I’m a little late to the party when it comes to writing up my list of the top, must-see, acts embarking on this year’s annual Van’s Warped Tour. I initially started to draft up my list of awesome musicians taking the stages across the county when I came the startling realization that I might not be able to make it to any of the three shows in the general Pennsylvania area. Fortunately, before this list either a) never saw the light of day or b) took a very dark and brooding tone of jealous envy against those who were lucky enough to head out to a show, I was able to negotiate travel arrangements. So here is a completely optimistic and enthusiastic run down of the bands I am the most amped to see on this years Warped Tour. If you’re heading out to any of the dates, you should seek them all out.
Fairly new to the world of pop punk, Citizen bring the noise the good old-fashioned way: loud, proud, and fast. Although the band is still rather fresh-faced and new to the scene, they’re sure to put on a rapid and energetic set that will kick the day at Warped Tour off right.
If you’re at all like me, then you were more than a little upset when you learned that Chiodos was essentially disbanding and reforming after their phenomenal sophomore effort, Bone Pallace Ballet. Although what followed, 2010’s Illuminaudio, was a brilliant surprise, it was helmed by an entirely new vocalist Yesterdays Rising’s Brandon Bolmer), the group didn’t sound themselves, although admittedly for the better. Those who missed the band’s former glory shouldn’t call it a reunion, but should absolutely rejoice in the fact that the former lead vocalist, Craig Owens, has returned to front the sometimes poppy, sometimes metal gothic rock group. Be sure to catch the newly renovated Chiodos to witness the decibel-shattering vocals of Owen’s and the addition of seriously shredded guitar by former The Fall of Troy slasher Thomas Erak.
The Early November :
Ace Enders is one of those musicians that I’m one hundred percent convinced is an actual machine, a masterful work of science designed to crank out irresistible tunes spanning everything from power pop to folk blues and all the way up to straight grunge-rock. Not only is Enders running the whole acoustic side of the tour under his I Can Make A Mess moniker, but he’s also going to be throwing it down with his full-band endeavor. After Enders and the rest of The Early November called it quits (or indefinite hiatus, as is the popular phrasing in the scene today), they returned last year with a collective, “j.k.,” reuniting with not just a few reunion shows, but a full-length album, their most uniformly strong material to date. Many were worried that the return stint would end there, but it looks like the former scene seminal group are serious about being back, doing a full run on this year’s tour. If you’ve never caught them back in the day, this summer provides the perfect excuse for a nostalgic rock road trip.
Motion City Soundtrack :
Take old school Weezer (or Ludo, the two are pretty much interchangeable), add a few elegantly placed geek culture references, and top the whole thing with a more large-scale Ben Gibbard vocal style and you’ve got the groundwork for Motion City Soundtrack. The pop-punk band mixes synth-piano hooks with witty lyricism and wonderfully hooky choruses, resulting in upbeat indie rock that is sometimes somber, overtly clever, and, most of all, an infectious pop romp.
Relient K :
On paper, Relient K is not all that different from the aforementioned Motion City Soundtrack: they have piano overflowing from their songs, they create airy pop tunes with catchy hooks and quirky lyrics to boot. What sets them apart is essentially the way they go about the process; While the former prefers a more rounded rock sound, Relient K leans heavy on the pop, the wordplay, and breezy vocals of Matthew Thiessen, who’s tongue in cheek, and admittedly cheesy, lyrics shine through amidst all the upbeat power strums and piano meddling.
Story of the Year :
Story of the Year have been quietly releasing solid, if not a bit mundane, rock and roll music ever since their inception and release of their scene classic, Page Avenue. Despite the fact that none of their following material ever quite reached their original glory (although 2005’s In the Wake of Determination came pretty close), the group still puts on a furiously energetic and exhausting live show filled with guitar spins, somersaults, stage dives, and an exciting array of onstage antics that really make for a memorable appearance. Even fans unfamiliar with anything other than the few handfuls of songs compiled on Page Avenue should check out Story of the Year’s set for truly wild ride.
The Swellers :
The Swellers are, by definition I suppose, a pop-punk group, however their music tends to play out in a more traditional rock and roll manner. Of course they still utilize the token speed-drumming, power chord reliance, and catchy chorus techniques coined by the genre, but what sets them apart from the pack is the diversity in their songwriting techniques coupled with the vocal work of Nick Diener: a unique belt with an absurd amount of power and control and just the right hint of an underlying smoothness.
Acoustic Basement: I Can Make A Mess, Craig Owens, Charlie Simpson, William Beckett, & more :
Before you get all carried away, all hot, bothered, and flustered over the Acoustic Basement sounding like the most excellent super group, allow me to clarify: The Acoustic Basement is not a band, it is a tent / stage where bands and singers will be showcasing their talents in the rawest form. Some acts will feature men armed solely with guitars, while others will most likely lean more towards the full-band donning a stripped-down style. Either way, The Acoustic Basement offers a mellower, intimate experience where you can go to beat the heat after a sweltering day of ferocious rock and roll.
The Tower and the Fool :
If you prefer your summer festival music with a bit more southern twang and country flair, then be sure to check out The Tower and the Fool’s enrapturing combination of southern styling and good old fashioned punk rock. They are, at times, rough and raw, at others twangy and soulful, all of which is delivered through subtle southern draws pouring out confessions of heartbreak with two very distinctly different, yet complimentary, dueling vocal styles.
The Wonder Years :
Quite simply, no one does pop punk today like The Wonder Years. Hot on the heels of their latest effort, The Greatest Generation, and it’s vicious promotion cycle, the Philadelphians will be shredding atop the Warped Tour throne as they headline each and every day this summer. If you ask me, there is no better way to round out the day then by pumping your fist and belting back the passionate and anthemic lyrics before calling it and heading home.
For more information about this year’s Warped Tour, including band’s, dates, and tickets – click here.