There are a lot of descriptors you can use to help quantify the experience that is the Vans Warped Tour circa 2017, but perhaps the most accurate — and non-judgmental — is “total sensory overload.” Now in its 23rd year and counting, the annual touring punk rock summer camp has morphed into a monster: ten hours and seven stages spread across numerous acres playing host to seventy-ish hard and loud and fast bands, each with their own brightly colored merchandise tent selling the entire gamut of logo-adorned paraphernalia (t-shirts and hats and shoes and belt buckles and skateboard decks and flags and rubber ducks and on and on and on), and that’s before you factor in the food vendors and the independent merchandise vendors and the gigantic Slip ‘N Slide. All of the above is also before you account for the weather, which typically qualifies as hot and steamy but on occasions like last week in Mansfield, Massachusetts, consisted of rain that was certifiably torrential.
The rains came early and often with the sky opening up almost exactly as the gates to the Xfinity Centre amphitheater grounds did the same. Thunder and lightening made repeat appearances as well, causing a few temporary shutdowns in the action, pushing set times back for most of the day. While bottled water is typically one of the most sought-after commodities at Warped Tour stops, on this particular day it was $5 plastic rain ponchos, though any expectation that they were going to keep their users completely dry was obviously a mistake. Still, it was something, especially if you weren’t one of the masses lucky enough to be in attendance primarily for bands playing under the covered portion of the venue and were relegated to the side stages in the parking lot areas. As you can probably surmise from this discussion, we were there for the parking lot stages.
Having focused on some of the older school bands last weekend in Hartford, we turned our attention elsewhere during the deluge in Mansfield, namely to Bad Cop/Bad Cop. We had missed the Fat Wreck Chords foursome at the Connecticut stop due to the timing of their pre-noontime set, so we made it a point to be present this time. The band filled their eight-song set with tracks from their two full-length albums (2015’s Not Sorry and last month’s stellar Warriors) and played with such a blistering pace that they were able to squeeze a ninth song (“Asshole,” from their 2014 Boss Lady EP) into their scheduled twenty-five-minute set. Say what you will about the concept of divine intervention, but clearly something was at play, as shortly after the band took the stage, the rain not only stopped, but the sky cleared up enough to allow the sun to make a welcome appearance that lasted, all told, about an hour, a welcome mid-afternoon respite for sure.
The weather conditions made photography more than a little bit of a difficult proposition for our lowly-trained camera jockey (read as: me). Still, after having just kinda given in to the rain at one point, we were able to catch all or part of super enjoyable sets from Alestorm (a pirate-themed enjoyably gimmicky schtick band), the mighty Valient Thorr, Municipal Waste, Sonic Boom Six and The White Noise. We also shot…and maybe fell in love with…five-piece Greek rock and roll band Barb Wire Dolls. Frontwoman Isis Queen is one of the more enigmatic, quintessentially “rock star” performers we caught during our two Warped Tour stops, with a five-piece band (rounded out by bassist Iriel Blaque, Pyn Doll and Remmington on guitar and Krash Doll on drums) that remained especially tight and high energy in spite of the conditions.
We also caught a spirited set by The Ataris. We’ll be honest; aside from founding frontman Kris Roe, we can’t honestly say we know who’s actually, officially, in The Ataris at this point in 2017. They’ve sorta become Goldfinger or the touring version of MxPx in that regard. But they’re good; they’re real good. The band’s set, particularly tracks like “Your Boyfriend” and, of course, their set-closing cover of “The Boys of Summer” was well received by the soggy masses, and Roe and company promised to play a much longer, higher energy set when they return to the area with The Queers later this summer.
Check out our full photo gallery below.