Warped Tour 2018 - Live in Chicago (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review

Warped Tour 2018

Live in Chicago (2018)

Live Show

Last year, my then 16 year old daughter and I went to the Van’s Warped Tour in suburban Detroit. She let me pick out which bands we watched, so we mostly hung around the Hard Rock stage. That was where all the old man bands I wanted to hear played. I got to see Adolescents, Municipal Waste, Sick of it All, Suicide Machines and more. The retro stage lineup was not a big draw, but I loved it. Alex loved it far less, but never once complained. In a moment of weakness, I promised her we could go again next (this) year. I joked about how there probably wouldn’t be any bands I wanted to see. I could never have anticipated how true that statement was going to be.

Hey guys, Alex Trauma back at it again. I’m starting my senior year this fall and working my tail off, so I didn’t have time to write my own review. But of course, I couldn’t allow my point of view to go untold, so I thought I’d go through my dad’s and make sure he got it right. It’s true, he promised me that we would attend Warped 2018, and I’m sure glad he did.

When it was announced that this would be the final coast to coast Warped Tour, expectations for the lineup were high. To say I was disappointed would be a severe understatement. There was very, very little for the over 40 crowd. Still, a promise is a promise. We settled on the Saturday July 21st stop in suburban Chicago. Last year, I compared our experience to that of Moses and the Israelites wandering for 40 years in the hot desert. This year, I was hoping we wouldn’t end up being like the biblical Noah, who needed an ark to escape the rain and floods. It rained on and off for most of the day, but never very hard for very long. On the plus side, the overcast skies prevented a lot of sunburns. It also cut down, but didn’t entirely eliminate, the amount of scantily clad young girls. I prefer not to feel like a creepy old man.

The rain was pretty bad. I made the mistake of wearing white shoes to stomp around the mud in, but luckily they made it through mostly intact. I ending up buying a plastic-covered record half-way through the day that I got to use to block the rain. That made it through slightly less intact, but she plays just fine. (Also, while my dad may prefer not to feel like a creepy old man, whether or not he looks like one is still up for debate.)

The Chicagoland stop of the tour was at Hollywood Casino Amphitheatre in Tinley Park, IL. When I was a kid it was called World Music Theatre. I saw the third Lollapalooza there with Alex’s mom, the future Mrs.Trauma. It’s one of these big outdoor, bowl shaped venues with covered, reserved seating down front, and general admission grass up on the hill. They used the big stage, and the covered area provided shelter during the occasional rain. The beer was so expensive that I couldn't bring myself to drink a single one. This is even more amazing when you consider the lineup.

The theater was really cool. I’ve never been in an outdoor arena and can imagine that a live show would be a lot of fun to see there. While my dad didn’t drink, that sure didn’t stop anyone else.

After a bit of confusion, we got inside in time to catch the end of We the Kings. (At least I’d heard of them.) Because of the rain, things were running about 20 minutes behind. Since there wasn’t much I was interested in, I let Alex choose the vast majority of what we watched. I did suggest Reel Big Fish, and we got to their stage in time to hear their only real hit, “Sell Out”. This is how our day started, by watching a few minutes of a bunch of different bands. I can’t recommend The Maine (boring) or Issues (drum triggers, annoying vocals).

It’s possible that the confusion happened because my dad tried to figure things out without me, but I forgive him. I was pretty disappointed about missing so much of We the Kings but we got to watch “Check Yes, Juliet”, by far their most popular song and that was really cool. They interacted great with the crowd and were very entertaining to watch. I hadn’t heard much of Reel Big Fish, but the ska sound was a lot of fun and I enjoyed what we saw of their set.

One of the few bands I really wanted to see was Nekrogoblikon. I was very entertained for the few minutes I caught, but we had to leave early to see Alex’s number one pick. (Although she’s 17 now, we never really separated.) Australian quartet With Confidence was the band she most wanted to see. They were playing on one of the smaller stages, so she was able to get right up front. I stood back a bit and watched the endless stream of female crowd surfers getting captured and then released back into the wild. Alex loved With Confidence’s 25 minute set. I thought they were just OK.

With Confidence was amazing. I love their sound and their smiles and I knew most of the songs so that was great. They made my $65 Warped ticket totally worth it. I ended up buying their vinyl record Better Weather and it’s a great piece. I 100% recommend checking them out. (A couple days later I ordered their newest album Love and Loathing on exclusive colored vinyl. Extremely excited for that package.

Eventually we grabbed a slice of $10 deep dish pizza for lunch. We sat down against a fence to eat and discovered this year’s equivalent of Shawna Potter/War On Women. Sharptooth’s Lauren Kashan was an angry woman, and was ranting and raving about a number of things. She had the microphone and an audience, and she took that as a moral obligation to speak out. Seriously, she was fit to be tied. It was very punk rock, but not that good as lunch background music.

Sharptooth was not what I expected. I agreed a lot with what the frontwoman was saying and found it admirable that she was striving to use her voice for a good purpose, but considering she only had a 30 minute set and used half of it talking, she may have disappointed her audience a bit. People came to the show for music, not politics, and to those who already listened to her music she may have been preaching to the choir.

Alex wanted to do the With Confidence meet and greet, so we had to wait in line for a while. At this point, the day’s heaviest rain started to fall. We did our best to protect the record that Alex had just bought, but it did not survive in near mint condition. Eventually she got her record signed, and her photo taken with the band. She thought the picture turned out good, which seemed to make her very happy. Later, we walked by the Nekrogoblikon tent as their M&G was winding down. I couldn’t resist the chance to get a photo with the band and their mascot/hype man John Goblikon.

