Warped Tour Diary: AT&T Park, Lot A, 6/23/2012

by Gordon Elgart on July 2, 2012

Crowd surfing will never die.

The Warped Tour found a new home in San Francisco this year, parking itself in Lot A of AT&T Park. Like its old home at Pier 30/32, there was a view of the water, and the Bay Bridge. Unlike Pier 30, there was not plenty of room to move around. This running of the Warped Tour was a hot, crowded mess; a maze of sponsor tents, clothing companies, and band merch. Interspersed throughout were several stages with bands giving their all, often to thousands of revelers, and other times to a mere handful. My goal, as always, was to sample as many bands as possible in 7 hours. Let’s see how I did.

Vampires Everywhere – This was the first band to start playing so I couldn’t help but see them. I wasn’t quite warmed up enough for their aggressive sound, so I looked around to see if anyone near me was glittering in the noontime sun.

We Are the Ocean – A loud British band I found when I was looking around trying to learn the festival layout. I liked them a lot, but they didn’t seem to have too many fans there. When they said, “if you know the words sing along,” it may have been a joke.

Senses Fail – When Senses Fail dropped the music to let their fans sing along, though, everyone did. I’ve never been a big fan of this band, but I liked it enough.

Railroad to Alaska – Wow, I totally dug this band, but they had about a dozen people watching their set of heavy-heavy rock. Their manager was walking around giving people CDs, but did he give me one?  No. My favorite part of their set is when they said to the three girls watching from the rail, “you three: circle pit!” Unfortunately, they didn’t start the smallest circle pit in history.

That’s one of those “Make Do and Men” shirts I was talking about, on the body of the lead singer of Polar Bear Club

Polar Bear Club – On record, I was expecting something akin to Gaslight Anthem, just some driving East Coast punk by guys in t-shirts. Instead, it was jumpy screamy punk. Different from what I expected, but still enjoyable. Also: love the band name!

SCREAM FOR ME SAN FRANCISCO!

Rise to Remain – Like classic British heavy metal at times, but with some growly vocals as well. Finger tapped guitar solos making me very happy. The lead singer reminded me of Bruce Dickinson, between songs. “Make some noise, San Francisco!”

Tonight Alive – Looking and sounding like Daenerys Stormborn as the lead singer of Paramore, this Australian band had a huge crowd on one of the smallest stages. They were a bit too “typical” for my tastes, but everyone else seemed to like them.

Whose stepdad is this?

Stepdad – What is a Brooklyn band doing in the middle of all this? Not one from Brooklyn, but one so typically Brooklyn. They have a giant bearded guy singing lead on top of some sllightly off kilter falsetto harmonies, with a pleasant groove underneath. I really like their album, but this set didn’t excite me.

Make Do and Mend – I saw two different bands wearing their t-shirt, and they also sell one with the Hartford Whalers logo on it, so I had to check them out. They’re super nice guys, but they didn’t too much for me musically.

Of Mice and Men – Later on the day, a friend asked me if I got to see Of Mice and Men.  I said they were “so screamy and not for me.” That’s about right.

Dance for me San Francisco!

Breathe Carolina – What a perfect band for today. They mix dance music with punk sounds, and have an insane energy on stage. Unfortunately, the wind was really strong at this time of day, and the sound was just losing the battle with the wind as far back as I was. I really wanted to enjoy this more, but sometimes the wind wins.

Funeral Party – Here’s another band that doesn’t fit in with what people think of when they think of Warped Tour. Just “indie indie” rock. Pretty good stuff, but I couldn’t figure out why anyone who paid for this concert ticket would be a fan of theirs.

Sleepwalker – The only band I watched on the tiny Ernie Ball truck stage. I heard half of one of their own songs (good) and then they finished with a Refused cover, of their song  “New Noise.” When they started playing this, people literally ran in from all over to join the pit. I can’t even imagine what an actual Refused show would be like. Luckily, I don’t have to.

Echo Movement – This band dedicated a song that I think is called “I think God smokes weed” to the cops watching them play. They didn’t smile. Awesome job, SF’s Finest! Effing reggae.

Ten Second Epic – This band was proud to say that they are “from Canada.” Maybe they know my friend Kristen. She lives in Canada! I liked them at the time, but I don’t remember much about them.

The Jukebox Romantics – Now this was exciting. I watched this band’s whole set! Just a nice blistering punk band from New York. They say they are “For Fans of Bouncing Souls, Street Dogs, Against Me! and One Man Army.” Well said, well spoken. They inspired a small ska pit, and also inspired people to walk by and laugh at the ska pit. Kids these days.

Dead Sara, live.

Dead Sara – Whoa. What a band, what a singer. This is just a straight up rock band. Someone said “like the Black Keys with a girl singer.” I said, “no, not really.” But I didn’t want to get into a fight about it. Not every rock band is like the Black Keys, but maybe it is to some people. I’d just say “Whoa, dude. Dead Sara. Yeah.”

The Constellations – Holy crap! What a band. What singer! This guy has the smoothest voice I’ve heard in ages. I couldn’t believe how good this was. I thought it was going to be some hippie soul band, but it was just pure soul. So good.

The Silver Comet – What? A singer? Yes, this band took the cake for the best band t-shirt. It says “Oh Your Front Man Screams? Well Ours Is Black!” That’s their hook: it’s a screamo band with a smooth dancing, soul singing front man. It’s so unique, sounds good, but it was mostly ignored.

That’s a lot of gear.

I Fight Dragons – It’s like Weezer with extra added Nintendo sounds! I watched this whole set, too. I really, really, really like this band’s album, and especially the single “Kaboom!” Just a happy day power pop anthem about the end of the world. Happy music, sad lyrics. Hell yeah. Let’s do this.

Young London – They were playing in the Silent Disco tent, so everyone had to wear headphones to hear them. I wanted to see some classic synthpop jams played live, but this was more like a DJ set with their own songs mixed in. Clever. They started with Adele, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and Third Eye Blind before fitting in their original songs so that people would pay attention. But you don’t have to say, “This is called waiting for the drop” before you play the drop. Just play the drop.

We Are the In Crowd – Boy/girl punk emo whateverness. So typically Warped Tour, I couldn’t really enjoy this. Plus, the sunburn was starting to set in, and I really needed to make my way to the main stage.

Heck yes.

Anti-Flag – I don’t think there’s a better band for a giant pit than Anti-Flag, and they inspired the biggest circle pit I’ve seen in ages. They wanted to see “the biggest circle pit in the history of the Warped Tour,” and said they did, but that’s like saying “you’re the best audience ever.” But this was, truly, one hell of an audience. Just a hard, in-the-face, set of punk rock.

Taking Back Sunday – I left to the sound of this band, who I’ve never been all that into. Lots of people seemed really happy to see them, though.

The next morning, nursing my sunburn which kept me from going to the Alameda County Fair to see Salt-n-Pepa, I considered whether the whole day was worth it. Could I finally be outgrowing Warped Tour? Do things like a giant bouncy house advertising a movie still speak to me? I don’t know the answers to these questions. I’d better go again next year and find out.

———————-

See a full gallery of Vans Warped Tour 2012 photos, among many other bands, at Alan Ralph’s photo portfolio.

Gordon Elgart

A music nerd who probably uses that term too much. I have a deep love for bombastic, quirky and dynamic music.

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