Words by Ray Cobra, Photos by Samantha Skapin
In my life, there are certain things I look forward to throughout the year. In the winter, I look forward to the start of festival line-up announcements, in the Spring I look forward to the start of baseball and soccer seasons, and in the fall I look forward to The World Series. So that leaves summer. In the summer I look forward to festivals, all festivals. There is nothing better in the summer time than a good festival. However, there is one festival that I cherish. And that is the Vans Warped Tour. This is a festival I have been going to off and on for the better part of 15 years. I have seen some of my favorite performances there, and some of the worst. I’ve seen some of my favorite bands, and bands that have become favorites after. There truly is not a festival like it in the world. It always ends up being the highlight of my summer, even last year. UGH!!!!
Leading up to the announcement of this summer’s line-up, I, like so many others, was not sure what to expect. The only thing we knew was it was going to be a change, a throwback to the old days of the tour. Once the line-up was announced, it took a few days to sink in, but once it did, I was stoked and couldn’t wait for my annual pilgrimage. Kevin Lyman and company delivered on their word. This was a summer not to be missed.
The summer of 2017 will be one that I remember for a long time. I could be wrong, but I feel for most people Warped is more about the music. But for me that isn’t the case, it’s all about the experience. This year for the first time I decided to venture to Blossom Music Center in Cuyahoga Falls outside of Cleveland. Typically we go to Cincinnati, but last year the heat was too much. Blossom has more shade, as it is in a National Park, so that right off the bat made the experience better.
This might be the best time to mention two of my favorite parts of the day. During 2 of my favorite sets, I witnessed people show real emotion from the bands they were watching. During “Misery” by Creeper, I happened to look over and this woman was in tears. It made my day simply for the sure reason that she was so caught up in what Will Gould was singing, that his words meant so much to her that she could relate and feel what he was singing about. I love that about music. Later in the day, I saw this again during Anti-Flag’s set. This time it was a friend of mine. I knew this was a band she holds dear to her heart, but I had no clue it was that close. To see my friend pour out that much emotion and get lost in the music was amazing, and it made my day all the more fantastic. The fact that this occurred with another good friend was stellar. We three agreed that was the best way to end our day, so we did. Those two experiences are what makes Warped so special to me. I have been in both of those women’s shoes. Be it at Warped or AFI a few weeks back, music is a very powerful thing if we allow it to be. And there is no place better for that, than Warped Tour.
As far as performances the day, it was filled with plenty of them. My day started with The White Noise, a band I had just heard about a week before. I liked what I heard and was curious if that would carry over live, and it sure did. These Californian rockers very well could be the next big thing. Shawn Walker is a hell of a front man. He has the swagger of Johnny Rotten meets Bert McCracken, and is definitely a band you should not miss. From there I made my way to catch Sick Of It All, a band I have wanted to see for as long as I have listened to punk rock and hardcore. To finally see this legendary band live was a treat and was everything I hoped it would be. This band is showing no signs of slowing down.
The next act I caught is one I have seen 11 times and that is Hawthorne Heights. This is a band I will never tire of seeing live. If they are within 2 hours of me, I’m there. I, however, had to leave their set early, as the main band I came to see was about to start. If you follow me on social media, then you might know who that band is. If not, I’m about to tell you. It’s Creeper. I first came to know of this English band two years ago and was instantly hooked. I have always had a thing for dark/gothic punk bands, be it The Misfits, old AFI, Alkaline Trio, Aiden, and My Chemical Romance, so it was meant to be that I would like this band, as 3 of those are no longer, one is not active, and the other is making 80s alt-rock. Someone has to carry that flag. I got the chance to see Creeper last year at Riot Fest and it was amazing. It was a small crowd, but it was fans who definitely knew the band. The crowd at Warped was a lot bigger, which was great to see as it was a good mix of fans and people passing by. If you want to be entertained, then I would highly suggest checking out Creeper.
At this point, my plan was to just walk around for a bit but that, however, did not happen. I ended up meeting up with some friends and caught the end of Neck Deep’s set. I must say, they are really good live. Yes, I’m a pop punk guy but must of today’s pop-punk does nothing for me. I may have been wrong about Neck Deep. It was after their set that I finally got the chance to walk around some. During this time, I caught a little of Trophy Eyes set. They are a band I hope tours in the fall, as I would like to see a full set from them.
Stick to Your Guns was the next band on my list. They are a band I do not miss, and it had been a few years since I last saw them. As always, their set was on point. Josh James, formally of my heroes, Evergreen Terrance, was the perfect addition to STYG. Dude is a beast on stage. There is something about hearing “Against Them All” live that just puts me in another place and I absolutely love it. Next up was Alestorm. Before that day, I had never heard a single note from this band, but I left a fan and left wanting more. They truly are a Pirate metal band and they are amazing live. They were my biggest surprise of Warped Tour this summer.
The band that had my favorite performance of the day was Silverstein. They are a band I have seen many many times and it’s always a good show. On this day, however, they took it to another level. I can’t recall the last time I saw Shane Told display that much energy. He was a man possessed and left me wanting more. They were so good, I seriously thought about hitting up one the weekend Warped dates.
As a punk fan, I feel there are certain bands I need to see, one of those bands are The Adolescents. I can now say I saw them and I enjoyed their set. It was nice to see one of the SoCal originals. People also like to talk about guilty pleasure bands, but I don’t buy that shit. If I like a band or artist, I like them and that’s that. One band that I tend to get grief about is the next band I saw, Attila. I know Fronz is a train wreck, but damn is he a great performer. He has great stage presence and I really could watch them every night and the energy they bring is so intense.
The last act of the night I saw was Anti-Flag. They are another band I have seen numerous times and are always a good show, but on this night, they were nothing short of spectacular. Maybe it’s the state of our country or our world, but all I know is I felt something I’ve never felt at an Anti-Flag show and I loved it. They are what punk rock is and they are what punk rock needs right now. They are what we need right now. The aspect that made this set even better was I got to experience it with four awesome friends. We are 5 people who live for punk rock, and to see a set like that was amazing.
Overall, Vans Warped Tour 2017 was one for the books. I feel Kevin Lyman and his people have their work cut out for them as far as next summer goes. This summer will be hard to top, but I tell you what, no matter what the lineup is, I’ll be there. Vans Warped Tour is my summer tradition and it always will be.
Photo Gallery by Samantha Skapin