The annual traveling rock music festival Vans Warped Tour stopped in Hartford, Connecticut yesterday on their last-ever cross-country tour. Amid the chaos and heat wave that struck the city, legendary bands took the stage, leaving their mark at the fest.
Warped Tour is unlike any other music festival — it’s a place for punk, rock, and alternative fans to gather and unite with one another, singing the night away to their favorite bands. Ever since I started attending back in high school, sporting skin-tight ripped jeans and a studded belt – I knew I found my place to truly fit in. Over the years, different bands have come and gone, but the experience stayed the same, and yesterday was no different.
Fans lined up outside of Hartford’s XFINITY Theatre before gates even opened, flooding the area. Up-and-coming artists lingered outside, promoting their music, and all walks of life wandered the grounds. The heat was blistering, at times making it hard to breathe, yet the energy could be felt throughout the venue as concertgoers bid their farewell to the music festival that has changed lives.
The day kicked-off with artists like Chase Atlantic, Doll Skin, and Real Friends on the main stages. Crowds began to form for the metalcore band Issues and I wondered what their performance would be like without unclean vocalist Michael Bohn. The hype was still prevalent as vocalist Tyler Carter took the stage, performing hits like “Hooligans,” “Never Lose Your Flames,” and “Coma” off of their latest record.
For weeks, Live Nation has been promoting the final run with little clips of past shows with music from the upcoming band Makeout dubbed over. This is how I came across Makeout, a Rhode Island-based band which garnered attention after signing with Rise Records last year. The group took the stage with such enthusiasm – it was felt throughout the crowd. Lead vocalist Sam Boxold drew concertgoers into his circle with catchy bops like “Ride It Out” and “Lisa” before ending their set with the hit track “Crazy.” During the final song, Boxold reached out into the audience, nearly laughing over his lyrics from the crowd’s reaction to the head-banging tune.
Palaye Royale followed with an energy-driven set, along with bands The Interrupters, This Wild Life, and Falling In Reverse. Yet, the artist that seemed to steal the crowd’s attention throughout the day was 3OH!3. While the duo has continued to produce music throughout the years, they haven’t released anything that has come close to the attention “DONTTRUSTME” garnered from 2008’s Want. When Sean Foreman and Nathaniel Motte stepped onstage, it was like the entire crowd took a step back 10 years as they sang “Starstrukk,” “Rich Man,” and “Touchin’ on My.” They ended with “DONTTRUSTME,” and the entire amphitheatre seemed to be jamming along, singing along to the iconic line “Tell your boyfriend if he says he’s got beef / that I’m a vegetarian and I ain’t fucking scared of him.”
Similarly, Bowling For Soup stole the show, although as lead singer Jaret Reddick jokingly stated, “We’re 45 and still singing about high school.” Leading their set with “Girl All The Bad Guys Want,” the group produced a jam-worthy start, followed by “High School Never Ends” and “Ohio.” Reddick was the most personable and down-to-Earth artist I saw throughout the day; he constantly made jokes throughout the set and laughed along with his bandmates. When he heard someone yell out that they wanted to hear “1985,” he stopped and said, “We’re a fucking rock band, so we play that song last – we know what we’re doing here.”
He then asked the crowd “Who’s here for ‘Stacy’s Mom?’ and surprisingly, a majority of the crowd started to scream and raise their hands, just for him to say that this isn’t there song. Music junkies of the crowd like myself got a good laugh out of this as he explained that “Stacy’s Mom” is from the band Fountains of Wayne, yet he still took advantage of it and played a cover. A couple in the audience got engaged during the set, leaving everyone elated from the energy, and the group ended with “1985” as Reel Big Fish chipped in.
Tonight Alive’s Jenna McDougall gracefully danced around the stage, promoting music off of their new LP Underworld, including the hit single “Temple.” Crowdsurfers traveled to the front of the barricade to high-five the singer and she happily smiled along to each track. State Champs’ fans on the other hand were wild, aggressively flying through the air as the punk-rock group jumped around to smash hits like “Secrets.” Additionally, Travis of We The Kings kept the night alive playing throwback songs “Check Yes, Juliet,” “Say You Like Me,” and “Skyway Avenue.”
Bands like Broadside, Mayday Parade, and The Maine rounded out the night. The Maine, all sporting matching red outfits, made sure to play both old and new songs from their catalog – mixing “Everything I Ask For” from 2008’s Can’t Stop Won’t Stop with “Black Butterflies and Déjà Vu” from their latest 2017 album Lovely Little Lonely. During “Girls Do What They Want,” lead vocalist John O’Callaghan brought a fan up onstage to sing along with him, letting the crowd relish in his special moment.
It seemed too “Perfect” to end the night with the alternative-rock group Simple Plan. If this band didn’t get me through my goth-middle school days, I’m not sure what did. Their angsty, emotional lyrics still resonated with the crowd as the band sang 2004’s classic tunes “Welcome To My Life” and “I’m Just A Kid.” Just as the clock was about to hit 9 p.m., “Perfect” was heard throughout the arena – reuniting fans for the last time.
As I was leaving, I picked up a shirt that read: “Bury Me At Warped Tour: 1995 – 2018,” and I smiled at the phrase, knowing that although this would be the last Warped Tour, it was a day that all of these music fans had the chance to experience together. And, as sad as it is to see the tour come to an end, the memories will last forever.