It was a reunion like no other, and a sweaty one at that, as Vans Warped Tour rolled into the Xfinity Theatre in Hartford on Sunday (July 15) for its farewell installment in the Constitution State. It was the latest stop on the traveling festival’s final cross-country trek, one that delivers it to Mansfield’s XFinity Center on July 27.
Once the sunblock was applied, the free PETA wristbands were handed out, and the line that seemed to stretch from the front gates all the way to I-91 started to make its way forward, friends reunited with mosh pits and crowd-surfing and stormed the barricades of all seven stages, marking the last hurrah of a Connecticut Warped Tour with (possibly) the most memorable sunburn they’ll ever have.
The eclectic mix of genres that became a part of the fiber of what Warped Tour symbolized — an epic celebration of inclusion and musical connection — drew roughly 20,000 scenesters and hardcore lifers to the dusty venue grounds. They were there not to mourn the end of an era, but to celebrate the experiences and memories of Warped Tours past. From the fun and light atmosphere of Rhode Island punks Senior Discount to the face-painted rap-rock of Detroit-based duo Twiztid, there was a lot of ground to cover in order to fully ingest just what went on as the cup of nostalgia continued to runneth over throughout the day. And while set times conflicted just enough to regrettably prevent proper coverage of heavy hitters like Ice Nine Kills, Sharptooth, and Sleep On It, we did our best to get it narrowed down to just some of the best the day had to offer.
Four Year Strong
Worcester natives Four Year Strong brought the heat to an already balmy main stage, tearing through a short setlist of their most adored songs, all the while enticing fans to throw down and rip it up. As the sardine-packed pit moved their hands back and forth in perfect symmetry (Per the band’s instruction during “Go Down In History”), the bearded quartet made the most of their 30-minute set as frontman Alan Day screamed himself hoarse, leaving it all on the stage, and the crowd reciprocated, sacrificing hydration and a steady breeze elsewhere to exude an insane energy that shook the Amphitheater’s foundation. With the final notes of “Wasting Time (Eternal Summer)” ringing out to signify the end of the set, the band cemented themselves in Warped Tour history as one of the most electrifying acts the festival has ever seen.
This Wild Life
With the main stage chock-full of pop-punk and hardcore headliners, it might be weird to see a band like This Wild Life, an acoustic duo from Long Beach, California, garner just as much as much love as bands like Falling in Reverse and 3OH!3 did. With an arsenal of what they call “medicinal-strength emotional music,” Kevin Jordan and Anthony Del Grosso captivated onlookers with their simple setup, a pair of inflatable sunflowers, and matching bright blue button-ups, as they drenched the sweat-soaked crowd in soulful, sappy love songs and exuded the feelings reflected in their catchy tunes about heartbreak and hardship. Periodically working a kickdrum while he sang, Jordan visibly basked in the response he and Del Grosso got from the crowd as they filled their half-hour set with enough feel-good west coast vibes to go around.
Golden State talent was sure in great supply in Hartford, as Los Angeles-based ska punk quartet The Interrupters invaded the main stage to celebrate the mid-summer punk rock reunion with a light-hearted set of booming bass and scalding guitar riffs, as singer Aimee Interrupter and Bivona brothers Kevin, Jesse and Justin skanked their way through a set comprised of fan favorites from their three studio albums, including their latest effort, Fight The Good Fight. Those in attendance on Sunday may never find a friend quite like The Interrupters, and that isn’t a bad thing in the slightest. The playful chemistry displayed on stage within the group made the humid mosh pit a bit more bearable, and the fact that the band seemed to genuinely enjoy sharing the stage together made the end of their set bittersweet, because it sucked that they were done for the day, but their time on stage was sonically invigorating.
Bowling For Soup
When a group of big fellas from Texas are saying that it’s too damn hot in Hartford, you know it’s bad. But for at least a little while, Bowling For Soup took everyone out of the brutal heat and brought the crowd on a little trip down memory lane, as they brandished a throwback set that had at least one 20-something in the crowd looking for his new pair of Phat Farm brand sneakers to show off to his whole fourth grade class. Aside from time-tested tracks like “1985”, when the Texans brought out Simple Plan’s Pierre Bouvier to help close the set, and “High School Never Ends,” it was abundantly clear that Bowling For Soup may be legendary to the generation that wore jelly bands and drew that stupid “S” thing on literally everything, but for the younger crowd, they’re the dudes that wrote and recorded the Phineas and Ferb theme song, showing that their longevity is as powerful as the crunchy punk riffs that were cranked out by Frontman Jaret Reddick and Guitarist Chris Burney.
While the nostalgia that followed Warped Tour staple artists ruled the roost for most of the day, there was certainly no shortage of fresh talent. One such example is local quartet Idle Lives, led by singer Josh Pulgarin, and his guitarist brother, Chris. The hardcore quintet brought the throwdown groove to the Full Sail University stage, without even a hint of dialing it back amidst the heat of the setting sun. The brothers Pulgarin took command of the stage, along with guitarist Chris Klumpp and drummer Joey DiBiase, and while they’ve been around for two years and have already accomplished a significant amount of show slots, Idle Lives played as if they were playing for their own lives — loud, hard, and raw as all hell.
With the physique of a human Ken doll, Don Broco frontman Rob Demiani took the stage as the rest of the English alt-rock band drove head-first into an energetic set that had dust clouds billowing, and circle pits swirling from the get-go. Carrying the vocal nuance of Rick Astley mixed with the musical intensity of Biffy Clyro, the UK quartet made the Owly.fm stage their workout station, as they two-stepped and knee-tucked their way through a non-stop delivery of sensual crowd connection and filthy grooves that seemed to come out of nowhere at the most surprising times. As bassist Tom Doyle helped Demiani to keep the crowd singing along, guitarist Simon Delaney hopped the barricade and finished the band’s raucous set playing some mean licks whilst in the eye of a circle pit. If this wasn’t the last Warped Tour, you might have seen these guys tear it up on the main stage next year.
The incessant welling of nostalgia that wafted through the air all day came to a dramatic end once Canadian legacy punk act Simple Plan took the stage in the Amphitheater to close out the night. And although a vast majority of the crowd was sun-drunk, as well as a fairly good amount that were actually drunk, the pop-punk lifers that stuck it out ‘til the sun went down came out in full force to ensure the Hartford chapter of the festival’s story ended in style. While aisles experienced a bit of bottlenecking as the punk vets more passionate fans attempted to squeeze their way into an already gushing mosh pit before the band came on, the pandemonium once they actually did take the stage seemed to free up enough space for everything to run smoothly again.
Frontman Pierre Bouvier didn’t need to coax the crowd too much to get into it, as he started in with “I’d Do Anything,” and continued on to “Jump” and “Addicted” — all of which were greeted with whole-hearted participation from the increasingly rowdy audience. In a way, all is right with the world when you see former emo kids in their mid-20s screaming the lyrics to “Welcome To My Life” as they get beach ball-tossed over the barricade, and it was obvious that Bouvier and company played off of that energy. And they did so virtually flawlessly.
Employing a fairly strong power move, Simple Plan decided against ending their set with the quintessential early-2000s emo anthem “I’m Just a Kid,” and instead followed it up with a rousing rendition of “Perfect” that started with Bouvier alone with an acoustic guitar, and ended with the full band bringing the night to an unforgettable close, as beach balls and water bottles were tossed with reckless abandon as the final notes inched closer, and the intensity of the moment remained suspended in the humidity as fans made their way to the exits. All in all, it was one hell of a send-off.
Take a visual look around Hartford’s Warped Tour stop below.