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Last year, the cross-country version of Vans Warped Tour saw its final year, making 2019 the first summer where the beloved tour is set to occur at three dates only – Cleveland, Ohio, Atlantic City, New Jersey, and Mountain View, California.
When lineups were announced back in March, the Ohio date received quite a bit of backlash despite selling out. The reservations about the lineup and overall flow of the Cleveland stop is fair, however, as functionally it is fairly non-traditional. It is one day, with one stage, and features eight bands.
Comparatively, it makes sense that it could feel like the midwest got ripped-off when looking at the east and west coast lineups. A deeper look into the Ohio lineup, however, shows a definitive aspect of Warped Tour that was not ignored – diversity.
Did you know that Katy Perry played Warped Tour in 2008? What about G-Eazy in 2012? The Black Eyed Peas in 1999? Yes, it is no secret that when it comes to variety in genre and style, Warped Tour crafts lineups that are incomparable.
With features from alternative rock band Meg & Dia, post-hardcore group Emery, hip-hop artists Chali 2na and Cut Chemist, and pop-punk staples Simple Plan, one can’t argue that the 2019 Ohio lineup didn’t stay loyal to Warped Tour’s inclusive roots.
Hap’in and Hopin’
The 25th Anniversary Grand Opening was set up outside of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Peter McPoland & The Haps drove twenty hours from Texas to Ohio to play the first set of the opening day of the new version of Warped Tour – and we sure are glad that they did.
What a vivacious performance from the group that Founder Kevin Lyman brought on as proof of the importance of discovering new music at Warped Tour.
Peter McPoland and the Haps can best be described as a young alternative rock band with contagious energy who like throwing on cowboy hats mid-set just to shake things up.
Though they came to the Warped Tour to play music, they stayed to enjoy and experience it. Instead of running backstage after their set concluded, as bands typically do, these guys went directly to the crowd and could be spotted dancing with friends and engaging with fans the rest of the night.
Walls Broken Down with Enthusiasm
Josh Head is an unstoppable energy.
That’s it. That’s the tweet.
But seriously – what a stage presence! Emery’s performance was upbeat and with such zest and intensity, they were impossible to ignore. Most memorable, though, was screamer/keyboardist (I mean, look at that combination of talents alone) Josh Head.
He could typically be found whipping his microphone cord around, headbanging at his keyboard, or climbing on top of fans (sometimes using their shoulders and heads for support) to scream out the lyrics and get the crowd excited — were they ever!
No Wasted Days Here
It was obvious that a ska group like The Slackers would be added to the lineup, seeing as though this was probably the first Warped Tour in history where Less Than Jake was not involved. (Maybe I’m exaggerating, but if you know about Warped, then you know what I mean).
Clothed in spiffy suits and jazzy hats, The Slackers were clearly there to have a good time. I appreciated their sound and their interest in ensuring that fans were open to ska music and enjoying themselves as well.
Many fans were dancing and beaming with joy throughout their set. Ska music just naturally brings that reaction out of people, but The Slackers surely didn’t “slack” in ensuring it was a good time for all.
Meg & Dia admitted to not being involved in the scene in about ten years, but having that “throwback band” was essential to add to the lineup as well. I definitely remember listening to them when I was sixteen, and it was cool to have the full-circle experience of seeing them perform live almost ten years later.
Aside from being the musical act that seemed to come back out of nowhere, they were also the only female-fronted band on the card. Representation of women in the scene is growing, yet still few and far between in comparison, so it was great to have the incredibly talented sisters belting out perfect harmonies on stage.
Ohio is for Warped Tour
Between each act, Lyman would personally introduce the band onstage and often tell a behind-the-scenes-type of story elaborating on how they joined Warped Tour.
He usually tied the backstory into a lesson that he wanted to share. The one he had in mind (or maybe came up with on the spot) before the Hawthorne Heights set involved the future.
As he took the stage, three small children paraded in behind him and stood shyly while drowning in their flat-brim hats. They were obviously uncomfortable in the spotlight, but ever so adorable nonetheless.
Kevin talked about the importance of children and how they are the future of our world, then invited them to announce Hawthorne Heights’s arrival into the microphone.
And I can’t make it on my own,-Ohio Is for Lovers by Hawthorne Heights
because my heart is in Ohio.
The band put on a fun set overall, but truthfully the moment we were all waiting for was for them was to play the pop-punk essential song “Ohio Is for Lovers”.
