RECAP: 2018 Vans Warped Tour – Milwaukee
It was a bittersweet day in Milwaukee for fans that grew up with the Vans Warped Tour, as the traveling festival made its way to the Summerfest grounds, and thousands of fans jumped, moshed, and took in the summertime tradition one last time. However, if you were expecting there to be a somber mood in the air for one last go-round in the circle pits, you’d be mistaken, as the tour rolled into Milwaukee off of a string of sold-out dates with great momentum. Milwaukee made sure to welcome the tour properly for one last time.
Our day started off with a bang, and a local one at that. Size 5’s proved that they’re a band that could hit the tour full force if given the opportunity, with a set of straight up punk rock, reminiscent of Warped Tours of old. The band are always entertaining live, and while they may get their name from a movie that came out before most of the Warped Tour crowd were born, they were certainly a strong way to get the day going.
Speaking of (relatively) local, Illinois natives Knuckle Puck brought a hefty amount of energy in the early stages of the day, as well. The band played the Journeys Left Foot Stage, located inside the American Family Insurance Amphitheater, and had a strong contingent of fans streaming indoors for their set. The band pack some intensity into their pop punk punch, and Milwaukee kick started their day with circle pits and a plethora of beach balls during the band’s set.
Both Knuckle Puck and State Champs are proof that pop punk, while out of its mall-goth popularity phase, is not dead. The New York band commanded the crowd inside the Amphitheater with ease, and a set consisting mainly of tracks from their latest, “Living Proof”. The band is already planning a return trip to Milwaukee on a headlining tour, and deservingly so. In a genre that can lead itself to a lot of similar sounds and shows, State Champs stand out for their energy and authenticity. It was easily one of the best sets of the day.
Less Than Jake are no strangers to the Warped Tour. In fact, they’ve played the tour quite frequently, but because of that, know the easiest ways to get crowds enthused with their brand of ska and punk. If the music doesn’t win you over, there was plenty of smoke (from both the stage and fans), toilet paper guns, a mascot with a banner that read “Victory Lap Tour”, and various other theatrics to make their show as fun as possible. There was also the unpredictability of bringing fans dressed as The Joker and Harley Quinn on stage to dance, because, according to frontman Chris DeMakes, “If you’re gonna dress like an asshole at our show, we’re gonna embarrass you”. The fans seemed to take it in stride.
One of the surprises of the day was emerging ska act The Interrupters. You’ve likely heard their song “Take Back The Power” in a T-Mobile ad, but the band also peppered the crowd with songs from their latest, “Fight The Good Fight”. Lead singer Aimee Interrupter connected with the crowd, as the Bivona Brothers skanked around the Journeys Left Foot Stage with style.
Inside the Journeys Right Foot Stage, aka the BMO Harris Pavillion, Four Year Strong attracted a huge, enthusiastic crowd. The veteran punk band wasn’t lacking any speed or intensity in their set, which at one point was sending fans crowd surfing over the barrier at two to three people at a time. It was inspiring to see the fans late in the day going that hard, and the band definitely earned their enthusiasm. There wasn’t much romanticism about the set, just as much music and energy as the band could exude in thirty minutes. That’s how you play the Warped Tour.
Our night, and our Warped Tour ended with early screamo trailblazers Senses Fail. There wasn’t much of a sense that this was really it for the Warped Tour in Milwaukee, as the band blazed through a series of memorable songs, many from their breakout “Let It Enfold You”. Buddy Nielsen bounced around the pop-up Mutant Red Dawn Stage with vigor, swinging his mic wildly and giving the set his all. There was also a fun medley of nu-metal covers, including System of a Down’s “Chop Suey”, Drowning Pool’s “Bodies”, Rage Against The Machine’s “Bulls On Parade”, and Limp Bizkit’s “Break Stuff”. Fans moshed their hearts out, and it didn’t get sentimental until “Bite To Break Skin”, in which Nielsen screamed “Let’s go like it was 2004!”. During the final breakdown of the song, the band slowed things up, and instructed the crowd to “wave goodbye to your childhood”, which tugged at the collective heartstrings of the crowd. One final arm-swinging hardcore pit, and that was all she wrote. If anyone was going to tear the house down, Senses Fail was definitely the band for the job.
While this year’s run may not be the absolute end of the Warped Tour (they’ve carefully advertised it as the final cross-country run of the festival), it was certainly memorable for all of the right reasons. This may be the last time that punk rock summer camp comes to Milwaukee, but it certainly never wore out its welcome. Yes, the bands will all come back to venues in Milwaukee, but the atmosphere may never be the same. Thank you, Kevin Lyman. Thank you, Warped Tour crew. Generations of fans grew up with the Warped Tour, and on Monday, they came out in droves to send the traveling festival out with one final, full-voiced scream.