LIVE: VANS WARPED TOUR – July 18, 2014, Auburn Hills, MI @ Palace Of Auburn Hills

July 23, 2014  •  Leave a Comment

 

Venue: The Palace of Auburn Hills

City: Auburn Hills, MI

Date: July 18, 2014

Review and Photographs by: Mike Hubbard

 

2014 marks the 20th annual Vans Warped Tour, the punk/alternative music festival that has become as much a part of summer as 4th of July fireworks, days at the beach, and baseball.  Much has changed with VWT over the years but one thing has stayed the same; a full day packed with some of the best music the punk/alternative scene has to offer.  Another thing that seems to inevitably go along with the VWT is complaints about the line-up, particularly from the ‘old school’ fans who wish that it had never strayed from its skate boarding punk rock roots.  But times have changed, music has evolved, and this year’s line-up has arguably the most diverse set of artist the tour has ever seen.  With 11 stages of various sizes, often times playing simultaneously, there was always someone playing worth giving a listen, from door opening at 11 AM until the last band finished after 8:30 PM.

 

 

I had the opportunity to catch the tour on the Auburn Hills, MI stop at The Palace of Auburn Hills on July 18th.  My tastes typically lean toward the hardcore end of the spectrum, but my goal this year was to experience more variety and catch at least parts of as many acts as I could.

 

My day started with catching a few songs by ‘This Wild Life’, an acoustic indie duo from Long Beach, CA.  After releasing their debut full length in May, 2014 they have been steadily building a fan base that were treated to a strong set early in the day.

 

My next stop was to see another new up and coming band, retro punk quartet Plague Vendor.  Channeling the best of late ‘70s – early ‘80’s bands like the Dead Kennedys, The Cramps, and The Gun Club, while mixing in some indie blues of the White Stripes, Plague Vendor instantly became one of my favorite new bands.  This was one of the few times during the day I made a point to stay for a full set.

 

Aside from the music, VWT has made a point to help promote a number of non-profit organizations that tend to resonate with their audience.  I made a point to stop by and talk to a couple of them.  Many of the kids who are attracted to the music featured at VWT struggle with some serious issues such as depression, addiction, self-harm, and suicide.  There were several non-profits in attendance with the goal to reach out to these kids and help them through various means.  One I talked to was SKAD (Steal, Kill, and Destroy).  They are an organization that works to give struggling kids hope through Christianity.  Another I spoke to was To Write Love On Her Arms.  TWLOHA has been with VWT for 8 years, becoming a fixture with the tour.  They have an aim similar to SKAD, but without the outward Christian theme.  I had a chance to conduct a formal interview with one of the folks from TWLOHA - INTERVIEW HERE.

 

An event the size of VWT is a magnet for sponsors.  Each of the performance stages have their own sponsor, in addition to the tour’s obvious main sponsor, Vans.  The hardcore stage’s sponsor is Monster energy drink, and Monster supplements that exposure with the Monster Energy Lounge, an area where they pass out free samples of Monster energy drink.  No day at the VWT would be complete without stopping for a free Monster.

 

The location of the Monster Energy Lounge was perfect for me to catch part of the Breathe Carolina set while enjoying my Monster Rehab.  Breathe Carolina has been one of the big hits on the tour this year.  Frankly I don’t see myself ever sitting down to listen to a Breathe Carolina CD, but they sure turned the Kia Soul stage into a big dance party.  Everybody there was having a great time as the electro-pop band got the crowd grooving.

 

But enough of the dance music, it was time to get back to my hardcore roots and head over to catch Boston-based Vanna.  I had seen Vanna at a small venue last winter and was impressed by their set then, and they did not disappoint this time around.  Front man Davey Muise really knows how to relate to his audience, performing a couple of the songs out in the middle of the circle pit.

 

This was my 7th year attending Warped Tour, but I almost did not go.  The lineup looked good, but there was no one that stood out that I ‘had’ to see.  Then they announce that Every Time I Die was joining the tour and everything changed.  They are one of my favorite bands and they followed Vanna on the Monster stage.  ETID had just released a new full length on July 1, and a couple of the tracks are already fan favorites and were included in the set.  This was my third time seeing ETID at VWT, and as usual, they killed it.

 

After a brief break in the interview area talking with Mattie Montgomery from For Today - INTERVIEW HERE - I headed back to the Monster stage for the metalcore band The Color Morale.  TCM has been touring and releasing solid material since 2007, but for whatever reason just hasn’t seemed to get the exposure and following their music deserves.  Perhaps this stint on the VWT will get them some of the exposure they so richly deserve.

 

Good thing I was wearing running shoes, since the next set I wanted to catch was a ways away with little time to spare.  Metalcore band For Today was playing on the Kia Soul main stage, and I did not want to miss the opening.  This was For Today’s second time on Warped Tour, the first being in 2012 on a much smaller stage.  Their set proved that they had definitely earned their spot on the main stage.  One of the highlights was a guest appearance from Fit For A King’s vocalist Ryan Kirbey.

