Warped Tour 2014 – The Definitive Breakdown

Photo by Matt Christine Photography
Photo by Matt Christine Photography

This summer marks the 20th anniversary of the Vans Warped Tour which meant a tour with more “headliners” and stages than ever before. Sight of Sound Magazine was able to make it out to two dates of this historic run of the Warped Tour and in the process we saw many familiar faces take the stage as well as plenty of new ones. Both Scranton, PA and Holmdel, NJ were perfect days for any music fan going out to Warped Tour for the simple fact that it didn’t rain. Holmdel was certainly the hotter of the two days and we sadly saw a few fans suffer from the heat but Scranton had it’s fair share of heat too in between the occasional dark clouds that scared fans into the amphitheater. No rain drops hit the ground at either show though and both days went off as smoothly as they possibly could go in that regard.

Doors opened at 11am this year and bands began playing almost right away. Like always you never know who is going to play first so fans began lining up well in advance to doors just incase their favorite band was going to be one of the bands getting the day started. Like always the main stage action was split and never going on at the same time so you could feasibly walk in between the two and catch all those bands. The side stages often didn’t work out this way which is where many fans have to make a decision of who to see and when.  Over the course of our two days of coverage we set out to cover as many bands as we could in order to provide this definitive break down of the 2014 Vans Warped Tour :

The Newcomers – Icon For Hire

Icon For Hire
Photo by Matt Christine Photography

Icon For Hire are a perfect example of band who are going to benefit greatly from their time on the Warped Tour this summer. Their music isn’t your normal “radio rock” and that sets them apart in their genre enough to make them stick out on the tour. Lead singer, Ariel Bloomer, has a little of a hip-hop attitude in her vocals at times but can still belt out beautiful melodic choruses in other songs. Their set actually starts with her alone on the stage doing some amazing solo vocals. Their image is also something fresh, I like that they wear very personalized and unique outfits. They made for great photographic subjects and the clothes really embody their music/performance too.

As far as I know they play exclusively on the Kevin Says stage this summer, though they missed a few dates recently due to a bus accident and sickness. I am curious to see what the crowd reaction would be like if they got bumped up to the main stage for a day. Icon For Hire are the verge of a huge breaking point of their career, the crowds at Warped for their set were some of the largest at that stage and the most recent album was a critical success as well. Hard to say if we will see them back on Warped Tour anytime soon but I can say that they aren’t going away anytime soon.

The Welcome Alumni – Yellowcard

Yellowcard
Photo by Matt Christine Photography

The Yellowcard fans made it out early for Scranton and were rewarded for making sure they were to the Kia Soul Stage in time for their set. Yellowcard truly are the Warped Tour alumni this year. They toured nonstop recently on their Ocean Avenue acoustic tour and you think that would be enough for them? Nope! They are headlining the Warped Tour this year and rightfully so. My only complaint is that they were forced to play so early in the day but that is the nature of the beast with Warped Tour.

The Best to Dance To – Less Than Jake

Less Than Jake
Photo by Matt Christine Photography

Less Than Jake took the stage in the middle of the day both in Scranton and Holmdel to a truly mixed bag of a crowd. Some fans were camping out for their favorite bands later that day and others were there just to see the legendary band themselves. Regardless of why they were there everyone had a good time once Less Than Jake hit the stage. Their music truly unified the crowd and made them put aside any differences in musical taste they might have and just dance. Really though, people were dancing and sitting on top of their friend shoulders just having a good time. This is what I love about Warped Tour, fans painted up with face paint there to see Motionless in White were having just as much fun as those wearing sundresses there to see bands like Mayday Parade.

Music can be a bridge between people when used correctly as Less Than Jake showed us. They deserve their slot on the main stage and honestly I think they deserve a lot of credit for just coming out and having fun. All smiles, all talent, all dance, what more can you ask for?

