It’s that time of year again. The Vans Warped Tour is almost upon us, so some of the By the Barricade team spent their April Fools’ Day at Club Nokia in Hollywood, California to get an early preview of what was planned for the summer. The kickoff party showcased the true diversity at Warped Tour. This year’s eclectic bill bought together soul, rap, acoustic jams, and hard rock. If you were expecting a night of guitar riffs and headbanging you were sorely out of luck. This change of pace was unconventional, but a new and exciting experience overall. In the true style of Warped Tour, this night was all about the music and putting new bands that fans may not have heard of in front of a big audience.
This line up was pretty evenly split. On one side there was the rock style of This Wild Life, Secrets, and ONE OK ROCK. On the other was Wax, Watsky, and Bad Rabbits with their old school jams. The night was capped off by Issues‘ unique way of combining the two styles that nicely brought the night together. Each band had a short set letting the Hip hop centered bands play just enough for rock fans to enjoy, and vice versa. The show had short change over times in between sets, so it was interesting to see Wax hit the stage after Secrets and take the show in a completely different direction while keeping the fans determined front row fans entertained while they waited for Issues. The mosh pits that opened up for the previous bands disappeared and Wax took to the stage backed by a full band driven by rock elements. This gave the perfect opportunity to show off his superb and quick lyrical style. His down low beats, and double tempo lyrics took most of the crowd by surprise, but not in disappointment. The floor was soon covered in dancing, jumping, and even grinding.
Suddenly after a few songs, Wax’s touring partner George Watsky hopped out on stage. Keeping the same band members to skip the tear town time was a nice touch and allowed Watsky to keep the momentum going with his own unique flair. These two may have been together on tour, and share the same stage, but the differences were as clear as night and day. Where Wax got the crowd relaxed with his weed driven experiences and lyrics with songs like “Dispensary Girl,” Watsky sang about seizures and road trips. Watsky’s lyrics “nothing gory means no glory, baby please don’t bore me,” sum up his party hard, live harder style. He wears his heart on his sleeve and sings songs full of vulnerable lyrics. His addition of a female backup for vocals rounded out one hell of a performance.
After the duo left the stage, Japanese rockers ONE OK ROCK came out of nowhere and were the sleeper hit of the night. Last year Kevin Lyman invited Crossfaith to fly from Japan and hop on The Vans Warped Tour and had similar success, and an overwhelmingly positive fan reaction. Lyman hit the nail on the head once again when he chose ONE OK ROCK to follow the trend this year. These post-hardcore rockers brought together high pitched vocals similar to the style of Sleeping with Sirens and Pierce the Veil, but had plenty of twists and energy to keep the show unique. Takahiro Morita, better known as Taka is the band’s Frontman. When he wasn’t hyping up the already pumped up crowd he was running around the stage and calling on fans to participate. Despite being relatively unknown, his energy was unparalleled by anyone else on the bill. His mix of high pitch vocals, guttural screams, and over the top energy truly showed off the band’s potential. Most of their songs feature English vocals, but any band who can get English speakers to sing Japanese lyrics is bound to go places in this industry.
Next up was Bad Rabbits. Immediately after starting their set, the atmosphere of the room began to change. Bad Rabbits ditched the lyrics about social issues and took a more romantic approach. It’s February 14th every day with these guys. They had a straight-up old school funk sound with a real soul (Pun intended). With some serious 70’s distortion, Bad Rabbits take it back to a simpler time full of love and romance. Their set pays homage to a sound that has been long forgotten but wasn’t received well by most of the younger audience.
Lastly, Issues hit the stage with their unique contemporary hard rock sound. After recording their debut self-titled album, Issues is here to break down everything you think you know about the rock genre and mix it up with DJ samples, and contemporary ideals. Straight off the American Dream Tour with Bring Me the Horizon, Of Mice and Men, and Letlive.; Issues brought their sound back to California for one final stop before their long break. The wear and tear of tour was visible, but the band still had enough energy to pull one more out of their hat.
For being a relatively new band fans were quick to pick up all the lyrics of Issues’ new album. The band steered clear of the original EP Black Diamonds for most of their set, but that didn’t stop fans from chiming in and singing every lyric. The floor may have been somewhat empty, but that just gave these the fans a reason to make bigger mosh pits. Surprisingly even though issues is still a band that can’t afford pyrotechnics at every show, that didn’t stop them from spraying the moshing crowd with water bottles to keep it interesting. The floor was soon a slippery mess of circle pits. Leave it to Issues to bring something new to the table whether it be music, dance moves, or water bottle fountains.
Overall the Vans Warped Tour kickoff party was somewhat underwhelming. Compared to previous years this new twist of combining rap and rock yielded a smaller crowd, but for those in attendance, the night was unforgettable and unique. All of the By the Barricade team are looking forward to this year’s Vans Warped Tour, and can’t wait to see what else Kevin Lyman has in store. Look for plenty of upcoming Warped Tour articles and coverage in the not so distant future.