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Vans Warped Tour 2017 in Phoenix, AZ

I’m no stranger to a show. I’ve been to anything from a small basement show to large outdoor festivals. None of it could have prepared me for Vans Warped Tour. The excessive heat here in Phoenix, AZ was treacherous. Most of the records I found say we hit a high of 111℉ but I could swear it was more insufferable than that. The tour pushed their opening time to 12:30pm due to the elevated temperatures but it didn’t do much in the long run. There were a few tents set up to shelter attendee and staff alike. Water was expensive as one would expect but the security and staff were helpful. Many offered myself and those with me water by the stages so hydration wasn’t too much of an issue. We persisted and saw many amazing performances. All of which I must thank Doll Skin for.

Upon arriving at the Fear Farm Festival Grounds, we went straight to the Journey’s Right Foot stage for Doll Skin. Now, I’ve been wanting to write about these girls since I first saw them open for Dead Kennedys. But, as life does, things got busy and chaotic. So, getting the opportunity to cover them is amazing to me.

When Doll Skin first joined the tour, the band released their second CD, Manic Pixie Dream Girl, on June 16th (US) and June 23rd (UK). It has already climbed to #6 on Billboard Heatseakers chart and shows no sign of stopping. I picked up a copy at the show and have been listening to it nonstop. Like their previous CD, In Your Face (Again), I find the songs worm their way into your brain. Personally, I’d love to take a road trip with both these albums playing, cranked to eleven, with my windows rolled down.

Befitting of their sound, Doll Skin has just as much energy on stage as is conveyed through their music. Since seeing them for the first time over a year ago, these girls have been involved with bigger and better tours with little rest. So, if you haven’t seen them or even heard of these girls before, I highly recommend that you check them out.

During the show, these girls were still running around and rocking their hearts out despite the heat. It was mentioned that Doll Skin normally performed on a different stage but since Arizona is their home, they were moved to one of the larger stages. Although the girls were one of the first bands to play and ticket prices would go down later in the day, Doll Skin received a warm welcome home. This moved Sydney Dolezal (Vocals) on two occasions, claiming she was fighting back tears of joy while on stage.

Even though Doll Skin is no longer traveling with Vans Warped Tour, they are still touring and promoting Manic Pixie Dream Girl. Check out their tour page for more details.

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Once the crowd thinned a bit, my party worked toward the Skullcandy stage just in time to watch War On Women set up. We were greeted by smiles, waves, and a loaded water pistol. Really, even if hardcore-punk isn’t your thing or you just don’t like bands from Baltimore, Maryland, War On Women is comprised of some amazing human beings. The Missus and I had seen them once before at my first punk show. The beautifully blended mix of bursting energy, intense personality, and passionate message is something that demands to be witnessed. Truly, War On Women was the other reason I wanted to go to Vans Warped Tour. If ever given the opportunity, I’d happily go to every show I could if only to hear them play.

Throughout their set, War On Women promoted the safety and inclusion of all at shows and in the scene. As I see War On Women, follow them on social media, and hear their message, they fight for the safety and equality of all. It’s a message that resonates with me to the core of my soul. So, to hear they are further promoting and educating others on how they can help at Vans Warped Tour is a wonderful way to be more than just another talking head. War On Women shows that you can’t just talk about it, you have to do something about it. To pair that message with their music while taking on further action generates a powerful force of change.

After the set was over, which felt shorter than I wanted it to be, my party took a moment to cool off before seeing the War On Women tent. There, we met with Shawna Potter (Vocals). There was a moment to chat and laugh together as Shawna fought the heat. As a pleasant surprise before the show, the Missus was invited to photograph War On Women and interview Shawna. So, the two went off to lunch and to conduct the interview.

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Meanwhile, I spent some time checking out some of the other tents. Some time was spent talking with A Voice for the Innocent and picking up some new music. It wasn’t long before the Missus returned and we returned to the Journey’s Right Foot stage for Neck Deep.

In case you haven’t heard of them before, Neck Deep is a pop-punk band from Wrexham, Wales. I had heard a handful of songs before seeing them and they bring a lot of wild energy to the stage. During their set, Neck Deep was promoting their upcoming CD, The Peace and the Panic, which comes out August 18th, 2017. After hearing a few of the songs that will be on this new release, I’m certainly looking forward to it.

The only downside was that I saw them from what was advertised as the accessible bleachers. These things were tall enough that I never had to worry about staring at the back of someone’s head. On the other hand, I was so far away that some of the music sounded like it could be drowned out by my home speakers. So, as much as I’d like to offer more about Neck Deep, I’m limited in my experience due to being simultaneously present and removed during the show. What I can say is they have quite a bit of energy and a fair collection of songs that touch on depression and fighting against the oppressing malaise, which I can immeasurably respect.

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Then it was on to another band at the Full Sail stage that reached out to the Missus. I had never heard of Creeper before Vans Warped Tour. Yet, a few friends and family were very excited to hear we might see them and get some pictures. Still, I was skeptical. Except when I saw the band from Southampton, England, I was pleasantly surprised.

