After eighteen consecutive years of chaotic summer fun, last week, after a trek across the country, the seminal Vans Warped Tour festival landed back in Portland for the final date of it’s 2012 run. With a multi-stage setup featuring more than seventy bands, and over forty vendors varying from clothing (Johnny Cupcakes, JBWW, Glamour Kills) to nonprofits (Keep A Breast, Music Saves Lives, Invisible Children) and record labels (Side One Dummy, Rise, Fueled By Ramen), the day hosted points of interest for all kinds to discover and enjoy.
With a handful of years attending Warped under my belt, watching the way the festival has grown and changed has been a testimony to the forward thinking that the crew behind it possesses. From using sustainable products, to various forms of donations being taken for perks like early entry and band meet and greets, to always displaying a wide array of genres of music, Warped has managed to stay progressive while maintaining it’s “punk rock summer camp” vibe.
In years past, the festival was held at Washington County Fair Grounds near Hillsboro, and while this sprawling grassy area held it’s cons, the major pro was that there was plenty of space to house all facets of Warped’s mobile entourage. This year, however, the location was changed and was held at the Rose Garden Riverfront. With a more urban location, accessibility was less of an issue, but such close quarters and gravelly ground led to a congested festival site, including insane lines that stretched all the way back across the North Steel Bridge. Maneuvering the festival was a challenge to say the least, but attendees seemed stoked as usual to run around in the blazing heat and take in all that the various stages had to offer.
Highlights of the day:
Polar Bear Club
Hailing from upstate New York, Polar Bear Club have been releasing scathing post-hardcore since early 2009. Featuring on Tilly’s Stage, PBC’s unrelenting energy was a great way to start off the morning, the crowd packed in tight and friends from the road covering the wings of the stage. Jimmy Stadt, vocalist, knows how to put on an entertaining show and appears like he’s having just as much, if not more, fun than the rest of the people there, jumping up and down and pumping his fists along with the lyrics. Even when technical difficulties lead to power shortages in not one, but two different microphones he was using, the band faced it like troopers, and Stadt jumped into the crowd to sing at the top of his lungs. Being that Portland was the last date of the tour, many bands appeared downright exhausted (and the 100 degree heat certainly didn’t help), but the band played through and impressive set like troupers, saying many times how proud they were of their time on the road and what Warped stands for.
Every Time I Die
Every Time I Die has been a staple of Warped for nearly as long as I’ve been attending the festival, but with their latest album, Ex-Lives, and the critical acclaim it’s garnered, the band and it’s fan-base seems completely rejuvenated. Known for their explosive live show and enthusiastic fans, the Buffalo, New York outfit were not a letdown. Only moments after launching into their 45 minute long set, fists were already flying, which the band only encouraged with cat calls and jumping into the crowd. Their massive guitarist, Andy Williams, even took a few moments to bring his wireless guitar out over the barricade and play while a circle pit raged around him. Blistering riffs and Keith Buckley’s signature snarl led the way as ETID blazed through many of their new songs (“Underwater Bimbos From Outer Space” incited the loudest crowd reaction I’ve heard in a long time, while “Revival Mode” sufficiently showcased the band’s signature sound), as well as years-old fan favorite (“The New Black”).
With a crowd already electrified from ETID’s set, Title Fight came to the stage directly after their set ended. While the band has just recently garnered major attention (championed by media outlets like Alternative Press and AP.net), the bulk of their fan base seems to have been accumulated early on, as I watched many people singing along to every single word, even the much older songs. This set, by far, was the most anticipated of the day for me, and the Pennsylvania natives delivered with full force. Playing a sort of heavy melodic pop punk they’ve made all of their own, Title Fight sounded absolutely incredible on stage (which is no easy task when playing in an open space on an outdoor stage). The band’s characteristically short songs mean a set jam packed with hits, from older favorites “No One Stays At The Top Forever” and “Evander,” songs from their 2011 release, “Shed” (“27,” “Where Am I?” “Flood of ‘72”), and even a brand new song (“Sympathy”) from their upcoming album, “Floral Green,” due in September. TF’s performance was passionate, energetic and featured more stage-dives, and more fists in the air than any other set of the day.
By merely glancing at the crowd that turned out for Transit, it might have been hard to notice that they played one of the smallest stages featured at Warped Tour this year (Ernie Ball’s Battle of the Bands Stage). A packed audience and overwhelming response to the Boston-bred quintet’s pitch perfect set is just goes to prove that size doesn’t always matter. Lead vocalist, Joe Boynton, armed with punny jokes and a penchant for literally “surfing” into the crowd atop a giant Tupperware lid, bounded back and forth on the stage to a chorus of voices, interacting heavily with the crowd. The sun setting behind the stage provided some much needed shade, and Transit’s sassy pop-punk had everyone’s hands in the air while they played through much of their release from late last year, along with some older fan-favorites.
Words by Jenna Fletcher
Photos by Kimberly Lawson. More on Flickr.