Monday, 19 October 2015

Warped UK 2015 - 18/10/15

I'd been peeing myself with excitement about this festival for quite a while now. I hadn't seen the majority of the line-up live before, and because I've seen so many bands at this point that's always a rare thing. I love seeing new bands live, so I made sure to catch as many people for the first time as I physically could. 
That being said, out of the entire line-up of 33 bands (not including Allusondrugs, who pulled out the morning of the show)... I missed four. FOUR. That means I saw 29 bands live yesterday, in some way, shape or form. I'm sad to say that Boy Jumps Ship - yes, the Boy Jumps Ship who made it on my Warped UK playlist - were actually one of the four bands I missed... I was on my way down the stairs to their stage when their set finished, which was a huge shame. I spoke to one of the guys after the set, though, and with their debut album release date set for March I'm expecting to be seeing them fairly soon in the new year, tour dates permitting.
As you can imagine, not all of the bands I saw are going to get reviews (I saw Creeper from outside the Kevin Says stage, as it was at capacity, and only saw about twenty seconds of Fearless Vampire Killers while walking through their room), but this is going to be a big one, so hold on to your helmets!

First up were The Word Alive, who had the early time of 2:30pm. Seeing as the doors didn't open until about 2:35, and then the main stage wasn't open once the crowd was let in, this actually ended up becoming a 2:50 start. I was nervous that the band were going to get their set cut short - I used to be a huge The Word Alive fan, and I was really pumped to see them in a live environment - but thankfully they still got their full 30 minute stage time.
I'm ashamed to admit that I actually didn't recognise quite a few of the songs that they played. 'Life Cycles' was one of my favourite albums, back in the day, so I loved hearing 'Entirety' and 'Life Cycles', but I didn't know the rest of the set. I did really enjoy 'Lighthouse', and it's convinced me that I need to pick up the new album, 'Real', and try to listen to more from this band again. Their new material is in a completely different direction from their earlier songs, and I actually think I might prefer them!
At the end of the set, vocalist Telle Smith announced that the band would be returning next year, so I'm keeping my eye out for those tour dates.

Play The Victim
Life Cycles

I only saw the first three Ghost Town songs, and I really don't understand the appeal. I've missed them three times in the last two years, so I thought I'd make sure to hear some of their set and I kinda wish that I hadn't bothered. Vocalist Kevin "Ghost" McCullough has quite a nasal vocal tone, so it just felt as though I was watching an electronic version of The 1975. I wasn't impressed. However, the crowd reaction that they were getting was brilliant, especially during 'Spark', so maybe I'm just missing something.

Quick shout out to Rob Lynch, who I've finally seen performing with his full live band! I saw him back in March playing a solo acoustic, then missed his full band set at Slam Dunk, so it was great to hear the songs that I recognised from the previous set with such a different arrangement. The set was very fun-filled, despite the lyrical depth, and I wish I'd managed to see more than just a couple of songs.

I managed to arrive at Forever Came Calling's set at the right time, because I arrived there just after they'd started 'Ides'. I can't put into words how phenomenal their performance was, because it was just one of those sets I don't think I can fault. Vocalist Joe Candelaria has such a distinctive voice and it flourishes in a live environment, making for a high energy set and a fantastic atmosphere.
I loved hearing their new songs for the first time in this environment, too. Their second album, 'What Matters Most...' was released a year ago this week, but because of how brilliant 'Contender' is I was nervous about listening to the follow-up, so I've avoided it like the plague. That's changing with this set though, because songs like 'Transient (I Don't Miss)', 'August Is Home' and 'Indebted' aren't songs that you can just hear once. Lyrically they're beautiful, but musically they're pushing the boundaries of the pop punk scene, and Forever Came Calling are definitely standing out from the crowd with this release. I was surprised that they didn't have a bigger crowd, because they deserved a lot more people. I do think that overlapping with Man Overboard was the reason behind this, but the people who chose Forever Came Calling will not have been disappointed.
I didn't get to see the entirety of their set, because they overlapped with Metro Station, but due to the delay on main stage I managed to get to see a heck of a lot more than I'd expected, with the part of the set that I saw listed down below. I know for a fact that I'm seeing them again as soon as I possibly can - I always liked Forever Came Calling, but I think I fell in love with them at this show. I've also finally managed to get hold of 'What Matters Most...' - I can't wait to finally listen to it!

