It’s one o’ clock on a grey but warm Saturday afternoon and the gates have opened to Alexandra Palace to let a flood of music fans pour into the interior and rock their socks off.

At Least I presume they are, I’m currently sat on a train just going past New Cross, You’ve got to love the London transport system.  The only good thing about being late, I suppose is that I’ll miss the queue.  I’ll get back to you in a bit…

…..the wilted fruit and other various trash litters the ground, currently I’m on the underground: Northern Line to Kings Cross.

…..The masses storm the gate the woman says over the tannoy “The next stop is Arsenal.  Where the football team will be playing Fulham another busy London derby, spoiler alert:

Arsenal 3 – 3 Fulham

                …..Finally, after a short bus ride from Wood Green I arrive at Alexandra Palace with its amazing view of the entire city and a building equally as beautiful.  The ‘peoples palace’ is what they call it and the hair and clothing colour has grown a lot more vivid by the people who now inhabit it.  This is going to be a Punk and Rock (with a little bit of Ska thrown in) festival to be remembered.

As soon as you walk through the main area you are greeted by the huge ‘Ally Pally’ bar with exceptionally quick service, a huge half-pipe (as only ‘vans’ can do) and the Jägermeister stage where later on Less Than Jake and Bowling For Soup will be playing.  The skate ramp alone was impressive enough.  Let’s remember here, that the U.K. is not exactly an ‘Extreme Sports’ nation, especially skating.  The Vert ramp was an awesome and welcome distraction to everything else going on, a nice interlude for your mind to tune out and watch in awe as these “psychopaths” (which is how Roger Manganelli from Less Than Jake says, “all we do is play instruments, but those guys [Skaters and BMX’rs] are the real heroes).

Then as you cross through the main arena you are welcomed by the Monster Energy East and West Stage.  The East Stage kicked off with the IT Boys and their definition of what boy bands should be.  Five very attractive men ‘rocking out’ with a professional sound that isn’t too far off Cobra Starship and encompass that with a look that deserves to be in the Upper-East-Side in an episode of Gossip Girl then you’ve got something quite unique.  I’m not entirely sure how serious these guys are but they’ve nestled their sound down to perfection.  A tight band who certainly knows how to get a party started.

With an expertly timed interval to get set up – no longer than 5 minutes – came on AWOLnation on the adjacent West Stage.  A band that is unbeknown to me.  They held their guitars like The Beatles but head banged with ferocity equal to that of White Zombie.  They are a very fun band and one to watch out for in the future.  Their added keyboard effects were not overdone but used perfectly to infuse their music.

After they had finished I took to the Kevin Says Stage.  The smallest and most difficult venue to get to.  This was a downfall of the festival for me, there was a huge queue and when I finally did get in there was easily room for 50 more spectators.  It was a beautiful setting, like a bar from Mad Men and they had every spirit and drink available, unlike the bigger tents upstairs.  So I paid for a surprisingly good pint – it was in a plastic glass after all – and set in for Me vs. Hero.   A little bit of home-grown talent on a Vans Warped Tour stage.

Let’s face it, when it comes to Punk, Rock, Punk-Rock or Pop Punk the North America has stolen and made it theirs; but here was Me Vs. Hero ready to destroy that trans-Atlantic illusion.  Their sound was perfect: Angst Rock, thrashy Punk, heavy riffs a metal drumbeat and smiles… what more could you want from a Punk-Rock band?  So far the two bands that I managed to see certainly got the party started but Me vs. Hero bought along an entourage of moshing and devotion, and they knew how to work the crowd.  After that, a brief passing by of the Jägermeister stage I saw Man Overboard, now here’s a band that are hardly worth a mention, but being the professional that I am I will.

Cheap, poor imitation of Blink-182 and a lot more depressing, absolutely nothing about this band made me think or feel in the slightest.

Good got that out-of-the-way, now onto the Food court.  And just a mention, (and listen up festival planners) a food court doesn’t constitute a huge smoking area and one burger van of which

you queue for 45 minutes.

So barely fulfilled by my appetite I decided to head inside and watch some skateboarding, whilst the stage was getting ready for Breathe Carolina, who were a fun little jumpy band but nothing special, but if you like Bowling For Soup and just having American Pie style parties then this is definitely the band for you.  As I don’t see enough skateboarding, and perhaps through some nostalgic childhood memories I gazed in amazement at the skaters.

Then a change of heart took me towards the band 3OH!3.  I’ll perhaps admit one day that I quite liked their song that the created with Katy Perry, Starstrukk, but other songs I’ve heard from these two have sounded like jokes and wasn’t entirely sure if they were a legitimate group or from Saturday Night Live.  Now I’ve decided, I don’t care.  They were surprisingly good.  The front guys for the band, Nathaniel Motte and Sean Foreman had more energy than I’ve ever seen in any band….ever.  Their songs were hard-hitting, and instead of the disco feel that I assumed they would have, they had a whole band of long-haired rockers.  Metal heads that played a strong metallic rhythm and when meshed together with these, ‘rappers’ – for lack of a better phrase – they created some damn good music.  The crowd was loud and in awe and started to bow towards these ultimate ‘party rockers’ with a mystifying gesture.  You know the one it’s like when you make a heart shape with your fingers but this consisted of 3 digits on either side, and an O in the middle.  See what they did there?  I would definitely go and see this band again and currently have another window open searching on Amazon for their discography.

And in this stage (the East and West) I was to stay for a good long while.  Five minutes after 3OH!3, I turned my head a little more to the right and a ‘funfare’ started playing followed closely by the entrance of five tattooed men all wearing Basketball vests.  A united group that burst onto the scene with their song ‘Catalyst’, it is of course New Found Glory and I’m sorry to say a sheer disappointment.

