Barb Wire Dolls
An annual day-long summer event that brings all sorts of punk bands to town to play in front of a crowd of teens and tweens willing to brave the summer’s sweltering heat to stand in a Blossom parking lot where makeshift stages have been set up, Vans Warped Tour, which takes place on July 17, offers hours and hours of music.
The festival will feature a slew of underground bands and a few veterans (Suicide Machines, Save Ferris, T.S.O.L., Hatebreed) who’ve played dive bars and punk festivals for longer than some of the fans attending this year's tour have been alive.
Unfortunately, elder statesmen the Dickies won’t be among them. Tour organizers booted the band after the group’s singer berated a female fan.
Still, this year’s Warped Tour offers plenty that the punk purist will appreciate. Here's our guide to some of the probable highlights.
Given that Anti-Flag split up after its first show back in 1988, the band has recovered quite nicely and continues to tour and record. Two years ago, it came through town to celebrate the 1oth anniversary of The Terror State, an album of politically charged songs that it released in 2003 when George W. Bush was in office. Produced by Rage Against the Machine guitarist Tom Morello, it's one of the band's most accessible records. When the band released The Terror State in 2003, it was at the height of U.S. intervention in the Middle East. The album's opening track "Turncoat" features gang-style vocals as the guys yell out "liar" in a blatant attack on the commander-in-chief. Expect to hear plenty of politically charged songs when the band performs at Blossom. Singer Justin Sane routinely criticized former President Obama and has publically called Trump a “con man.” (Jeff Niesel)
Chris “Fronz” Fronzak, the controversial frontman for this metalcore band, sputters and spits like he’s possessed by some kind of evil spirit. Last year’s Chaos
, the band’s first album with new drummer Sean Heenan, essentially adheres to metalcore conventions while presenting a few twists. Album opener “Ignite” possesses an industrial rock edge with its pulsating synths. It even features a noodle-y mid-song guitar solo that sounds like something you’d hear on early Metallica albums. Elsewhere, the hip-hop-oriented “Bulletproof” recalls Linkin Park. In “Public Apology,” Fronzak sneers “fuck you shit” as he asserts his use of profanities doesn’t require an apology. Given the crass lyrics, it’s a surprise these guys haven’t gotten booted from the tour. (Niesel)
Barb Wire Dolls
A few years ago, influential radio deejay Rodney Bingenheimer convinced this band to leave its native Greece for sunny Southern California. After a couple of residences at Sunset Strip clubs (yes, they’re still there), the band hit the festival circuit and hasn’t looked back. Just released on Motörhead Music, the label launched by the late, great Lemmy Kilmister, Rub My Mind
arrives amid much hype. Lead track, “Back in the USSA,” features chug-a-lug guitars and snotty vocals that suggest a heavy metal iteration of the Runaways. It's good stuff. (Niesel)
Beartooth rejoins the Vans Warped Tour for the third time. Singer and Columbus, Ohio native Caleb Shomo brings heavy riffs as he belts out songs about self-hatred, depression, bullying and surviving in a world that can be cruel. “Hated,” off their sophomore album, Aggressive
, features breakdowns upon breakdowns that complement Shomo’s mix of singing and screaming as he barks, “Who knew you’d be hated for being who you are and be a big target for all the insecure.” The lyrics alone make you want to break things, which is why checking them out is a must. (Adrian Leuthauser)
Being As An Ocean
Despite the fact that their tour bus caught fire earlier this year, Being As An Ocean has continued on with nothing but positive vibes. Singer Joel Quartuccio Melodic speaks as much as he sings as he tells stories of lost hope and broken love. The simple chords in the band's music makes it easy to calmly sway as the sound and style is reminiscent of La Dispute, but with a few more screams as Quartuccio cleanly sings anthemic refrains. It’s also not uncommon for Quartuccio to leave the stage and join the crowd as fans surround him in the middle of the set, passing the microphone to those near him. He’s almost like a messiah as he’s engulfed into a tight circle. (Leuthauser)
Popularly known as Andy Six, Andy Biersack, the lead vocalist of Black Veil Brides, takes his inspiration from bands such as KISS, Def Leppard, the Damned and the Misfits. In 2014, Biersack made his solo debut with the single “They Don't Need To Understand,” a synth-heavy ballad that has more in common with Panic! At the Disco than the aforementioned hard rock acts. Last year, Black issued his full-length debut, Shadow Side
, and continued to explore synth-pop sounds. While the solo material might differ sonically from Black Veil Brides, the lyrics don’t represent a huge departure as they present a message about the importance of finding one's self and fighting through hardship. (Daniela Cacho)
Dance Gavin Dance
Indie rockers Dance Gavin Dance went through a handful of different singers until current singer Tilian Pearson came into the picture. One thing hasn’t changed from DGD and that’s the intricate, quick tempo changes and complex finger picking from guitarist Will Swan. The band may not have in-your-face riffs and breakdowns, but the catchy choruses sweetened with Swan’s guitar and topped off with Pearson’s almost R&B vocals distinguishes DGD. Not afraid of experimenting, the band’s most recent single, a cover of Bruno Mars’“That’s What I Like,” shows just how eclectic its taste in music is. (Leuthauser)
Falling in Reserve
The former singer for the post-hardcore band Escape the Fate, Ronnie Radke started Falling in Reserve nearly ten years ago. Post-hardcore with a hint of pop, Falling in Reserve made an impressive debut with its full-length debut, 2011’s The Drug in Me Is You
. With 2013’s Fashionably Late
, the band paired pop hooks with uplifting lyrics, a trend that continues on its most recent album, Coming Home.
