With underwhelming crowds drawn by some bands on the roster, Warped Tour UK proved to be a somewhat disappointing arrangement for all involved, although every band deserves praise for defying the chaos and remaining in good spirits.
Warped UK’s doors open a crucial half an hour late, leaving a swelling and unnerved queue trailing around the circumference of the majestic venue and being left even more confused by the nonplussed staff. The priority entry scheme falls flat as the opportunity to donate tinned foods to charity in exchange for early entry proves too popular and leaves scores disappointed and grumbling in the queue before they’d even entered. As the mayhem of analysing the day’s schedule on leaflets and posters sets in, crowds mingle towards the merch market and navigate the five stages in a show of further unorganised chaos.
Punchy but drawing a small crowd due to their early set, metalcore outfit The Word Alive take to the Warped stage with vocal gratitude for their appearance on a line-up that was built for them. Running late through no fault of their own, they appear a little flustered and the sound levels are unevenly balanced, forcing frontman Telle Smith to push even more power behind his already dominant vocals. While the set embraces old favourite ‘2012’ and last year’s ‘Play the Victim’, the crowd gradually increases in volume and participation, closing anthem ‘Life Cycles’ brings a great response as Telle joins the crowd to sing them out. (3.5/5)
Despite their early slot, Ghost Town draw an impressive crowd to the Monster stage. Unfortunately, however, the sound balance lets them down considerably, raising the distortion and bass far too loud to hear frontman Ghost above it all, particularly through a cover of Kanye West’s ‘Power’. Emerging passionate despite the disappointing arrangement, unison claps spread throughout the room as new song ‘Out Alive’ captivates their dedicated crowd. (3/5)
Metro Station’s first UK appearance after a six year absence draws an impressive crowd for a nostalgia trip. Opening with contagious classic ‘Control’ and soon breaking into catchy new tune ‘She Likes Girls’, it’s obvious their optimism and energy has been missed on the scene. After drawing rapturous sing-alongs with ‘Kelsey’, the lulling ‘Seventeen Forever’ brings the tone down only briefly. While Mason Musso’s vocals are as energetic as ever, it’s clear Trace Cyrus has improved both in vocal range and confidence, bursting out the anthemic ‘Shake It’ with plenty more fervour than ever before, assuring the scores of fans that they’re “here to stay this time.” (5/5)
Suited to the poorly-lit Jukely stage, Fearless Vampire Killers bring a packed audience of dedicated fans as always. Opening on the lamenting ‘Ghost You Left Behind’, the atmosphere electrifies just in time for the first outing of new song ‘Bruises’. The cramped setting lets them down, however, as most of their set is interrupted by mic feedback from the sound-checks on the stage right next to them. Closing on a timely rendition of ‘All Hallow’s Evil’, Warped UK has emerged at just the right time for FVK, catching even passing viewers’ attentions to encourage the attention these professionals fully deserve. (4.5/5)
“You better not fucking let me down,” calls out Attila’s vivacious frontman Fronz, heralding a half-hour slot of roof-raising breakdowns, opening with racy ‘Outlawed’. Let down by the room’s poor sound drowning him out, Fronz refuses to let this dampen the mood, charging a circle pit around the sound board. Attila make themselves truly at home in the Warped environment, as anthemic belters ‘Party for the Devil’ and ‘Middle Fingers Up’ supplies the now vibrant crowd with the outfit’s trademark storming energy. (4/5)
Reel Big Fish sport not only the strongest crowd but the best sound quality of the day. Criminally early on the Warped bill, an electric crowd are greeted warmly with contagious ‘Everyone Else Is an Asshole’ and anthemic ‘Another F.U. Song’ as the band request everyone flips them the bird. Just how much everyone loves this band surfaces through the many versions of ‘S.R.’, encouraging head-banging and square dancing across the room. Closing on a stellar horn-infused cover of A-Ha’s ‘Take on Me’, by far the most energetic and amusing act of the day leaves everyone in fantastic spirits. (5/5)
In Hearts Wake prove as humbled as ever to be gracing the Warped stage, cordially thanking fans for their support through concept two-parters ‘Earthwalker’ and ‘Skydancer’, heralding the success of both with their title tracks. A decent crowd draws to their stage as ‘Breakaway’ makes itself known. Once again, sadly, the sound arrangement lets down the Aussies’ captivating dedication to their craft, but far be it from them to let that show, frontman Jake Taylor towers in both stance and personality, charming to the last. (4/5)
The tension at the Monster stage could be cut with a knife as Asking Alexandria burst onto the platform. Opening with new frontman Denis Stoff’s ‘I Won’t Give In’ introductory track, the crowd are hanging on his ability to prove his worth in front of a hometown audience. However, ‘The Death of Me’ openly displays the use of ex-vocalist Danny Worsnop’s backing track, clearly disappointing a number of dedicated fans and many leave the room abruptly. ‘Not The American Average’ with the addition of Denis’ screams also proves beyond all doubt that Asking Alexandria are a new band, and the adaptation of old favourites falls short of expectations. It’s a change that’s going to take some time to adjust to, and it was certainly a shock to hear a vocalist with a lesser electric live ability take on such towering classics, but only time will prove if there’s a future for Asking Alexandria version 2.0. (2/5)
Black Veil Brides’ stellar showcase closes the day, demonstrating their proven ability to outshine even the most intense pyro arrangement. As Jinxx takes the stage with violin in hand following the backing track of his ‘Overture’, frontman Andy Biersack looks as energised and driven as ever, throwing out screams throughout ‘Coffin’ and ‘Knives and Pens’ we’ve rarely heard from him live due to their intense tour schedules. The only band that could effectively send crowds back home with eyes and minds wide open, the Warped veterans draw the curtains on an intense day of versatile acts to the sound of rapturous applause. (4.5/5)
With overwhelmingly displaced crowds mostly taking in the sights of the venue instead of remaining static at stages, Warped UK was bound to let audiences down from the moment the doors failed to open. Undersold tickets left stages criminally vacant at the best of times, but luckily the professionalism of the majority of bands overcame the atmosphere and energised the numbers with every note. Despite the disappointment of one of the most anticipated headliners, festival season draws to a close with an incendiary boom with Black Veil Brides’ vibrant presence. (3/5)