The Most Improved – Echosmith

Echosmith
Photo by Matt Christine Photography

Last year Echosmith played their very first Warped Tour to crowds of maybe 75-100 people on average, this year they are playing to crowds approaching the thousands and they haven’t released any new music since their last stint on the tour. What’s changed? First and foremost they have become more confident performers and that has helped them grow a fanbase. Their music was always good so it was only a matter of time until people caught onto them there but their stage presence is where they shine now. Syndey Sierota isn’t trying to imitate any other female vocalists of the genre, she comes out and does her own thing which is to be respected. The band has fun and is all smiles as they get the crowd to sing along with them through out the set.

Seeing a band grow so much in a year gives me hope for the music industry and also restores my faith in the Warped Tour crowd a bit. Echosmith was playing at the same time as some heavy hitters over on the main stage but they still drew a massive crowd of people who came to check them out. Way to go Warped crowd, you picked wisely because this band will be playing that Main Stage in a year or two.

The Technically Sound – We The Kings

Photo by Matt Christine Photography
Photo by Matt Christine Photography

First of all, We The Kings played during a golden sunset. How rad is that? The crowd really dug the atmosphere that was created by this event and the band even commented on it a few times during their set. As always they were the most technically sound band to hit the stage. Time after time we see We The Kings get up there, have fun, but at the same time deliver a performance that stands out for it’s purity. By this I mean it was so perfected that the studio versions almost sound flawed in comparison. Travis Clark has a lot more emotion in his voice when performing live and this allows him to work the crowd in a different way than most front men can. He doesn’t need to jump and thrash around to have a crowd off their feet, singing along. All he does is his note after note until the song reaches it’s peak and the crowd takes over for the final chorus. For playing so late in the day it is safe to say that their fans are dedicated, you could spot band shirts as far as the eye could see and people started to blend into the sunset horizon as We The Kings showed off their talent once again on the Warped mainstage.

The Most Underrated – Survive This!

Photo by Matt Christine Photography
Photo by Matt Christine Photography

Survive This! put on a great show to a crowd that should have been A LOT bigger than it was. They were going up against some big names on the nearby main stage but they still deserve more of a crowd than they had in Scranton. The band is coming off the hugely successful “Bury The Hatchet Tour” with Falling in Reverse and has started to build up an audience of fans but I want to see them really get a crowd big enough to throw down to their songs. The size of the crowd didn’t impact their performance at all and I hope that everyone there tells their friends to check this band out, they have the “it” factor that is missing in so many ways. Survive This! is a must check out on the tour this summer.

The Hype Band – Of Mice & Men

Photo by Matt Christine Photography
Photo by Matt Christine Photography

You could cut the tension in the air with a knife before Of Mice & Men took the stage in Scranton. I have never felt such a heavy feeling in the air before a performance before, the crowd was literally swaying side to side like a massive ocean of people. The start of their set happened so quickly that it caught the crowd by surprise and they erupted with a roar the likes of which I have never heard before. The crowd certainly wasn’t the biggest of the day but it was multiple thousand strong and they all pressed forward crushing each other to try to get closer to the stage as Austin Carlile walked out smiling before the set started. Once things began it got heavy and the set only got heavier as it went on. The crowd surfers were endless and the band loved every second of it. They lived up to the hype, actually surpassed it in my opinion. Of Mice & Men were a close 2nd for best overall band on the tour but got beat out in the end (read to the end to find out who stole the throne).

The Band on the Rise – We Are The In Crowd

Photo by Matt Christine Photography
Photo by Matt Christine Photography

We Are The In Crowd have found new success since the release of “Weird Kids” earlier this year and should not be playing on a side stage. I say that with the best intentions though, they deserve to be on the main stage more than a lot the bands that they have playing there. They played to a PACKED amphitheater that you could hardly fit another person into. Tay Jardine is a true front woman and engages with the crowd as much as she can, giving crowd surfers high fives and feeding off their energy the entire time. This is the band that everyone needs to keep an eye on, sure they will headline Warped Tour eventually but I’m more curious about what comes after that for them. They have the potential to replace some of the biggest bands in the genre right now and live on with a longevity that most bands in their scene of music just don’t have. Their music is fun, simple yet very complex at the same time and their live performance in infectious. We Are The In Crowd have no where left to go but up from here.

