While the last few years of Warped Tour have, to varying degrees, seemed to course-correct the festival’s reputation for chasing the latest trends, 2017 may have hit a high water mark. While different regions had some bands jump on and off (West = Goldfinger, Midwest = The Suicide Machines, for examples), Camden’s lineup was certainly packed with a load of heavy-hitters. There was some of the expected fare for the younger crowd (Attila, New Years Day, Beartooth and personal favorite Dance Gavin Dance, among many others) but veteran acts may have outnumbered the newer ones, which is a shocking change.
Having different experiences at the show, we decided to share both JJ and Henry’s experiences here. Sometimes they’ve crossed streams, and sometimes they were at different parts of the venue.
JJ: On a side note, this was my first time seeing the event at this location as Scranton is my usual location of choice. While that location has its advantages (my familiarity with the layout, easy and free parking, short lines to get in, and just a generally laid-back experience) this location had its own appeal. After getting the layout figured out (which did take a little while), the navigation here was easier than Scranton as stages were less spaced apart.
Henry: I’ve been to Camden a number of times. In fact, the first few Warped Tours were held at the parking lot of what was Wachovia Spectrum. I think they moved it to Camden back in ’97-’98 and have been setting up here ever since.
JJ: Anyway, after figuring out where the Hard Rock Stage was, I knew it was where I was going to largely camp out. I made it into the venue in time to see Bad Cop/Bad Cop, one of the bands I was most excited to see, take the stage. They plowed through their set which had a ton of new material from their just-released album Warriors. The new material really blended nicely with their older songs and, if anything, upped the intensity. If you didn’t pick up the CD at their merch tent for only $5, it’s time to start kicking yourself. As good as they are musically, they are even better as people.
Henry: Bad Cop/ Bad Cop was a band I definitely wanted to see. I’ve become a fan ever since seeing them play with Masked Intruder on the 25th Anniversary Fat Wreck Tour. I’ve even forced a few of my friends to watch their set and they loved every second of it!
Henry: I headed out towards the Mutant North Stage to check out Silent Planet. They’ve been a band that has played a bunch of shows here locally for years but for every chance they were in town, I’d end up missing their sets. I was happy to see that they’ve blown up over the last few years.
JJ: I wandered inside to the Skullcandy stage to see War On Women as they shouted their message of equality and making concerts safe spaces for everyone. This was followed by Save Ferris next door at the Journey’s Right Foot Stage (the stage placement is one bone I have to pick with this venue). Anyway, SF put on a tight, energetic performance that made everyone in the crowd move even if a lot of them weren’t even alive during the band’s initial run. Now THAT is how you come back bigger than ever. This seemed to an even peppier show than when I saw them in a club earlier in the year. After they finished, I had enough time to get my bearings and plan my next move which was right back to the Hard Rock Stage for….
Municipal Waste! I had never seen them before but it was everything I hoped for with maybe 15 songs being played in 25 minutes. You really get your money’s worth with them. It was nice to see drum-deity Dave Witte in person. A recent addition on second guitar, Nick Poulos really bolstered their attack and maybe it was because I was closer to his side of the stage, but his leads really were highlights of the set. It didn’t hurt that I was able give him a thumbs up and a fist bump later.
Henry: Inside, to tried to cover Memphis May Fire. Literally ever since they’ve been appearing at Warped Tour, for some reason, they always end up playing inside. I hate shooting inside. It’s dark. Very dark.
After a few feeble attempts, I gave up and decided to try and catch The Ataris on the Hard Rock Stage.
Henry: It’s been ages since I’ve seen The Ataris live let alone listen to any releases beyond ‘So Long Astoria’ (sorry, ‘Welcome the Night’ just never did it for me.) The band had just released a new record and is selling it at Bad Cop/ Bad Cop’s tent. No doubt was I curious. One of the highlights of their set was when they finished with the Don Henley cover of “Boys of Summer” and they replaced the line “Out on the road today I saw a Black Flag sticker on a Cadillac” with “…Dickeys sticker on a Cadillac” in reference to the band that stirred up controversy earlier on the tour.
Henry: The entire point of Warped Tour is to check out the bands that you’ve never heard of. Going with that notion in mind, I decided to run back inside to check out a Manchester, UK band that was pitched to me called Sonic Boom Six. They had an upbeat ska sound that you can totally skank to (do people even know what “skank” even means anymore!?)