On songs such as the title track, Radke whispers more than he shouts, bringing a quiet intensity to the table. (Cacho)
With a machine gun flow and an independent grind, Arizona rapper Futuristic has built a devoted, grassroots following from humble beginnings. Eschewing major labels and even local promoters, the slick spitting Futuristic (born Zachary Beck) deployed social media-recruited street teams to build hype for his first few tours — tours which lost money in the short term but have blossomed into larger venues and substantial streaming numbers. Beck operates in the hip-hop sphere that includes former XXL Freshmen Dizzy Wright, Jarren Benton and Hopsin; it’s a tangy, lyrical brand of weirdo rap that slots in nicely with his Warped Tour crew. Check out “Sub Me In,” “The Greatest” and “I Guess I’ll Smoke” for a quick introduction to the kid’s work. (Lawrence Neil)
For close to 30 years now, those galactic "Scumdogs" known as GWAR have been touring the planet, making the most of a mythology that they've created about their origins as aliens from outer space. For live shows, they don elaborate outfits that make them look like they stepped out of that cantina scene in Star Wars, and they proceed to splatter the audience with fake blood. The band was dealt a serious blow when its leader Oderus Urungus died in 2014, leaving the group without any of its founding members. Despite the loss, the band has soldiered on. While it’s out of sync with the emo and screamo acts, expect the shock rockers to deliver a wildly theatrical performance. (Niesel)
It would be foolish to not check out Neck Deep, the pop-punk powerhouse from Wales. The five-piece band have set themselves apart from the pop-punk scene and are right up there in ranks of popularity with the Story So Far, the Wonder Years and New Found Glory. Either bands everywhere want to sound like Neck Deep and be like Neck Deep but not actually be a carbon copy or else they’re just ripping off Neck Deep. It’s a vicious cycle for up-and-coming pop-punk bands. Singer Ben Barlow chants incredibly catchy choruses such as “life’s not out to get you, despite the things you’ve been through,” which makes this a band you don’t want to miss because you’ll be singing right along with everyone else. Despite the sing-along lyrics, they still pack in the punches with guitar riff after riff and heavy percussion from drummer Dani Washington. Regardless of the pedestal that Neck Deep is currently on, it’s hard to deny just how good they are and just how sad it would be if you were to miss them at Blossom. (Leuthauser)
In the past, Warped Tour has featured more than just punk bands. Acts such as the Black Eyed Peas, Eminem and Katy Perry have performed at the festival. Now, it welcomes lyrical genius and fast-paced rapper Watsky. Also an author, poet and a speaker, the guy even delivered a TedTalk once. His fast-paced rapping compares to the likes of Tech9, Eminem and any other rapper that, well, raps fast. He regularly makes fun of himself and society at the same time. His newest album, x Infinity
, explores his more serious side as he raps about trying to get through the rat race of life. The album includes messages about everything from gun violence to acceptance of the LGBTQ community. His lyrical skills and distinctive delivery provide plenty of reasons to check him out. (Leuthauser)
Warped Tour, 12:30 p.m. Tuesday, July 17, Blossom Music Center, 1145 West Steels Corners Rd., Cuyahoga Falls, 330-920-8040. Tickets: $52.50, livenation.com.