Warped Tour day 2 review: Taking Back Sunday, Offspring, Thrice, Circa Survive, more
Before blink-182 headlined and played Enema of the State in full, day two of Warped Tour's 25th anniversary celebration in Atlantic City had a lot of other great stuff to offer. The Offspring, Taking Back Sunday, Quicksand, The Menzingers, Circa Survive, Thrice and more all played the fest, making for a stacked day of great sets.
I got there just in time for Anti-Flag's 12:45 PM set, and they made getting there early worth it. They wasted no time getting to the good stuff, opening with classics "Die For Your Government" and "Turncoat," and not only did they sound tight as hell, their message was genuinely moving. If you know Anti-Flag, you know they're a political band, but that didn't make it any less powerful when Chris #2 gave a speech against racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, and other bigotry, or when he shouted out the names of innocent people who fell victim to police brutality. He was wearing a shirt that said "FCK NZS" in the Run DMC logo, and the screen behind the band showed a depiction of a fist punching a swastika for the entirety of their set. Warped Tour isn't always the most political fest, but Anti-Flag brought a nice dose of awareness to Sunday's lineup and it was clear that the crowd appreciated it.
Anti-Flag's loud, unwavering political stances are very punk rock in the traditional sense, and we got more traditional punk rock right after A-F, courtesy of H2O. After playing a couple songs on stage, Toby Morse talked about how his least favorite part of Warped Tour is how big the barriers are, and he decided to hop over it and play the majority of H2O's set on the beach, right in the middle of the crowd. He was mobbed by moshing fans the whole time, and he was clearly loving every second of it. Warped Tour is a big festival, but for about 30 minutes, H2O made it feel like a basement show. They had a few other treats in store too. During "Family Tree," they worked in bits of Fugazi's "Waiting Room" and Warzone's "Don't Forget the Struggle, Don't Forget the Streets." And for a band whose friends look out for them like family, their actual family is pretty strong too. Toby's brother Tom Morse joined them on second guitar (and also played with The Offspring later that night), and Toby's teenage son Max (who has his own band) provided guest drums on "Nothing To Prove" and guest vocals on "Guilty by Association." He's pretty good!
After H2O, I headed back to the main stage to catch Circa Survive, who were great as always. The last time I saw them they were playing On Letting Go in full, but this was a career-spanning set and it was noticeably different. Anthony Green was in a psychedelic trance at the On Letting Go show, but at Warped he was being a total festival-ready frontman, hyping up the crowd before, after, and during most songs. The rest of the band also seemed a little more improvisational and jam-friendly than they were at the full album show, including when they segued "Holding Someone's Hair Back" into "In The Morning and Amazing," like the post-hardcore equivalent of a jam band. At the end of the set, Anthony Green told the crowd to crowd surf him all the way to the ocean... and he meant it.
After Circa was Thrice, who put on my personal favorite (non-blink-182) set of the day. Of all the post-hardcore bands who took off in the early 2000s and frequented Warped Tour, Thrice just might have the most intense live show. They're inhumanly tight, and when they play, you feel it in your gut. Their set on Sunday was no exception; they were one of the more dead serious bands of the festival, eschewing stage banter and relying just on the power of their music (like Glassjaw a day earlier), and the power of their music was all they needed. One of the things I like about Thrice shows is how their career-spanning sets do a great job of showing how versatile a band they are, and that was very much on display on Sunday, as Thrice went from the cleaner, more atmospheric stuff to straight-up sludge ("Silhouette") and thrash ("Under A Killing Moon") and beyond. In addition to plenty of classics, they played a very new song -- the title track to their Record Store Day EP Deeper Wells, which was recorded during the sessions for last year's Palms -- and it was a ripper that was just as much a highlight of the set as the older songs. I talked during my day one review about this festival's balance between bands relying on nostalgia and bands who still have something to say, and Thrice are very much the latter.
