Words and Photos by Patrick Gilrane
CIRCA 1995 – Coolio’s “Gangsta’s Paradise” is number one on the Billboard charts, Amazon ships its first book, Windows ’95 is released, OJ Simpson is on trial, Jerry Garcia passes away and Warped Tour hits the road on its maiden journey preaching the gospel of Rock & Roll to the masses. Started by event founder Kevin Lyman, Warped Tour’s original focus was on the punk and ska scene, but morphed to meet the times, including metalcore, hardcore, and other genres. Warped has had some really interesting lineups over the years, but its focus has always been on the emerging artist. I think it would be safe to say that no other person or organization has shown more musical artists the promised land than Kevin Lyman & Warped Tour. With a list of tour alumni like NOFX, Every Time I Die, Deftones, Blink 182, Paramore, Less Than Jake, Anti Flag and ADTR to name a few, in my honest opinion Warped is solely responsible for a generation of killer music.
For some strange reason Warped and heatwaves seem to be a thing here in Jersey, and with the weekends weather calling for mid 90’s both days, things were going to get sticky. Despite the high temps, fans lined up well in advance of gate time to be first on the festival grounds. The fans were an interesting bunch, some dressed for the beach others in full peacock punk mode sporting Doc’s, mohawks, and band tees. Despite the fashion choices, it was really easy to see that this group came to go hard, and go hard they did. We all got a bit of a surprise on Saturday afternoon when the festival grounds were evacuated due to severe weather. Approximately 30 thousand people were ordered off the beach to shelter for a two-hour delay, but the show did go on with all artist having stage time.
Walking into the festival grounds I couldn’t help but think what a unique backdrop this was – the sun, sand, surf, boardwalk, casino’s, and more all creating a surreal scene that would soon come to life. Being from South Jersey, and exposed to the local press, it was no secret that the casino industry wasn’t pleased with Atlantic City for hosting this event, but my hats off to our local elected officials who showed everyone that AC isn’t just for gamblers and that this town can truly rock.
My first stop after entry was Forever Warped, a museum of sorts celebrating the rich history of Warped Tour throughout the years. I couldn’t help but think how such a small place could have such an immense significance. My first vision when entering was a large black and white photo of Lars and Tim of Rancid taken in the early 2000s, an incredible moment in time captured by curator/archivist and rock photographer Lisa Johnson. The museum was rather photo-centric but captured the texture, personality, and the culture of Warped in vivid detail, going back to day one. I had the opportunity to speak with Lisa for a bit about past tours, including the bands, cities, and how times have changed, but a lot of the music remains the same. In true photographer/camera geek out mode, we even had a brief talk about the challenges of shooting film in the early festival days, which really made me appreciate the digital world. Lisa was welcoming and engaging, even posing for a few photos before I set off.
Being a supporter of extreme sports Warped also had a freestyle motorcycle stunt team (Nitro Circus), a half pipe with pro skaters, BMX riders, and a pro wrestling ring. I made my way up the beach to catch a bit of the freestyle motorcycle, but unfortunately the event was called due to high crosswind, which were really severe. I did however catch a bit of the skaters and BMX riders who attracted a huge crowd of fans watching the pro’s shredding it on the half pipe, the crowd was in awe with their gravity-defying aerial assault
As the mid-day sun beat down on the crowd, Warped Tour founder Kevin Lyman took the stage thanking everyone for the years of support and asked that we all look after each other for the next two days. As Kevin’s opening statement came to an end Save Ferris took the stage, Warped Tour’s 25th Anniversary celebration was under way.
Save Ferris was first up on the main stage and set the crowd off with their infectious ska beats and stunning visuals. Front Woman Monique Powell was like a punk rock version of an old USO glam pinup girl dressed in a red white and blue dress while seducing the crowd with her banter and stage presence. As their set went on, Monique underwent several wardrobe changes clearly adding to the heat of the day.
Less Than Jake was up next and I was really hoping to see Chris DeMakes hit the stage in his red white and blue suit and bow tie, but I guess I’ll have to live with the disappointment. All kidding aside, LTJ doesn’t just go to the party, they bring it with them. As a veteran Warped band, LTJ is always a crowd fav, and this time would be no different with the guys delivering a banging set. After being accused of lip-syncing, Roger Lima proclaimed that the band is perfectly capable of fucking things up live, clearing things up nicely.
Glassjaw took the stage delivering a spirited set of head banging post-hardcore tunes for the crowd who responded by crowd surfing, moshing and singing along. The only words spoken to the crowd during their set was by front man Daryl who said: “We’re Glassjaw from NY.” While small talk wasn’t their style, rocking out was. Glassjaw’s set was all business and no fluff.