Transient (I Don't Miss)
The Office
August Is Home
Mapping With A Sense of Direction

Then, it was time for the big one - Metro Station. I've been waiting to see these guys live since 2009, when their debut self-titled album released over here. I've been waiting for six years, through their only UK tour supporting Trace Cyrus's oh so famous sister, through the departure of all of the members, through the Mason Musso solo EPs and through the unexpected reunion, and the day I'd been waiting for had finally arrived.
It didn't start off so well. 'Control' was plagued by sound issues, with Trace's microphone hardly working and Mason's microphone going towards the end of the song, and I did consider for a moment fleeing the room - I didn't want to have one of my all time favourite bands (I know, but they've been with me for a while, okay?!) ruined for me by a terrible live performance.
But I stuck it out, and the sound issues actually fixed after that first song, leaving the rest of their half an hour set to be pure pop fun. The crowd reaction was brilliant, and while the band might not have the most rock style or be the most perfect live, no one in that room could deny that they were having a ball. Through new songs 'She Likes Girl' and 'Love and War', and older songs 'Seventeen Forever' and the flawless 'Shake It', it was just something light-hearted to unwind and enjoy.
You could tell the band were also enjoying themselves. Metro Station sometimes get negative comments for being aloof and disinterested, but with Trace taking the time to thank the UK for "showing us this love, you guys are the fucking best. I wish people in America were so appreciative of music as you guys are" it was quite a poignant moment.
The last time the band toured in the UK, they played the O2 Arena. When you think of it like that, Alexandra Palace is almost a small show for this band. They know how to perform for larger crowds, and the ease with which they do it is impressive - you'd think they wouldn't look so relaxed, what with having just released their second album and with not coming to this country in over half a decade, but Metro Station are a band that know what they're doing. Trace announced that "Metro Station's back, and we're gonna fucking stay this time" and said that they would be coming back to the UK quite soon, and I am definitely looking forward to that day. 13 year old me might have loved Metro Station blindly and without question, but 19 year old me is still quite impressed.

She Likes Girls
Seventeen Forever
Love and War
Getting Over You
Shake It

Taking a quick moment to pause, to say that I just love the friendships that show during Warped. Every band that I saw was calling out to another band, and telling people who they should go and see later, and I think that level of support is brilliant. Some of the smaller bands that might not have received a large crowd probably had quite a bit of traffic pushed their way through shout outs, and it's heart-warming to see how inclusive the day was. Metro Station shouting out Never Shout Never was certainly a surprise, and Forever Came Calling asking people if they saw Man Overboard, while Man Overboard were still on stage in the next room, was humorous - it added something really special to what was already an awesome day.