On that note, after Thrice came one of the few good bands at Warped Tour's 25th anniversary celebration who weren't regulars of the late '90s/early '00s scene: The Menzingers. That said, The Menzingers are practically becoming elder statesmen of their own at this point. They previously played Warped eight years ago, and their 2012 album On The Impossible Past, which is now seven years old, can safely be called a modern punk classic. They played favorites off that album like "Good Things" and "The Obituaries," along with other faves from more recent albums like "I Don't Wanna Be An Asshole Anymore," "In Remission," "After The Party," "Lookers," and "20's (Tellin' Lies)," and they sounded great the whole time. It made sense that The Menzingers were on the main stage with a bunch of acts from the previous generation -- they've always been old souls within modern punk and they've now got at least as many iconic songs as a lot of their forebears.
Part of the reason that conversations about Warped Tour are so tied to nostalgia is that genres like pop punk and emo are widely considered types of music that you "grow out of." That's not really fair, and there are plenty of bands who have aged gracefully within those genres, but it is common that pop punk is a genre you gravitate towards as a teen and eventually want to move on from. Such was the case with The Starting Line. Frontman Kenny Vasoli was only 14 when the band formed, and still in his teens when they released pop punk classics like "The Best of Me" and "Leaving." By the time they released their last album before initially breaking up, 2007's Direction, they did what a handful of pop punk bands tried to do and move on from the genre. It was a solid attempt, but it's no surprise that it didn't catch on within the Warped Tour scene like "The Best Of Me" did, or that The Starting Line ultimately called it quits soon afterwards. Kenny went on to start the indie rock/post-hardcore band Person L and more recently he started making Tame Impala-esque psych pop with his band Vacationer. So it was not surprising and kind of badass when Kenny yelled "Direction is our best record!" before playing its beach-appropriate single "Island." Some of the older bands at Warped seem like they've accepted that they need to focus on older songs to maintain relevancy, but Kenny seemed like a guy getting back with his old friends and playing their old songs just for the sake of having a little fun. (Side note: they've clearly stayed in touch with the modern, indie-rock friendly emo scene, as evidenced by the cool selection of openers on their upcoming tour.)
Warped mostly focused on booking bands from their prime late '90s - mid '00s era for this anniversary celebration, but they also reached back and booked one band who played the very first Warped Tour, Quicksand. Quicksand had a very strong influence on a lot of the Warped Tour bands who went on to be very famous (including members of blink-182), though they unfortunately are still a little underrated by those bands' fans (their side stage crowd was pretty small, probably partially because they were up against The Used). But for the people who did catch Quicksand, Walter Schreifels & co put on a very fine set that was as heavy and psychedelic as you'd expect from those guys. Walter was in great spirits as he usually is, and he and the rest of the band were airtight.
Back over on the main stage, Taking Back Sunday took over and they were another major highlight of the fest. Like blink-182 (who TBS cracked some friendly jokes about on stage), Taking Back Sunday have their own anniversary to celebrate this year (it's their 20th year as a band) and they're doing so by playing classic albums in full on tour, but they stuck to a career-spanning set at Warped. They did everything from classics like "Cute Without the E," "You're So Last Summer," "A Decade Under the Influence," "What's It Feel Like To Be A Ghost," "Liar," and "MakeDamnSure" up through songs from their heartland punk-leaning latest album (2016's Tidal Wave), and they sounded massive with every song. TBS are one of the few bands from the early 2000s emo scene who evolved into real deal rock stars, and that was very evident during their set, from their tight, professional performances to Adam Lazzara's stage banter.
After Taking Back Sunday but before blink-182 was a band who evolved into rock stars a long time ago, The Offspring. They did a new, not-yet-released song and an AC/DC cover, but otherwise they delivered a greatest hits set, hitting "All I Want," "Come Out and Play," "Want You Bad," "Bad Habit," "Gone Away," "The Kids Aren't Alright," "Self Esteem," and more. They seemed very down to revel in the nostalgia of the fest, and they talked about how long Warped has been around many times. That new song sounded pretty good, but even if The Offspring's future is relying on greatest hits sets, that'll suit them just fine. As far as punk bands go, they've really got a lot of hits, and they still have the energy, the attitude, and the nasally sneer needed to deliver this kind of stuff. Like blink-182 and Bad Religion (who played Warped a day earlier), The Offspring's classics are embedded into punk's DNA at this point. If you care about this kind of music, they've probably impacted you either directly or indirectly. And they still bring it.
Check out some more day two pics and videos below...