2017 marks the 23rd year of the Vans Warped Tour and the world is very different place from the tour’s inaugural year in 1995. The scene has evolved, regressed, came through stronger, faded again and now is in the midst of a much needed revolution as many musicians are starting to become very aware of the weight their positions carry. In 1995 you wouldn’t have heard a fan shouting “you saved my life” as their favorite musician came on stage, things that weren’t expressed vocally though it may very well have held true for fans in those crowds. In 2017 there are many fans who were saying that, Warped Tour was more than a summer concert for them as it was a moment to come face to face with some of the most important people in their life.
A few years ago I would have said that many artists were ignoring this but something changed around 2014 and the Vans Warped Tour began this long evolution to wear it is today. Artists began writing lyrical content that spoke to their audience better, it was less spiteful and malice and more understanding. Don’t get me wrong you can’t go to Warped Tour and not hear a dozen breakdowns during the day but the music was beginning to evolve into something more genuine and less gimmicky. 2017 is the first year in a long time that I walked away from Warped Tour feeling inspired and hopefully for the genre and these are the reasons why :
Punk Music is Back (Again)
Punk never really went away, it was always there in the background, but in 2017 it has blossomed again due to our current political climate. Veteran bands like The Ataris drew massive crowds this summer as fans clambered to express their frustrations with their current situation as one cohesive unit. The resurgence is being led by these band but at the same time there is a wave of newcomers that are bringing something fresh to the table that hasn’t been seen awhile. This summer’s stand out artist for Sight of Sound was Barb Wire Dolls on the Skullcandy Stage. The band hails from Greece and was personally signed by Lemmy Kilmister to his label before his tragic passing. Their grit, attitude and all around punk persona was a refreshing site to see as so many newly emerging artists lean towards the electronic end of the spectrum these days. Barb Wire Dolls were loud and in your face as they climbed off the stage into the moshing crowd.
Established Bands Are Finding New Sounds
As part of the music evolution a lot of bands are growing with their fans, musically and in age. Blessthefall have been around in this scene since what many would call the beginning of it’s popular era – this year the returned to Warped and brought with them a fresh intensity that was lacking on a few of the other stages. Crowd surfing, moshing and stage diving were the norm during their set as Beau Bokan brought a show to the fans and spent most of the set as close to them as possible. For many fans Warped Tour is the one chance they get in a year to see their favorite bands with the dedicated often waiting hours to get up front. Beau fed off this and got as close to these fans as possible, connecting with them on a personal level that many artists would never consider.
New Artists Are Emerging
Warped Tour is where new bands can cut their teeth and some bands can emerge as the next generations front runners. This summer Sworn In took the role of being what we could the “next” in the scene. They had a crowd long before their set and once their set started it only grew bigger at the Monster Mutant Stage. To succeed you need to be doing something similar but holistically different than what the others are doing which is something Sworn In has seemed to perfect. Their performance was serious but all the same heartfelt and full of passion. The crowd gave it 200% as they shouted lyrics back on each song in a fury that I haven’t seen since the last time Bring Me The Horizon was on Warped Tour – a good sign for Sworn In’s future. If anyone can recapture that excitement and channel it into their music they will go far and hopefully be the next breakthrough artist. In 3 years we might be seeing Sworn In headline arenas, wouldn’t that be wild?
Lyrical Content Is Returning to the Forefront
Lastly we have something new, but something familiar – Andy Black. Many will know him as Andy Biersack, lead signer of Black Veil Brides but this summer he is on Warped Tour supporting his solo career. His song “We Don’t Have To Dance” just won the AltPress Award for song of the year and there is a good reason song – it is one of the best songs to come out of the Warped Tour circuit in years. In a scene where breakdowns still reign supreme Andy Black has embraced a gothic meets Bowie sound that has let his deep and gritty vocals truly shine.
His work with Black Veil Brides was always strong but as Andy Black you get a glimpse into who he really is and in doing so the music that was created is extremely relate-able. His lyrical content is vague enough that fans can place themselves in his shows but specific enough that it really encompasses an emotion. This duality in writing is what makes Andy Black so successful, if he was too introspective it would shut listeners out as they wouldn’t be able to embrace it for themselves. Andy Black is revolution that Warped Tour has needed for many years and will hopefully issue in an era of new sounds for the tour. 2017 was many things for Warped as it evolves but Andy Black stole the show this year.