The Weirdest Set – Enter Shikari

Photo by Matt Christine Photography
Photo by Matt Christine Photography

This photo really says it all, Enter Shikari were better than the last time I saw them play but it was very…….interesting? I don’t know enough of their music to give a fair explanation of their set but the crowd loved it and I can admit that it was a hell of a lot of fun to watch take place. It was passionate and that made up for the lack of polish and perfection. Not everything needs to be all glitz and glammer in the world and they have embodied that concept fully.

The Homecoming Kings – Motionless in White

Photo by Matt Christine Photography
Photo by Matt Christine Photography

When Motionless in White comes home to Scranton there is really only one way to describe it accurately, hell on earth. Warped Tour is no exception, their dedicated fans waited all day at the stage they were set to be playing on and by the time the band came on their make up had run but they stuck it out. The band knew where they were and played that to their advantage bringing out a stage set up that they most likely couldn’t use on any other date of the tour. Chris Motionless rocked back and forth on his riser in between songs teasing the crowd with each second passing by. Motionless in White aren’t a bad to be taken lightly, sure they wear make up but they are true artists about what they do and what to make an impact on this world. Judging by the size of the crowd and the response they received it is safe to say that they have impacted more people than they could possibly imagine. Their homecoming will certainly be a highlight of this summer’s Warped Tour.

The Party Kids Nextdoor – Attila

Photo by Matt Christine Photography
Photo by Matt Christine Photography

Attila is the band with no censor, the band you want to party with, and the band with the biggest crowd on the Monster Energy Stage. Their music is offensive, but that is their thing and it totally works for them. Sure they might offend some people but if you take a second and listen to their lyrics they actually have some solid meaning to them as well. The band loves their fans, in fact I think Fronz has probably taken over a million photos with fans this summer being that all he does after their set is do photo related things at merch and the Trojan tent. This band has come a long way to find their “thing” and now that they have found it the world needs to watch out because they have a lot to say and get off their chests. Attila comes to party when they hit the stage and if you don’t like it you can leave because they honestly couldn’t care at all. They clearly don’t have time for a few haters in an ocean of fans their to see them.

The Most Mysterious (aka The Beyonce Award) – Falling In Reverse
In 2014 if a band plays a show and there is nothing to show besides a few blurry Instagram photos and a shaky Youtube video did it really happen? Maybe, maybe not. In the eyes of the professional world it did not but they eyes of the fans in the crowd probably. Every band has the right to limit press but when they make the “no photo” dive it is a path they rarely travel back out off. Falling in Reverse put on a great show as always for one of the largest crowds I saw at Warped 2014 but I have nothing to show for it other than my words which fans of Ronnie Radke will know are worth a lot less than visual representation. If I was in a band drawing the biggest crowds of the entire tour I would certainly want as many photos and as much press about it as possible but that’s just me. Falling In Reverse prefer to be mysterious, and they are as mysterious as Instragram, Twitter, Youtube and Facebook allows them to be. You can escape the press but you can’t escape the social sites and the “wifi gangsters.”

The Pop Punk Pizza Choice – Four Year Strong

Photo by Matt Christine Photography
Photo by Matt Christine Photography

Do I need to say more? Pop punk is alive and well and Four Year Strong are the sole reason for that.

The Most Fan Oriented – The Word Alive

Photo by Matt Christine Photography
Photo by Matt Christine Photography

The Word Alive spend of more of their set in the crowd than they do on stage and that is pretty respectable. Lead singer, Telle Smith jumps down during their third song “Lighthouse” and makes sure that every fan within his reach gets some love and appreciation before he climbs back on stage. This band also loves photographers so any band that supports us and what we do is always a favorite of mine! For a band that rose from the ashes as an abandoned side project of Craig Mabbitt of Escape the Fate, they have come a long way and their must recent album “REAL.” has had a lot to do with that. Their fan base is only going to keep growing as they tour more on that album and eventually bang out another one once that album cycle is complete. The Word Alive was certainly one of the most talked about bands this year on Warped and for all the best reasons. They are buzz worth right now and aren’t a band you should sleep on checking out.

