July 27, 2017

Growing up listening to punk-rock and emo music, one of the trademark moments of every fan’s summer is Vans Warped Tour. For at least one day every year (or several, if you’re really committed), you get to experience live what you’ve already filled your iPod to the brim with.

You know the drill: first, you wake up early to drink a gallon of water and carefully choose what band t-shirt you’ll spend the day sweating through. Then you wait in the long line leading to the venue doors, and chat about your favorite bands with the blue-haired kid in front of you. When you finally get in, you race to the blowup schedule board, praying that your favorite bands aren’t playing sets at the same time. For the next ten hours, you race back and forth from stage to stage, trying to see as many of your favorite acts as possible. You stop at artist booths for special signings and to buy that hat you saw everyone wearing. You make a game out of collecting as many free stickers as possible, and wonder how often you’re supposed to reapply sunscreen because you’ve definitely already missed the mark on that one. You run wild for an entire day and truly don’t notice how sore your checkerboard Vans-clad feet are until you’re walking through the parking lot back to your car.

One of my favorite things about Warped Tour is the fact that, no matter where you live in the continental US, you have a chance to see your favorite bands at least once every year. Growing up in a town that was often skipped over by tours, knowing that this festival would be at the same spot every single year was, and still is, magical to me. When I entered the venue this year, people were already scattered, running to try to make it to the first stage of the day. The poppy tunes of American Authors greeted me as I made my way through the gates, but as I made my way back farther into the venue, the sound drastically changed to that of Fire From the Gods. In Pittsburgh, PA, a huge hill separates the main stages from the rest of the stages, meaning you have to run up and down a huge, grassy (and, this year, very muddy) incline to try to make it to see your favorite musicians. But, when the lineup is good, everyone just grits their teeth and goes for it–and this year was no exception.

Bands like Dance Gavin Dance, Beartooth, and Neck Deep were obvious chart toppers and drew huge crowds, but there were newcomers who managed to grabbed people’s attention as well. Silent Planet, The White Noise, and Knocked Loose have all been gaining traction throughout the summer, so by the time Warped Tour hit Burgettstown mid-July, these bands had stellar crowds as well. Courage My Love and Too Close to Touch were favorites of mine, shaking up the afternoon with beautifully heartfelt and curated melodies that captured the attention of passersby. Fans of other genres got their fix as well with performances from rap artists like Watsky and Futuristic.

When the festival was over, I walked back through the parking lot, watching all of the people around me as they jumped and danced and talked a mile-a-minute about the amazing shows they had seen that day. Everyone had armloads of CDs and t-shirts from their favorite bands, as well as ones they had just discovered. I got back into my car thinking about how cool this festival is, how amazing it is that so many dedicated people (not just the bands, but the behind-the-scenes workers as well) devote an entire summer to this. I thought about how lucky I was to be a part of it this year, how excited I already was for next year, and how sore my Vans-clad feet were.











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