Now, on to the inimitable Bryce Avary, also known as The Rocket Summer. Bryce is another artist that I've been listening to for years (I can't remember how many, but probably around seven years) and I just hadn't managed to see live. I missed the beginning of his set, because I got held up in the merch village meeting Forever Came Calling (another fabulous thing at Warped, that the bands just casually chill out at their merch tables!) but as soon as I got back I was instantly blown away.
Bryce has a beautiful voice. It's not questionable, he does. He's also a multi-instrumentalist, so he just casually plays all of the instruments on his songs, and writes them all himself, too. It's only in a live environment that he concedes to having other people helping him, because no one can sing, play guitar, play keyboard and play the drums at the same time.
The thing is, even when Bryce has other people on stage with him, it's impossible to take your eyes off of him. His stage presence is immutable. His brand of music can see quite inclusive at times, but when he makes the effort to unwind his microphone from his keyboard and walk around stage to get the crowd involved, you can see how much thought goes into every move. I wouldn't call it calculated, but I would say that Bryce knows what his audience wants, and he knows how to give it to them.
Because I used to listen to Bryce so much, back in the old days, I actually don't know any of his new material. It's awful, because I bought his fifth album, 'Life Will Write The Words', the day it was released - it's just that whenever I think about listening to The Rocket Summer, I always pick 'Calendar Days' and 'Do You Feel', because they're two brilliant albums. This meant it was actually the first time ever that I'd heard 'Save' and 'Revival', and while I didn't find them as instantly captivating as 'So Much Love', they were both beautiful. In fact, the entirety of the six songs that I heard were beautiful - particularly the closer of 'Walls' and 'Come Alive', who blended together but managed to stand on their own, and were arresting in their intensity. Seeing Bryce with his loop pedal, so completely absorbed in the music that he was making... He's completely dedicated, and he deserves more recognition for his talent.

So Much Love
Of Men and Angels
Come Alive

I will admit, after The Rocket Summer I was planning on taking a little bit of time out, because Metro Station were meeting fans and I couldn't pass up the opportunity. While waiting in the queue, beautiful acoustic music starting playing in the Rock Sound tent... It was Forever Came Calling, meaning that instead of just seeing them once that day I managed to see them twice!
Because the queue for the meet and greet was over the other side of the room, I could only vaguely hear the set, but I managed to distinguish 'Front Porch Sunrise', 'If Bukowski Could See Me Now' and 'Spanish Mother's (I Just Miss)'... Or at least, I think I did. I could hardly hear the lyrics, so I was going off of the music, and pop punk sounds very different (and much more beautiful) acoustic. Don't quote me on the set (and know that I did miss a song at the end, because of the whole "meeting Metro Station" thing), but I need to say a huge thank you to Rock Sound for getting this organised, because it sounded delightful... from a distance... with a lot of people talking.

I only managed to sit through the first song and a half of Beautiful Bodies before I decided my time was better spent going to purchase food. I loved the recording of 'Capture and Release', and I've had it stuck in my head all week - it's a brilliantly written song, and the recorded version is great. Alas, vocalist Alicia Solombrino just doesn't seem to be able to perform live. Her voice sounded shrill and like she hadn't properly warmed it up, and it made the set very uncomfortable to listen to. It might have been the acoustics of the room: for a band playing one of their very first UK shows to play such a large room, they wouldn't be used to the set up or the amount that they needed to put into the performance, but I'm just not too sure. I'm seeing them supporting The Maine and Mayday Parade in February, so we'll see if they sound any better there.

Another band I really disliked the sound of was Attila. I'd never listened to them before, but with vocalist Fronz sounding as though he was performing extended barking throughout the majority of the one song I heard, I don't think I'm ever going to listen to them again. They drew one of the biggest crowds of the day, which really surprised me - I do question the music tastes of the people who attended this thing...

However, I did enjoy John Coffey, who I'd kind of expected to be nonchalant about. When we walked in to their room, there were around five people at the barrier and a large gathering to the left hand side of the stage, which was a little confusing... Until we realised that there were band members in the crowd, encouraging the audience to mosh around them while they played. Because the Kevin Says stage was so intimate, it worked brilliantly - it was energetic and unexpected, and definitely put them on my highlights of the weekend. We did only see the very end of their set, so I'm not sure how the rest of it played out, but it's put them on my radar.

I saw quite a large section of Memphis May Fire, but already I can't remember what 'No Ordinary Love', 'Stay The Course' or 'The Sinner' sounded like. I don't actively listen to Memphis May Fire, but I saw their entire set at Warped UK back in 2013 - I'd just expected to be able to recognise some of the songs that they played. The ones I did hear have already slipped my mind, and I don't feel inclined to listen to them again... I'm not sure why, but they're a band I find it very hard to gel with. However, musically they were on point (I can remember appreciating the guitars, even if I can't remember what they sounded like) and I hope I might be able to get into them some day.

