Each year the Van Warped Tour kicks off, the scene basically explodes with activity previously unfounded earlier in the year. It’s all for good reason, too: the Warped Tour is without a doubt the most jam-packed celebration of alternative rock and roll to ever set fire to convention. Thousands upon thousands of people from around the world fly out just to attend this show year-by-year; it’s a huge event powered purely by the raw enthusiasm shared by the prevalent artists and their fans. Each band (and solo artist) attending the show this year are great for their own reasons. This is merely my selection of 20 of the best Warped Tour 2014 bands that you HAVE to keep an eye out on!
Keep in mind that these tracks aren’t ranked! The numbers are used as organizational tools, and nothing more.
1. Candy Hearts
Are you a fan of Hayley Williams (Paramore) or Chad Gilbert (New Found Glory)? Yeah? Well, they’reboth fans of this up-and-coming indie punk band coming out of the New Jersey area. Fronted by Mariel Loveland with instrumental support from Matthew Ferraro and John Clifford, Candy Hearts is quickly becoming the go-to name for “girl power” in the punk industry. It’s not hard to understand why, with the band’s unapologetic and lackadaisical love of angst and irony lining their lyrical delivery as it’s laid across rock-solid hooks that scream “legitimate punk.”
2. City of the Weak
Isn’t it amazing? Back in 2005, maybe your rock-leaning iPod would be full of Paramore, Evanescence, and then a ton of male-fronted bands. Nowadays, girl-fronted bands are as much of a norm as the former, and they’re full of females who truly know rock out without any reservations. For those who are fans of the slightly harder scene, look no further than City of the Weak. Fronted by spitfire vocalist “Stef w/ an F” Huschka, this Minnesotan quintet can rock out like no other as they show off their idiosyncratic riffs and vocal ticks in style.
3. Plague Vendor
These guys know how to rock, and they know how to do so in a way that’s a total love letter to the epic glory days of the legendary genre. The backbiting vocals emitted by Plague Vendor’s lead vocalist are nothing short of impeccable given how quickly he can spit some bars across a rap and then transition it perfectly into a intense wail. With only a few thousand dedicated followers, the band is still just kicking their feet off the music ground, but their future is definitely bright.
No band attending Warped Tour ’14 is like Echosmith but Echosmith. Originally finding their footing on YouTube, they’ve made leaps and bounds- not just steps -in the right direction since their 2009 debut. Fusing unique pop strings and light synth with frontwoman Jamie Sierota’s wispy tone gorgeously tinging each instrumentation, this family-run band manages to deliver the goods every time. If, say, Jason Mraz and Hunter Hayes notice that, that’s kind of a major thing, right?
5. Neck Deep
Similarly, this UK pop-punk outlet broke alternative headlines when they first hit the scene in 2012. Frontman Ben Barlow has a tone practically parallel to the original punk movement. In other words, he’s definitely got the “rebel yell” to lead Neck Deep completely above water. Pair that with blazing instrumentals and an unpredictability streak topped by their folk-meets-punk-esque duet with Laura Whiteside, and you have yourself a real group of winners.
6. American Pinup
When American Pinup hits the stage, you know you’re in for a treat with their surf sounds that hardly anybody else in the industry has what it takes to take on, period, right now. And then you have their tendencies to go off the indie deep-end with some truly adventurous, positively infectious arrangements and production choices with a real rock flair to them. “A New America” could very well be the anthem of the decade. Lauren West’s gritty tone is flippen’ great.
7. Elder Brother
Elder Brother is the new side-project of Kevin Geyer (The Story So Far) and Dan Rose (Daybreaker) and, in all actuality, it couldn’t be any more sonically different than either of these guys’ origin bands. Trading in the raw garage punk of The Story So Far and the blazing soundtracks set to Daybreaker, Elder Brother tends to be a more mellow and introspective affair… Well, as mellow and introspective two legit punks could be. It’s an interesting effort that definitely highlights the best of the raw vocals and lyricism while setting them into a completely new soundscape. Arguably, the Warped Tour will be this project’s first real big set of live shows, so it’ll be cool to see how they’ll do.
8. The Story So Far
On the flip-side of things, the band that Geyer’s most known for will also be making a full appearance at the Warped Tour this year. Those who’ve been “in on what’s in” in the scene for the past couple of years will already know and love The Story So Far already, but it should be of note that their latest EP, Songs Of, breaks the mold of their sound quite a bit. The songs featured on the EP are totally honest, perfect in its vocal imperfects and blunt sincerity. While punk elements are still prevalent, there’s something very 60s Dylan about the whole ensemble, too. Any songs that they perform from Songs Of during the Warped Tour should be a treat for the ears, for sure.
9. The Maine
The Maine are another band who have been a part of the scene forever now, but who have been constantly evolving. Trying to compare “The Way We Talk” to “Take What You Can Carry” musically is nearly impossible outside of the fact that both are legitimately good songs. Hearing the eclecticness of their set, henceforth, should be a blast! Pour some sugar on ’em and call it a day.