This was my first meet and greet and I’m not sure exactly what I was expecting, but it was fine. The guys were really nice, if not a bit distracted. They just wanted to get through the line, which looking back I can’t really fault them for. They also got out of picture formation to sign my record and that was really cool. Definitely a great momento.

One pleasant surprise of the afternoon was that a band from Detroit that I’d seen a few times was playing on the small, local stage. The crowd seemed to enjoy their take on Irish punk, especially their biggest ‘hit’, “I Don’t Get Drunk, I Get Awesome”. The most pleasant surprise came next, when Bowling For Soup played on the big stage in the amphitheater. The place was packed. There had to be 15 to 20 thousand people in there. It was a strange juxtaposition from when I saw them open for Screeching Weasel in Chicago a couple of years ago. I can’t imagine there were even a thousand people at that show.

BFS’s set started normally enough with “Girl All the Bad Guys Want” and “High School Never Ends”. Then two guys from Simple Plan came out and took over on the guitars for “Ohio”. “Today is Gonna be a Great Day” (the Phineas & Ferb theme song) and “Stacy's Mom” (the Fountains of Wayne cover) followed. “Almost” and “Punk Rock 101” became a medley that included someone bringing a puppy on stage and part of Sarah McLachlan’s “I Will Remember You”. Next they brought out white rapper Kosha Dillz, who did a freestyle recap of Bowling For Soup’s experience so far on this year’s Warped Tour.

This was their last date on the last Warped Tour, so BFS pulled out all the stops. They had the horn section of Reel Big Fish join them for the set closing, crowd pleasing “1985”. These one time collaborations are the best things about music festivals. Last month I saw Jello Biafra sing “Police Truck” with the Descendents as his backing band. This was not nearly as cool as that, but it was a lot of fun. Bowling For Soup provided the best 30 minutes of my 2018 Van’s Warped Tour experience.

This set was super fun. They brought out a bunch of other people and it was really entertaining. The inclusivity was great. I knew more of the songs than I thought I would and it was a bopping good time.

We watched pretty much all of Mayday Parade, which I found to be mostly a bore. I guess the highlight, and I use the term loosely, was their cover of Blink-182’s “The Rock Show”. Out of morbid curiosity, we also checked out a bit of Falling In Reverse. I felt like a real failure as a parent when I noticed my own flesh and blood singing along. Honestly after seeing them, I’m not sure what all the fuss is about. They were pretty bad, and Ronnie Radke was pretty obnoxious, but they didn’t really differentiate themselves from the rest of the minimally talented bands.

Coming in to Warped 2018 I was pretty excited to see Mayday Parade as I’m pretty well versed with their music, although I wouldn’t necessarily call myself a fan. Dad was correct here. It was mostly a bore. Fairly disappointing. Falling and Reverse is a band from my middle school past, but I hate to say I did know most of the songs they played and had an alright time watching them. The crowd was pretty big considering I thought nobody really cared about Falling in Reverse anymore. I guess I was wrong.

We caught most of The Interrupters’ set. I’m not really into them, but they were a breath of fresh air after a lot of the crap we’d heard. Plus they played in the amphitheatre, so we could get off our tired feet for a while. A lot of people were napping at this point, no doubt trying to get some energy for one final push. The Interrupters’ new songs seemed better than their old ones, and I always enjoy their cover of Operation Ivy’s “Soundsystem”.

I actually enjoyed The Interrupters a lot. I hadn’t heard them before and despite how tired I was at this point in the day I thought they were a lot of fun and interacted with the crowd really well. It was a good time.

The last band that we watched for the day was Simple Plan. I was actually a little surprised that I knew like three of their songs. Honestly, they're barely on my radar. I had no idea that this band was so important to so many people. They’ve been around for like 20 years. At this point, they’re basically forty year old dudes singing about teen angst. Toward the end of their set, the (maybe drunk) drummer went out crowd surfing in the massive audience.

(Probably drunk.)

Simple Plan closed with their ballad “Perfect”. (It was really a poor choice. You should end with a rager.) It’s a song about letting your parents down, or maybe about unrealistic parental expectations. Right in front of us, a young woman of about 20 was having a breakdown. She was clinging to her mother and sobbing uncontrollably on her shoulder. Alex and I exchanged a snarky, eye rolling glance.Who knew that Simple Plan could have such an emotional impact? Who knew they had the ability to bring families together? Theirs in love, and ours in sarcasm.

Honestly, it took me longer than it should have to realize that the mother-daughter duo was crying over the song. I thought that maybe their dog had died or something. I was also surprised they ended with “Perfect” instead of “I’m Just a Kid,” their second to last song. Either way, I did enjoy the set. I’ve liked Simple Plan for a while now and was pretty excited to see them. I was happy with their performance and with their interactions with the crowd. They really tried to get people into the music and that’s great.

The truth is, the Van’s Warped Tour has brought Alex and I together for the last two summers. I really didn’t care about any of the bands this year, but I enjoyed the quality time with my second born. She’s about to start her senior year of high school, and our opportunities for things like this are limited. (She told me that she enjoyed this year more than last.) As for the future of Warped, I have a hard time believing that this is really the end. Chicago was very well attended, and several shows (including Detroit) sold out. I bet they retool for a couple of years and comes back strong. Maybe it will only be in major markets. Maybe it will only be on weekends. It will survive in some form. Warped might have had a punk birth, but it will die a capitalist death. There’s still plenty of filthy lucre to be made.