The last of the five bands that I was super excited about, Never Shout Never also massively impressed me. I didn't know what to expect, as I'm an early Never Shout Never fan - I love all of the pre-'What Is Love?' EPs, and 'What Is Love?' itself, but I haven't listened to anything past that. I know they've had five albums out since, and I know that makes me a dreadful person, but I just haven't liked any of the newer material.
However, I think that's changing with 'Black Cat'. The album released a few months ago, and the first thing that caught my attention was definitely the psychedelic artwork... It's the most unique album artwork I think I've ever seen. Then 'Hey! We Ok!' was released, and the love affair began once more - it was fun, it was refreshing, and it was everything I liked about their early material.
Never Shout Never (or, as vocalist Christofer Drew introduced them, "we are Never Shout Whatever from Timbucktu, and we are absolutely thrilled to play for you") feel more melancholy live, because it's all a bit of an introspective jam session. 'Trouble' is a majorly happy song, but with the full band backing they slowed it down a little bit, added in some more reggae beats, and I didn't think I'd like that but I loved it. It was just so chilled out and smooth, and I've never appreciated that in a live band before - I get very bored very easily (attention span of a moth!) but for some reason that just didn't happen during Never Shout Never's half an hour.
I will admit, I did sneak away during 'Black Cat', into the next room to see a tiny bit of Moose Blood, but instead of staying for the second half of Moose Blood's set like I'd intended, I went straight back in to Never Shout Never. It might be because I'd never seen them before, it might be because I'd been so excited during the lead up, but it just felt like something special was going on. They didn't have a huge crowd, but the people who were there were really enjoying it, and I was very impressed.
The stand out moment was definitely their cover of The Doors' 'Break On Through (To The Other Side)'. Christofer introduced the song by admitted that "we ain't the most rockin' band on the bill", but they proved that they could be if they wanted to. Christofer's voice is much more powerful than I'd imagined - he has clarity and precision during all of the Never Shout Never songs, but the cover added an extra element and proved that he can sing in multiple styles if he so wishes. It makes me excited for what the band could do in the future, because they really could branch out into heavier music and perform it successfully (I mean, Panic! At The Disco are quite a bit heavier, and Never Shout Never's Ian Crawford used to be their touring guitarist, so musically they could toughen up a bit too). There's just so much potential.
I'm definitely going to check out 'Time Travel', 'Indigo' and the rest of 'Black Cat', because I feel like I've been missing out on a lot not following this band more closely over the years.

Piggy Bank
Silver Ecstasy
Happy New Year
Break On Through (To The Other Side) (The Doors cover)
Black Cat
Time Travel

I need to give a shout out to Frank Carter and the Rattlesnakes, too. I only managed to see half of 'Fangs' and closer 'I Hate You', but I've heard from a friend that he was mocking the Young Guns fans waiting at the stage next door, taunting them and trying to get them to join in with his singalong, which is a beautiful use of a combined space. If you know people are in the room that don't want to see you, keep addressing them and they can't help but listen to your songs. Finishing 'I Hate You' with a split singalong, switching between the people in front of Frank's side of the stage and the people on the other side, it was inspiring that the entire room did seem to be singing along - it was probably one of the best vocal reactions all day.

