Has it already been 13 years since the Warped Tour first came through? What started as an almost experiment of a festival featuring mostly punk rock and ska acts with skateboarding has turned into an event kids talk about all year featuring all genres of music including hardcore and hip-hop. As the years have passed the line ups have increased with some bands returning many times over. It is also now the longest running festival in America.
At $40 a ticket there were some complaints coming from the wallets of kids waiting in line at the ticket booth, but not too many as the show was practically sold out.
Keep in mind there were 10 stages throughout the festival area so it was impossible to check out every single band. I wish I could clone myself and do so but I am not that intelligent. All of the performances lasted an average of 30 minutes and that was understandable as there were almost 90 bands spread around. I took everything in stride checking out what was before me and then moved on.
I could hear Ohio’s Hawthorne Heights playing the Lucky Stage. High pitched screams filled the area as the emo-screamo band played through a quick set featuring songs off both of their albums. Not exactly my style but they sounded good.
I had heard great things about the London hardcore act Gallows so I ventured to the Hurley stage to check them out. When they took stage I heard singing but could not see a singer anywhere. I moved up close to get a better look and there he was, Frank Carter, signing his heart out in the middle of the pit with the fans. After one of the tracks he stated that they got paid a lot of money and that everyone should buy their CD so the band could make more money.
They blew through their set but not without inciting the largest circle pit I have ever seen. The kids were basically doing laps around the soundboard area as they covered a Black Flag song. This was the highlight of my day. I made a note to myself to go buy their CD next time I go shopping.
I decided to hang out at the Hurley stage to check out the Unseen. They hit the stage and blew through a few songs before rocking out to a cover of the Rolling Stones “Paint It Black”. I have heard some interesting covers in my life but this was by far the best one I have heard live. I found it funny as most of the kids in the crowd had a look of confusion on their faces as they maybe heard the original when their parents played it but still could not decipher if it was an Unseen song or not.
The atmosphere soon changed as the skies turned gray. Raindrops slowly starting falling on to the skillet like pavement. Most of the fans thought of it as a cool refreshing break to the close to 95 degree heat that had been torturing us all.
Everyone was wrong. There was a line-up change at about 3:20 pm.
Without warning the winds picked up and the rain started coming down hard. Fans of all ages ran in horror to the main amphitheater tent. Once that filled up fans were going everywhere possible for cover some even found dangerous cover under the bridges that span across the area. Lightning struck around with some bolts hitting a little too close for comfort. A couple of times the strikes of lightning hit so near that petrified screams would erupt as well as cheers of approval. Crazy kids.
Hail started pelting the ground and the rain seemed to double in intensity. I was about one fourth of the way inside the tent and I was still getting soaked. At one time the wind gusted so hard that the blow-up stage schedule that is a good 20 feet tall blew over on some of the merch stands. When all of the fans saw this happen they erupted in cheers of approval. I along with the rest tried to enjoy myself, but it was hard to when you are stuck outdoors in a storm that looks to have no end.
The winds calmed down and it looked as if the rain was going to let up but I was dead wrong. Minutes later the rain picked up as did the wind. I think Mother Nature just needed to catch her breath. Lightning continued to strike around the area and scare the younger concert attendees as the wind destroyed the festival grounds.
There was a moment during one of the gusts of wind I thought I was in a tornado. As I looked towards the concession stands all I saw was white. The sounds of the wind were just brutal as it blew the rain horizontally. I looked around the tent-like amphitheater and watched the wind destroy one of the fabric screens right on the stage. Again cheers roared on throughout the area. Mother Nature just performed at the Warped Tour Cleveland. No encore please, we have had enough.
I can not say I enjoyed being crammed like sardines in that tent but I consider myself a fortunate fan. Once the storm let up I made my way to the press tent as I was supposed to interview MxPx at 5pm. As I looked around the parking lot area turned festival grounds, all I saw was destruction. Tents and merch booths were scattered along the grounds. The fans looked dismayed as they tried to recap what had just happened. I felt like they should have called for a state of emergency just by the looks of what surrounded me. It looked as if the festival had come to an early ending.
