Friday, July 8, 2016

CONCERT REVIEW: Vans Warped Tour (2016)

Vans Warped Tour
Tinker Field / Orlando, FL
(July 2, 2016)

There I was  tank loaded-up,
and car loaded-down (with my
favorite peeps) — out on the ol'
open highway, heading for the
biggest concert event of 2016!

As an old guy who just refuses to die, I cherish untold warm and fuzzy memories from those "good ol' days." I was blessed to grow up with Evel Knievel action figures, 8-Tracks and the ORIGINAL Planet of the Apes film series. I can even still remember my family being the first on the block to get color T.V. back in '67. I've also enjoyed near-countless experiences over the last 20-some years attending the annual Vans Warped Tour.

Ryan Key and Sean Mackin of Yellowcard
(Photo: Jen Cray /
Although I yearn for those steamy, sweat-soaked days when authentic, song-based skate-punk bands ruled the traveling festival, I still look forward each summer to sifting through the tour's current glut of (now) corporate screamo sound-alikes and look-alikes, in hopes of discovering at least a couple of new musical treasures. In 2015, those gems included such acts as Candy HeartsKoo Koo Kangaroo, and arguably the greatest band on earth, Jule Vera. And just last week, I was delighted to stumble across several other noteworthy new acts, as Vans Warped Tour 2016 rolled on to Tinker Field in Orlando, Florida.

Francheska Pastor of Bad Seed Rising
With no less than 70 acts appearing on this year's seven outdoor stages, anybody could have understandably gotten hung up watching one "must see" band performing at one end of the enormous property and inadvertently missed another performing at the opposite end. Hence, I was bummed to have missed Tonight Alive, Waterparks and New Found Glory — three of the bands that I'd been looking forward to seeing most. However, I did get to catch Yellowcard, Knuckle Puck, Issues and Sum 41 — which kinda made up for my many 2016 oversights and missteps.

My "bestie," Liam, was (clearly) super-
hyped about hanging out with me all
day at this year's Vans Warped Tour.
Last summer, my primary Warped Tour residence was at the Kevin Says stage. This year, I found several hot new acts exploding on the similar, Full Sail stage. And that's where I discovered the Baltimore, Maryland-based band, Bad Seed Rising. Touring in support of their most-recent Roadrunner Records release, A Place Called Home, this hard-hitting, four-piece combo relied more on traditional-sounding power-rock vocals than on mere screaming — although there was PLENTY of the latter. I was particularly impressed by frontchick, Francheska Pastor's ability to connect with the crowd, as she jumped from the stage, across the security barricade and into the pit, more than once during her band's 25-minute set — a set that concluded with Pastor leaping back into the crowd and leading her entire flock of ever-faithful followers directly from the stage and immediately to the band's merch table. Confidence and balls, indeed — BRAVO!

Luke Rockets of With Confidence
But before my equilibrium could re-adjust, after being thwacked by BSR, I was drawn immediately back to the Full Sail stage by the gloriously catchy pop-punk crunch of With Confidence. Simply put, this Australian export is an amazing rock band with amazing rock songs. Bassist Jayden Seeley proved to be an engaging frontman, while guitarist Luke Rockets commanded the stage like a bona fide rock star. And for a guy like me, who still clings to the crisp songwriting craftsmanship of such bands as Good Charlotte and Taking Back Sunday, these kids were exactly what the the doctor ordered. If you get a chance, I highly recommend checking out their just-released Hopeless Records debut, Better Weather.

Less Than Jake
Despite being hyped over the exciting new bands that I discovered, I was equally thrilled to reconnect with a few of the established acts on this year's tour. And in my world, few bands can capture the old school Warped Tour flavor quite like Less Than Jake. Borrowing a familiar slogan from the current US presidential campaign, the iconic Gainesville, Florida band promised to "Make Warped Tour Great Again," as they arrived on the Journeys (Left Foot) stage at 1pm  dressed to impress, and ready to delight their disciples (once again) with their unique brand of authentic ska / punk. Definitely one of  the absolute highlights of 2016!

Palaye Royale
By 4:15, my crew was becoming somewhat overwhelmed by the full Warped Tour "experience" factor. Hot, sun-scorched, tired and thirsty, we endeavored to find to a shady locale in which to rest momentarily. However, as we passed by the Full Sail stage one last time, I was stopped dead in my tracks by a nearly-forgotten, yet vaguely familiar sound. "Hey  wait just one gosh-darn minute," I said to myself. "I know that sound. That's ROCK music!" And as I looked back over my shoulder, there they were  beautiful young white boys wearing make-up and fabulous-looking, form-fitting fashions with vintage low-strung guitars. Yes, rock and roll poster boys, Palaye Royale, was NOW live — and in front of God and everybody!

(After-show chillin' with Palaye Royale)
I was hooked instantly, and reeled-in completely right up to the front of the stage. Combining the classic cred of The Stones and The Who (circa '65), with the unabashed cock-rock swagger of Electric Angels and London Quireboys (circa '90), the Las Vegas-based brigade breathed welcomed fresh life into my nicotine-clogged lungs like I'd not known in a very long time. Featuring tracks from their just-released Sumerian Records debut, Boom Boom Room, the hot and dirty 25-minute set also included a rather appropriate cover of the My Chemical Romance classic, "Teenagers."

In sum, Palaye Royale was THE golden, secret prize, lurking at the bottom of this year's Warped Tour "Cracker Jack box." And by 4:45, I was ready for a well-deserved, post-"encounter" smoke, and also ready to head back home, as Palaye Royale had left me (and even my "bestie," Liam) feeling COMPLETELY "satisfied!"

-Christopher Long
(July 2016)

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