In a twist that even surprised me, I ended up seeing all of Young Guns set. It's not that I don't like Young Guns, it's just that I've seen them three times in the last year and I don't really like 'Ones and Zeroes' as an album, so I didn't think I'd get sucked in.
The thing with Young Guns is: their material is bloody catchy. Yeah, half of the time you can't really understand what vocalist Gustav Wood is actually saying, so you just need to make the right sorts of noises, but the "woah-oh-ohs" and the "woa-ohs"... There's plenty of room to just have fun.
It was a homecoming like never before for the band, with Gus sharing "I live ten minutes away, and I grew up twenty minutes away, so this is the definition of a hometown show for me", and it was a successful one. The majority of the songs were from the new album, but the thing about 'Ones and Zeroes' is that it's extremely over-produced - you can palpably hear the studio - so the songs are pure and untainted live, making them much more successful. 'Daylight', instead of being overly echoing and, quite frankly, irritating, was instead beautiful and impressive: it has a sound that lends it to a large room, and if Young Guns start headlining arenas at any point in their career, this is going to be a song that will go down a storm. The same can be said for 'Gravity', another song that seems overdone on the record but is an epic arena-worthy song.
I loved the fact that 'Daughter of the Sea' and 'Winter Kiss' made it into the set, because it's always good for bands to recognise their older material, but I was surprised they decided to only include one song from 'Bones' (and that only being the title track of the album). I know the band are promoting their new album, but when you consider the fact that they're in the middle of their second humongous headline tour this year... You'd think that they might have pushed the album as much as they needed to, and they might have put more special moments into this set.
Gus announced to the crowd that they band are going to be taking some time off next year, but they should be back in summer 2016 with a new tour and a new single, because they're going to be working hard on what will become their fourth album. Young Guns have so much unfulfilled potential, I just hope they take a risk with their new material because they might be able to push themselves to much higher heights than they've currently reached. Hopefully the next album will be more raw, because this band are so talented they don't need all the studio editing and production - it really detracts attention from their skills.

Rising Up
Daughter of the Sea
Winter Kiss
Speaking In Tongues
I Want Out

After Young Guns, I was so pumped to finally see the UK debut of Asking Alexandria with their new vocalist, Denis Shaforostov. I appreciated the old Asking Alexandria, but I didn't love them - I just couldn't get into their music, and I really disliked Danny Worsnop's antics... It was all a bit too overtly misogynist for me to get on board with.
Alas, nothing has really changed. When I walked in, clean vocalist and guitarist Ben Bruce was thanking the crowd for accepting Denis into their family, then went on to make some crude jokes about blowjobs - with the crowd all screaming along like it was the funniest thing in the world, I just couldn't get over how juvenile it all seemed. Asking Alexandria are much more talented as musicians than All Time Low, but they're just as childish in their stage banter. When the next song was introduced with "this song's about sex" to many more screams from the crowd, I almost couldn't take it any longer, but I decided to wait and see what Denis was like as a replacement.
The answer is: not too great. Sorry, but it's true. Denis is pretty, yes, and he makes for a great frontman because attractive people sell music - it's not an over-exaggeration, it's not a lie, it's completely true. In fact, I probably wouldn't have been excited about seeing the band at all if Denis hadn't been who he was - shallow, but true. Now... Now, that isn't even enough to appeal to me. His screaming isn't fab, his voice doesn't really complement Ben's, and while he can work a crowd he seems too self-conscious to be able to perform to this many people at this early stage. Asking Alexandria were already established when Denis came in to the band, but I think he needs a lot more experience before he's at the level he needs to achieve.
This is another case of a replacement singer not surpassing the original, and that's a damn shame.

