I love music, I have for as long as I can remember. That moment you hear the harmonic bridge behind the motivational lyric that applies to you, it’s like nothing else exists in the world and your emotions sprout from the depths of your existence and release in the chills that bud along your skin. Nothing is better than that moment. Where every tear is validated, every drop of confidence pools into your blood, and that is only a few of the things music does. Music connects people, from classes away to countries away. Music is a continuous project that people build upon, sharing ideas and responding to beats. What’s more beautiful in our society than that?
Although my love for music is eternal and I’ve personally practiced for a decade, I’m actually quite new to the concert scene. In all reality, this is my first year purchasing tickets for artists. I’ve always purchased albums, even the CDs-I’ve got a retro heart-and follow hundreds on Spotify. If YouTube recommends a music video while I’m watching one from a different artist, I will always, always, watch the recommended one. It’s a great way to find new bands and songs to rock out to while walking your dog. Going to concerts just was never a practice in my family, I figured they would be uncomfortable and loud, I wouldn’t hear good acoustics and everyones yelling would leave me with a headache.
But within the last year, I’ve been to three concerts and Vans Warped Tour. For years I would see my friends rocking out to Vans and in all honesty, I was jealous. I wanted to go, it looked fun. In reality though, I didn’t think I knew any of the artists well enough to pay for a ticket or would have anyone to go experience it with me.
You didn’t have to be a skilled music fanatic to know that the 2016 lineup for Vans Warped Tour was the best lineup in years. Especially for me personally, I knew a great deal of the artists on the list, but I also had a couple all time favorites spotted.
My friend and I walked in about a half hour after the doors opened, sadly we missed We The Kings concert, a very upbeat way to start the festival and another personal favorite. However, we did make it with enough time to spare to explore the grounds and gain our bearings before getting a spot for my all time favorite, Tonight Alive. It was probably for the best, since within that time period, we found every stage, new our game plan for the close calls, when we would do certain activities like buying merch or meeting artists. Sadly, the Tonight Alive Meet & Greet was already sold out at that point, and I honestly was prepared to spend any price for that opportunity.
Within the hour and a half before my friend and I scurried through other concert goers and music lovers for Tonight Alive, we watched a four-minute video on the importance of being a vegan because of animal cruelty-didn’t have a huge impact since we are already vegetarians-and got paid a dollar for doing so. And with that dollar, we donated it to a foundation for arts education in public schools. And because we donated our dollars, we each received a small palette of body paint and the use of a brush in a crowded tent for some music festival accessories if you will. We were also rained upon and then dried off by the vengeful sun during that time. Don’t forget about the free goodies as we, posters and stickers and bands, oh music my!
If you have never heard of or listened to Tonight Alive before, I highly recommend that you do. From Sydney, Australia, Tonight Alive focuses on inner confidence and peace as well as accepting others for who they are just as you should accept yourself for every courageous thing you do. To never judge yourself or limit yourself by other’s perceptions or society’s rule, everyday is another day for you to be you and for you to take that power back. Tonight Alive makes a point of telling people this at every concert they perform at. During Warped, Jenna, the lead singer, made the audience chant with her, repeating lines about personal confidence and personal defiances. The audience screamed every line Jenna said, regurgitating the confidence of the lines and pouring it out into the music.
I have listened to Tonight Alive for approximately five years. There songs have always impressed me, but more than that, they have reached and inspired me. I start almost every one of my days by listening to their new album, Limitless, to get me in the right mindset for the day and feel the confidence within the keys. There are very few bands and artists that focus on the audience and how to benefit them from their own personal struggles and discoveries. Unlike some artists, whose names I shall not mention in this post but most probably will in the future, who use music as a business and sole profit, uncaring about their audience. Tonight Alive even held a discussion on life and the lessons they’ve learned during Warped Tour.
I have a very low attention span. I do not like patterns or cliches so its very hard for any television show or band to keep me as a loyal listener or watcher for even one full season let alone for years like Tonight Alive has. I believe it’s because unlike many artists, once again, they focus on evolving as people, not just their sound. Their messages evolve with their sound and grow for their audience not for themselves or as personal catharsis.
Energy during Tonight Alive concerts is just incredible. Getting an audience amped up and swaying to music is a skill that takes seasoned artists to master and Tonight Alive has definitely mastered it. With rays beaming down upon us, everyone was hopping,waving their arms, yelling with the lyrics, and participating in anything they asked us to do. Without a doubt, every audience member was getting sunburnt and tanned during this concert, but there was no fan in the crowd that refused to jump when Jenna asked or sing when the chorus came. Under normal circumstances, we as a society are lazy people, in the sun, we’re pure animals in heat. But the energy was bountiful and beautiful at Journey’s Right Foot State in Hartford, Connecticut.
