Artists discuss the evolution of Warped Tour
I’m sure a lot of you are wondering why the Daily is covering Warped Tour in 2017. As a college newspaper, our standard music coverage typically includes anything from indie rock to underground hip hop — anything but the Warped Tour scene. Yet in recent years, Warped has been actively marketing the festival toward older crowds, those who reveled in the scene as tweens in the earlier part of the 2000s. With bands like Silverstein, Hawthorne Heights, Adolescents and more whose popularity exploded more than a decade (or even two) ago, Warped 2017 has made a clear attempt to diversify its crowd demographic.
By attending Warped Tour’s Auburn Hills date just over a week ago and speaking with a few bands, I’ve learned that Warped is more than its perceived social stigmas. Warped is more than an opportunity for bands to perform to wide audiences and garner some new fans. It’s a time for bands and attendees alike to hang out with their friends and revel in the camaraderie of music.
It really goes without saying that Knocked Loose is a brutal band. With arguably the most popularity of the newcomers on the Full Sail Stage (the stage reserved for new, young bands on the tour), Knocked Loose’s crowds have been explosive and aggressive. Frontman Bryan Garris, while soft spoken and thoughtful in conversation, packs a punch on stage with his harsh vocals and an energy to match the crowd’s. Halfway through Warped, Garris has reflected positively on his experiences so far.
“(Warped has) been going great. It’s been a lot of fun. It’s hard work, but it’s so rewarding because our sets have been going better than they ever have. We’ve gotten the opportunity to play in front of so many new people. On top of that, we have old friends and have been making a lot of new friends. So it’s just been such a fun tour,” he said.
Garris has been fully aware of the band’s relatively popular status on Warped, citing past tours that have helped them gain this credibility with only one album and a few EPs to their name. Their set in Michigan was by far one of the best I witnessed throughout the day, featuring a pit barely contained within the confines of the width of the stage.
“I think that the overall hype has grown a little bit. Since then we toured Europe and Australia. Then we did a full US with Every Time I Die. I think that’s obviously helped people to notice us and help people to find out who we are so that our sets are a little bit bigger when we play on Warped. And then also we try to learn from everybody that we tour with… We are still very new, and we’re all very young so we look up to a lot of the people we’re fortunate enough to call our friends,” he said.
Garris also cited Hatebreed and Stick To Your Guns as his favorites to see on Warped this year, along with fellow newcomers Boston Manor and Movements.
After Warped, Garris said that we can expect new material to be on the way: “We were just so focused on Warped and preparing for this tour that we kind of put writing off, and we’ll probably jump into it when we get home because all of us are in that zone now — we are ready to write.
If you’re attending one of the later Warped dates, you can check out Knocked Loose on the Full Sail Stage where you can expect to hear some mind-blowing modern hardcore.
As another first timer on Warped, frontman of Microwave Nathan Hardy has gained a positive outlook on the festival from his experiences, despite previous misconceptions of Warped’s social stigmas.
“We actually really love it. We were really hesitant for a long time about wanting to participate with Warped, just because we’re stupid I guess,” he laughs off. “I don’t know, I feel like there was a stigma associated with Warped for a long time… Like you’re marketing yourself to 14-year-old girls or something. But honestly it’s been really sick. Especially — I don’t know if it’s more this year than other years — I mean there’s a lot of bands that played Warped Tour like 15 years ago on this year, and more like long time punk bands — like Suicide Machines from (Detroit).”
Hardy hits the nail on the head with his observation about the lineup. But he also recognizes that Warped isn’t without its hardships. From hauling gear and merchandise to and from the site each day to surviving the heat through consecutive dates, Warped requires a ton of manual labor to pull off each day.
Despite these downsides — as Harding refers to Warped as a “bootcamp for bands” — he also believes that bands are able to improve as musicians on Warped. With consistent sound technicians for all the stages, Warped is certainly a far cry from the unpredictability of the club shows that the band is used to.
“Here, you have the same sound guy — there’s one guy for monitors and one guy for front of house. It’s the same people every day so they get you dialed in. You have the same mix every day. You get to be able to play better because it’s good practice when you can actually hear yourself and everything,” Harding explained.
Beyond all else, Harding most strongly recognizes the fan exposure new bands receive from playing Warped Tour.
“I mean every band, or a lot of bands, will say something at some point in the set and be like ‘How many people are seeing us for the first time?’ and it’s at least like two-thirds of the people every time. That’s so good for all those bands. Yeah, Warped Tour is tight. We like it,” he concluded.
Hardy mentions to no surprise that Boston Manor, Dance Gavin Dance and Municipal Waste as some of his favorite bands to watch on the tour, finally alluding to everyone’s favorite Warped Tour guilty pleasure:
“Attila is sick. It’s like Limp Bizkit, too. I loved Limp Bizkit. It was like one of the first bands that I loved. It’s just the same mentality that I loved about Limp Bizkit,” he said. “It’s so funny walking by (Attila’s) sets carrying something when you hear the shit he’s saying, going back and forth with the audience like ‘Suck my fuck!’ I envy him. That’d be so much fun.”
You can catch Microwave’s exciting modern punk rock on Warped’s Skullcandy stage.
Pop punk can be a fickle genre — it’s incredibly hard to stand out amongst the seemingly endless stream of pop punk bands hopping on Warped Tour. Yet, with their debut album Be Nothing., the UK’s Boston Manor have effectively raised themselves above the rest with their stellar songwriting imagery and deft pacing of tone. Truthfully, breakout single “Laika” was one of the best punk bangers of 2016. Continuing to ride the momentum of the debut album, Boston Manor are experiencing popularity at Warped on par with the likes of Knocked Loose. Guitarist Mike Cunniff told me that their sets have been full of fans both old and new, and that their set earlier in the day didn’t disappoint.