We all know how excited I was about Metro Station, so who will believe me when I say that my favourite band of the day was Heck? I didn't think it would happen, but they owned the entire Warped experience. 
I'm going to be honest: I nearly skipped Heck. I saw them as Baby Godzilla back in March, and because we were focused on seeing bands that we hadn't seen before we'd almost written them off. If Asking Alexandria had impressed me more, I wouldn't have wandered down there - and I would have missed out on the most frenetic, jaw-dropping, confusing and crazy twenty minutes of my whole goddamn life. 
When you walk in to a room, there's an amp in the middle of the crowd, a guitarist on top of the amp and a vocalist running madly around in circles... It's impossible not to be a little impressed. 
When the moshing starts, circling the amp with some people jumping on top of it, again, it's quite impressive, but it's nothing completely out there, nothing completely different. 
But when the vocalist starts vaulting the barrier two or three times in each song, singing in the crowd, singing on top of the crowd, letting the crowd sing for him, and then the guitarist decides to casually stand on the barrier while playing, and then someone decides that the drummer definitely needs to be in the crowd, so the entire drum kit gets reassembled in the middle of the floor... That's the sign of the best show I think I've ever been to.
I can't tell you what songs they played, because I was so gobsmacked by what was unfolding in front of me that I could hardly even hear the music. You don't watch a Heck show, you get absorbed by a Heck show. A Heck show swallows you whole, spits you back out and makes it impossible for you to look at live performances in the same way. A Heck show is unmissable, indescribable, unbeatable. 
If you missed Heck, you're an idiot. I don't care who you missed them for, you should have been there. I'm almost glad that their crowd wasn't larger, because one of the reasons we almost skipped them was because we were certain it was going to be at capacity: if the room had been at capacity, there would have been no spontaneous drum relocation, and no mid-crowd jam session, so I'm selfishly pleased that they didn't have the crowd I'd expected. But I mean, come on people - if you're supporting UK live independent music and you're not seeing Heck, you're doing something wrong. Heck won Warped, hands down. 
I'm probably never going to listen to Heck in my spare time, because they aren't a band that you can have on in the background at home while you do the cleaning or take a shower. But they are a band that you can trust to put on a brilliant live show, so I'm going to see them as many times as I can - now I just need them to announce a damn headline tour!

The final act of the night were Black Veil Brides, who I'm surprised to say actually impressed me. I only know a couple of their songs ('Rebel Love Song', 'Perfect Weapon' and 'Fallen Angels', to be precise) so I wasn't too pumped for this set, but they performed extremely well. There was lots of fire, of course, lots of screaming, of course, but there was also lots of well-performed technical guitar, and some pretty sweet drumming in there too.
I find it hard to like Black Veil Brides because of Andy Biersack's vocal tone - it's nothing against him, it's just that my ears don't really like the timbre or the quality of his voice. It doesn't really sound the same live, though, which is odd - his voice sounded more natural, and I found myself really enjoying it. 
The most poignant moment was definitely just before 'Fallen Angels', when Andy dedicated the song to their friend and guitar technician Chris Holley, who passed away earlier in the year. Chris's mother made Andy a necklace from Chris's ashes, so that Andy could take Chris around the world with him - he mentioned the fact that Chris was there on stage with them tonight, and it was a very touching tribute to a fallen comrade. Chris also worked with Asking Alexandria, so it was a beautiful tribute to someone who would have been front and center of the Warped proceedings. 
Now, I'm not saying I'm going to join the BVB Army, or that I've spontaneously fallen in love with Black Veil Brides music, but they put on a really good show and I think they deserved to headline - even if they had received a lot of hate for it, I think they're at the stage now where this is going to be the kind of show they perform regularly, and that won't be a bad thing. 

Faithless (*)
Heart of Fire (*)
Wretched and Divine
Knives and Pens
Shadows Die
Last Rites
Rebel Love Song
Perfect Weapon
Fallen Angels
In The End

(*) I found these two songs thanks to the setlist posted by BVBFansWorld on Twitter, so thank you for posting!

If you were at Warped UK, and you saw any of the bands I reviewed, please help! If the setlist has a hyphen in it (apart from Black Veil Brides, which denotes the break between the main body of the set and the encore), that means I missed that song (or songs) or just couldn't work out what it was that was played. If you were there and you know which songs I'm missing, please let me know: thank you!

The entire list of bands we saw at Warped UK is as follows:

Twin Wild
The Word Alive
Ghost Town
Rob Lynch
Man Overboard
Forever Came Calling
Metro Station
Fearless Vampire Killers
The Rocket Summer
Forever Came Calling (acoustic)
August Burns Red
Beautiful Bodies
Chunk! No Captain Chunk
John Coffey
Memphis May Fire
In Hearts Wake
Never Shout Never
Moose Blood
Reel Big Fish
Frank Carter and the Rattlesnakes
Young Guns
Asking Alexandria
Black Veil Brides

I hope you enjoyed my Warped UK review - fingers crossed there will be another date next year!

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