Braving The Heat, For The LOVE Of Music… Vans Warped Tour

When I heard it could possibly reach the 90° mark last Saturday, I was apprehensive about attending an outdoor music festival. Heat and I don’t mix well, but music & I do, so I was headed off to shoot the 2012 Vans Warped Tour. In years past, this festival had been held at The Gorge. Although it was originally scheduled to be held at Marymoor Park, it was moved to Auburn’s White River Amphiteatre due to production issues.

I’m not going to lie. Even after 11 in the morning, the heat was brutal. We arrived just in time to pass through a check point where they were selling maps of the stage locations & set times…FOR TWO DOLLARS! Yes. ONE piece of generic black & white print double-sided paper was TWO DOLLARS. (There were EIGHT STAGES where more than FIFTY BANDS would be performing throughout the day so going without it was not an option for someone who really needed pay attention–like ME, for example.)

As with every stop on the Warped Tour, fans don’t know for sure which bands would be performing, nor did they know what time the bands were playing until they arrived. This was the first time I had been to any show like that and I’m not necessarily a fan of that method. To our dismay, the first band that I was most excited to shoot, We The Kings had one of the first time slots of the day and, after going through what I thought was a quick moving line, we still only had moments to get to the stage. Although it was before noon, the crowd (myself included) enjoyed their set. It was full of great energy, and the fans definitely showed they were having a great time. There was cheering, clapping, screaming, and crowd surfing–all things you’d expect at a show… Although, as the day began, this was all happening in nearly 80° heat.

Throughout the day, the 15,000 or so fans never missed a beat. They walked from stage to stage, some appearing to be getting much more sun than others (odd tan lines were showing up, as more “outer” articles of clothing were being removed), and they’d cheer just as loudly for the next band as they had for the previous ones. The skate ramp was quite active with a variety of skaters performing tricks. When not in use, it acted as an elevated platform that housed some fans who were able to get a bird’s eye view of the Kia Soul Stage. As with most festivals, there were quite a few merchants hocking their wares, from logo printed tees to sunglasses in all shapes and sizes. There were also a few non-profit booths giving away logo merchandise, rub on tattoos, bracelets, etc. Many bands had their own booths to sell CDs and memorabilia. All of the attendees were definitely staying hydrated as temperatures rose to a staggering 94°, purchasing their fare share of $3 waters and $6 Powerades. There were 3 water stations where the venue had hung hoses that sprayed water from high above, and those areas were quite popular. They even had a blow up “Slip & Slide” which people were using fully clothed and, well, not-so-much clothed.

After shooting seven or so bands, I tried my luck at scheduling a few band interviews in the press room. It was air conditioned, so being there was a blessing. After waiting for over an hour (so worth it), I was able to interview two bands, We The Kings and I Fight Dragons. You can look for those interviews in a later post.

The other bands I was excited to shoot were Mayday Parade, Yellowcard and All Time Low, all of whom I had never seen live before, but whose music I have had on my iPod for quite a few years. They did not disappoint. But with such a large music festival, part of the whole experience is to introduce people to new bands that they may have never heard of before. For me, that was pretty much the rest of the line-up.

There were a few that I was pretty impressed with, and wished I could have caught their entire sets. Tonight Alive, an Australian band fronted by Jenna McDougall who joined the band at the age of sixteen, had a ton of energy. Think Paramore with a bit more edgy alternative-rock sound. They will make a return to Seattle this fall, opening for Pierce The Veil at El Corazon on November 16th. If you like something completely out of the ordinary, you might want to head over to Streetlight Manifesto’s website and check out their videos and take a listen to their songs. As described on their Facebook page, they are “one part rock, one part ska, with influences from latin, klezmer, folk, world, funk, jazz and classical thrown in.” With their multiple uses of horns, their sound was pretty unique. Breathe Carolina brought a variety of genres to their set as well. With two lead singers, they rapped, sang, and moved about the stage, jumping to melodic, metal, and rhythmic beats. It was almost as if there were 4 or 5 different bands performing because each song sounded completely different.

With eight stages, you’d think there would be noise bleeds, but the sound was quite good. Each band played approximately 30 minutes, and the stage crews kept everything moving smoothly. If there were any mishaps, they weren’t apparent to the fans.  Throughout the day, security looked to be having the time of their lives. (Okay, maybe not the time of their lives per se). There were many bands who encouraged crowd surfing, and by the time the last band, Pierce The Veil (who have a local connection, as they recorded their first album in Shoreline) took to the main stage, I counted a row of 25 security personnel in the pit ready to “catch & release” surfing fans.  They definitely had their hands full.

On a scale of 1-10, I’d give this festival a 7. If it wasn’t such a hot afternoon, I might rate it an 8. If it had rained, I would have given it a 5.

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