JJ: After walking around some more, I came back to the Hard Rock Stage to see Sick of It All and….wow. Being familiar with their recorded material forever but never seeing them, these guys may have won the MVP award for the day. Despite being in the game over thirty years, their energy is beyond compare. They have a tight, loud, massive sound live that the early records, for all of the quality of many songs, don’t really capture. It’s hard to imaging them being able to keep that intensity up for an hour, but maybe they can or maybe they just go all out and make the most of their 25 minutes. No matter what, it was impressive and I got to shake frontman Lou Koller’s hand afterward and express my gratitude.
Henry: I’ve been a huge Sick of it All fan ever since I picked up a copy of ‘Scratch the surface.’ It’s weird to think that I was 13yrs old when I bought that. But music has been a rather huge part of my life. The last time I saw them live was literally 20yrs ago at Warped Tour 1997.
Henry: While walking around, I noticed my friend Sean up on the Full Sail University Stage with Courage My Love. I’m not gonna lie, I’ve been clueless to the fact that I’ve been conversing with Mercedes Arn-Horn off and on in FB comment threads for a while now. I’ve always just figured she was a friend-of-a-friend amongst my other music industry friends. It was actually rather cathartic to see her on stage performing with her band since I only knew her from chat threads.
JJ: I ventured over to the Journey’s Left Foot Stage (see what I mean about the layout?!) to see CKY. They are local favorites and the entire Margera family came out to introduce the band. After watching them on TV for years, it was a little bit of a thrill. Bam even came out late in the set to sing a G.G. Allen song. The real story is how the band has recalibrated with the departure of frontman Deron Miller. It’s Chad Ginsberg’s voice at the forefront and…the approach is different. Instead of Deron’s smooth croon, Chad has the vocal approach of a stoner-rock dude who just rode into town and is looking for a fight. After a few spins, the new album The Phoenix is a short and sweet tour of a lot of what the band does just with a slightly different approach. They only played one track off of that “Replaceable” but mostly stuck to tracks from Vol. 1 and Infiltrate. Destroy. Rebuild. Everything was enjoyable and the crowd was into it but the performance seemed a little listless. The band and their layers of sounds are probably best-suited to an intimate club.
Henry: I killed a little bit of time right after CYK. I needed to reorganize myself after all the running around I’ve done. I managed to catch up with a few tour friends along the way. Most were complaining about their lack of sleep (something I knew too well after my short stint a few years back). I caught New Years Day‘s performance over at the Journey’s Left Foot Stage. It’s funny. I can recall a time before they became a household name, when the band would hang out in the press area simply out of boredom and would sit-in during interviews.
JJ: More wandering ensued before circling back to the Hard Rock Stage for the Adolescents. Even though they’ve been at it longer than I have been alive and influenced even the mighty Bad Religion, they were still sharp live. Sure, it’s basically Tony and Steve bolstered by some younger musicians, but those two were always the engine of the band anyway. They had a great new album last year (Manifest Density) and showed that they can keep going as long as they want.
Henry: The Adolescents were one of those bands I just wanted to be able to stand back and enjoy their set. I think the only song any of the younger crowds recognized was “Amoeba” made famous by Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 3 game that we all obsessed over.
Henry: Back inside, one of the acts I was looking very forward to was William Control. I’ve seen him perform a number of times and in different configurations. Starting off with “Monster” and “Kiss the Girl”, he addressed the crowd “I know a band with synths is probably the last thing you’d expect to see here today at Warped Tour. But think of us as a bit of repreive. First we’re going to romance you, and then when Beartooth comes out after us, they’re going to fuck you all in the ass!” According to a few old-school Warped attendees, William Control was one of the new acts that they saw and fell in love with. Also worth mentioning was that ‘Revelations: The Red EP’ just came out today and is available at their merch tent for only $5 and is worth every penny!
Unfortunately, I had to run as the band was starting to launch into “Beautiful Monster” as blessthefall was about to start at the other end of the venue.
Henry: After fighting my way through hordes of Warped attendees, I finally made my way to the Mutant North Stage. The sun was starting to set and “golden hour” was upon us. As the band took the stage, frontman Beau Bokan sprayed the crowd with a bottle of Monster’s Mutant soda. I managed to dodge most of the spray but my camera wasn’t so lucky.
