Saturday, July 18, 2009

Warped Tour Report

by Amy Willard

Alright, this piece is going to be an informal recap of the July 14, 2009 Van's Warped Tour stop in Columbia, Maryland (that's because I'm still recovering from the 3,000+ photographs I've taken since last Saturday). Pretty much the day started out by heading up to the Merriweather Post Pavilion about 30 minutes before the gates, only to find thousands of fans already lined up in both directions around the venue (insane!).

I picked up my press credentials, and dropped off a box of pasta for the food drive and made my way through the sea of fans to the Hurley stage to catch Sing It Loud. I wasn't too familiar with them, but they put on a good opening set at 11:15 AM.

After my first 3 songs (that's all you're allowed to photograph in the pit) I picked up some more press information-- aka the handy daily schedule-- and headed over to the Main Stage to catch the end of the After Midnight Project set and wait for Chiodos at 12:15. Armed with the usual 9:30 Club security, I ran into some familiar faces while in the pit.

Craig Owens, lead singer of Chiodos, picked up the tempo set by the After Midnight Project and really got the crowd going as he asked the mosh pit to separate entirely-- a gap of about 20 yards-- and then commanded them to "go fucking nuts" at the start of their next song (another instance where I'm thankful I shoot from a photo pit).

After Chiodos, it was mad dash across the field and back to the main pavilion's Hurly.Com stage to catch Lights. I had absoluely no idea who they were (later to find out it would be "who she is"), but was recommended to check her out. She's a tiny girl, with a powerful voiced, armed with a keyboard guitar who I would later discover on the homepage of MySpace. She's definitely worth checking out.

1:00PM? A sprint all the way back to Main Stage for ska rockers, Less Than Jake. Definitely one the more animated groups of the day. I've never really seen a group play it up so well for the photo pit. It was definitely a joy photographing them.

Less Than Jake's set gave me a little bit of down time to explore the hundreds of tents filling both the field and the main pavilion area... that's right, this Warped stop was in two locations which had to be a least a half a mile apart-- running between stages was a marathon (and there was no one holding up cups of water or crackers along the way, my friends).

I checked out the To Write Love On Her Arms tent, along with Invisible Children, and some other great causes represented on this years tour. I also snagged free stickers at most places I stopped. A good suggestion to Warped goers is to set your phone up with Twitter and start following the bands and sponsors, there were a lot of freebies givenway that day and if I wasn't so buys getting to set starts, I would have been all over that!

After my freebie excursion, I headed back to the Hurley.Com stage to catch Meg & Dia. The sister act provided ample entertainment to the pavilion that was quickly filling with A Rocket To the Moon fans who were slated to play the SmartPUNK Stage on stage left after.

I stuck around for the Rocket boys. I got to meet them and do an interview during their DC stop (but wait... there was no interview ever posted to oh yeah, that's because the tape recorded crapped out and my notes were illegible. Go me. Worst reporter ever). Anyways, it was great to photograph them outdoors, with better lighting. Their fans definitely packed the pavilion for their set.

With dehydration setting in (as noticed by my inability to keep my camera steady) I had to get something to eat. Thanks Merriweather Post Pavilion for my $5.00 hotdog and $4.00 soda. So refreshing-- and so necessary to survive the next set: A Day To Remember.

I made my way through the sea of aviators, Converse, Vans, tight jeans, and emo plaid to find a crowd doubled in size at the Hurley Stage since I last saw it for Sing It Loud. Having to push my way through the side stage areas just to get to the pit, I knew I was in for another rough set (not to mention the last time I photographed these guys, I had two crowd surfers thrown on me, and I managed to tear up my elbows on the stage deck pretty bad-- oh and let's not forget the bottles that started flying towards the stage as I entered the pit this time-- where was my helmet?).

Anyways, my goal for the ADTR set was to finally get some good photographs after a poor turn out in Baltimore a few months back. Mission accomplished (the beauty of outdoor concerts is the copious amounts of natural lighting-- it's like a concert photographer's best friend).

After fighting to get out of the pit at the Hurley Stage, I headed back down the path to the SmartPUNK Stage for Hit The Lights-- another band I needed to makeup photos on (shooting the AP Tour was just short of a nightmare...). Lead singer, Nick Thompson, was finally able to get those sitting in the pavilion to rise to their feet and really feel the Warped experience.

Finishing up with HTL gave me just enough time to run up the hill to back of the venue to find the Ernie Ball Stage and catch female fronted, VersaEmerge. There were definitely a band I wanted to make sure I saw, and was a little surprised to find them shafted to the back of the event-- they were really playing in "no man's land," if you ask me. Sierra Kusterbeck, lead singer, is packed with powerful vocals and plenty of hair tossing energy. If you're headed to Warped this year, give this up and coming band some love.

Headed down from the hill I was stopped by two guys armed with an iPod and box of CDs... A familiar sight throughout the day as local bands were constantly trying to get Warped goes to check out their stuff. They introduced themselves as "Standard of Living," and me, begin absolutely exhausted after about 6 hours of running around didn't quite realize who they were, until it finally clicked "Oh wait! I know you guys, you sing "Autumn In Amherst" that song is awesome." I think they were impressed, 'least I hope they were. I chatted it up with them for a little bit, and had them do a video clip for Buzz TV. Nice guys, Josh and Clayton. Check out Standard of Living, NOT on Warped Tour.

I finished out the day by catching The White Tie Affair on the SmartPUNK stage, a very impressive and animated band, that I had never heard prior to being in the pit. The Steven Tyler like performance made photographing fun. They were followed up by The Maine back on the Hurley Stage. The Maine belted out an awesome cover of "Pour Some Sugar On Me," to which the crowd of swooning teenage girls went absolutely nuts-- or maybe that was just them fighting over the Monster energy drink lead singer, John O'Callaghan, had handed into the audience after taking a swig. Who knows.

I made my way back up to the Earnie Ball Stage-- truck if you will-- to catch AIDEN. I was late getting in the pit, so the shots are limited, but I'll just say it involved a lot of eye liner and guitar licking (the photos will explain).

The day concluded with my favorite Florida pop-punk rockers, There For Tomorrow. I also had the opportunity of interviewing them in the fall at the 9:30 Club, and I've got to say, those guys have a special place in my heart-- very earnest and open about their music, it's no wonder so many love them.

Clearly the lesson I learned in my first (that's right, Warped Tour virgin) Warped Tour is that all cannot be accomplished in a day. I'm thinking you really need about 3 Warpeds to really get the full experience-- well probably like the whole tour to get the whole experience, but whatever. It would take at least 2 days to see everyband and probably a 3rd if you want to do all of the meet n greets and signings.

Some acts that I missed, but heard from other attendees that were worth checking out include: Gallows, Escape The Fate, TAT, and Black Tide.

If you've headed out to Warped Tour this year, let us know what your experience was like!

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