Vans Warped Tour - Live in Atlantic City (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

Vans Warped Tour

Live in Atlantic City (2019)

live show

Few things inspire passionate amounts of love, hate, mixed feelings or casual indifference when it comes to the Punknews community and Vans Warped Tour. It all supposedly came to an end last year when Warped Tour had what we believed to be their final run; but they’ve returned this year for a series of 25th anniversary installments in various cities. For anyone who’s attended it at some point in their punk upbringing, the lineup offered something worthwhile.

The logistics for this particular festival were certainly interesting. The entire event was held right on the Atlantic City Boardwalk beach; everyone watched the bands literally standing on sand. But that didn’t really deter anyone from embracing the Warped atmosphere, with bro-infested mosh pits and crowd surfing galore.

The entrance lines shortly after gates opened on Saturday around noon were looooong. They had multiple entrances, but each line seemed gargantuan, and the one I waited in probably took around 45 minutes to an hour.

By the time I’d waded through some sand, gotten my ticket scanned and emerged on the hot beach amid the huge crowd, Less Than Jake was fully into the swing of things warming everyone up. They were in the midst of the very major label single that divided this community so long ago, “She’s Gonna Break Soon”. Of course, you wouldn’t guess that by the audience, as most were singing right along. Kind of a bummer I missed a few of their best songs (as you’ll see below--ugh, just missed “Look What Happened”) but it was practically impossible to get inside the festival grounds (sands?) in time without basically camping out at the crack of dawn. It’s hard to believe that at that point in their careers, they were five albums deep and that was sixteen years ago. They’re a well-worn Warped Tour institution, and while they felt a little sloppy deeper into the set (they were kinda visibly struggling towards the end of “All My Best Friends Are Metalheads”), they mostly played as tightly and professionally as they always have. They even had the Evolution Kid mascot dancing about the stage with an inflatable saxophone at times, like for the excellent, energetic closer “Last One Out of Liberty City”. People were lovin’ it.

Set list:

1. Plastic Cup Politics

2. Short Fuse Burning

3. Johnny Quest (Thinks We’re Sellouts)

4. Gainesville Rock City

5. Look What Happened

6. [arrived] She’s Gonna Break Soon

7. The Science of Selling Yourself Short

8. History of a Boring Town

9. Whatever the Weather

10. All My Best Friends Are Metalheads

11. Last One Out of Liberty City

Glassjaw was the next band I saw and went on promptly at 3:00. Their stage persona in recent years have been one of a more laid-back one, not moving around too much or getting too wild, which is quite the contrast with their sound: an abrasive mix of alt-metal and post-hardcore with a hardcore and almost noise-influencd backbone. The Long Island band had a decent reaction from their fans, being so close in proximity to their geographic origins, but much of the large crowd definitely watched them play with blank expressions. It probably didn’t help that the band even sounded slightly more avant-garde and noisier than usual. The lion’s share of their set list did come from their somewhat accessible fan favorite album, 2002’s Worship and Tribute. Overall, they were definitely pretty good at worst and a nice change from the melodic punk that otherwise dominated the weekend.

Set list:

1. Tip Your Bartender

2. You Think You’re (John Fucking Lennon)

3. Pink Roses

4. Jesus Glue

5. Mu Empire

6. The Gilette Cavalcade of Sports

7. Ape Dos Mil

8. Shira

9. Siberian Kiss

I milled about for a while after that searching for food while catching glances of Andrew W.K., who is still a force live if you’re into that kind of thing. He/they seemed very warmly received and their party-rock/metal (or whatever) was a good fit for the atmosphere on the sand. The vegan options were naturally a bit lacking, so I settled on some oiled-and-glazed brussels sprouts (which admittedly were pretty good) while meeting up with my accompanying friend for the weekend and we went to watch Atmosphere.

I have a passing appreciation for Atmosphere and even own a few of his albums, but I’ve never been a committed fan of the Minneapolis rapper by any means. He puts on a good and tight show, even if the beats and rhymes aren’t always the most compelling thing in the world, but after getting the crowd going with “GodLovesUgly” his set momentum was put to a screeching halt when Warped Tour king Kevin Lyman surprisingly came out on stage and informed the crowd that they would have to temporarily evacuate the festival premises in light of a severe storm warning. Holy logistical nightmare, Batman!