“It was great man, yeah. It was pretty packed out. We had already been to Detroit before with Moose Blood and Trophy Eyes, so I think some of those fans came back to see us again — a lot of new fans as well. There was a lot of energy today so it was awesome,” he said.
We also discussed the pros and cons of Warped tour compared to the last few US tours Boston Manor has done. In exchange for catered meals, bands have less mobility to explore the areas they play on Warped due to the nature of the festival.
“It’s so different. Sometimes it doesn’t even really feel like you’re in the US sometimes... there’s a lot less time to explore because everywhere is sort of out in the sticks so you kind of gotta Uber if you want to go anywhere,” he said. “And we had a lot of fun touring the first two times we came here, and we got to see — a bunch of us had never been to the states before — so we got to see a bunch of really cool things like the Grand Canyon. And you stay at people’s houses as well, so you feel like you integrate a lot more into the country ‘cause I feel like that’s the best way to do it is to meet people, stay with people and share experiences. There’s a lot less of that.”
Although he shows a slight nostalgic preference for the DIY facets of touring, Cunniff also recognizes the ways in which Warped has benefited the band. From hanging with their friends in Trophy Eyes to catching bands like the aforementioned talent in Microwave and Knocked Loose, the guys in Boston Manor have learned a lot about what it means to be a band on the rise within the Warped Tour scene.
You can watch Boston Manor’s energy driven pop punk sets on the Full Sail Stage.
At this point in their career, it’s safe to say that Silverstein is Warped Tour royalty. They’re an incredibly accomplished group of musicians who fronted much of the development of post-hardcore in the early 2000s. Seven Warped Tours later and fresh off the release of the band’s new record Dead Reflection, the band have definitely grown to expect the attention they’ve worked years to earn. Frontman Shane Told reflected on the band’s continued success in 2017, many years since their first Warped Tour.
“It’s nice to be this far in our career and putting out some of the best music we’ve ever made is a really really good feeling. Writing the record was pretty challenging for me,” he said. “You know you can’t just get away with booking the minimum and figuring it out later. We knew we really had to work. Part of that is because records get harder to make — the more records you make the harder they are.”
Silverstein has been prolific since 2015, with two new records that are full of some of the catchiest riffs and best headbangers the genre has to offer. While many bands of the early 2000s have lost all relevance, Silverstein has managed to not only survive but also grow and thrive within the modern Warped scene — while hanging with other friends on Warped, of course.
“I really like Trophy Eyes. Their record they put out last year was probably my favorite of the year. Knocked Loose are really cool, playing some really rad like just heavy brutal shit,” he mentioned. “And then you know, there’s just so many bands I love watching — Hands Like Houses, and I love Hatebreed. Silent Planet is a great newer band too.”
Another downside to Warped are the set lengths, which are capped at just 30 minutes per band. With a band as accomplished as Silverstein, it’s difficult to fit all of their classics in with new highlights. One of the biggest struggles for veteran bands is designing the perfect short setlist for each performance on Warped.
“We try to change our setlist every day. Especially when there’s cities that are close together,” he said. “It’s really hard for us — we have over 100 songs — so we can’t play them all… we have to play a mix of new, old, the hits, some of the deep cuts. So we find the best thing to do is just switch it up, and reward the people that do come to multiple shows, not playing the exact same setlist like most bands.”
And just like every other artist I spoke to, Told echoed the answer to everyone’s favorite part about Warped Tour: the friendship.
“I like the hanging out. Like once the day’s done, and it’s a long hot day. You can just chill behind the trailer and crack a beer. We have so many friends on this tour. Everyone just hangs out after,” he said.
You can see the legends in Silverstein on the Mutant South stage.
Dance Gavin Dance
Dance Gavin Dance are another veteran band on Warped Tour this year, featuring 10+ years of their unique, math rock tinged post-hardcore. Following the release of their widely acclaimed 2016 record Mothership and new 2017 single “Summertime Gladness,” DGD have also been surviving the test of the time within the scene. Founding guitarist Will Swan spoke to me about writing their incredible music and being back on Warped Tour after their last one in 2011.
“It’s just interesting to think about how the last couple of times we did it were so long ago. We did it in ‘09 and ‘11, and looking at where we are now as a band — how the lineups have been different every single time we’ve done it — they’re really hard to compare because it’s like we’ve been a different band every single time,” he said.
DGD have been evolving just as much as Warped’s lineups, often lauded for the diversity of their sound and impressive live performance. Even with the busyness of Warped Tour, Swan is constantly writing for DGD and his side projects Sianvar and Secret Band.
“I like to write a good half of them at least on my own. Not that I prefer to, but I’m constantly writing. When we were touring on Mothership I was already starting to write new stuff, so I just keep writing it and recording it on my phone on that same program and just store riffs. By the time we start writing for another record I’ll have a good amount of songs already done,” he explained.
When asked about his favorite bands on the Tour, Swan seems to stick with the older bands, citing CKY and Anti Flag as some of his favorite acts. He also expressed the desire to check out longtime punk outfit Adolescents before Warped ‘17 is finished. Despite his busy writing schedule, Swan gave a positive sentiment about this year’s Warped Tour: “It’s been the most laid back, and the least awful things have happened.”
You can see Dance Gavin Dance crushing the Journey’s Right Foot stage with their dynamic, high octane tunes.