Live Reviews

Vans Warped Tour – Live review

So, Crossfire headed over the sea a few days back to catch the Vans Warped Tour 15 year anniversary spectacular in Pomona, California.

Whilst we were there we caught a few bonus tidbits too and these kicked off almost as soon as we landed from London when we were reliably informed of a pre-party going on somewhere in downtown L.A. Dragging our tired arses out of the hotel, we managed to get to this gem of a warehouse party which included a characteristically brilliant set from one of our favourites – P.O.S. plus a DJ set from the one and only innerpartysystem, with whom we consumed far too much free alcohol. Add to that a pop-in from fellow UK-ians Gallows and we were having a ball! A great way to start the trip.

And so to the sunny plains of Pomona the following day where countless bands were acclimatising to the first heat of the mammoth tour which goes on all summer long. We’re a bit bummed to see that The Blackout and The Ataris have already played (the schedule rotates day-by-day) but console ourselves with what is yet in store. First off – Aiden who whip the kids into a frenzy with walls of death and their punky, gothed-up rock. P.O.S. for the second time in two days does not disappoint and the rapper has scores of audience members chanting along with their hands in the air. He’s a breath of fresh air amongst a line-up of punk-rock classics and newbies.

A Day To Remember are the band who pull the biggest crowd of all the acts we catch today. Their take on aggression versus pure melody is received with eagerness by a devoted group of followers gathered to see a band who’re set to become one of the most popular on this tour. Actually, they’re clearly already one of the most popular. As the day wears on, there’s time to catch a little Alexisonfire before heading to innerpartysystem’s set and Dallas Green’s voice demonstrates its velveteen magic as ever. Vocalist George is his energetic self and proves that he is more than able to handle the slightly new style that characterises latest album Old Crows / Young Cardinals. The band’s three-pronged vocal attack has been honed to near-perfection.

The second disappointment of the day comes when we roll up to innerpartysystem’s allotted stage only to find that they went on super early and are about to finish up. Bummer. Still, their unparalleled enthusiasm and sampling of Outkast impress the significant crowd amassed. It’s clear that this band will be building a serious fanbase in the U.S. over the course of this tour. Heading over to the main stage as NOFX are ending their set, the rumour we’d heard about earlier in the day rears its head as Alien Ant Farm take to the stage. We wanted to hear ‘Movies’; we got ‘Smooth Criminal’. Of course. Not exactly a fitting tribute to the life of Michael Jackson but a last minute effort that took people by surprised and wasn’t really appreciated by the majority.

The real surprise performance of the day for us comes from the Pomona Glasshouse stage which is the smallest of the event and which we hadn’t really taken a note of but in between bands on the Hurley stage, the strains of something familiar reach our ears and I’m thinking ‘I know that song’. Turns out A Cursive Memory are playing their poptastic offering ‘Everything’ and so we head over to check them out. Apart from that one brilliant song, it has to be said that they’re a bit twee with strings and acoustic guitar being hauled in for this event. However, a nice surprise nonetheless!

We round it all off with a blast from home as Gallows take to the bizarrely-positioned Hurley stage. True to form, frontman Frank Carter totally obliterates the barrier between band and audience, throwing himself into the crowd from the outset and orchestrating circle pit upon circle pit as the eager crowd join in and excitedly document the event with their cameras. Gallows are feeding off that same feeling of a small group of ‘the people in the know’ hanging on their every move that occurred in the U.K. a good couple of years ago now before their popularity soared over here. Now the U.S. is catching on and it’s every bit as exciting. For the band as well as everyone present to witness them. New material is received every bit as well as the classics and the band preach their punk pedigree with well-founded assuredness proving themselves as Warped 2009’s stroke-of-genius wildcard.

A few days later in Vegas, we find ourselves at what is apparently called a ‘Warped Tour pit-stop’ although we weren’t aware of this. Braving the oppressive heat, innerpartysystem rip it up to a crowd of attentive, sweating kids. Their set is pretty much all we can handle on this day, pasty English folks that we are and so we head off into the night to experience the Vegas oldtown and the Strip. We did Warped Tour once already after all…

Words by Sarah Maynard
Photos by Mike Hemsley