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LIVE: VANS WARPED TOUR – JULY 24, 2015 (Auburn Hills, MI)

| 13 August 2015 | Reply


Venue: The Palace Of Auburn Hills Parking Lot

City: Auburn Hills, MI

Date: July 24, 2015

Review and Photographs by: Mike Hubbard


One of the advantages of living in the Midwest as I do, is that we get to experience four very distinct seasons.  Fall means leaves turning colors and football.  Winter means snow and cold.  Spring means baseball and everything turning green.  And summer means Vans Warped Tour.  This year was my eighth Warped Tour.  Every year I say I’m getting too old for this, but every year the bands keep bringing me back.  With over 70 bands on the docket there is always a mix of old favorites, bands I know and love but have never seen live, and new bands to discover.  And this year was no different.


My day started off with metalcore band Fit For A King.  I first caught FFAK at last year’s VWT, when they were playing on one of the smaller stages.  Since then they have released a new album, Slave To Nothing, which has significantly accelerating their popularity.  So much so that they were opening the day on one of the main stages.  And they were not out of place, filling up the stage and getting the audience going.  What a great way to start off the day!  I had a chance to meet vocalist Ryan Kirby later in the day and briefly speak with him.  Expect them to continue their ascent in the scene.


Post-hardcore veterans Sense Fail were next on my list.  Buddy Neilson and the band had just released their latest album Pull The Thorns From Your Heart in June, which represented a significant stylistic change for them.  Continuing a progression from their early emo roots this latest album is their hardest to date.  However, the change in musical style did not alter Neilson’s showmanship on stage.  He was all over the place dancing, doing one handed push-ups, riding an inflatable killer whale that a fan threw on stage, there was no telling what he would do next.  Long-time fans of Senses Fail were happy to hear the band play a broad cross-section of their back catalog as well.


One of the fasted growing segments in the alternative music scenes is pop-punk / emo revival.  The genre was well represented on VWT this year, and I caught one of the emerging bands in the scene, the UK’s Moose Blood. Frankly I wasn’t very familiar with their work and wasn’t sure what to expect, but I sure was glad I took the time to catch them.  The sincerity of their music was captivating, and vocalist  Eddy Brewerton’s banter between songs expressed a genuine appreciation of the well-deserved love the band received from the audience.


My personal tastes tend to lean towards the hardcore side of the scene, and Hundredth is a band gaining momentum in that end of the music spectrum.  I am just starting to familiarize myself with their music, but the energy given off from their set was enough to power the whole festival.  As a photographer I found them to be the most difficult band to shoot since all of the band members were in perpetual motion.  Adrenaline junkies should not miss Hundredth next time they come through your town.


Next on my agenda was a newer band from Rhode Island called Trophy Wives.  I really wasn’t familiar at all with this band, but their publicist had asked if I could check them out and since I had a hole in my schedule at that time I made my way over to one of the smaller stages to check them out.  I actually ran into the guys at the entrance when I first got to the venue in the morning.  They were working hard, greeting fans and asking them to check them out at their set time.  As soon as the guys started playing I knew they were special.  Grinning ear to ear from the first note of the set to the last, these guys were genuinely having a blast playing on their first Warped Tour.  Their enthusiasm came through in their music and their performance.  And the fans were eating it up.  Even though they were playing on one of the smallest stages they attracted quite a large crowd, probably the largest crowd that stage saw all day. Their music is right in line with the burgeoning easycore revival with a freshness and joy to it that is infectious.  I walked by their merch tent late in the day, long after most bands had folded up and left, and found the band members there, eager to meet any fans who stopped by.  I can’t help but think that these guys are well on their way to be “the next big thing”, based on the quality of their music, the enthusiasm of their stage performances, and their tireless work ethic.


August Burns Red is one of the stalwarts in the metalcore scene, having originally formed in 2003, and veterans of five Warped Tours.  I’ve been a longtime fan of their music, and have caught them on VWT twice before.  For some reason the first two times I caught them I was left a bit disappointed, but this time I was fully impressed.  I finally understood why they have some a reputation as one of the genre’s best live acts.  Vocalist Jake Luhrs’ growls were epic, and the guitar work of JB Brubaker showed clearly why he is considered one of the best.


This was my third time seeing Beartooth live, and with each ensuing performance their ability to capture the attention of the crowd and get them going has increased.  They absolutely slayed it during their set, attracting what had to be the largest crowd of the day at the Monster Energy stage.  Caleb Shomo’s brutally and painfully honest lyrics really hit home, and the sincerity of his delivery is captivating.  In spite of the personal nature of the songs, Shomo and the gang also know how to have fun.  They’ve been teaming up with the guys from Silverstein to form a mash-up band called Silvertooth or Bearstein, and the supergroup showed up at the tour in Detroit to treat the fans to something special.


This year’s lineup for VWT featured too many favorites to catch them all, but there were two bands on my ‘must-see’ list.  The first of which was Being As An Ocean.  I’ve been listening to music and attending shows since the ‘70’s, and there are few bands that provide for me a jaw-dropping ‘I-can’t-believe-what-I-am-hearing’ experience, but the first time I heard BAAO, that was exactly my response.  The question now was, will their live performance match their recorded material?  The answer was an emphatic YES!  The power and the beauty of their music came through, punctuated with vocalist Joel Quartuccio spoken word interludes, woven with the sometimes bombastic, sometimes ambient instrumental’s.  Quartuccio really connected with the audience in a way that few vocalists would dare.  It is common place for a vocalist at Warped Tour to jump off the stage and climb on the barrier separating the crowd from the band, but Quartuccio didn’t stop there.  Occasionally a vocalist will climb over the barrier and go into the audience to sing, and Quartuccio did that too.  But he didn’t stop there.  He took it a step further and crowd surfed while singing, becoming one with the audience and inviting them into the performance.  It was a powerful set, in my mind the best I saw of the day.


