[REVIEW AND PHOTOS] VANS WARPED TOUR, Columbia, MD on July 16

Mosh pits, sticky-sweet air, and sweaty teenagers — this can only be Warped Tour. While 2016’s lineup catered much more to the pop-punk side of the scene, this year’s switched things up in favor of a heavier vibe. The Columbia, Maryland stop on July 16th of the Vans Warped Tour was a nearly spot-on representation of the perfect festival day — clear skies and face-melting heat. The crowd’s energy was high from the time gates opened at eleven in the morning to when the last set finished at eight that night.

The first show of the day was Andy Black on the Journeys Right Foot stage. The singer presented his new solo act with the usual charisma and drama, captivating the screaming audience from the second he took the stage. Amidst joking with the crowd and expressing his gratitude for everyone who had come to see him, Andy Black offered older hits (“We Don’t Have to Dance”) and new material (“Beyond My Reach”) with spot-on vocals.

Afterward, the Journeys Right Foot stage saw Hands Like Houses. The group drew a giant, riotous crowd but were by no means a chaotic band. They successfully toed the line between an energetic performance and over-the-top buffoonery while playing tracks such as “Introduced Species”,”Glasshouse”, and the new “Drift”. The presence of Matt Cooper (lead guitar) and Alexander Pearson (rhythm guitar) brought the show to the next level by creating an enveloping sound that’s hard to find. Despite not engaging much with the crowd, Hands Like Houses kept the attention on them with their incredible stage presence as they expertly navigated the highs and lows of their set.

Things took an even heavier twist on the Journeys Left Foot stage with New Years Day. Their intense sound riled up the audience for hits like “Kill or Be Killed” and “Malevolence”. Lead singer Ash Costello’s voice seemed (very understandably) worn down this far into the tour, but she made up for it with her powerful stage persona. Fans pressed against the barricade could be seen mirroring her dark makeup and half black, half red hair as they headbanged along. It was easy to see that New Years Day had one of the most dedicated fanbases on the tour.

Warped Tour’s smallest stage, Full Sail, was home to up-and-coming horror punk artists Creeper. Incoordinatedoutfits and an emphasis on aesthetic, it would be easy to label the band as a costume act; however, Creeper offered an operatic take on the horror punk genre that is rarely seen. A small but very devoted group gathered around for a set including “Hiding With Boys” and “Misery”. The band was an impressive force of energy, despite how hot it must have been in their all-black ensembles.

Boston Manor followed on the same stage. Through hits like “Lead Feet”, the English band brought a harder version of the classic pop-punk sound. The crowd responded enthusiastically with crowd surfing and plenty of screaming. When the set faded into a slower song, Boston Manor seemed to lose their balance a bit; they wasted no time getting back into the swing of things after, though. From the sheer amount of people the group was able to attract to such a small stage, it would certainly seem that this band is going places.

Memphis May Fire took the Journeys Right Foot stage with the ease of well-seasoned musicians. Their performance was obviously well rehearsed and the crowd ate it up. The set was so high-energy that the crowd surfing never stopped (most notably by someone dressed head to toe in a Spiderman costume), no doubt spurred on by Matty Mullins’ forceful vocals. Even those who aren’t familiar with Memphis May Fire’s music would have the time of their lives during the band’s performance.

Back on the Full Sail stage, metalcore band Bad Omens demonstrated their specialty — fast and loud. The band and crowd fed off each other’s enthusiasm to keep things going at a breakneck speed from start to finish. Lead singer Noah Sebastian appeared impressively charismatic and genuine on stage, which did wonders to elevate their performance. However, the band did seem to still be finding their voice amongst so many similar sounding acts.

Dance Gavin Dance proved themselves as Warped Tour’s token genre-defiers over on the Journeys Right Foot stage. Dual lead singers Tilian Pearson and Jon Mess created an interesting juxtaposition between melody and unclean vocals. With post-hardcore, experimental, and progressive elements, Dance Gavin Dance is an entertaining whirlwind unlike anything else on Warped Tour.

The Journeys Left Foot stage’s wild card of the day was indie-pop group Jule Vera. Once the quintet took the stage, an air of calm settled over the crowd. Their set was less energetic than the hardcore and metal acts that everyone had seen previously, but the laid-back atmosphere complimented Jule Vera’s musical style excellently. Ansley Newman graced the stage with charm and talent, giving off a quiet kind of power very unlike most of Warped’s vocalists. Songs like “Lifeline” felt like a breath of fresh air after so many aggressive acts beforehand.

After that chill intermission, Our Last Night erupted in full force on the Journeys Right Foot stage. The band used tactics very similar to the metal acts around them to get the crowd up and moving but still presented a smoother sound. Fans responded enthusiastically to the spontaneous and unrehearsed vibe that Trevor Wentworth (vocals) executed perfectly. Our Last Night even went as far as to play an Ed Sheeran cover.

American Authors catered to a mellow audience shortly afterward on the same stage. Fans swayed back and forth to the thrum of Dave Rublin’s bass and sang along with Zac Barnett from beginning to end. American Authors seemed extremely experienced and comfortable with their set.

Things sped up shortly after with punk rock outfit The White Noise on the Skullcandy stage (one of two sheltered stages of the day that, thankfully, provided much-needed shade). It’s safe to say that frontman David Southern spent as much time leaning over the barricade and screaming with the crowd as he did onstage. The audience yelled right back, spit flying; it was the most energy Warped Tour had seen all day. While The White Noise may be new, it would definitely be a mistake to overlook them.

Nearly everyone remaining at the festival huddled around the Journeys Right Foot stage for the closing show, Neck Deep. The set opened with a speech about the importance of breaking the stigma surrounding suicide and taking care of yourself. In no time, the crowd picked up a chant of, “Life’s not out to get you!” (mirroring the title of Neck Deep’s second full-length). Now, go ahead and say what you will about pop-punk, but this Welsh ensemble does it exceptionally well. This go around, they decided to ditch classics like “A Part of Me” and “December” for newer tracks like “Motion Sickness”. Lead singer Ben Barlow wasted no time turning the audience into a giant circle pit, even encouraging crowd surfers to come high-five him at the front of the stage. Few succeeded, but it worked wonders on maintaining the crowd’s energy after such a long day. Neck Deep truly deserved their spot as Warped Tour’s closer.

While the Vans Warped Tour may not be known for having the biggest names in the industry attached to it, the festival offers something more; a community. Few events bring artists and fans closer together and offer such a safe place for all kinds of people to be themselves. 2017’s Maryland Warped Tour stop was certainly no exception. Now, here comes the hard part — waiting for next year!

Written by Kelsie Bennett

Kelsie wasn't cool enough to be in a band so she took up music photography and journalism instead. She's probably in the middle of listening to Folie A Deux (again) right now and has been known to fall asleep holding her camera.

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