Review by Jamie Hutson
Photos by Monty Jay
The Vans Warped Tour roared back into Las Vegas on Tuesday, August 9th, staging a full resort takeover of the city’s most youthful property…the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino. Skipping the sidewalk melting Nevada heat in 2015, many were left to wonder if Kevin Lyman’s long running, traveling musical summer-camp would ever return to out little patch of desert. Luckily, a new deal was struck with the Hard Rock and while logistics created a bit of panic for Warped Staff and fans alike, the final result was quite possibly the biggest and best Warped date ever.
As stated, the festival, which featured a staggering 70+ bands strewn across no less than 7 stages, descended upon the rock n’ roll themed casino, turning a normally quiet Tuesday into THE place to be. Utilizing not only The Joint (Monster Energy North & South stages) and Vinyl (Full Sail stage), the event introduced the Hard Rock’s newest event space, The Backyard. Allowing space for the Warped Tour’s largest stages (Journey’s Left & Right Foot stages) and the smaller Cyclops stage, the asphalt covered lot also played host to the event’s many vendors and dedicated merch tents. Finally, the most talked about stage (Poseidon stage) made it’s mark on the edge of the resort’s Nirvana Pool…changing the way Vegas “poolside concerts” will be marketed forever (see, it’s more fun to be IN the pool aka water based mosh pits will be all the rage).
While such a massive undertaking was bound to have a few hiccups (the Feed Our Children line is supposed to get in first!), the biggest issues were taken care of quickly and with the concert-goers experience coming before anything else. A stroke of pure genius, the lower level of the Paradise garage allowed ticket holders to wait in a shaded environment for the thoughtful, late show opening of 2pm. Yes, the journey from The Joint to the festival’s Left Foot outdoor stage was anything but quick, but once you were inside the casino, the welcome relief from the 100+ temps was a cool reminder of the hard work that was put into this event. Soon, the only real issue came up in the form of a monstrous line that snaked it’s way from The Joint to well past Pink Taco’s doors. Forcing many to miss Monster Energy’s dual stage artists CROWN THE EMPIRE, MOTIONLESS IN WHITE and VANNA (including this reviewer….bummer), one can only imagine Warped Tour founder and boots on the ground leader, Kevin Lyman screaming “get these kids into the venue NOW!”.
Luckily, missing a band or two will never ruin your day at Warped Tour, as dozens more are just a short sprint from your current location. Crisscrossing the venue like a spider building it’s web, we tried to soak in as many “must-see” bands as possible, even if just for a song or 2. Unfortunately missing the UK’s YOUNG GUNS, we made out way into the Nirvana Pool grounds just as I SEE STARS made their way onto the Cyclops stage. Did I mention it was HOT in Vegas? Well, the band’s electronic-based equipment was having none of that and immediately went into heatstroke, forcing roadies to not only pull out industrial sized fans, but actually set laptops and soundboards on stacks of ice! I SEE STARS and especially lead singer Devin Oliver, did their best to power through the sound mishaps with a smiling face, but the frustration was tough to hide. Fans made the best of it and put the lifeguards on high alert as they hit the water in a splashing mosh pit that had to be seen to believe.
As with any Warped Tour visit, you’re sure to discover a new favorite (or two or three) and this year’s trek was no different. While this reviewer had checked them out a bit in the weeks leading up to the show, Alabama thrash/ alt-metal titans GIDEON simply blew us away with their Earth shaking sound and Sevendust-meets-Exodus metallic jams. A band that was quite possibly on the top of our list was New Orleans’ CANE HILL, a personal favorite and my pick for MVP of Warped Tour 2016. Faced with a smaller than expected crowd within the walls of Vinyl’s Full Sail stage, CANE HILL paid no mind and tore into a setlist so powerful and so meaningful, this reviewer literally got chills. Fronted by mastermind Elijah Witt and supporting the just released Rise Records debut “Smile”, the band’s new Nu-metal attack included new cuts “True Love” “Fountain Of Youth” and “The (New) Jesus” and early favorites “Sunday School” and “Time Bomb”. Word to the wise, if you see the name CANE HILL and they’re playing anywhere near your town, go see them!!!! Amazing.
As stated, trying to catch each and every band within the 10 hours allotted, is impossible…..but it sure is fun trying! Warped faves and summertime heroes LESS THAN JAKE joined punk royalty REEL BIG FISH and NEW FOUND GLORY on the Journey’s Left Foot stage, while YELLOWCARD bid farewell to the Warped nation with their final appearance on the tour. Always known for featuring a virtual grab bag of musical genres, Warped welcomed rising hip-hop and television star WAKA FLOCKA FLAME with one of the day’s largest crowds, while the man you love to hate, Ronnie Radke closed out the Left Foot stage with a white hot performance with FALLING IN REVERSE.
Traveling a few steps to our right, the aptly named Journey’s Right Foot stage played host to the always fantastic Arizona rockers THE MAINE, highlighting their set with fan favorites and a show stopping “Girls Do What They Want” featuring one awestruck fan joining the band on stage. Scene leaders ISSUES, MAYDAY PARADE and SLEEPING WITH SIRENS kept the masses singing every word, while legends in the making FOUR YEAR STRONG, paved the way for the evening’s final outdoor act, STATE CHAMPS, announcing their clear cut plans for world domination. Tucked into the corner of the massive “Backyard” festival grounds, the smaller Cyclops stage supported one of the day’s most unexpected (and expected) highlights. As a longtime fan of Hollywood’s GHOST TOWN, I knew I’d enjoy their set of electronic-infused rock, but what I got was a guitar-driven party, bolstered by vocalist Kevin McCullough’s fun-loving command of the stage and crowd. Blasting through a 25 minute set that ended way too soon, the band touched upon 2015’s breakthrough album “Evolution”, while still giving the fans their favorites from the past.
While walking in from the outdoor portion of the event, we were lucky enough to catch a few songs from those pop-punk criminals MASKED INTRUDER, while also catching blistering sets from newcomers MORE TO MONROE and THE NEW LOW at Vinyl’s Full Sail stage. Perhaps the event’s coolest set-up was The Joint’s transformation into the Monster Energy Party Zone, featuring 2 stages and rows of merch booths, not too mention the Joint’s full bar and a giant floor. Enjoying the 1-2 punch of CHELSEA GRIN and ICE NINE KILLS, the venue’s sound had never been so powerful and thanks to the indoor location, Warped took on an entirely different persona. As the stages ticked through their heavy music based roster (EVERY TIME I DIE, COLDRAIN, FROM ASHES TO NEW, WHITECHAPEL, THE WORD ALIVE), the crowd grew to epic proportions, revitalizing the sun soaked fans in the air-conditioned, circle pit inducing party zone.
Could this Las Vegas Warped Tour date become a “thing”? It’s hard to say, but from a fan’s perspective, I sure hope so! I’ve already noticed many Warped devotees from nearby areas, stating their intentions to hit Vegas next year for the event….so hopefully that’s a good sign. While the crowd was about 2/3 capacity and ran quite smooth (after a few glitches), could the property handle a potential of nearly 10,000 Warped fanatics? Time will tell.
Final verdict: a massive success that not only re-introduced Las Vegas to Warped Tour’s nationwide routing, but that also set into motion a probable, yearly celebration that could only happen in this incredible city.
For more pictures from the 2016 Vans Warped Tour click here