What the hell happened to the Warped Tour? It used to be that you could find at least one bona fide punk band on the annual touring festival. But not this year. The only true punk band we saw was Emily’s Army, a group of clean-cut young kids anchored by drummer Joey Armstrong (son of Green Day’s Billie Joe Armstrong). Their pop-punk harmonies were short and sharp, as if they’d been taught by one of the best. They played on one of the many satellite stages set up in the parking lot near the venue’s box office. That only a small crowd was on hand to watch suggested punk rock might not hold the same appeal to a new generation of music fans who seem to want everything louder and faster.
Like most recent years, Warped’s line-up consisted mostly of screamo, emo, and metalcore acts, many of which would be better placed on the heavier Mayhem Fest. Take Miss May I [pictured], for example. The metalcore band out of Troy, Ohio, played in front of stacks of amps and singer Levi Benton screamed and snarled his way through a fierce set that owed more to Metallica than Bad Religion. The same could be said for any of a number of hardcore acts, including You Me at Six, Blessthefall, and After the Burial, bands fronted by screamers rather than singers.
It was refreshing, then, to see Breathe Carolina mix things up. The band’s emo sound was altered by the electronic beats it added to the equation. Its high-energy set attracted a throng to Blossom’s pavilion, which was only half-full for most of the day. Cleveland’s Machine Gun Kelly portended to be another highlight. But technical problems delayed his start time and the Mohawked rapper warned the staff that if his set was cut short, “there’s going to be fuckin’ riot.” Not cool. Once he got rolling, though, he put on a solid performance that benefited from the fact that he was backed by a live band.