 

Unfortunately I could not stay for the full set from For Today, because Beartooth was about to start back over at the Monster stage.  So it was another quick trip back across the complex to catch the hardcore band’s set.  Fresh off the June 10th release of their debut full length, Beartooth showed that they will be a force in the hardcore scene for as long as they want to be.

 

While I was in the interview room waiting to speak with Mattie Montgomery I happened to overhear an interview with rapper K. Flay.  Now rap usually isn’t my ‘thing’, but I was very intrigued by her story and how she presented herself in the interview.  I was able to catch a couple of her songs after Beartooth, and she is far from what I tend to think of when I think of rap.  She used the rap form, but her words were very thought provoking and articulate, evidence of her Stanford education.  She is definitely worth checking out.

 

Another interview going on while I was in the interview area was of Bert Poncet, front man for France’s Chunk! No, Captain Chunk!  His band was playing one of the smallest stages, but the crowd was overflowing!  Lookout for this band, they appear to be on the verge of breaking out in the US.

 

I also happened to run into Rou Reynolds, vocalist for England’s Enter Shikari, in the interview room and briefly spoke with him.  He was very polite and soft spoken in person, but once he hit the stage he transformed into a Tasmanian Devil, leaping around the stage like his hair was on fire.  This was also Enter Shikari’s second time on Warped Tour, and first on the main stage, and the band put on one of the highest energy sets of the day.

 

After Enter Shikari’s blistering set on the main stage I moved back over to one of the smallest stages to catch Close Your Eyes.  I really did not know much about CYE prior to Warped Tour and had fairly low expectations, but they turned out to be one of the bigger surprises of the day for me.  There may have been less that 40 people watching the set, but the crowd were obviously big fans of the band, and front man Sam Robinson knew how to interact with the fans, and in my case, with the camera.  I have to put this set up there as one of the most fun of the day.

 

Next up on the same stage was I, The Breather.  If Close Your Eyes was one of the biggest positive surprises of the day for me, I, The Breather had to be one of the biggest disappointments.  In all fairness, I did not know a lot about the band prior to the day, so my expectations may have been unfair, but I was expecting a technical mathcore performance and got more of a generic metalcore show.  I’ll keep an eye on their progression as a band and hope that this was just an off day.

 

The biggest act of the day had to be Of Mice & Men.  They just joined the VWT about halfway through the tour, and I feel sorry for those cities that missed them.  I also feel sorry for any band that was playing at the same time, since it seemed like EVERYONE was at the OM&M set.  I had seen them two times prior to this, both times at small stages/venues, but they owned the main stage.  That set alone was worth the price of admission.

 

The day was starting to wind down, and I was starting to wear out, but there was still time to catch at least parts of 4 more bands.  My next stop was also on the main stage to catch Australia’s Parkway Drive.  I’ve been a fan of theirs for several years and had caught them at Warped Tour in 2010, but they blew away my expectations.  The band seemed to be having a blast on stage, and the audience was eating it up.

 

After the massive crowds at the main stage it was time for me to go back to one of the smallest stages to catch Fit For A King.  FFAK is another band that I knew little of prior to Warped Tour, but after seeing their vocalist perform with For Today I was looking forward to catching their set.  And this time I was not disappointed.  FFAK has to be up there with Plague Vendor for my top new bands ‘discovered’ at this year’s VWT.

 

I left FFAK a few minutes early to catch the end of the set from Scare Don’t Fear.  SDF is a rapcore band, and I had the opportunity to give their debut full length a listen prior to its release on June 17.  My initial reaction when I hear the term ‘rapcore’ and to run away (didn’t rapcore die in the early 2000’s?), but I found their sound to be surprisingly fresh on disc and was curious as to how it translated live.  Too bad they were so late in the day on such a small stage, because very few people got to hear them.  But those that did get a chance to catch their set got to experience the best blend of rap and metal I’ve ever heard.  I hope to be able to catch them again, and next time get to hear the full set.

 

Last but not least, I caught the end of a set by punk veterans Bayside.  VWT traditionalists view bands like Bayside as the heart and soul of the tour, so it was a fitting way to end my day.

 

I attended Warped Tour this year with four other people, and all five of us saw a different subset of bands.  OM&M was probably the only band that all five of us saw.  That’s part of the beauty of the VWT, there is so much to see.  One of the few downsides of a day like the VWT is that inevitably there are several bands that you want to see but can’t due to conflicts.  Bands I wanted to see but missed included: The Word Alive, Teenage Bottlerocket, Neck Deep, Lionize, and Stray From The Path.  Oh well, I guess there is always next year!

 

If the Auburn Hills date is anything like the rest of the tour, 2014 will go down as yet another successful tour.  Every year I go I say I’m too old for this and won’t go again next year, but every year I keep going back to catch some of my old favorites and discover new bands.  Congratulations to Kevin Lyman and the VWT team for another great tour!

 

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