Vans Warped Tour: Milwaukee

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Wednesday afternoon brought the Vans Warped Tour to Milwaukee, as part of their 20th run since Kevin Lyman created the tour in 1995. For me, the Warped Tour is part of my adolescence that is hard to let go. Going into the show on Wednesday morning, I thought that it might just be my last time walking in to the Marcus Amphitheater forecourt for a 10 hour day of music in the sun. This is my 10th Warped show in just as many years, and the tour is definitely not the punk rock tour that it was in 2005, much less 1995 I’m sure. Most of the bands scream at me now, which I can’t do other than small doses, really. Or, conversely, I could go watch EDM at the Warped Tour, which would have made no sense 10 years ago. Nevertheless, I figured I’d embrace my day off from my big boy job (and really the real world) and enjoy the show.

And then the music started. And I was wrong.

As soon as the first band I saw, Teenage Bottlerocket hit the stage, it clicked that punk rock on the Warped Tour isn’t dead. It’s just hiding, making it kinda, well, more punk if you think about it. Of course the metalcore bands are taking the big stages now. Have you walked into a Hot Topic or seen the internet lately? All of those bands essentially went as pop as you can be without losing their credibility. So, kudos to them. Enjoy the little bit of extra money, I guess. I’ll keep watching bands that don’t scream at me.

Anyway, back to Teenage Bottlerocket. True punks to start off the day. They insisted on being flipped off and that the crowd push in to see them on the Kevin Says stage, to which the eager crowd obliged. A circle pit brought a smile to my face, and once again it felt like a true punk show. When you get a chance to see the band live, please do so. If you like punk rock, you’ll definitely have fun.

A couple of hours were spent wandering the grounds, and I noticed a few changes to this year’s show. Namely, no skate ramp or blow up waterslide, as there were in previous years. Also, no real theme, which is great, because the tour didn’t need that in the first place. However, recent years tried pirate themes and “Best Day Ever”, but we’ll see if that returns in 2015. Another big change were the addition of no moshing/crowd surfing signs, which frankly didn’t make sense. Needless to say, those rules were not followed.

Back to the shows. There was a block of bands that have been around for a while around 4, so the Marcus Amphitheater was my spot. We the Kings, Less Than Jake, Mayday Parade, and Yellowcard played after one another. We the Kings surprisingly drew a great crowd, though I had expected them to fall off a bit. The crowd was just as into “Check Yes Juliet” now as they were when the band was plugging the album it was on. Always a good sign. Less Than Jake, 22 years in as a band, showed no signs of slowing down. They were just as fast and funny as ever. This was Warped set #369 for them, and you can tell that the band really does have fun at every show they play. Mayday Parade, another band that I thought had fallen off, kept the tempo alive. The amphitheater was very alive, as well, screaming along to every song accordingly. Yellowcard rounded out the block, and possibly had the biggest crowd of the four. With all the change that band had gone through, it didn’t feel like they missed a step. I was impressed.

Other notable shows I caught included veterans Anberlin and Bayside in the BMO Harris Pavilion. Anberlin announced that 2014 was their last year as a band, and even though one more Milwaukee stop is planned, the crowd enjoyed the show as if it was their last time seeing them, and for many it may have been. Another band that had been through a lot, Bayside, was a welcome sight to the pavilion crowd. Last song “Devotion and Desire” evoked a response like the song had just come out. The crowd definitely received their veteran acts well.

I closed out the night with a band I had never seen or heard before. To me, French pop punk/screamo outfit Chunk! No Captain Chunk! was the best option of the night’s headliners, and that was a great decision. Flooding the area by the Ernie Ball Stage at 8:00, the band was full of energy, and so was a crowd that had been enthusiastic all day. Every last ounce of energy went into that set, as fans broke into their last circle pits and hardcore dances of the night, even launching themselves off each other’s backs at the band, a move seldom seen at the Warped Tour anymore. The band delivered to say the least.

Around mid-day, watching a crowd push their way up to see Anberlin I think, I realized this wasn’t going to be my last Warped Tour. I can’t let it go, and even though the show has changed over the years, there’s still a pocket in the lineup for everyone. The spirit of the Warped Tour is still alive, and that’s more important than anything. As long as that remains in tact, I’ll schedule a day off to visit the Warped Tour.

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