“Everything dies, baby that’s a fact / But maybe everything that dies someday comes back” — Bruce Springsteen in “Atlantic City”
Like a phoenix rising from the ashes in a “Defend Pop Punk” shirt, Warped Tour made its much-anticipated return in a limited run for its 25th anniversary. After a single-day event in Cleveland, the gig arrived on the Jersey Shore for a two-day weekend in Atlantic City.
The June 29th show began under the scorching summer sun, with the cascading waves beckoning fans to cool off in the water. Despite the high temperatures, attendees lined up hours before the gates even opened to get first admission to the grounds. And just like when the event toured cross-country, the exact schedule was announced just as the event started.
The main stage had an ambitious schedule with only about five minutes separating each set. Impressively, the performances followed right on cue, or even a bit early. Everything was going swimmingly, and some cloud cover even cooled off the temperatures. But as Atmosphere was getting into the heart of their set, festival founder Kevin Lyman announced a mandatory evacuation due to an impending thunderstorm.
Lo and behold, lightning lit up the early evening and the skies opened up, scattering the crowd throughout the Atlantic City Boardwalk. About two hours later, the rain had ceased and the fans filed back into the festival, a little soggy but definitely cooler.
The festival team was impressively able to reconfigure the schedule to feature everyone originally slated (albeit with shorter set times, and some technical difficulties with mics). Here are five things that stood out from day one of Warped Tour’s Atlantic City installment:
Gym Class Hero
The first iteration of the Atlantic City lineup featured Gym Class Heroes, although this later got changed to Travie McCoy. Regardless, the singer gave fans of his band and his solo work plenty to cheer for.
Emerging to “Cupid’s Chokehold,” McCoy went right to the heart of Gym Class Heroes’ hits from the get-go. Along the way he also played throwback cuts from their breakthrough album As Cruel As School Children, like “Viva la White Girl” and “Clothes Off!!”. However, he saved his biggest solo hit, “Billionaire,” for last. Riffing off his backing vocalist (standing in for Bruno Mars), McCoy got the entire crowd waving their arms at the beach.
Getting the Party Started
Legendary rocker Andrew W.K. delivered a slew of his life-affirming jams. The crowd surfing began in earnest as W.K. headbanged to “Ready to Die.” On the next track, “She Is Beautiful,” his guitarist Dave Pino bestowed a “Party Hard”-themed Les Paul, and W.K. unleashed a scorching riff. To close out the set, W.K. really built up the anticipation for “Party Hard” by counting backwards from 90 to signal the start of the hit. The wait was well worth it. The vocalist promised a “total party pandemonium paradise” — and delivered, whether he was singing, playing keyboard or shredding with a guitar.
A Simply Perfect Pop-Punk Set
Simple Plan have played Warped Tour 10+ times, and at this point the Montreal rockers are a well-oiled machine capable of delivering pop-punk hit after hit. Whether on energetic tracks (“Shut Up”, “I’d Do Anything”) or in quieter moments (“Perfect”), lead singer Pierre Bouvier’s vocal range consistently impressed with how true their live performances correlate with their recordings.
In an unexpected moment toward the end of the set, the band called upon We the King’s singer Travis Clark to take over lead vocal duties for “I’m Just a Kid.” Drummer Chuck Comeau waded into the crowd, and tossed the mic back to Clark, who polished off the track with gusto.
Sunshine Is Fine
Sandwiched between Simple Plan and Good Charlotte, Atmosphere were in a tough spot playing for a crowd that was largely unfamiliar with the Minneapolis rap group. Despite emcee Slug’s best efforts, the crowd was wilting a bit in the afternoon heat and then, to top it off, there was the evacuation.
However, Atmosphere deserves a ton of credit for coming back strong after the thunderstorm delay. After the crowd filed back in, Slug cleverly linked the rain to an equalizer that turned everything to muck — a fitting lead-in to “GodLovesUgly.” He then expertly transitioned into one of their biggest hits “Sunshine,” a perfect summer jam to celebrate weathering the storm. Throughout the set, Slug was also in peak form for making subtle adjustments to keep his tracks fresh, interpolating a bit of Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five’s “The Message” into “The Best Day” and a piece of A Tribe Called Quest’s “Buggin’ Out” into “Trying to Find a Balance.”
A Day (One) to Remember
A massive crowd gathered to see A Day to Remember close out night one of Warped Tour. The Florida rockers jolted the crowd immediately with a thrashing rendition of “2nd Sucks.” A huge circle pit opened up on “Paranoia,” which followed shortly after.
Lead singer Jeremy McKinnon then recalled an entertaining anecdote about the next track, “Sticks & Bricks”: “This song was named by Warped Tour security guards. They had a signal when we played. The crowd was gonna be fucking insane, and you need to come immediately to help.”
This reputation held up for the headlining set, with wave after wave of crowd surfers getting pushed to the front barricade. At one point during “Better Off This Way,” McKinnon even managed to exhort fans to give “crowd surfing on top of a crowd surfer” a shot. (Yes, you read that correctly — a handful of intrepid fans actually did attempt to stand on their buddies who were in the process of crowd surfing.)
Of course there were a ton of rollicking moments of the set, but the band also impressed in the quieter moments, too (“Have Faith in Me”, “If It Means a Lot to You”).
No ADTR set would be complete without their classic, “The Downfall of Us All,” which they saved for last. With the last bit of energy, the crowd moshed one last time to the bone-crushing opening riff of the track, closing the book on day one of Warped Tour.