Festival review of Vans Warped Tour 2013 at Alexandra Palace, 16&17/11/13
Warped Tour returned to the UK again in 2013, after the huge success of the year before with Bring Me The Horizon and Lostprophets as the headliners. This year the event had expanded to a two-day affair. Kicking off the weekend was Japanese band FACT (4/10) on the Jaegermeister stage, which was the second stage. The crowd, many who weren’t familiar to the band, were just happy to be inside and warm rather than the band being anything other than average. Next band on the stage was Neck Deep (9/10). Hot off the heels of opening for the Wonder Years around the UK. Playing songs such as ‘Tables Turned’, ‘I Couldn’t Wait To Leave 6 Months Ago’ and ending their set with an acoustic version of ‘A Part Of Me’ closed one of the best sets of the weekend and capturing many new fans. After a killer set by Neck Deep, I headed to the main stage and captured the majority of Crossfaith’s set (9/10). It was spectacular set with a particular highlight being ‘Jaegerbomb’ that saw a tilde wave of people surge forward crowd surfing. The massive circle pit and an incredible light show helped them put on another candidate for the best set of the weekend.
After setting the bar so high, The Wonder Years (6/10) had a hard act to follow. Sadly they weren’t up to the task on the day. With songs such as ‘Passing Through A Screen Door’ and ‘Dismantling Summer’ falling a little bit flat after the mammoth dance metal set put on by Crossfaith. Over on the acoustic stage, Handguns (5/10) were playing a short half hour set before they played a full electric set later in the day. The overall vibe over at the acoustic stage was a little off with everyone having to sit down and no one really singing along as well as the merch market being next to the stage causing a fair amount of background noise. Following this back on the main stage was We Came As Romans (2/10). Their generic brand of metalcore did very little for most people apart from the die-hard fans. The lack of clarity in the PA left their breakdowns slightly lack lustred. Back on the Jaegermeister stage were Real Friends (8/10) playing their first set of shows in the UK. After starting a little late, blasting through songs such as ‘Floorboards’, ‘Anchor Down’ and ‘Late Nights In My Car’ caused some of the biggest sing-a-longs of the weekend. With frontman, Dan Lambton, performing the majority of the set off the stage and by the barrier of the crowd, this helped make the show even better. After a couple of hours spent chilling at merch, getting food and talking with Real Friends (awesome guys), I headed to see Yellowcard (6/10). While they were on their Ocean Avenue 10 year anniversary tour, they only played 3 songs off the album that was disappointing. The highlight of their set was when Taylor Jardine from We Are The In Crowd for a duet on ‘Here I Am Alive’. After spending the majority of the day jumping between the two bigger stages, I headed to see Handguns (8/10) on the third stage, the Kevin Says Stage. Songs such as Porch Light, Fade Away and I Hope He Kills You sounded incredible in a room that is usually the restaurant Alexandria Palace. Itch (3/10), formerly of the King Blues, was playing Warped Tour UK for the second year in a row however his politically charged ska songs sounded poor in particular him trying to encourage further rioting in his song ‘London Is Burning’. The headliners of the day were Canadian punk rockers Rise Against (6/10). The 12-song set consisted of songs off their last 4 albums, however the band was lacking a certain stage presence that a festival headliner requires. While they have the songs in place to play an hour of great music, their lack of any performance aids and a pretty much non-existent light show left this performance lacking anything to stand out from any other band on the main stage that day. Overall the Saturday was a great day and the fact that Warped Tour is back for a second year after the 14-year absence before returning like year is a great thing and many people look forward to hopefully it being back next year.
After a gruelling 3-hour car journey to Alexandra Palace, London, I was intensely excited to finally arrive for a day of quality music. However, the first band on were The Colour Morale (2/10) who, despite being the first band on at 2:15 in the afternoon, had an awful lot of deep motivational speeches. This was possibly compensating for a distinct lack of any discernible lyrics or tune, although if a wall of noise and screaming is your thing, they may have been tolerable. Thankfully, the next band to play the other side of the innovative East & West main stage was excellent. RDGLDGRN (8/10), despite having an acronym that baffled me and many others until the singer finally said it aloud (Red-Gold-Green apparently), were an upbeat indie go-go trio with catchy choruses and summery rhythms that really got the crowd dancing.