10. Mayday Parade
Despite their pedigree, Mayday Parade hasn’t had the most bump-free road in terms of band dramatics over the years. However, it’s because of these experiences, arguably, that the band has elevated to a whole new level of awesome in the past couple of years. “Oh Well, Oh Well” was a true trailblazer for what would become their latest sound, and it was ultimately perfected in Monsters in the Closet. To hear songs from that album performed, like, say, “Ghosts”, will be something to behold.
11. Less Than Jake
Less Than Jake dares to take ska in a ska-less era and run with it. Not only that, but they fuse it with some clearly punk instrumental and vocal choices! Hearing the disparity between the typical ska soundset and overall arrangement style mixing with something purely punk is such a crazy thought that it actually ends up working epically. Plus, Jake Fryer probably likes that there’s a band named about him out there.
12. This Wild Life
This Wild Life started out as a pop-punk band and, while the duo are still technically as pop-punk as pop-punk can come, they do it in a way that’s a bit different than the everyday, pre-established norms nowadays. How about raising yourself an “acoustipop” and rolling with it? There’s something ethereal about This Wild Life’s new album, Clouded, because of the new direction they’ve decided to take it sound-wise. It’ll be a real, intimate treat to sink one’s teeth into during the tour.
13. Me Like Bees
During a tour chockful of in-your-face, spitfire bands that take no prisoners in how rock-heavy they are, Me Like Bees tend to be as quirky as their name may imply. They still rock hard, but they do it in a mostly lo-fi, introspective way. Some rock comes from the gut, some rock comes from the heart, and their rock comes from, well, both places, and the mind, too. Their adventurous arrangements and idiosyncratic vocal techniques make for a great listening experience that should be a fan favorite during this massive extravaganza.
14. We Are The In Crowd
This year has been We Are The In Crowd’s most amazing year for growth thus far. Lyrically, vocally, musically… it’s the whole nine-yards with this band, here. Weird Kids was an impeccable effort the pop-punk scene that’s quite the contender for the genre’s number one album released this year so far. Now that they’ve found a chameleon-like niche to toy about within sound-wise, it’ll be pretty cool to hear how their new stuff is going to translate to the big stage as opposed to in-studio.
15. Bowling For Soup
Bowling For Soup are practically gods of the Warped Tour, at this point. Having reigned over the punk scene since 1994, these guys are just as awesome as they were the first time they played out on the stage together for the very first time. They’re always a sound to behold, and at this point, they’re also representative of a massive chunk of history for the industry. Show ’em respect!
16. Naked Walrus
These guys pretty much made the list initially just for their name. Naked walruses are the most common walrus out there, sure, but seeing that it’s a band’s name almost makes you perform a mental double-take. “A walrus without clothes!?” — That aside, this alt. rock band from LA has enough brooding #legitswag to make a crowd sway. Definitely worth a listen.
17. Icon For Hire
Icon For Hire are great representatives of the modern pop-punk scene. They’re unapologetic spitfires with a love of laying their hearts on their sleeves, but they do it by reinventing the genre sonically, introducing thoughtful, beauteous strings, piano and orchestral synth in places where they originally wouldn’t belong. The result is something absolutely killer. The way songs like “The Grey” have turned out in-studio will make for continuously awesome live shows long after the Warped Tour is over.
18. State Champs
State Champs are the perfect modern punk outlet to introduce the new generation of the scene to what the very foundation of their beloved genre sounded like back during its glory days. Edge-ridden vocals scattered across electrifyingly fast-paced tracks are the highlight of this band’s sound, making fans of New Found Glory and the like feeling right at home while bringing a new sense of nostalgic lyricism to the scene.
19. The Protomen
These guys are bloody named after a Mega Man character. Let that sink in and unveil how great they are before you even give ’em a listen, because they are great. Like their namesake, they’re pretty futuristic in their sound, featuring some insanely operatic arrangements: booming brass, fantastic electric guitar solos, massive string ensembles, and low-key piano operations all included. You’ll essentially either love them or hate them for how off-kilter they are, but one thing’s for sure, regardless: they rock.
20. Aaron West & The Roaring 20s
No, Aaron and his 20s probably aren’t about to break out into a cover of “Swanee” by Al Jolson at any moment. As unfortunate as that is in itself, Aaron West & The Roaring 20s are still a pretty neat band. For fans of folk music, they have the acoustic heartbreaker of a track, “Divorce And The American South”, that essentially defines the greatness of West’s lyrical abilities and, simultaneously, his ability to convey a story. “You Ain’t No Saint” is a lot more punk by comparison, but there’s still Southern inclinations — as well as a neat brass section — that really makes the arrangement stand out. Give ’em a listen. There’s some revolutionary stuff, a-brewin’!
Also see: 20 Indie Love Songs of 2014 (So Far)!
20 Pop/Punk Love Songs of 2014 (So Far)!