Tonight Alive definitely came prepared as well, with blow-up beach balls of their own creation bouncing around the audience as they played. A tool for the energy that definitely payed off and for some lucky members, a beautiful keepsake of their music filled day.
And what better way to start out the set then with a surprise duet with Jordan Kelsey Knight who scampered on for her shared portion, sang playfully with Jenna, even had a moment of patty-cake, took a bow and scampered back off. Right out of the gate, energy was high, music and acoustics were incredible, and things were happy and playful. Could you ask for anything more?
Immediately following the Tonight Alive concert was Against the Current at the Cyclops stage, which was furthest from us but still an easy hustle. Plus, was indoors for a nice break from the sun, although moshing was intended from three audience members. They even went so far as to jump and kick each other and just purely jump into each other. They stopped after five minutes, I think their own actions were too high energy for even them themselves, they were so red faced they were ready to crawl to the seats within the Xfinity theatre.
I don’t know how many of you know, but this year was the 50th anniversary of Vans Warped Tour. Coincidentally, it is Against the Current’s first year performing on tour. 2016 has been a year of many things, the United States of America turned 240 and Against the Current’s popularity grew exponentially. I saw them in concert in late of 2015 at a small Boston Venue, tickets were cheap and I already knew of them because a friend had turned me on to them some months earlier. Immediately after that concert I came to the realization I will never be able to see them for that cheap ever again. After wrapping up the tour they were on then, they went on tour opening for All Time Low in huge arenas throughout Europe. That tour finished shortly after they came on for Warped Tour for their first time. Within the next year, their fame will continuously be on the uprise and I’ll have to start saving to see them again.
The small venue I originally saw them in, as you could probably assume, also had a measly stage for their performers to work with. Chrissy was very limited with her movements on that stage. I didn’t realize to what extent until I saw her running from side to side, jumping from box to box, bending and reaching to the stars at Warped. She utilized every inch of the stage she could, a musical rabbit bouncing from edge to edge. There is no doubt that she has the energy and passion for her songs and message when she performs. Against the Current focuses on creating a community around their music. A community of difference and acceptance. No matter how odd you are, that trait you only share with your closest friend, how much of an Outsider you are, there is a community for you somewhere, and Against the Current is trying to make it.
As energetic and passionate as Chrissy is and Daniel is and Will is, they are still novices in many ways. Not to music, but to performing for certain crowds. As much as the audience members there loved Against the Current, there was definitely a level of miscommunication when it came to getting them moving and keeping the energy in the audience up. There needs to be that bridge between the performers and audience members to create the flow of energy. They haven’t broken that barrier between the stage yet. But I can foresee them breaking through those walls within the coming months, especially as the crowd gets larger. They seem to already be performing for larger crowds, so their skill will just grow when the crowd has actually grown.
Off the stage, Against the Current is friendly and silly and humble. Holding a meet and greet and signing for free. Even though I waited in line for about an hour before so I could have a front spot and run to another concert after, when I walked back over an hour later ready to purchase my merch, there line was still there and they were still thanking every single person. How many artists do you know do that?
Are you all ready for, what I think will be for many, a middle school throwback?
Shoeless and the most casual dressed band at Warped, Mayday Parade already has a large, large cult following. They didn’t have to do much for the crowd to keep the energy going. Once they opened, people were on each other, whether it be on one’s shoulders or crowd surfing to the front, their audience reached so far back it mixed with other stages. Honestly, people were climbing up lamp posts for a better view. And as skilled of a crowd squeezer I am, I was still quite a few rows away.
However, whether you were in the front or the back, the acoustics were great and everyone was just happy and nostalgic for some of their songs. Playing the best of every album, from their first to their last.
Clearly, Mayday Parade has reached quite a stardom and have become experts at composing their sets. In all honesty, who isn’t gonna jump to Black Cat? With Mayday Parade’s already strong notoriety, how much do I really need to inform you of the playful banter and metaphors that bring people together. No matter how serious the theme or message of their songs are, they find some light way to present it. A way in which the idea isn’t lost while the ability to enjoy the song is preserved. That is a balance that is rare and what brings people from all pasts and styles, from full sleeves to flower shirts, together. What music really should be, a common ground for everyone to learn from and grow.
The exact environment that Warped Tour creates for every gender, sexuality, style, and history. It is the most open-minded, non-judgemental congregation of music appreciators that I have ever experienced. If you have any interest in this event or in the bands that participate, I highly suggest you go at least once in your life. More if possible.
Vans Warped Tour 2016 was my fist one and most likely won’t be my last.