Thousands upon thousands of people headed for the exits at once and were forced to hang on the AC boardwalk while everyone waited for the storm to pass. My friend and I took advantage of an arcade’s free Cruis’n USA machine to kill time. The rain didn’t really seem that bad, but Warped Tour kept the premises closed for about an hour before letting everyone back in. Thankfully, they didn’t re-scan tickets, so that was probably a nice, free show for any townies who knew what was up.

Atmosphere picked his set back up and played a couple more songs, if I remember correctly. With nothing else really going on, I obliged my friend who had a shrugging interest in watching Good Charlotte. I really wanted nothing to do with this, but I begrudgingly acquiesced and watched the set with him. It was slightly more tolerable than I anticipated, likely because of how no-frills the band’s set was, at least. Hell, they have sort of an apathetic stage presence at this point in their careers, and the Madden brothers weirdly dress like either Suicidal Tendencies or west coast gangsta rappers in the early 1990s with sunglasses, goatees, baseball caps, and black Dodgers jerseys. Seeing them live is a pretty solid reminder of how bad their lyrics are, like on “Anthem”, which involved their singer dropping the microphone at one point; the mic would then cut out throughout the rest of the set, and I wonder if dropping it had anything to do with it. They played a few other hits, including “Little Things”, “Girls & Boys” and, of course, “Lifestyles of the Rich & Famous”.

Bad Religion was next, thankfully, and cleansed the palette well. They were just simply, highly enjoyable, playing their signature, melodic, fast punk, and doing it professionally and energetically (y’know, for 50-somethings). Greg Graffin had all his trademark hand gestures for every quick song. I was pumped when they quickly busted out “Supersonic”, the opener to my favorite album of theirs, 2002’s The Process of Belief (which was also my introduction to the band). They didn’t skimp on more recent stuff either, playing tracks from their last couple of albums, while including great classics like “Generator” and “I Want to Conquer the World”.

Around when Bad Religion played “21st Century (Digital Boy)” I had to head over to the Monster Energy Stage to get a decent spot for west coast pop-punks Set Your Goals, who were making a rare live appearance after semi-reuniting a couple years ago.

Set list:

1. Recipe for Hate

2. Supersonic

3. Them and Us

4. Chaos from Within

5. Stranger Than Fiction

6. The Dichotomy

7. Fuck You

8. New Dark Ages

9. Lose Your Head

10. Generator

11. I Want to Conquer the World

12. 21st Century (Digital Boy)

13. Sorrow

14. Infected

Well, that was a bummer, because not only did I miss 2000s BR staple “Sorrow”, but I was forced to endure much of the set by Wage War, who were going way over the readjusted time Set Your Goals was supposedly starting. I was standing in a place where I could sort of hear both bands and it made both of them sound bad, although Wage War didn’t need any help there. It’s just bad metalcore, and their crowd was huge in a demoralizing way. They were heavy, yeah; very pro-sounding, too. But man, totally baffling there are people into that.

They ended way later than I anticipated and the crowd thinned out slightly waiting for Set Your Goals to set up, who did so while the reggae-rock sounds of 311 played in the background and SYG’s band members sarcastically (genuinely?) grooved along to it. Co-frontman Matt Wilson was already halfway there anyway, wearing a dress shirt and looking like he was about to give the Apple keynote presentation. Despite the thrilling hangover the crowd had from Wage War’s set, the Set Your Goals’ audience was still pretty large, and they ended up getting a pretty big reaction. It didn’t matter that bodies were covered with dirty sand as some crowd-surfing and -climbing occurred regardless. The band opened with the poppy “Summer Jam” and then played a handful of classics like “Mutiny!”, “Echoes” and possibly their best song, “The Fallen…”. They closed with their heaviest, “Gaia Bleeds (Make Way for Man)” so I certainly made sure to chill to the side for that one, and sand mosh didn’t seem like the best situation. They played pretty well and people seemed to have a ton of fun catching a rare live appearance from the melodic hardcore/pop-punk (formerly) wunderkinds.

Set list:

1. Summer Jam

2. Mutiny!

3. Goonies Never Say Die!

4. To Be Continued…

5. Echoes

6. I’ll Walk It Off

7. The Fallen…

8. The Few That Remain

9. Gaia Bleeds (Make Way for Man)