After he returned from his weekend at the UK’s version of Warped Tour, Gavin Lloyd requested special dispensation to write a 1400-word missive on his experience at Ally Pally with a few thousand other grebos. If you’re an emo, feel free to call this longform journalism. If you’re not… go and read a real website.
As a teenager I spent many summers flicking through music magazines in awe of the Warped Tour. It was always a dream of mine to head over to the States and take in this travelling punk rock circus in person. Alas, I never actually got to go and I watched as the Warped Tour evolved into something of a mismatched monster. While they’d still invite the likes of The Bouncing Souls along out of what I guess is a sense of respect, things were different. The internet gave birth to ‘crunkcore’ bands being booked and isanyoneup.com getting stalls in the merch village. Still, it’s not all bad, Katy Perry played one year. With that in mind, I welcomed the fact that Warped now comes to the UK’s shores and headed along to Alexandra Palace to check it out, obviously disappointed Katy Perry wasn’t present.
It was always going to be a far cry from the US Warped Tour, which is hammered home as I left the grey sky behind and headed into the huge venue as Attila take to the stage. They’re exactly the sort of band you’d expect to be playing 21st century Warped Tour in the sense that they are ridiculous. However, in their defence, their gangster schtick sets them apart from the vast majority of boring, overtly serious deathcore acts, and they are pretty fun. They quickly win over the early doors crowd and if nothing else secure some sales for their ‘Suck My Fuck’ Christmas jumpers in the process.
Following that The Wonder Years are one of the few bands playing that conjures up my long lost teenage excitement. Being a pop punk purist, watching the band responsible for the best pop punk album of the year had the potential to be an early highlight. Unfortunately, this set is a crushing disappointment let down by awful sound. The impassioned sing-alongs are ever-present and Dan ‘Soupy’ Campbell remains entertaining especially when he yells at We Came As Romans‘ roadies to “Shut the fuck up” on the next stage but even swearing at roadies can’t save my 20-something bitterness from strangling the fleeting teenage excitement to death.
We Came As Romans sound check clearly wasn’t interrupted by Soupy though as they swiftly follow. Warped has become infested with bands that deal in lovely chorus / angry breakdown metalcore. However, WCAR’s slick performance proves they’re actually one of the scene’s stronger bands. Recent single ‘Fade Away’ is undeniably catchy, and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy their cover of The Wanted’s ‘Glad You Came’. Maybe I should just be going to something like T4 on the beach instead. The band also were the first to carry on the great Warped tradition of being joined by surprise special guests as a bloke in a grey hoody joined them on vocals for one song, fuck knows who he was though.
I decide to head over to the Jaegermeister stage to check out hot new things Lonely The Brave. There’s a lot of hype around these guys, but they’re a fine example of why you should take industry buzz with a pinch of salt because they are a bit rubbish. Their big, rock soundscapes are nice enough but as their singer David Jakes cowers at the back of the stage trying to hide under his Matt Cardle hat, it’s a strange sight.
After a few songs I decide to go and watch Memphis May Fire instead. After all, #M0SH WAGs are easier on the eye than industry insiders stroking their egos. Guided by frontman Matty Mullins, Memphis May Fire drive the crowd wild and are also quite good. Their slick performance hints that they feel a lot more at home on a massive stage like this than the smaller club shows they’ve previously played in the UK. For those keeping score they also bring out a special guest in the form of Chiodos front man Craig Owens, bonus points for being someone people actually recognise.
The steady stream of Quite Good Metalcore takes an unusual departure towards Fucking Brilliant Metalcore with Parkway Drive‘s set. The usual fun and frolics, such as someone dicking around in a fox costume as seen at Download Festival are strangely absent. However, the set is bolstered by steam cannons and confetti as the Aussie five-piece rattle though mosh metal masterpieces such as ‘Sleepwalker’, ‘Romance Is Dead’ and ‘Carrion’ without a clean vocal or sexy haircut in sight. There’s an impressively massive crowd watching them and they prove to be the highlight of the day.
This just leaves Saturday headliners Rise Against and, in a strange case of déjà vu, what could have been a great set turns into a flaccid disappointment as another set is let down with appalling sound. There’s plenty of arms in the air and singing along but the band’s soaring punk anthems end up being somewhat stunted by muffled guitars and I spend the entire set having an internal conflict as I try to force myself to having a good time. But I can’t, I just can’t.
I arrive at Ally Pally for round two on Sunday as We Are The Ocean have taken to the stage. They play a set that… zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.
Sorry where was I? Oh yeah. Hatebreed are a bit of an odd booking on this line up, but thankfully they were booked as they are fucking brilliant! They may be something of a one trick pony, but it’s a bloody brilliant trick, like a pony that can do a back flip. The most loveable man in hardcore, Jamie Jasta, guides an impassioned crowd through fist-in-the-air hardcore classics and in the space of 40 minutes already makes Sunday a lot better than the previous day’s events. One of the rare moments of the weekend that made you feel like you were part of something special.
With the mosh-friendly crowd present, UK metalcore ambassadors While She Sleeps seemingly had everything on their side today. What they didn’t have on their side, however, was decent sound. I realise I sound like a broken record but coincidentally that’s what listening to half the bands this weekend sounds like as well. It was exactly the intense, aggression packed set we’ve come to expect from Sleeps, with all five onstage displaying the sort of genuine rage most bands can only muster when someone has stolen the Pringles from their rider. It just would have been a lot better if it didn’t just sound like Loz Taylor screaming over a bass drum.
Seeing as they’ve been at a mid-tier status for pretty much their entire career I always forget how many good songs Billy Talent have. I’m swiftly reminded that they have loads, as the band play through a contender for the most hit-filled set of the ‘festival’. There’s also another surprise guest vocalist appearance in the form of Wounds frontman Aidan Coogan. Are Wounds even playing? Anyway Ben Kowalewicz follows this with an impassioned speech about Warped’s punk heritage and makes me a bit sad by name checking bands I wish were playing (Rancid, NOFX, Against Me). I have little time to dwell on this though as more bangers come thick and fast. Good work, lads.
Enter Shikari are a great fit as headliners to round everything off. A big UK band that share the same political agendas as many of the Warped Tour’s alumni, but very much a contemporary act with an unmistakably unique sound. They’ve always been a very good live band but in 2013 Enter Shikari have become even better. With a wealth of great material to choose from, as well as tweaking and changing songs with remixes it remains fresh and exciting. They put on the sole spectacular show of the weekend. They didn’t want to be typecast as the band with lasers, but they seem to have embraced it as spectacular lights and lasers shoot across the room. Yet for all the slick production the band have a reinvigorated punk rock energy: climbing into the crowd, pounding drums, lobbing mic stands around the stage and Rou Reynolds using a flight case as a impromptu skateboard.
Obviously, when I was sixteen I had no idea what shape the future musical landscape would take and Warped Tour has changed drastically from the enchanting punk tour that captivated me as a youth. Nevertheless Enter Shikari’s headline set is something truly special. It proves that change can be good and provides plenty of people with reasons to get excited about music in the here and now.