I walked to the press tent on the outskirts of the area only to see that it was no longer there. There were some people in a garage next to where the tent had resided so I poked my head in to ask if interviews would continue. I already knew the answer but it did not hurt to ask so I wished them all a better day and walked back towards the festival grounds.
I ran into the drummer of a band called Downtown Brown. He was rinsing off in a puddle still possibly shook up from what just happened. He introduced himself to me as Benny and shared his storm experience. He along with his band mates were caught in the storm in the Hot Topic tent along with others. He said at one time the wind tried to pick the tent up and everyone grabbed a part of the tent and tried to keep it from flying away. Regretfully, the poles on the tent were rather slippery and one of the band mates lost his grip on the pole and it swung over and stuck a guy in the forehead. Benny did not think it was life threatening but there were some pissed off people in that tent after that happened.
Once I finished talking to Benny I walked towards the 13 Stage where Coheed & Cambria were to perform. There were tons of fans waiting for the show to go on. I thought it was great to see these kids brave it out and stick around. The storm was gone and the sun was back out blessing us with its warmth.
The founder of the Warped Tour Kevin Lyman came to the stage. Most people had no idea who he was until he said 13 years ago he started this "thing". People went silent at the Godfather of Warped told the fans that “this storm is now in the top 5 worse storms of Warped Tour history”. He thanked everyone for sticking around, apologized for some of the bands not being able to perform. Kevin Lyman then stated that everyone could take their water soaked ticket stubs to any other Warped Tour this year and it would grant them admission since the storm pretty much ruined the Cleveland show.
The storm had knocked out the power everywhere so almost all merch tents packed their stuff up and called it a day and I did not blame them for doing so. Thankfully, there were two back-up generators that could power up the Lucky Stage and the 13 Stage. The festival was to continue but not as planned.
Coheed and Cambira took the stage to a large crown of fans. Claudio Sanchez and company commented on the storm and played 30 minutes worth of technical music to the crowd. Coheed is always welcome to rock out in my ears. They were just amazing.
Moving on, I ventured back to the Lucky Stage where Pepper was playing their 311 like music to their fans. I had heard a couple of their songs in the past and they did not do anything for me, so I just hung out in the shadows and kept cool.
I continued the trend as Underoath took the stage and played out to their fans. For the type of day everyone had the kids were still moshing, dancing, and having the time of their lives. I myself was becoming hungry and was getting a tad grumpy. Am I getting too old for this? I hope not.
Alkaline Trio followed Underoath as the sun started to set in the western sky. They played a couple of new tracks and a couple of old. It was nice to see them rocking out doing what they do best.
In the background I could hear what I thought might be MxPx playing to some cheering fans. I was really happy that no one threw in the towel due to the storm. After all the hell everyone went through it appeared as if everyone just shrugged their shoulders and went on with life.
Finally the band that most everyone there came to see was up. Bad Religion arrived on stage and the amphitheater erupted with cheer. Lead singer Greg Gaffin joked with the crowd that he heard there was a bad storm as he was watching CNN in his air conditioned limo sitting at the hotel. He then informed everyone that there were only two stage lights (because of the generators) and told everyone to enjoy the show. They rifled though songs off their new album as well as treated the fans to some classics. It was nice to see the veterans close out the show but I felt as if it was short lived.
It still amazes me that this was year 13 for the Warped Tour. I was a young punk kid in 1996 when I attended my first Warped Tour at a gravel coated parking lot. The bands were my idols and I was just so happy to be there.
Not a lot has changed since then spite the increase in attendance and the ever growing lineup. The good feeling you have when you walk around the festival is still there no matter how old you are. I can not say my body agrees with that as by the end of the evening my feet were killing me and I wanted to take a nap, but I can not speak for all who attended. The day was full of bands and some crazy weather and was undeniably a festival I will never forget.