The intro for “The Anthem’ was all it took for the crowd to lose it during Good Charlottes set, a constant flow of crowd surfers taxing the security staff. Good Charlotte shook the crowd, showing that even after 20+ years in the game, they could still bang it out. By the end of their set, it was absolute chaos in the pit with the crowd feeding off the band’s energy.
There’re not many things better than real old school punk rock, and that just what you get with Bad Religion. With their LED screen backdrop lighting up the night, Bad Religion delivered an old school musical assault on the crowd. Bad Religion music has only one speed and direction, that’s fast and right in your face. With front man Greg Graffin’s distinct vocals and the bands hard-driving style Bad Religion sets a standard in the genre that’s hard to match.
311 brought us all back to the ’90s with their high energy set that was like a greatest hits album live. Frontman Nick Hexum stalked the crowd delivering a stellar vocal performance while his bandmates laid their trademark sonic backdrop. During their set, there seemed to be a few vocal issues that were worked out just in time for “Down” which blew the fucking roof off the place!
A Day to Remember took the stage setting a new standard for the word intensity. Starting their set with “2nd Sucks” it took about 30 seconds for the crowd catch up before all hell broke loose. Body after body came crashing over the barrier, overwhelming the security staff who hustled us out of the photo area after just one song, fearful for our safety. ADTR would go on to close out day one playing a standout set including “All I Want,” Sticks & Bricks,” and “Right Back at It Again.“ ADTR’s set was a sonic wrecking ball that pulled the last bit of energy from the already beat up crowd!
Day two got off to a fast start with metalcore bangers Atreyu taking the main stage by force, starting their set with “The Time Is Now” off the band’s latest album. One thing that really stands out for me with this band is the combined vocals of Alex Varkatzas and drummer Brandon Saller, which when combined deliver that trademark Atreyu vocal harmony. With the wind blowing and surf crashing on the beach, Atreyu worked through their set and pulled off a really good cover of “You Give Love A Bad Name” by Jersey native Bon Jovi. Not a bad way to start day two.
Known for their outspoken political and social views, Anti Flag is one of my favorite bands. With a driving old school punk style, Anti Flag is always a crowd favorite. Anti Flag’s hook is really in their tight musical delivery, which when coupled with their purposeful lyrics make for their unmistakable sound. Their set was exhilarating, and watching first-timers’ reactions when Chris takes to the air is just priceless. Anti Flag is a bold, fiery band that’s been an unstoppable voice in the punk community for years, and had a brilliant set.
Memphis May Fire took the stage like the true Warped veterans they are, with frontman Matty Mullins really feeling the love from then crowd. MMF absolutely stunned at the Monster Energy Stage, attracting a massive crowd of energetic fans who cheered, crowd surfed, and sang along to most songs. With circle pits raging MMF rocked out, the band’s heavy music combined with Mullins vocals really showing that this is a band to be taken seriously.
Circa Survive was one of the surprise bands for me, delivering an absolutely blistering performance. As their set began, frontman Anthony Green straddled the barrier sharing the microphone with fans as beach balls soared overhead, and fans crowd surfed on by. Circa took the crowd on a ride with Green and company playing a setlist that really highlighted the bands stylistic delivery. Circa’s set was one of the most intense of the day.
The Menzingers are proof that the home field advantage really matters. Being from the Philly area this band is no stranger to us locals. Known for their high-energy musical delivery, this is a band that needs to be seen live. Anchored by vocalist Tom May and Greg Barnett the Menzingers started their set with “Tellin Lies” igniting the crowd. The Menzingers are a band that always gives 100% and their set at Warped Tour was no exception with their fans singing along to each song. The highlight of their set for me was their song “After the Party.”
The Used was one of the most anticipated artists of the day, and you could feel the excitement building ahead of their set. Bert McCracken and The Used took the stage to a thunderous roar from the crowd as the band broke into “Take it Away.” From that point McCracken took this show over, but not in a negative way. In an interesting twist, Bert took the crowd on a journey of punk rock and Shakespeare, successfully weaving both with poetic readings in between songs to the surprise of the raging fans. The Used were in full control of the crowd covering all their hits including “The Bird and The Worm,” All That I’ve Got,” a cover of “Wonderwall” by Oasis and wrapping things up with Kellin Quin (Sleeping with Sirens) joining the band for “A Box Full Of Sharp Objects.”
It’s not often that you get to see true legends, which is precisely what The Offspring are. Coming from the skater punk days of the ’90s, The Offspring brought their Cali based jams to the sand of Atlantic City, with the rowdy crowd loving every minute. Their stage setup was straightforward with the just band’s name on the large LCD screen, nothing else. The Offspring chose to let their music do the talking, and talk it did while crowd surfers poured over the barrier and beach balls bounced around the crowd. The Offspring played a flawless set of their biggest hits for the crowd with Dexter, Noodles, Greg, and Pete nailing it. My favorite song of the set had to be “Pretty Fly.”