JJ: After this, I made my way over to the Mutant South stage to catch a little of Silverstein’s set. They had gotten a shipment of their new album Dead Reflection in a week early (it was officially released on July 14th) and were selling it at their merch tent. Don’t tell anyone. A few songs in, Beefcake The Mighty “killed” Billy Hamilton and took over on bass for a few songs. I wasn’t able to stick around long because….
Strung Out took the stage at the Hard Rock Stage! I’ve been crossing paths with them a lot over the last few years and as always, good stuff. Vocalist Jason Cruz’s voice sounded stronger than it had the last few times I had seen them and they can really do no wrong in my book.
Henry: By the time Silverstein came on, I was beat. JJ took off to catch Strung Out right after GWAR’s Beefcake The Mighty “killed” Billy Hamilton but missed when him on bass for “Retrograde” and “Still Dreaming.”
JJ: It was at this point in the day with clouds threatening and giving way to sun for so many hours before, that the rain finally delivered on its threat. A drizzle became a full downpour with gusty winds creating havoc as I tried in vain to put on my poncho. If it was just me, I wouldn’t have minded, but I had signed merch with me and was already down a backpack and pair of earplugs that evening. It was with a heavy heart that I had to miss the band’s last song as I ran inside for shelter to dry myself and assess the damage. Once solving this and realizing my poncho was torn and therefore mostly useless, I looked out to see the rain even heavier than before. It must have been an experience for those at the Mutant Stages who saw Hatebreed and GWAR through that.
Henry: I was caught in the rain during Hatebreed and GWAR. I tried to photograph Hatebreed’s set but by the time they took the stage, the clouds overhead looked like it was nightfall to my left and a hint of daylight to my right. I watched as production staff tried to keep the stage together as strong gusts of wind kept knocking over scrims. When the band rolled into “I Will Be Heard”, I guess I was too distracted singing along up front and shooting that I then realized it was just me and another photographer still standing enduring the rain. I bailed out by their third song “Looking Down the Barrel of Today” and watched as production hastily tried to cover up speakers as the onslaught gifted us with a torrential downpour.
JJ: I waited it out inside at the Skullcandy Stage again and was happy to realize this detour brought me right to the Street Dogs, one of the bands I wanted to see anyway. They burned through some familiar numbers including a cover of Joe Strummer’s “Coma Girl”. The crowd in front of their stage which included me, was modest but frontman Mike McColgan worked hard to win everyone over. In fact, he worked so hard, he spent just as much time if not more so in front of the crowd waiting in front of the Journey’s Right Foot Stage next door. They may have been there for Never Shout Never but they got a healthy dose of Street Dogs and I could see a lot of people in that crowd also really into it.
After the Street Dogs closed up shop, I headed back outside one last time to happily see the rain had ended. I took the walk back to the Hard Rock Stage one final time and was able to see all of Anti Flag.
There was something appropriate about them closing things out, especially given the state of the world.
Henry: I had to make a choice. Go see Anti-Flag, or stay and see GWAR. I decided to stay and watch GWAR. Words just aren’t enough to describe their clash of comedy theater/ rock show. It’s one that everyone has to experience first-hand to comprehend it. I was to tell someone that I had a great time getting blasted in the face by Blothar’s four penis’s, I’m pretty sure I’d be met with confusion and disgust. Still worth it!
JJ: All in all, it was an odd experience for me not being consumed by press and only able to get a sampling of performances. This is the exact experience a normal Warped Concert-goer would have and while different, was nearly equally enjoyable. I had already interviewed most of the bands I was there to see (in some cases multiple times) anyway, so with a few elusive exceptions, I was fairly up to date with a lot of them, anyway.
Henry: It was a marathon for me to try and cover as many acts as possible. But overall I was happy to see fans young and old showing up and actually having a good time together. I watched as men in their late-40’s/ early-50’s throwdown in a circle pit with kids half their age during Sick of it All. I saw concert goers in their mid-30’s develop a love for new acts. Acts that they’d never be exposed to on their own accord if it weren’t for the comradery and unity expressed throughout this tour. I saw numerous collaborations on stage that made me scratch my head (Big D and the Kids Table with American Authors, GWAR and Silverstein were the two big ones that came to mind) but they’ve made it all work.
JJ: Let’s also applaud the tour itself as it managed to strike an impressive balance of old and new which should make it a viable, relevant festival for even more years to come.
Written by: JJ Ellis and Henry Chung
Photos by: the unstoppable Henry Chung