It’s 10:30 a.m. on a muggy Saturday morning and everyone in the parking lot of Jones Beach Theater is prepared. Almost every line of parked cars features a squad of teens and twenty-somethings sporting tie-dye shirts, sleeveless tees, baseball caps and crop tops. They’re slathering themselves in sunscreen and body paint, playing cornhole with metalcore blasting out of their car speakers and stuffing backpacks with bottles of water and snacks. They stand in line waiting to get into the venue, chit-chat about which bands they’re trying to see and even pass around a bottle of Bacardi rum to chug it before the security line.
And all of this feels…..routine. Or at least too routine for something as special as a stop on this year’s Vans Warped Tour. Not only is this the 24th anniversary of the iconic punk rock festival, but this year’s tour is the final cross-country run. Few dates remain in Warped Tour’s lifetime, signaling the end of one of the most popular and impactful musical institutions of the last 25 years. It helped the pop-punk movement rocket into the mainstream, serve as a springboard for major acts from Fall Out Boy to Katy Perry and was one of the few touring music festivals affordable for younger audiences. One would think there would be a bittersweet feeling in the air on this stop of Warped Tour’s curtain call.
On the contrary. As it turns out, Warped Tour’s stop in Wantagh, NY on July 28 featured the much-praised rebel energy and colorful spirit of Warped Tours before. That energy was on display throughout most of the 10 hours Warped Tour spent at Jones Beach on all seven stages. From the opening growl of metalcore stalwarts Issues on the Journeys Left Foot stage, over 70 bands shook the crowd into fits of headbanging, dancing and emphatic yells of euphoria. Despite the over 80-degree heat that continued to pound on the crowd throughout the day, neither the crowd or the artists on stage held anything back in their displays.
MyChildren MyBride, who took the Mutant Red Dawn stage a little after noon, reveled in their collection of devoted followers and first-time listeners to their brand of Christian metalcore. In between frontman Matthew Hasting’s guttural vocals and the pummeling riffs of guitarist Robert Bloomfield, Hasting got the whole crowd to put their hands up near the end of their set and high-five each other in a pseudo-wave. Minutes later on the neighboring Mutant White Lightening stage, emo veterans Silverstein almost immediately kicked the crowd back into a frenzy. The two Mutant stages arguably featured the heaviest of acts on the Warped Tour bill, as the likes of Deez Nuts, Ice Nine Kills and Motionless In White, who looked like Marilyn Manson’s gothic offspring, were so loud and aggressive that the pavement beneath them seemed to vibrate every time a bass drum was beat.
Warped Tour has hosted artists from various genres over the years, but arguably what it’s most famous for is punk-pop, and this year was no exception. Relative newcomers Sleep On It made the crowd at the Owly.FM stage early in the day bounce in a joyous frenzy with their power chords and sing along lyrics. Later on was fellow newcomers Doll Skin, an all-female quartet who are younger than the festival itself that mixed punk with power pop. The Journeys Left and Right Foot stages had the most packed crowds thanks to the likes of pop-punk superstars Mayday Parade, We The Kings and The Maine swaying the crowd and creating waves of screaming fans. All the more fitting for the presence of closing act Simple Plan, who surprisingly retained the bouncy charisma they had when they first busted out “I’d Do Anything” in 2002. More amusing was when 3OH!3, the frat-pop duo who preceded Simple Plan on the Left Foot stage, joined the band two songs into their set to shoot Super Soakers at the crowd either out of nostalgia for when they were still young enough to find that funny or as a means to appease the younger audience.
But another trait of Warped Tour is weirdness, both in its acts and its audience. The likes of Eminem and The Black Eyed Peas have graced the stages of Warped Tour in the past, representing the occasional odd ball in the line-up that’s either too pop or too rap for the expected crowd in skate shoes. Take Oakland, California’s MC Lars for instance, who strutted onto the Journeys Right Foot wearing an Adidas tracksuit and a Legend of Zelda Nintendo cartridge as a gold chain while rapping in the vein of Run-DMC and the Beastie Boys. And then there was one of this year’s true wildcards: Yungblud, the 19-year-old British brat who’s mixed angsty pop rock with hints of rap. The second he spun onto the Owly.FM stage, swinging around a Gibson SG while wearing a pink and black striped shirt looking like Johnny Depp’s understudy in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, he somehow seemed to fit right into the mold and be almost alien to the entire scene. He looked like a Hot Topic model and sung with a classic snotty attitude, yet he puckered his lips and shook his shoulders like Mick Jagger in the 70s while singing “Psychotic Kids” and “I Love You, Will You Marry Me.”
“He’s unique compared to all the other really hard music, which I do like. But I also enjoy him as well,” Sierra Martin, who drove up from central New Jersey to see Warped Tour, said before his set.
“I love him so much,” Mackenzie Nicosia, who accompanied Ms. Martin on the drive up from Jersey, said before screaming her head off during Yungblud’s set.
That weirdness didn’t even stop with the acts on stage. On top of the cavalcade of colorful merch stores containing everything from commemorative wristbands to…whatever was being sold at the Twiztid merch table was the occasional eye-catching characters popping up at the show. One of them was Dylan Tanella, a Wantagh local who stood in the middle of the crowd wearing a white t-shirt that read, “Sign me.” By that he meant having random concert goers walk up to him and sign his shirt in marker.
“Five years ago, I saw all the people with the ‘Free hugs’ stuff going around,” Mr. Tanella said. “They weren’t getting much attention and for some reason I thought, ‘Hey everyone is waiting in line to get signatures from bands. Why don’t I give them something to do while they’re waiting on the line.’ It’s just to have a good time.”
So maybe that’s what the final Vans Warped Tour is supposed to be: routine. As much as its audience has donned black eyeliner and would prefer My Chemical Romance to play their funerals, it would seem inappropriate to drench the farewell tour with gloom and doom. Though Warped Tour is saying goodbye, it’s going out with the same teenaged yelp it’s cried for 24 years. Even with the packed crowd at the Journeys stages at the end of the night paying tribute to the older guard of Warped, flickers of the next generation will still heard from the tiny Full Sail stage by the ferocious swagger of New York’s own Vista. Loud, varied and exhausting, Warped Tour doesn’t feel like it’s saying goodbye. More like, “I’ll see you when you pick me up later, mom.”