I saw these guys a few years back at Brixton Academy, when they were supporting – for some reason? – Paramore and they were amazing.  Their energy was fast paced, the singing spot-on and their sound was second to none.  So why then, did they come to Warped Tour with none of that?  Their energy died shortly after their entrance and first song, the bass was clearer than anything else and I could barely decipher what Jordan Pundik was singing, that’s when he wasn’t leaving it to the audience.  They weren’t all bad, and this is quite simply because they’re New Found Glory, Warped Tour Royalty and are quite simply one of the greats, they got the crowd psyched up, but in my opinion, they were the biggest disappointment.  A brief cigarette was needed to shirk off that feeling.

Those horrible questions ensue: what if Less Than Jake is rubbish or Bowling for Soup for that matter.  I had to put these questions away and file them under ‘Stoopid!’ and besides; the fireworks in the distance are quite pretty and illuminating.  Especially on the London Bridge Shard building.  So it was straight back in and a push and shove to the front of the Monster Energy West Stage.  The lights went out; the crowd fell silent and on came…..  Jock Jams?  You know the one “Welcome to the main event.  Leeeeettttsssss get rrreeeaaaddddyyyyyy ttooooooooooo  rrruuuuuuummmmbbblllleeeee”.  After a minute or so The Used appeared and opened with I’m a Fake from their album In Love and Death and how superb it was.  I didn’t know what to expect with this band, in all honesty I didn’t know they were playing until I arrived earlier that day, and a pleasant surprise it was, but it didn’t give me time enough to think about it.  I loved them when I was younger and constantly found myself returning to them on/off for years, always promising myself to go and see them live, but then the off switch ticked and I forgot.  But I was happy to be able to see them here, and they didn’t frustrate.  The singing of both Bert McCracken and guitarist Quinn Allman were first-class, and leaving out the ‘Punky’ feel that surrounded the event and getting to some real ‘post-hardcore’ metal.  They mentioned with beautiful arrogance with the aid of Jock Jams that they were the main event, having just played Wembley Arena the evening before.  They sound just like their studio albums and were surprisingly quite funny in-between songs.  A band that have reconnected me and believe me, I will certainly scour for tickets soon.

Nature called, and another beer was needed, then straight back to the Jägermeister Stage for Less Than Jake.   A band that, pretty much, does nothing but tour, and yet somehow I’ve managed to miss them on every visit to the U.K.  But not this time.  The nagging doubts of previously seeing New Found Glory subsided quickly as soon as Roger Manganelli came a-smiling followed closely by Chris Demakes, a big punk demon with the face of a happy child.  They sounded perfect, they were fun, they knew that they were ‘Punk-Rock Royalty’ but with no arrogance whatsoever.  You could see how happy they were to be there – even with their constant jibes at English weather.  They saluted all; fans, crew, skaters, other bands you name it.  Everyone.  They’re a band who has somehow managed to keep their childish innocence whilst making really decent and professional music.  I’ve seen Reel Big Fish a countless number of times and thought that they stood, dominating the ska scene, with Suburban Legends being a close competitor, after seeing Less Than Jake, I don’t know what to think anymore.  They were everything you dream that a band should be when you see their videos and hear their music.  Don’t do what I did and forget.  If they’re playing near you get tickets as fast as possible and enjoy, possibly one of the most enjoyable gigs you will ever see.

The Main Event (Apparently).  I only say this because they were on at 21:30 whereas Bowling for Soup was on at 21:40.  So, the LostProphets and I wasn’t entirely bothered.  I used to really like this band but after the tripe that they released with The Betrayed and the slightly (but not much) better album, Weapons I didn’t want to give them the time of day.  But thank the gods I did.  They were incredible.  A hard-hitting rock band, with perfection to their sound and singing.  The crowds poured in to the Monster Energy West Stage and rightly so.  I’m still not bewildered by their latest albums but as far as live performances go they’re superb.  I’ve seen Nickelback and the Red Hot Chilli Peppers live and they were professional in every aspect, from fun, sound and seriousness and now there is definitely a new contender who can easily, at any moment, pick up the crown and sit on the throne of Iconic Rock bands.

I couldn’t watch the entire set as my main event was about to kick off, and it was in the form of ‘Fat Guy Rock’, as they put it.

(How could you resist ladies?)

And they were everything you want.  They came on to their own anthem of how they sing how brilliant and fun they are and “here comes Bowling for Soup”.

What an entrance song (sorry the best quality version I could find).  Then they just walk on, not playing anything and already grateful for receiving a rapturous applause for “not actually having done anything yet”, they milked this brilliantly for a while before kicking straight into their song My Hometown.  An interesting choice, I’ve never heard them play this live before but definitely one to get the crowds kicking.  They ended the Vans Warped Tour with true Punk-Rock style and were the perfect choice for doing so.

All in all, the Warped Tour was astonishing.  The crew and staff were expert in every detail.  They managed to get a whopping 28 bands on and seen by all – something that they find hard to do in weekend festivals – and all under one roof.  The atmosphere was beyond incredible and it just reiterated that Punk is not dead this side of the ocean, but also shows that perhaps (and this is a big perhaps) that our American Cousins do it a little better, but let’s remember what nationality the staff were.  That’s right, British and professional.  Of course I don’t need to tell you that the line-up was worthy enough of Download Festival or any weekend Summer-fest, a few more female voices wouldn’t have gone amiss though.

Fourteen years since Britain has had a Punk Festival of this calibre, and I think it’s safe to say that they should return very every year.  It is not to be missed, rivaling a lot of their older, more well-known counterpart fests.  Thank you Vans and please come back every year.

Published by Mark Brassington

Father and Husband. Works in Corporate Banking. Loves Books, Comics, Cycling, Music, Games, going to the Gym and Writing.

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