The largest traveling music festival in the United States and the longest-running touring music festival in North America (in existence since 1995), the Vans Warped Tour made its way to Southern California on Saturday August 5 with a stop at The Jack Murphy Festival Grounds outside of Qualcomm Stadium. The first of two Southern California dates (the next and last date of the tour was at Pomona Fairplex in Pomona on Sunday August 6), the 2017 version was sure to be another epic day of music on a beautiful sunny 80 degree day in San Diego.
The 2017 Warped Tour features over 70 diverse bands on 7 stages with live music running from about 11:30am to about 9:00pm making for a FULL day of performances with a style of music for everyone. One of the greatest things about Warped Tour is the band diversity and this year included everything from 80’s British new-wave rockers The Alarm to the Synth/Goth inspired music of Andy Black to hardcore masters Hatebreed, the metal circus known as GWAR and the mystical music of William Control.
The interesting aspect of Warped Tour is there is no official headlining bands, the bands remain on the same stage throughout the tour but play at different times each day, so even if you attended two or more dates you would get a totally different experience based on the schedule. With dozens of vendors, band merchandise booths as well as food trucks and free water refills, the festival grounds really cover the full spectrum of the alternative music experience.
Warped Tour goes out of its way to make the festival a pleasurable experience as it offers what they call reverse daycare for parents which is an air-conditioned chill zone for parents who take their teens to the concert but crave a break from the heat and music. The hydration stations offer free water re-fills and most importantly there are more than enough port-o-pottys. All this plus the 70 bands for a very reasonable ticket price – founder Kevin Lyman knows how to run a festival!
Some of the bands that kicked off the day in the 11:00am hour included Memphis May Fire, Alive and Well, Sick of it All, as well as Silverstein. The seven stages scattered throughout the festival grounds included the Mutant North and Mutant South stage both sponsored by Monster Energy Drink, The Journey’s Left Foot and Right Foot stages obviously sponsored by Journey’s as well as The Hard Rock, Skullcandy and Full Sail stages.
A few of the MANY highlights of the day included Hatebreed, GWAR, The Acacia Strain and The Alarm:
The Acacia Strain
Although metalcore veterans only remain with one original member, vocalist Vincent Bennett, they remain one of the most intense live bands on the scene. Taking the Monster Mutant South stage at 5:25pm, The Acacia Strain had the fans moving, crowd surfing and bouncing up and down. With their dual 8-string guitar attack, the band delivered a solid 30 minute assault on the late afternoon crowd. Bennett ended the set by jumping down onto the security barrier having fans sing along with him. An awesome display of energy as many of The Acacia Strain fans headed over to the North stage for Hatebreed directly following their set.
Yes they didn’t draw the biggest crowd on the Hard Rock stage but there were definitely some The Alarm diehards there to watch this veteran alternative act. Founding member and only remaining original member, Mike Peters brought a welcomed smile and good vibe to the stage as he took the fans through a setlist that included the classics “68 Guns” and “Spirit of ‘76” which had many sing along in fine fashion.
The Alarm was a welcome set from the angst, aggression and insanity of many of the other bands and again this is proof of the diversity of Warped Tour – where else do you get GWAR and The Alarm playing the same festival?
Connecticut hardcore kings Hatebreed played on the Monster Mutant North stage at 6:00pm and drew one of the larger crowds of the day. Out supporting their 2016 release The Concrete Confessional, Hatebreed puts on one of the most brutal live shows in existence with noted aggressive and large mosh/circle pits. Storming the stage and opening with the pummeling “To the Threshold” then into “Looking down the Barrel of Today”, vocalist Jamey Jasta and the band delivered a high energy 35 minute set. The crowd kicked off the circle pit immediately and with the crowd surfing, that kept the barrier security busy from start to finish.
Kudos to Jasta for stopping the show at one point as a fight broke out and he encouraged everyone to calm down as security took care of those involved. In somewhat of a comdedic tone yet somewhat serious, Jasta encouraged those who have aggressive personalities to look into MMA fighting to release their aggressions and make a lot of money while doing so. At this point the band continued with the next song and the chaos quickly resumed. Guitarists Frank Novinec and Wayne Lozinak anchor each side of the stage as bassist Chris Beattie moves about while headbanging wildly all while drummer Matt Byrne is pounding the skins.
Prior to the song “Proven”, Jasta had the crowd start a massive circle pit around the soundboard island as Hatebreed without a doubt was one of the highlights of Warped Tour in San Diego.
One of the heavier acts on Warped Tour this year as well as the most theatrical, The Scumdogs of the Universe GWAR closed out the Monster Mutant stage South at 7:30pm with their typical chaos filled, blood splattering performance. Still alive and well, GWAR hasn’t missed a beat since the untimely passing of vocalist Oderus Urungas in 2014 as new vocalist Blothar has taken over the frontman spot seamlessly and would surely make Oderus proud.
The show started with the cave troll Bonesnapper cutting off the head of a GWAR fan boy and a powerful steady stream of blood sprayed out into the crowd as the band kicked into “Saddam a Go-Go” and 30 minutes of complete chaos ensued as anyone within 30 ft of the stage was covered in fake blood and GWAR space Jizz. Vocalist Blothar, guitarists Pustulus Maximus and Balsac the Jaws of Death, bass player Beefcake the Mighty and drummer Jizmak Da Gusha delivered without a doubt the most unique set of the day.
Blothar announced that a new GWAR album titled The Blood of Gods would be unleashed in October of this year before spewing blood out into the crowd from two utter like appendages in his groin area. The insanity continued in a different form with each song and by the end of the set fans were drenched in blood and the security in their rain ponchos were also soaked in fake blood. Definitely the most epic set of the day and thumbs up to Vans Warped Tour for bringing out such an outrageous yet entertaining band this summer.