Entering the gates of Warped Tour for the final cross country run feels a lot like you’d imagine. It feels momentous and nostalgic and full of excitement for the day ahead. It also feels completely normal, just like it has for nearly every year of the last decade that I’ve been attending. There’s a familiarity and comfort as I scan my ticket and take my first view of the festival—for myself and so many kids and even young adults, this place has been another home. Every summer we’d gather to see our favorite bands and be completely ourselves. We’d hang with old friends and make new ones, complain about paying $15 for a mediocre burrito, and scan the merch booth for free stickers.
For so many of us, this is where our adolescence really took off, and thrived.
It’s where I discovered my love of the band Anberlin, who I saw on the 2008 tour. Falling in love with their set that day would lead me to see them the following year in Providence, where I’d also see an up and coming band called The Coming Weak, which would inspire me to start this very blog you’re reading the same year.
In 2010 I attended Warped Tour for the very first time with a press pass, and got my first real taste of industry life and the behind the scenes of it all. For a budding music industry hopeful, this was the start I not only craved, but needed.
Warped Tour helped give me that start.
So as I stood at the entrance of the Hartford, CT date, I felt a little sentimental. But I also felt incredibly grateful.
One of most difficult decisions you’ll make on Warped Tour is who to see. It’s more of a battle if you have a variety of musical tastes, but for this pop-punk kid, I found most of my must-see bands on the Journey stage, as well as the Owly.fm stage, which proved to be an incredible source of new favorites.
Personally, there were a few stand out acts from the day that included Real Friends, who gave a heartwarming speech on not being afraid to seek help when you need it. The band hasn’t been shy about their own struggles over the course of the last few years and the making of their latest release, Composure. In speaking about those who might be going through a difficult time, lead singer Dan Lambton says, “I’m right here with you.” He then polls the audience to see who is a first time Warped attendee and who is a veteran. “It doesn’t matter how you got here,” he says, “because you’re here.” That’s what matters.
Also on the Journey’s stage is 3OH!3, who are one of those bands that I can’t quite get enough of, despite them defying all my normal genre and lyrical preferences. They’re one of the most energetic bands I’ve ever seen, and in a festival atmosphere having the kind of intimacy where the audience simultaneously feel part of the band experience and part of the crowd experience is difficult to come by. But they accomplish it, and with flying colors.
One of the most pleasant surprises of the day is stumbling across the Owly.fm stage, which hosts a slew of talent including As It Is, Capstan, Broadside, Grayscale, Story Untold, and my favorites of the day, Palaye Royale, who put on an incredibly captivating performance full of energy, attitude, and theatrics. They are the epitome of a band who is doing live performances right.
Another favorite of the day came from the non-profit HeartSupport. Much of the music community will be familiar with Heart Support, and their presence at Warped Tour this year was nothing short of inspirational. They had a giant white board where you could write inspirational messages that would then be seen by the festival crowds as they passed by. My favorite was “These mountains you’re carrying, you were only supposed to climb.” I even added my own, a favorite quote from The Perks of Being a Wallflower: We accept the love we think we deserve.
All in all, it was a beautiful day. Hot, a little expensive ($8 for ice cream Ben and Jerry’s , come on.) but every bit worth it to experience the magic of Warped Tour one last time. As Hartford fell at the beginning of the tour, there’s still a long stretch of road ahead, and to everyone attending this year, I’m hoping you have just as wonderful an experience as I did—soak it all in, feel the nostalgia and revel in it, and don’t let a moment go to waste. Oh, and stay hydrated. It’s hot out there.
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