The playful and intense presence on stage was phenomenal. Sean Scott (Bass) knows how to egg on the crowd and rev them up. Yet, I always love to see keyboards and Hannah Greenwood (Keys) can really work a chilling calm that only further encourages the crowd. How the entire band works together is in a league of its own and you can see the joy on their faces. While Will Gould’s (Vocals) face might be hard to see most of the time due to his shoulder length black hair, I couldn’t help but think of Joey Ramone at times. Something about the mess of hair screaming into a mic just sparked the connection. Despite my initial apprehension, this band is certainly one to check out and I wouldn’t be surprised if they became difficult to keep up with. Their debut album, Eternity, In Your Arms, released March 24th, 2017 and is available for purchase online or you can listen to it on Spotify.

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Once the show was over, we stuck around to pick up our copy of the CD along with some patches. Considering that Creeper was signing after their set, we got the CD signed and ended up being a little late to see the Ataris at the Hard Rock stage.

I have a couple of covers done by the Ataris and wanted to see what these guys were really made of. A good helping of rock with a dash of punk to taste is how I can describe this band from Anderson, Indiana. While I’m still a little bummed for missing the beginning of their set, I’ll happily make up for it by buying a few CDs and listening to more than just a few covers from these guys. Yet, when we stopped by their merch tent, there really wasn’t much for them. So, while we left without anything from the Atari’s, they gave us a few patches for Bad Cop/Bad Cop and I’ll be listening to them soon.

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After checking out a few more tents, like Support Tattoos and Piercings at Work which only made me want to get another tattoo, we went back to the accessibility bleacher between the Journey’s stages. Here, it seemed like a good place to rest and see the last few bands without stressing the crowds.

The Missus wanted to check out Hawthorne Heights on Journey’s Left Foot stage. Personally, these guys just aren’t my thing. A rock band from Dayton, Ohio, I’ve seen these guys labeled at post-hardcore and pop-punk but they still don’t do it for me. Yet, I’m willing to blame a good part of my indifference upon seeing them on being told that I couldn’t stay on the bleachers because they were tearing them down.

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This became a rather distracting ordeal as I was told I could wait, then they needed to tear it down, then it was the wrong bleachers. It was confusing how the story kept changing of how and why I was allowed to stay on this supposed accessible accommodation. To make matters worse, it was hard to discern if those telling me to leave were just staff of the Fear Farm Festival Grounds or with Vans Warped Tour. But the back and forth went a little something like this:

Even now, I find it odd to be told that I “need” to see a performance other than in an over-dramatic fashion that one might get from a friend. But that didn’t exactly matter since we had already planned to see Andy Black. Though, this is the second time seeing Andy and last time was also spent fighting those who might ruin a show. It was time to turn to Journey’s Right Foot stage.

Andy Black, the solo career of Black Veil Brides vocals, Andy Biersack, is a wonderfully cocky performance. The humor and posturing combine to an aloof Andy that can make most fans swoon. I enjoy the mix of hard and soft with Andy Black. Andy’s voice is very easy on the ears while the guitars keep you on your toes. Overall, Andy Black is easy to listen to with his powerful crooning.

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As Andy left the stage, the crew immediately started striking the right stage. With it, those claiming we needed to leave the accessibility bleachers had returned. While the Missus was photographing CKY, the rest of my party and I figured out the lift.

Once back on the ground and behind a heard of fans, we chose to stick around for CKY. They were one of those bands I heard a lot of but never heard their music. Figuring it safe to assume, as they were the last act on a major stage, they’d certainly be worth sticking around even though I lost any vantage point to see them. But we all know what happens when we assume.

I’m discovering that it must be a trend that’s gaining momentum among more pop-punk bands from the 90s. That trend is they might have been good but they’ve lost their bite. I first experienced this when Jimmy Eat World came through at the Fear Farm Festival Grounds. My only other theory is the venue itself might be a factor. Whatever the reason, CKY felt flat. The music had energy but as I listened, I wanted the beats to be harder. So, I went and looked up some of their music.

The truth is, I don’t think CKY is for me. To my ears, it’s a nice build-up of energy but I want it to release in a big bang that never comes. Sometimes the worst thing is waiting for something that never happens. After a few songs, giving them as much a chance as I could, we opted to leave. There might have been a connection between the music and their stage presence but I will never know.

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At the end of the night, we all had a good time. Yet, with everything that happened, I don’t know if I’d go to Vans Warped Tour again. I enjoyed supporting bands I’d seen before and happily experienced performances I had never heard of. But for the cost and what Vans Warped Tour offers, I’d rather wait for the artists I enjoy to come through another time. I’ve already encountered many new musicians that I needed to add to my music library through smaller shows that don’t involve excessive heat, prolonged exposure to sunlight, and the risk of having accessible accommodations stolen mid-show.

 

All photos are taken by Pardo Photography.

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