Like I said, there were two bands on my ‘must-see’ list, and ironically they performed back to back on the same stage.  I was devastated when The Chariot announced their breakup shortly after I saw them at 2013’s VWT, and had somewhat mixed feelings regarding vocalist Josh Scogin’s new project ’68.  ’68 is a guitar/vocalist and drummer duo, along the lines of the White Stripes.  I found their debut LP a bit disjointed.  I really dug several of the tracks but others seemed out of place.  Scogin’s live performances with The Chariot were always amazing, and I was very curious to see what he would do with this new vehicle.  WOW!  Their set was more performance art than a music concert.  Dressed in black suits with matching skinny black ties and pork pie hats ala Jake and Elwood Blues, Scogin and drummer Michael McClellan put on a show like nothing else I’ve ever seen or heard.  It would be futile to try to create a set list for the performance since much of it was improvised.  Scogin coaxed sounds out of his guitar that few could reproduce, utilizing a myriad of effects including tape loop.  The crowd for the set was small, but those that caught the band saw something special.  I can’t wait to see what they do next.


Late in the afternoon there were several bands that I wanted to see playing overlapping sets.  I tried to catch as much as I could of Youth In Revolt, Sirens & Sailors, Pierce The Veil, and While She Sleeps.  I caught multiple songs from the first three bands, but got to WSS just as they finished their last song.  Youth In Revolt and Sirens & Sailors played solid sets of metalcore from two ends of the spectrum, with YIR being on the more melodic side and S&S showing elements of mathcore.


One of the things I like to do at concerts is to check out the band t-shirts that the audience is wearing.  Based on my unscientific observations of t-shirts, Pierce The Veil had to be the most popular band there that day.  And based on the size of the crowd during their set, I have to say that this was definitely true.  Due to the timing I was only able to catch a couple of their songs and could not get anywhere near the front to get close up pictures, but from what I saw the band did not disappoint their fans.  Their stage show was probably the most elaborate of the day, complete with air cannons shooting a rainbow of paper streamers into the crowd.  This was my third time seeing the band live and they have exploded in popularity over that time frame.  It’s been more than three years since their last studio album, and with something new planned for later this year you can bet that 2016 will be huge for PtV.


Next up was Simple Plan.  I mean, who doesn’t like Simple Plan?  The pop-punk veterans played a set of crowd-pleasing favorites, with the ease and polish one would expect from the many years of perfecting their brand of familiar sing-along classics.  This was their tenth time playing VWT since their Warped debut in 1999, which was before many of this year’s fans were even born.


Memphis May Fire have quickly grown to being one of the biggest acts in metalcore.  This was my third time seeing them live, and each time they have displayed growth in their performance and stage presence.  Vocalist Matty Mullins in undoubtedly one of the most gifted and charismatic front men in the scene, and his vocals this day were mind blowing.  Most bands employ separate clean and unclean vocalist, but Matty sings both parts in a manner that would include him amongst the best in either style.  Watching him perform like that up close further cemented his greatness in my mind. Mattie sets the bar high, but the rest of the band is right there with him.  The crowd for their set was one of the largest and most engaged that I saw all day.


The day concluded almost 10 hours after it started.  It was a long day with full sun and temps into the upper 80’s, but it a bit of irony the biggest party band of the day had the honor of closing things out.  If the crowd was exhausted from a long hot day, Attila was the answer to give those who lasted until the end of the day a jolt of energy to end on a high note.  Led by vocalist Fronz, Attila got the crowd whipped into a frenzy, playing their hip-hop infused metalcore.  The crowd was insane, with constant crowd surfing, intense circle pits, and the world’s biggest beer pong.  Personally their music isn’t something I choose to sit down and listen to on my own, but the experience of seeing them live is was more than worth the price of admission.


Like any year of VWT there were many bands I wanted to catch but just couldn’t due to the schedule.  Bands like We Came As Romans, blessthefall, Knuckle Puck, While She Sleeps, Koo Koo Kangaroo, Miss May I, Crossfaith, and Trophy Eyes were all on my list to see but the timing just didn’t work out.  I still got to see most if not all of the set for 15 bands, take over 1000 pictures, meet members of five bands, (’68, Being As An Ocean, Fit For A King, Trophy Wives, and Koo Koo Kangaroo), and talk with volunteers from the non-profit group SKAD, so the day could be counted as an unmitigated success.  Will next year be the year I finally decide I’m too old for this?  I certainly hope not.





Category: Live Reviews, Photo Galleries

About the Author ()

ToddStar - that's me... just a rocking accountant who had dreams of being a rock star. I get to do the next best thing to rocking the globe - I get to take pictures of the lucky ones that do. I love to shoot all genres of music and different types of performers. If it is related to music, I love to photograph it. I get to shoot and hang with not only some of my friends and idols, but some of the coolest people around today.

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