After that, the much-anticipated Watsky + Wax (7/10) were up. Many of the people in the audience had clearly only come to see the American rapper, and had no idea who Wax were, though it turned out they were a rap-fronted band with funky overtones who were actually pretty decent (check out their highly amusing song “Stay off my Facebook”). Watsky played an excellent high-energy set, rapping his best hits with alarming speed as per usual, however no doubt you’ve probably heard what happened next. If you’ve been living under a rock, basically during his last song “I don’t give a f*ck”, Watsky climbed the rigging and took a suicidal 35ft stage dive into the crowd, who couldn’t see what he was doing, and failed to catch him. This was obviously bit of downer as both he and two people standing next to me were injured, and we were all pretty shaken up.
Anyway, after everyone had calmed down, We Are the Ocean (7/10) took the stage, and played a great set with an amazing light show. New vocalist Liam Cromby has a much more melodic voice than the previous lead singer Dan Brown, although their performance lacked the characteristic grittiness that Dan formerly brought to the band. But any chance of peace was smashed by the arrival of Hatebreed (5/10), who with half a stage of amps and a monstrous drum kit complete with two massive kick drums proceeded to melt down the arena with their appropriately named song “Destroy Everything”. Small children fled from the room. Stewards wept into their lanyards. Birds dropped stunned from the roof (I imagine).
Meanwhile on the Jaegermeister stage, Hacktivist (6/10) were bringing the party vibes (at 4pm). The bands music just pushes a big red button in me that makes me want to down a bottle of whisky, smash it over my head then punch someone in the face. When they played their version of ‘N*****s in Paris’ the whole room erupted. However next there was the biggest surprise of the weekend. Announced at 11am that morning three fifths of A Day To Remember (8/10) decided to play a short acoustic set. Despite the short 4 song set, the room was so packed the security had to stop any more people coming in. While being short of time it was a welcome surprise, with the award for the largest sing-a-long of the weekend has to go to the song ‘All Signs Point To Lauderdale’.
Eventually I got tired of being head-butted by burly bearded men, and retreated to the food court to get the most expensive pizza of my life. Moving to the Kerrang! Kevin Says stage, I caught a little bit of the end the blisteringly aggressive rockers Black Dogs (6/10), and then a folk band called Skinny Lister (8/10) who sounded like a good Mumford & Sons, and were a lot less sweaty. There was even some kind of small barn dance going on where the mosh pit would normally be. Next up was the band I had been waiting all day to see and who I’ve been championing for years – Max Raptor (10/10). As always, they put on an incredibly energetic show performing their unique brand of modern melodic punk, and though the crowd was small (some of their audience having been pinched by A day to Remember), I have never been in such an enthusiastic and inclusive mosh pit. I’ll try not to rave, but check out our review of their latest album here.
One of the few bands to play both days of the festival, Yellowcard (8/10) was up next. Unlike the day before, they were playing on the Jaegermeister stage. Playing the identical set to the day before, however in the smaller room, sounded a lot better. Songs like Ocean Avenue and Way Away were incredible while when Taylor Jardine from We Are The In Crowd joined them on stage for ‘Here I Am Alive’ that was fantastic.
Next up were The Skints (9/10), who really chilled out the audience, and soon everyone was skanking to their classic brand of reggae and ska. I freely admit to having a bit of a girl crush on talented singer Marcia Richards, who seems to play every single instrument, in their half hour slot moving from vocals to keyboard to guitar and finally to a weird thing which according to Wikipedia is a ‘key-flute’. It’s essentially a tiny keyboard powered by blowing down a vacuum-like nozzle, and produced a unique sound which works incredibly well in their last song Culture Vulture.
Over on the main stage Billy Talent (5/10) were playing a set that really was a mixed bag. The older songs such as ‘Red Flag’ and ‘Fallen Leaves’ sounded great however the newer stuff just sounded like set filler. Following them was Rise Against (6/10), taking the support slot after headlining the Saturday of Warped Tour. Playing an almost identical set was very disappointing; with the only change was the very welcome addition of ‘Like An Angel’. Overall their pure lack of stage presence really hindered them and you were left with the feeling that you were watching Rise Against Karaoke in parts.
Finally, in an agonising decision, I decided to stay for Flogging Molly rather than Enter Shikari, on the basis that I’ve already seen Shikari several times. Flogging Molly (8/10) were a good choice in the end, their inimitable brand of gypsy folk-rock stirred the crowd into a riotous frenzy of crazy jigging and bizarrely a lot of nakedness, a perfect end to my day. Meanwhile, Enter Shikari (10/10) were in the process of destroying Ally Pally with hands down the best set of the weekend. Opening with ‘System … Meltdown’ then ‘Sorry, You’re Not A Winner’ just solidified the claim that Shikari are one of the best British bands around currently. They closed the festival with their flawless mix of rock, dance and metal.
Anna Lim & Sam Taylor