The Ol’ Skool Masters – Finch

Photo by Matt Christine Photography
Photo by Matt Christine Photography

Plain and simple, Finch should have been on the entire tour. The fact that they were only treated to a short stint on it is disrespectful to their legacy as a whole and something I don’t agree with. Even more so the band was forced to play one of the earliest time slots on their last day of the tour. Not cool Warped Tour, a lot of fans missed out on seeing them who specifically came to the Holmdel show to catch the last date they were going to be there. So many fans left disappointed that they missed a great show from Finch and that was all Warped’s fault honestly for putting them on so close to doors. I’m sure it wasn’t intentional but it sucks all the same that they had to end their stint on Warped with the majority of people still waiting to get in the venue.

The Legendary Circle Pit – Parkway Drive

Photo by Matt Christine Photography
Photo by Matt Christine Photography

Parkway Drive are a band that have a legacy more extensive than their musical library. When I was waiting in line to get in I asked some fans who they were most excited to see and without fail the majority of them told me they were there to see Parkway Drive. Their crowd was massive in Holmdel but it was tightly packed in, I found it very odd how spread out the crowd was in the middle until the show started and the band instructed them to make the biggest circle pit I had ever seen. It wrapped nearly 60 yards around and was just a sea of running people, probably over a thousand strong at it’s peak. Musically the band put on a great show as well and deserves to be respected as a giant of the tour this year. In my opinion they are past the point of needing to play Warped Tour, they could easily be doing a massive headline tour with some other bands this summer but I do give them major props for doing Warped this summer and giving back to their fans like that.

The Scream and Thrash – The Devil Wears Prada

Photo by Matt Christine Photography
Photo by Matt Christine Photography

The Devil Wears Prada have come a long way since I last saw them on the Mayhem Festival in 2012. Their music has matured, their performance has gotten tighter and their fan base has grown tenfold. Their addition to the 2014 Vans Warped Tour was an interesting choice but a perfect fit because the main stage was in need of band ready to throw down and really get the crowd moving. The mosh pit during their set in Holmdel was out of hand, but in the best possible way. I don’t think anyone got seriously hurt but there were certainly a few fans who were feeling sore for a couple days after that show. The band pours all of their passion and emotion into their performance making it something truly memorable and something that no other heavy band on the main stages was able to quite achieve. It is increasingly difficult to be so raw yet be so polished at the same time somehow The Devil Wears Prada have cracked the formula and have unleashed that beast.

Best Overall – Breathe Carolina

Photo by Matt Christine Photography
Photo by Matt Christine Photography

In the end there can be only one best overall band and it was without a doubt Breathe Carolina. The band has gone through so many changes of the years to find what works best for the band and finally everything has lined up perfectly to put them at the top of their game. Their newest album “Savages” saw a slight genre shift for the band as they fine tuned the sound they wanted to focus on and as a result they were able to begin tweaking their live show as well.

You don’t go to a Breathe Carolina concert, you go to a Breathe Carolina Party. Plain and simple. Beach balls are included, the band goes rafting over the crowd and water guns make an appearance before Telle Smith from The Word Alive joins David on vocals for “Sellouts.” Each song gets blended together by a DJ mix so at no point does the music stop so the crowd is forced to just keep giving all their energy to the party atmosphere. David Schmitt is in his prime as a vocalist and the new songs really showcase that. Their set is heavy on the new material but they bring some old songs into the set but they are reworked slightly to fit their new image and sound.

Both days Breathe Carolina came to party and left the crowd wanting more when they ended their set. They screamed and screamed for an encore that Warped Tour would sadly never arrive. The 20th anniversary of Warped Tour will be remembered by all because of their performance, it is safe to say that this could be their last time on the iconic tour because they have reached the point that they are ready to start playing the large venues on their next tour. Amphitheaters and arenas are Breathe Carolina’s future because the party is only going to get bigger and bigger for them now.

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