The longest touring festival in North America, the Vans Warped Tour, has been an important factor for newer, heavier bands to gain exposure, while each year’s installment brings out more and more kids experiencing their first concert. With a pretty reasonable price ticket ($40 something) and a full day’s worth of bands, the festival brings in thousands upon thousands of angsty kids all across the country. And though I was pretty sure I’d never go to one of these, this year’s addition of older bands like T.S.O.L. and the Adolescents, along with metal favorites Alestorm and Municipal Waste, sparked the desire to finally venture out and see what the whole thing was really about.
The Houston crowd did not sell out, but it was still a pretty large number of kids braving the sweltering heat and the, at times unwalkable, cement at NRG. However, I hear the festival does extremely well in middle America, where the kids still gather at Dairy Queen before heading over the the roller rink or something. Anyway, I’m saying I was curious to finally see what the festival is about and who shows up. All I knew was that I would probably stand out, and I think I did.
Walking into the event was pretty interesting, because the security was the laxest I’ve ever seen; with a paper wristband compared to one with the RFID. There was no scanner, so they would just take a very brief look to see if what you were wearing on your wrist at least resembled what the official band looks like, so I am sure at least a handful of people snuck in. The gates opened around 11 am and started off with one of the most desirable bands on the lineup to many, Hawthorne Heights. I did not get there until one or so, so I missed out on seeing them. The first band that I walked the lava-like ground to see was punk legends T.S.O.L.. To be honest, they weren’t great, but I doubt most were expecting them to be, considering how long they’ve been at it (since 1978). Vocalist Jack Grisham strolled across the stage in a pink suit with sharpie drawings all over it, trying to get the crowd into it, but the few that showed up to the set, rightfully so, just tried to not overheat. After them, I saw a few more bands until Municipal Waste started, including Texas’ Bowling For Soup, which appeared to be the novelty act, with most of the audience thinking it was way more funny than it was “good.” However, I thought they actually sounded pretty decent. One moment of this set that I thought was an honest statement was when vocalist Jaret Reddick said something along the lines of “who knew I’d be here after 20 years of singing about farts in high school.”
I ended up catching a few more sets before I finally left because I was completely and utterly done with the heat. If only the rain lasted a little longer I would have been able to stick around for Gwar, the band I wanted to see the most. Overall, the 2017 Warped Tour showed that the organizers are willing to change and incorporate bands other than the “Hot Topic” bands that the festival has been blessed/cursed with. With very progressive bands like War On Women to the shocking Gwar to the typical vocalist of the Black Veil Brides, the lineup showed the momentum the festival still has. While the parking lot at NRG has been its Houston home for some time now, the blistering heat that occurred on Sunday proved why events there in the Summer are pretty miserable. All in all, here’s hoping the trend of adding bands for a larger audience continues.