Warped Tour 2019 day 1 review: Bad Religion, Glassjaw, evacuation, and more
Vans Warped Tour's days as a touring festival are no more, but the festival is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year with big events on both coasts and a smaller event that was held at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame earlier this month. The East Coast edition, which is happening on the beach in Atlantic City, is underway now, having begun on Saturday (6/29). Warped Tour had strayed from its punk roots over the years, but for the anniversary, they're reveling in nostalgia for the festival's late '90s - early '00s heyday, and they booked tons of bands who played the fest and/or released a lot of their most-loved songs during that era. All of the bands I saw on Saturday were regulars in the punk scene during that era (or even earlier), and a lot of bands talked on stage about how long they've been around and how many times they've played Warped Tour, and thanked Warped founder Kevin Lyman for all the continued support over the years. And one very cool thing about this festival: the main stage had a rotating floor so the next band could set up behind the band currently playing -- with a wall on stage to block them off -- and turnover between bands only took a few minutes and you didn't have to leave your spot to quickly see the next band.
Weather is a risk at any festival, especially one on a beach, and the forecast did get in the way on Saturday, causing Warped to evacuate the festival for about an hour around 5:45. Fortunately, the boardwalk location made it easy to have everyone quickly evacuate, find a way to kill time, and re-enter, and the fest was able to resume with updated set times and it continued to go off without a hitch.
Before that all happened, though, storms couldn't have seemed less likely in the morning. I got there just as ska-punk vets Less Than Jake went on, and they actually had to encourage the crowd not to let the sun and the heat get in the way of raging. It didn't, and LTJ delivered a typically high-energy set that saw them jumping around on stage, starting circle pits and singalongs, and playing a career-spanning selection of fan faves including "Johnny Quest Thinks We're Sellouts," "Plastic Cup Politics," "History of a Boring Town," "She's Gonna Break Soon," "The Science of Selling Yourself Short," "All My Best Friends Are Metalheads," and more. They're always a fun band, heavy on crowd participation, and seeing them early in the day was a good way to get in the classic Warped spirit.
LTJ's approach was common throughout the day; so many bands spent a big chunk of their set combatting the heat by hyping up the crowd and running around the stage and making sure the audience was doing the same on the sand. But Glassjaw were nothing like that. And the warmth of the sun was no match for their white-hot intensity. Here's how it started: it was apparently 82° but with the sun beating down on you, no breeze, and not a grey cloud in the sky, it felt at least 90°. Caesars was to your right, the ocean was to your left, and then the four members of Glassjaw walked out on stage. Plenty of bands throughout the day were wearing shorts and bright colors, but Glassjaw took the stage in long pants, and decked out in blacks, dark browns, and dark greys. Daryl Palumbo didn't say a word, he just looked at current drummer Chad Hasty and the band launched into the classic Worship & Tribute opener "Tip Your Bartender." From there, Glassjaw continued to power through a truly mesmerizing set, not speaking to the crowd at all until about 15 minutes in when Daryl stopped and said, "We're Glassjaw from Long Island." Glassjaw played other Worship & Tribute classics like "Mu Empire," "Ape Dos Mil," and more, but they're also still riding high off their long-awaited 2017 comeback album Material Control, and it was obvious on Saturday that Glassjaw were there to be taken seriously as an active band with something still left to prove, not a live jukebox of old favorites.
After Glassjaw, I caught Andrew WK partying as hard as ever, Simple Plan indulging the crowd with a slew of their early 2000s hits, and Atmosphere offering up a solid dose of the mind-bending indie-rap that they've been honing for over two decades. It was during Atmosphere's set that the festival had to evacuate, and I didn't get back in time to see them resume their set, but the post-evacuation segment had one of the strongest sets of the day from Bad Religion.
Most of these bands hit their stride at some point in the mid-to-late '90s or early 2000s, but Bad Religion have been going strong for almost 40 years and they show no signs of slowing down. They're fresh off releasing their 17th album Age of Unreason, and when they played that album's opener "Chaos From Within" or "Fuck You" from its 2013 predecessor True North, they sounded as great as when they played classics like "I Want To Conquer The World" and "21st Century (Digital Boy)" or Warped-era faves like "Supersonic" and "Sorrow." They seemed as happy as ever to play the classics, but they seemed even more fired up when playing the newer stuff. They didn't shy away from talking about their lengthy history on stage, but they also seemed intent on proving that Bad Religion still have more to say.
Warped Tour Atlantic City continues on Sunday (6/30) with blink-182, The Offspring, Quicksand, Taking Back Sunday, Thrice, and more. Stay tuned for more coverage and see some more pics and videos from Saturday below (including one of The Aquabats running through the crowd at the end of their set, which I missed due to overlap with Bad Religion).
UPDATE: blink-182 played Enema of the State in full on day two (review). Full day two review here.