Vans Warped Tour 2017 (Scranton, PA)
Vans Warped Tour rolled into northeast Pennsylvania with a vengeance on July 10. Bands both old and new graced six stages throughout the venue; this gave music fans several opportunities to find someone new to hear and watch. Amplified Edge covered both ends of the spectrum throughout the day to review for all of you.
Watching The Ataris for the first time as a punk fan is an unreal experience, to say the least. Their high-energy performance excited the crowd as they played through classics from their 20+ years in the music scene. Even after all these years and five albums, The Ataris never lost their edge and did not disappoint as the Hard Rock Stage’s opening band.
It is probably safe to say that most fans of the rock scene are at least familiar with the names “Andy Black” or “Andy Biersack”. His primary project Black Veil Brides skyrocketed in popularity after their second album and Warped Tour run in 2011; so, during the production of their fifth album, Biersack decided to focus on Andy Black over the past year. After watching his performance, it is clear to see why he is a favorite for fans and media alike. The songs are catchy, his mid-show jokes are funny, and he was one of my favorite artists to photograph.
Now, Valient Thorr was one of those new bands for me, as I knew nothing about them aside from information sent my way. I went in completely blind without even listening to a song, which worked out well. At first glance, the five men on stage look nothing like what most envision a “Warped Tour band” would be. But boy, did they rock harder than some of the bands throughout the day. Their music leaned more toward a classic rock and metal sound (more my style); not only did this make their music stand out a little more, but they displayed a fun showmanship that some newer bands tend to lack. (And how could a photographer not have fun shooting them when they open up their set with an alligator inflatable?)
Barb Wire Dolls
Barb Wire Dolls played right after Valient Thorr to a decent-sized crowd for a side stage. After watching their performance, it is no wonder how they gain a strong and growing fanbase. Front lady Isis Queen is the definition of a metalhead and a punk rocker all in one. The whole band had a noticeable edge about them, but Queen stole the show each time she got in faces and jumped off the stage and into the crowd. The overall musicianship and performance was tight, but there was something special about the unity built throughout the set between Queen and the fans.
New Years Day
New Years Day are no strangers to the grind of Warped Tour with good reason. The band sticks out on the festival lineup as one of, if not, THE most theatrical rock acts. While they are nowhere near Alice Cooper levels, the band members put on their warpaint and go to town. Ash Costello is another leading Warped front lady full of attitude and spooks, leading to an almost enchanting presence while she sings. Lead guitarist Jeremy Valentyne had stylistic playing choices that could not help but make me think of Ace Frehley. (This is good, since Ace Frehley is awesome.) Fellow guitarist Nikki Misery is also fun to watch as he moves around like crazy and even puts his guitar through a little bit of abuse.
Bad Omens was another band newly on my radar. I admit that their music is not really the style I tend to reach out for, but I have nothing against it. However, they brought a ton of energy to their performance, which is respectable. Despite performing on a smaller stage, Bad Omens played as if they were on a Mutant main stage and gave Scranton their all. It was refreshing to see pure expression in singer Noah Sebastian’s singing and body language. Overall, they were surprisingly good; it will be interesting to see how this band makes themselves stand out in such a saturated genre.
A familiar name to most of the metal community, Hatebreed rocked the Mutant North main stage with explosive energy. The music itself was thunderous and aggressive, but the camaraderie in the crowd spoke to what rock and metal is all about. Fans both old and new came together as an expansive crowd pushed up to the barrier and lost themselves in the music. Even more enjoyable was the fact that each band member was noticeably happy to be on stage playing together for those people and grateful for the position they were in. And that happiness not only made for great photo coverage, but also for a solid performance.
Blessthefall is one of those popular bands around the Warped Tour circuit over the years, and they showed just why. Their music may not be a favorite for everyone within the crowd, but front man Beau Bokan’s energy kept their set fresh. Bokan’s dancing and climbing onto the barrier mixed with crowd surfers every other minute made their set chaotic in a great way. (I, myself, am not much of a Blessthefall fan; it was still surprisingly fun.)
Even in their summer gear, Alestorm stuck true to their “pirate rock” and brought reckless abandon to the crowd. Beers shot up for a toast not only on stage, but also in the crowd. Singer Chris Bowes is an expressive leader for the band, adding some silly faces and gestures to reinforce the fact that we all just want to have some fun. Warped Tour made a similar lineup decision in past years with acts like The Aquabats, and it works. In a festival full of heavier bands, Alestorm is the dose of lightheartedness and relief a smoldering hot summer festival needs.
After watching William Control on stage, it is almost surprising to remember him as the singer of Aiden. Control has an air and a style all his own that makes him stand out wherever he plays. His music leans almost into the industrial side while also keeping the sound edgy and fun. What is most interesting is the fact that he also has an almost 1950’s crooner style in his performance and even in his vocal techniques. Control is a good show for those looking to venture outside of the hardcore and punk the Warped scene has to offer. You will end up dancing even without knowing a single song.
It is difficult to describe GWAR any other way except…they are GWAR. But “being GWAR” is entertaining. (It breathed a little bit of fresh air into the Warped main stages this year.) Since the festival is all outdoors in (mostly) sunlight, most bands tend to play and do what they can to keep the crowd amped up. Yet, even with some sunlight left, GWAR managed to immerse the entire crowd and to make them forget they were even outdoors. From the props to the personas to the other special effects, GWAR made Scranton their own; they made a large crowd feel as intimate as a show in a club like Dingbatz. When you can make a large crowd feel small, that is truly unique.
Check out the full photo gallery below: