Vans Warped Tour came and wove its web of great music, social and environmental responsibility and camaraderie around the Comcast Music Center in Hartford this past Sunday. This is the fourth year the tour, which features punk, alternative and indie music, has stopped in the state capital.
This year the layout was a bit different and in some ways, more confusing. It was a trek between the two main stages which caused people to miss parts of one band's set to get over to see another's. Also the tent for the "Acoustic Basement" was placed too close to the Kia Rio mainstage and the Monster stage. Some acoustic artists had a difficult time being heard over hardcore and metal bands.
Other than that though, this year's tour offered great sounds, sites and moments. Observant ticket holders may have seen event founder, Kevin Lyman, wandering around the crowd queued up waiting for the gates to open. Morning wake-up calls on the Marley and Tilly stages were Mod Sun, with his self-described "hippie-hop" followed by I Fight Dragons, laying down great 8-bit pop-rock. While Mod had people chillin', I Fight Dragons backed up their clever game controllers turned MIDI controllers with some really great rock that woke everyone in the amphitheater up. Breakfast dessert came in the form of one of the many hidden treasures of the tour. About a hundred people saw listed on the Acoustic Basement schedule that Geoff Rickley from Thursday was doing a solo set. Rickley taught us why Thursday was so successful and how they attracted new fans. He is truly the heart and the soul of that band and his voice is filled with such passion. Whether doing his new songs, an old Thursday track or covering Springsteen and Usher he held the audience from start to finish.
By two o'clock crowds were fully awake. Those at the Tilly's stage got the rare treat of Lostprophets return to the U.S. after many years away. The UK alternative rockers are still amazing and tore the stage up with new and old songs. They even played "Rooftops" as song that actually charted here and was spun on many rock stations.
Outside on the Kevin Says stage a group of about 200 were moshing along with Connecticut's own Hostage Calm. This is a very traditional punk band with some great social messages. More than one "I Support Same-Sex Marriage" t-shirt from the band's merch were being worn by their fans. The band's song "Ballots/Stones" is their contribution to helping in the current struggle for equal rights for the LGBT community. The band is passionate, very high energy and immediately establishes a strong connection with their audience. This is their first Warped Tour but hopefully not their last.
A quick note and thanks to the weather deities. Compared to last year's heat index of a-hundred-and-hell without a single cloud to give a break from the sun or breeze to cool one off, things were much more comfortable this year. Also, a special thank-you to Warped Tour sponsors Fuse for providing some shade tents this year which, were set-up close enough to the mainstages that people could escape the sun but still see and hear bands well.
The mainstages featured some of Warped's veterans later in the afternoon. There was no way the crowd that turned out for Yellowcard could have fit in The Webster last October so that show getting snowed out had its benefits. Bodies at their set had to number in the thousands Sunday afternoon. The band proved how they achieved such great popularity so quickly when they first hit the seen back in 2002. The resurrection of the group in 2010 has resulted in a continuation of their legacy. The band and the crowd were on fire throughout their entire set.
Over on the Kia Rio stage, next up was Streetlight Manifesto. The brass and sax heavy ska band is downright fun and people were skanking in the pit and on the outskirts of the crowd. Tearing oneself away to make the trek back over to the Soul stage for Long Island legends Taking Back Sunday was a difficult choice.
TBS is another band that has gone through a number of evolutions and has ended up back to almost their original line-up. They did turn out a couple of songs from their new records but most of the set was from their first three albums. The crowd was full of dedicated fans who knew their parts in between Adam Lazzara's singing and Adam still is the master of mic swinging. The band sounded great and at this rate, should be around for many years to come.
A quick buzz back by the Rio stage on the way to the amphitheater showed that All Time Low is another band that is still riding the top of the wave. Great pop-rock and dedicated fans had them running on 'high' about mid-set. The night ended at the Marley/Tilley stage. Senses Fail, veterans supreme, taught anyone in the pit who didn't know, what Warped Tour is all about...great punk music. They were followed by Bayside, Long Island's other artiste celebre, who have a very strong Connecticut fanbase. Like other bands throughout the day, the set included some newer tracks to spark interest in latest releases and standards that people could sing along to. Finally, Baltimore's Ballyhoo closed the Marley stage with their reggae marinated rock. It was great summer jamming and was a perfect way to end a pretty perfect day.
There are eleven stops left on this year's Vans Warped Tour with today being Baltimore. The tour will wrap in Portland, OR on August 5th. For more information visit Vans Warped Tour.