Photo Showcase: Vans Warped Tour 7/9 Hartford, CT

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Words & Images: Samantha Odice

It’s early, it’s hot, I’m buying the biggest water and Starbucks drink Cumberland Farms sells – all these things must mean one thing, it’s Warped Tour!

The Vans Warped hit their usual spot at the Xfinity Theater in Hartford, CT on July 9th. My morning started a little later than I usually like for a festival day, but running late allowed me to see something I’ve never witnessed in my many years of attending Warped – a line of kids stretching over half a mile from the venue gates. When the initial shock and awe worn off, a smile spread across my face at the realization of how big and amazing our music community truly is. Hours before the gates opened teens, parents and adults alike waited in the hot sun to ensure they would be first onto the festival grounds so they could start mapping out their day to see their favorite artists and check out some new acts they may never have heard of before.

My day started out with Dance Gavin Dance on the Journey’s Right Foot Stage – an act I’ve been dying to see live from all the hype that follows them. It was barely after 11am but the crowd surfing and dancing was in full swing. Clearly the name ‘Dance Gavin Dance’ was not just a way to be witty.

With their first 3 songs coming to a close I noticed I had just 10 minutes to find the Journey’s Left Foot Stage so I could finally capture Hawthorne Heights. Now normally Journey’s Left and Right are side by side; but this year they decided that the Right Foot Stage would be in its usual spot while its Left counterpart was on the opposite side of the festival grounds in the amphitheater. I can only assume this was done to expose people to the lesser-known acts that were on the Sugarskull Stage (now next to Journey’s Right Foot) and the Hard Rock Stage (next to the Journey’s Left Foot).

After being a fan for over a decade I could finally cross Hawthorne Heights off my photo bucket list. They kept their setlist full of the classics: “This Is Who We Are”, “Nikki FM” and “Saying Sorry”; but made sure to add some of their new songs from their latest EP, Hurt [the final EP in a 3 part EP-trilogy: Hate/Hope/Hurt]. Hearing the evolution from The Silence in Black and White to the latest, Hurt, it’s interesting to say the least as to where time has taken them. With this EP trilogy it feels as though Hawthorne Heights is going back to their routes but as more evolved individuals and musicians.

I followed by trip town emo-lane with female-fronted, New Years Day. New Years Day has been making quite the headway in the scene and for good reason. Having strong female fronts in the music industry, and especially on a tour like this where there are so many young female fans, is beyond important, it’s necessary. One of the most amazing things about NYD is the fact that they don’t hold back just because they are on a festival tour. They all came out with their usual gothic garb and full make up; and despite it being 90 degrees outside, their looks help up which leads me to ask, what products are they using and how can I get my hands on them?! During their incredible set, front woman, Ashley Costella, took a minute, “I’m gonna drink this tea so introduce yourself to those around you…..go ahead, make friends. Cause you all know you guys are family, right?” That’s one of the truest things about the Vans Warped Tour; we aren’t just part of a music community, we’re part of a family. We take care of each other here and protect each other from those who try to ruin the good vibes.

Keeping the good vibes flowing meant I had to catch Sammy Adam’s set next. While many see ‘another white-boy rapper’, I see someone who’s not the typical Warped Tour headliner, but that’s not a bad thing. He reminds me of when T. Mills [Travis Mills] performed on warped, high energy, always smiling, singing fun songs to a crowd that needed the energy boast.

Feeling recharged I headed back out into the sun to see one of up and coming acts on the Journey’s Right Foot Stage, Our Last Night. Bringing with them fog and missing machines, you could tell these guys came to throw down. It always amazes me how much energy the artists on that stage give to their fans who have been baking in the sun all day. Our Last Night are ones to watch within the coming year, expect magazine features, bigger headlining tours and much more.

After Our Last Night I made my way back into the amphitheater to wait for I Prevail to hit the stage. Attila was just making their way off the Journey Left Foot Stage when as an older band was making their way out onto the Hard Rock Stage. The Alarm didn’t attract the usual warped crowd; actually they attracted the parents. From all angles parents flocked to the middle of the pit to bob their heads and rock out while their kids waited for I Prevail. One set of parents said they hear the music from outside and just had to come check it out. This goes to show that there really is something for everyone at Warped Tour.

I Prevail has been one of the fastest growing acts on this tour. Over the last few years they have gone from openers who only a hand full of people heard of to seemingly blowing up over night with their cover of Taylor Shift’s song, “Blank Space”. With their unique sound and strong stage presence, they will soon be selling out major venues without hesitation.

I had a bit of time to kill so I figured I’d make my way over to the Mutant South Stage to catch BlessTheFall. This is the beauty of Warped Tour, you get to design the type of music festival you want. You get to see acts play together that would otherwise be unlikely seen performing together. BlessTheFall had been on my list of artists to see live but I just could never make it out to a show. Between them jumping into the crowd and hamming it up for fans I can see why they are always a crowd favorite.

Now it was time to see one of the major acts on this year’s tour, Andy Black. Breaking off from his original act, Black Veil Brides, he’s evolved into his own musician. Andy had very big shoes to fill with the way people hyped him up, and after finally seeing him live I can say I get it now. I get why people fawn over him and his music. Yes, he’s an attractive specimen but more than that he sings with such conviction that you don’t want the song to end. Having an artist not just perform a song but allowing the audience to feel the raw emotion behind it is not an easy feat. He commands the stage with such ease; it really is quite incredible to watch.

From a new wonder to a classic, I had to make sure I covered Silverstein’s set. They filled their set with new songs off their new album, Dead Reflection, it’s everything Silverstein fans could have hope for. Silverstein is one of the most consistent bands in terms of growth. They are forever growing as musicians yet they still hold onto the underlining foundation that is Silverstein.

I raced across the lot to catch my last band of the day, Anti-Flag – one of the realest punk-rock bands around today. They question and reject everything wrong in this world and in the music scene. They played their staples, “Fuck Police Brutality”, “Die For Your Government” and “This Is The End”. As the excitement grew, one individual attempted to ruin the fun by starting a fight. However, Anti-Flag and fans were not about to put up with that shit. Drummer, Pat Thetic, stopped mid-song and jumped down into the crowd to try and get the guy who was throwing punches, but by that point security had already apprehended him and were escorting him out of the festival grounds. As security lead the instigator, bassist, Chris Barker, stated, “There is more than enough violence in this world we don’t need it here in our 30 minutes together.”

As the energy picked back up, the crew loaded in a mini drum kit for Pat into the crowd – a classic Anti-Flag move. As their set came to a close, front-man, Justin Sane, ended their set by saying, “Outside these walls there’s a lot of bullshit in the world: sexism, racism, transphobia, homophobia, islamphobia; but you being with us here tonight, being with us in our hearts, being with that crazy bastard in the shark costume, I have hope in my heart.”

Ending my day at the Vans Warped Tour with Anti-Flag had me leave feeling the most genuine vibes. There’s been a lot of debate recently on whether or not music festivals and concerts are ‘safe spaces’, and quite honestly they are. Anyone that doesn’t think so can piss right off and I’ll tell you why; we all use music to escape and find a way to understand the emotions we are feelings. No one should go to a show scared or worried something negative might be said or done to them. We are a community. We are a family. We take care of each other. We protect each other. And if anyone threatens that sense of community and family, they don’t deserve to be apart of it. Stay safe, stand together and ‘this really has nothing to do with anything but a little sun screen never hurt anybody’- Culumbus/Zombieland

Last modified: July 20, 2017