What a terrible sin it would be for the Ohio-based band to not play a song titled “Ohio Is for Lovers” while playing in Ohio – you know?
A Band the Fans “Check Yes” to
We The Kings were an obvious fan-favorite in the lineup. As soon as they took to the stage and opened with “Skyway Avenue,” the crowd was jumping around and singing along in a state of pure joy. At this point, the number of crowd surfers increased significantly.
Though many were amped up on the nostalgic band’s high energy, We The Kings still took a moment to play a slower hit, “Sad Song”. Many fans stopped to pull out their phones to capture the moment. Others took the time to enjoy it with a loved one.
As a band loved by many, and a staple in Warped Tour’s history, We The Kings made for the perfect addition to the lineup, an obvious choice that became ever clearer as they finished with their top hit “Check Yes Juliet”, which frontman, Travis Clark, jokingly introduced as a never-been-heard brand new song.
Sunsets During DJ Sets
Chali 2na and Cut Chemist put on an engaging DJ set just as the sun was beginning to set over Cleveland. Lyman’s story to preface their act set was somewhat somber in tone. He told a story about how Chali 2na had almost died.
Fans quickly put feelings of sorrow or negativity on the back burner though, as the dynamic duo began to entertain the crowd with old school funky hip-hop, complete with iconic record scratches.
It was clear the pair were having a fantastic time performing for the sold-out show, Chali 2na especially. Their set was fun, but watching Chali 2na glowing on stage was the most engaging part about it.
Nothing is more exciting than when you can tell a musician is truly enjoying themselves.
The Perfect Ending
Simple Plan was set to close for the evening which, for me, was a totally full-circle experience. They were the last band I saw play in the tour’s final full run in 2018. I definitely bawled my eyes out, at the thought of never experiencing Warped Tour again.
This time seeing Simple Plan closing out the night sparked joy and gratefulness. With bassist David Desrosiers back in the game and the band back with their full roster, fans were in for a night of high energy and nostalgia.
Their set was filled with jumping, beach balls, and smiles. At one point frontman, Pierre Bouvier left the stage and ended up singing from the back of the crowd – we are still not entirely sure of how he managed to move their so quickly!
Just as they had done in 2018, Simple Plan invited a guest on stage to help them sing “I’m Just A Kid.” Who better to bring back out than We The King’s Travis Clark? Clark took the microphone and sang along as drummer Chuck Comeau dove into the crowd, quickly being swallowed by the arms of enthusiastic fans.
Of course, they ended the night “perfectly” by playing their top hit “Perfect”, the rainy-roofed sad teen anthem that fans have come to adore.
The Three “A’s”
At the end of the day, it was a smaller version of the tour many have come to adore, but the opening day to Warped Tour’s 25th anniversary still embodied its most important components – art, acceptance, and accessibility.
The art aspect is self-evident. Fans spend the day surrounded by music. There are art pieces of all varieties like giant murals, skateboarding, dance, and photography.
When talking about acceptance, it is more closely related to acceptance of self and of others, and the willingness to accept and work for positive change. This hits home for many philanthropic groups partnered with Warped Tour, and was a trend that continued with support from organizations like PETA and Hope For The Day.
My favorite aspect, however, has always been accessibility. No other festival offers the opportunity to meet your favorite bands for free, and music groups don’t tend to roam the common festival grounds quite like they do at Warped Tour.
I watched fans beaming as each band left the stage and came directly out into the crowd to sign autographs, pose for photographs, and take the time to share in conversation with anyone who wanted to do so.
Having that relatability and accessibility is paramount to Warped Tour’s great success.
In keeping in line with the “accessibility” theme, the after party included DJ sets from members of Hawthorne Heights, Emery, and Simple Plan – giving fans yet another opportunity to interact with their favorite bands.
The setup was essentially like Emo Nite except the club had a giant pirate ship in the middle of it and band members walked around freely talking to fans.
Throughout the night, fans sang along to their favorite songs like Sum 41’s “Fat Lip,” New Found Glory’s “My Friends Over You” and My Chemical Romance’s “Helena.” All of this was done in the company of fellow music lovers.
The people who truly get it had a great time! Thank you.Kevin Lyman on Twitter reflects on Ohio Warped Tour
All in all, it was the perfect ending to the “best day ever”.
If this is the way the new Warped Tour is going to go, you’ll catch me flying to Cleveland for it every year.
Stay Forever Warped, my friends!