Emo kids unite for the last revolution.
For nearly a quarter of a century, Vans Warped Tour has brought live alternative music to angsty teens all around America, and occasionally Canada.
Earlier this year, festival founder, Kevin Lyman, announced that 2018 would be Warped’s last full cross-country run. So did it go out with a bang or bust?
Below, are my personal reviews of the acts I was able to catch!
I’ve always felt like The Maine has been one of the few late 2000’s emo bands to have aged gracefully. In recent years, they have transitioned from a mature, teen-oriented emo band, to a more mature, indie rock outfit. Singer, John O’Callaghan, provided some of the most hilariously, bizarre banter I’ve heard in a long time with him blurting out random phrases like, “I love guitar music” or, “I’m like Celine Dion.” I wouldn’t say his singing was particularly aggressive, but it did have some volume. There wasn’t a lot in the show that I would call spectacular, but overall I felt like the group did a solid job on opening up the festival.
Unfortunately, there was not a lot I could say about Issues or its members’ performance. Everything just felt so average. The metalcore band continues to be far from original. I guess the singing was passable, but it wasn’t all that distinct or interesting. Overall, every aspect of the performance as well as the band itself was so generic it’s barely worth even mentioning.
Ice Nine Kills
Before this show, I was not super familiar with Ice Nine Kills. I had probably seen their name on a t-shirt at Hot Topic or on the lineup of past Warped Tours. Given their name, I assumed they were some kind of metalcore band and I was right. Seeing the set pre-performance I could tell this group was not your run of the mill metalcore group like Issues. On stage, the group featured a classic cinema as the backdrop with two ghoulish figures acting as employees. Later on, the band arrived with each member dressed as various classic slasher villains. Throughout the show, the band did a great job of submerging the audience in a vintage horror movie atmosphere. Spencer Charnas had great clean vocals that showed an acceptable range of abilities. The screaming left a little to be desired, but it was far from the worst I have heard in the metalcore community.
Sharptooth is a perfect example of a group who may have a lot of technical ability at their disposal, but they lack the ability to express their talent tastefully. Lead singer, Lauren Kashan, sounded like a raging wolverine on stage, with some of the gruffest vocals I have heard from any female singer ever. She didn’t carry melodies live as well as she does in studio, but she manages to manifest her aggressive energy regardless. The main issue was that Kashan felt the need to open every song with some sort of preachy rant. It was similar to how grandson opened his songs, although not nearly as vague and said with much more conviction. Either way, these rants only hurt the song’s message because when it comes to music, I strongly stand by the phrase: “show, don’t tell.” It’s not even that I disagree with her messages because why would I not be opposed to issues like rape and discrimination?
My real problem is that it feels like she is preaching to the choir. Because what bigot or even anyone who has moderately conservative views would want to attend a feminist punk band’s set at Warped Tour. I understand her reasoning for being so outspoken, because as she pointed out she was the only female vocalist performing on the stage as well as the one adjacent to it. But, her speeches felt so unnecessary and preachy that it only worked to her music’s detriment.
Bowling For Soup
Of course veteran pop punk pranksters, Bowling For Soup had to stop by. The group has always been an enigma for me in that they have never had a major hit outside of “1985,” and yet they have remained a recognizable name in the pop punk name with almost universal adoration. Of course, the group does have a splendid method of mixing self-deprecating humor with earworm choruses. Fortunately, the band did not have a difficult time translating their signature sound into Tinley Park’s massive arena. It was endearing to see how Warped Tour has allowed the group to continue performing despite being past their prime. As lead singer, Jaret Reddick puts it: “There ain’t no other place where four fat 40-year-olds can keep singing about high school.”
I was not sure how I would exactly feel about seeing Australian pop punk group, Tonight Alive in person. As much as I enjoyed a handful of the band’s songs in high school even then I knew the band was a carbon copy of Paramore. Good news was at least they’re a great copy of Paramore. In 2018, Jenna McDougall stills sounded exactly like Hayley Williams of Paramore, but for some reason that did not bother me as much as I thought it would. I guess in her own way she managed to prove herself as being just as capable as a singer. I think what really turned me onto her style was her nurturing spirit. Unlike Sharptooth, who came off as preachy and overly confrontational when contextualizing their songs, Tonight Alive came off as much more nurturing and supportive. An example of this is where McDougall encouraged the audience to release their frustrations and stresses of life while at Warped Tour. The production did work against the band’s potential because sometimes the mixing would be so bad that McDougall would be nearly drowned out by the bass, but even then the show required slightly more focus, it was easy to see her capabilities as a vocalist.
I have never had strong feelings towards emo band, Mayday Parade one way or another. I just thought they were just alright. Derek Sanders did not sound nearly as whiny as he used to. He also brought a lot of hyperactive energy to the table. My biggest problem with the set was that it sounded almost overly rehearsed to a point where the group seemed to lose its humanity.
What was without a doubt the most out of place performer in all of 2018 Warped Tour was Insane Clown Posse’s protégé, Twiztid. The horror-core hip-hop duo had their time in the sun and it really was kind of a blessing. The group delivered silk smooth flows over a trunk knocking beat courtesy of their live drummer. I know artists who tend to fall into the juggalo camp aren’t typically well-received by the remainder of the music industry, but in a live setting, they were scarily precise with their flows. Even if hearing a boom-bap flow in 2018 felt out of place, there was an undeniable chemistry between the duo. There were some corny moments such as, when the group proclaimed their love for weed as though that was still considered edgy, but other than that this was easily the best set of the entire day.
I really did want to enjoy this show more than I actually did, but this was without a doubt the most underwhelming show of the festival. I think it’s safe to say that Warped Tour’s relentless schedule has taken its toll on the group’s singer, Caleb Shomo. Right out of the gate, Shomo struggled to maintain any sort of pitch or melody. Without the band’s semi-catchy vocal hooks, the band struggles to maintain any sort of identity. Looking into the instrumentals, it was clear how basic and rudimentary the structures were. All I can really compliment them on is that despite Shomo’s blatant struggles, the band managed to deliver an adequate amount of energy consistently throughout the show.
I had seen Waterparks previous Warped Tour lineups where they were presented as more as an “up and comer.” It was weird to have a band who hasn’t really developed much of a legacy at this point in time, close the very last Warped Tour in the Chicago area, but they managed to do a pretty clean job. Frontman, Awsten Knight has a pretty wide vocal range, although his falsetto does not translate well into a live setting. Other than that there was not a lot to complain about. The band had sharp guitar licks and even sharper vocal melodies. It was pretty easy to tell that the group did not want to take too many performance risks so Warped Tour could end on a high note in Chicago.
While it would have been nice to have seen the festival go all out with all these veteran acts, the reality is, the show is tired. Twenty-four years is a long time for a festival to last let alone that travels across North America. The final show managed to bring back some of the classics while still giving newcomers an opportunity. Thank you Warped Tour. Your legacy will live on forever. RIP.