it’s “not like the old days”. Admitted, gone are the standards like NOFX, MXPX, or Rancid. Some bands have grown up and become arena touring acts like Green Day, My Chemical Romance and Fall Out Boy. Others have just grown up and draw an older crowd that doesn’t want to come out and play with teenagers any more. Lyman also has to consider paying the bills and with the price of gas (and everything else) going up along with things such as CT’s new 10% tax on “door take”, the tour has to make at least enough money to break even but also needs to turn a profit to continue doing it in years to come.
Was this year’s Warped Tour perfect? For some? Maybe. For most? No. But there was definitely something for everyone and ways to get their $40 worth out of the day.
Keep an eye on this column for interviews with Chuck Comeau of Simple Plan, Kelsey, Jeshua Marshall of Larry And His Flask, Big D himself, and Jinxx of Black Veil Brides.
Vans Warped Tour 2011
Comcast Music Center
Larry And His Flask
The Ready Set
Less Than Jake
Black Veil Brides
Big D and The Kids Table