RECAP: 2017 Vans Warped Tour: Milwaukee
Every year, the Vans Warped Tour rolls through Milwaukee at the Marcus Amphitheater forecourt, bringing dozens of bands across several stages for a traveling festival unlike any other. A Monday stop in Milwaukee didn’t seem to damper a sizeable crowd of all ages coming out to check out multiple generations of punk, or should we say punk-inspired music. In fairness, that’s the best way to describe the makeup of the tour’s lineup now; while there are some acts that are truly punk bands, it’s more of a counter-cultural tour of sorts now. In many ways, it’s the internet IRL, complete with bands that have cultivated immense followings online. Here’s our tour through the day:
Things kicked off with a shot of adrenaline, when Valient Thorr took the Hard Rock Live stage. The band has been relentlessly crushing stages for years, including several stints on the Warped Tour, and that veteran expertise was on display. Always finding ways to get the crowd involved, frontman Valient Himself made the first of what would be many band-in-the-crowd moments when he led those around him in a sitting, rowing exercise-like pit. Also during this show, something flooded the first few rows of standing area at the BMO Harris Pavilion, making for an interesting scene as punks splashed around in who-knows-what type of standing water mid-circle pit.
Some of the younger bands on tour really made an impact, however, as they need to when pushed into a bill with close to 63 other options to watch at some point throughout the day. It’s clear that both emo outfit Boston Manor and ska newcomers Stacked Like Pancakes are doing something special, though, as both attracted hoards of fans to their set. Both made the most of their time on stage, with the latter band not only trolling the crowd with the opening bars of Smash Mouth’s “All Star” (we see you, internet), but also standing on fans hands on the Skullcandy stage. Someone responded by throwing cooked pancakes on stage, which, frankly, takes a lot of commitment, causing the band members to dare each other to eat one.
There was a space, though, for dare we say it, actual punk rock. Legendary punk rock, at that, as The Adolescents and TSOL proved that they could not only hang with the younger dudes, but in some cases, upstage them completely. The Adolescents sounded like they were still in their prime, and even through out a Die Kreutzen reference, which went appreciated by the Milwaukee crowd. Anti-Flag also proved to be one of the most actually punk bands of the current generation, with an energetic set full of politically charged songs covering topics like the current state of the government and police brutality. Punk rock wasn’t dead on the Warped Tour this year by any means.
There were plenty of singalongs throughout the day, as bands who had previously strayed from the Warped Tour came back for this year. One of note were The Ataris, who kicked off their half hour with breakout hit “In This Diary”, and brought out some of their older material for fans that grew up with the band. This would be a theme for the day, with Hawthorne Heights and CKY also delivering sets of fan-favorites rather than pushing new music. Hawthorne Heights frontman JT Woodruff mentioned that they wanted to make their set “as fun as possible for you”, and only included one track from their newest EP (which is really good, by the way), “Hurt”.
When you think about what creates a great Warped Tour, though, it’s really a collection of cool moments here and there that stick with you. Other fun moments from this year’s Milwaukee stop included everything from Save Ferris frontwoman Monique Powell teasing security guards inside the Marcus Amphitheater, to GWAR bringing out their Bile-Driver that spewed blue goop on the crowd. However, one of the coolest moments was one of the closing acts of the night, New York hardcore legends Sick Of It All, playing the Hard Rock Live stage. While more contemporary acts Beartooth and I Prevail technically headlined the show, Sick Of It All put on a fun, fast-paced hardcore set spanning some of their earliest material, to a smaller crowd. However, members of the other Warped Tour bands that played earlier in the day came out to the mosh pit to check out the show from the audience point of view, and had just as much, if not more, fun than the festival attendees. Truly a fun moment if you were watching it all go down.
While there’s a lot that could be said about the current state of the Warped Tour, it’s best to just leave it up to the festival attendee. With the makeup of the stages and the massive amount of talent on the bill every day, there’s multiple avenues that fans could take for the day. While Kevin Lyman and crew do a great job of trying to achieve something for everyone every year, this year felt like it had the most diversity in recent memory. The Warped Tour continues to change and evolve, and every year is unique. Given the current state of music in general, there’s something to be said for that. The Warped Tour is designed to create the most entertaining day possible for their fans every year, and Monday afternoon in Milwaukee was no different.