Performing right in the middle of the afternoon on the Skullcandy stage were punk/rock n’ roll revolutionaries Barb Wire Dolls, who hail from Greece but Los Angeles can definitely call them our own, to a large extent. They have been by far one of the most hard-working bands to ply their trade in the LA scene, carrying out successful residencies in club venues over the years. Of late they’ve also had their fair share of big-stage appearances, but none bigger than being on the entire Warped Tour. From hard-hitting yet catchy musicianship to dynamic stage presence and commanding crowd interaction, they surely have all the makings of becoming one of the biggest bands in the world, and upon seeing Barb Wire Dolls in action throughout this tour, people across North America have finally realized what Los Angeles has known for a few years now. Fronted by the inimitable Isis Queen and backed perfectly by her four bandmates in what is finally a stable band lineup, Barb Wire Dolls rocked the stage and held their own as one of the brightest spots of the Warped Tour 2017 lineup.
Barb Wire Dolls photos:
At this point in the afternoon, if you thought you had already seen the best bands of the lineup, you were wrong, because Valient Thorr was up next on the Hard Rock stage. Originating in Greenville, North Carolina but now carrying a strong Richmond VA flavor as a result of their enigmatic frontman Valient Himself having migrated there recently, Valient Thorr stormed the stage, and for a few minutes, the crowd did not know what had hit them. Their ultra high-energy southern rock-heavy metal crossover got heads banging, and the mosh pit got larger by the minute. The hilariously entertaining singer was the center of attention, but the guitarists in the band were laying down some ripping solos and delightful harmonies, and the rhythm section dictated the band’s fast-paced nature. The event presented some great frontmen and frontwomen, but no one came close to Valient Himself, who at one point jumped over the barricade into the middle of the crowd, made everyone kneel down and orchestrated everyone to join him in a rowing motion, which every single person gladly did. It takes something special to stand out amongst 81 other bands on a lineup like this, and Valient Thorr had it in plenty. The best band of the event, hands down.
Valient Thorr photos:
Following the Valient Thorr set, the Hard Rock stage became the punk rock stage for the rest of the day, and first in line were Huntington Beach veterans TSOL. Although the band has been around since 1978, many of the younger folks in the audience may not have even known who they were. But the manner in which charismatic singer Jack Grisham engaged the crowd probably did more to hold their attention than the music itself. The way he described his white suit, which was signed by the other Warped Tour bands and was to be auctioned off for charity, was endearing in itself. It is never too late to make new fans, and TSOL certainly did that here with an excellent and fun-filled performance. After the set, Grisham was seen by the side of the stage, hanging out with fans, sharing stories and happily taking pictures with them. TSOL and Jack Grisham showed how it’s done, and the only negative moment in their set was when the 7-Eleven set near this stage finally ran out of the free Slurpees it had been giving out all day long.
Up next on the stage were Fullerton, California punk/hardcore legends The Adolescents. With their 5:55-6:20 set time they found themselves playing to a crowd that was tired from all the awesomeness they had already witnessed on this stage in particular, but led by Tony Reflex, The Adolescents played a great set and gave the audience a much-needed second wind. They usually reserve their hit song ‘Amoeba’ for the end of the set or the encore, but here they brought it out early and rightly so, to drive the energy levels up and get the voices and circle pits going again. Most of these guys have been involved in multiple and varying musical projects over the years, but they can still deliver a solid Adolescents set, and even 37 years after they started out, the band shows no signs of fading away. Tony Reflex remarked, just about summing it up, “This tour isn’t for old guys like us, but we did it, in a fucking van.”
The last two bands on our agenda were both on the Mutant South stage. Carnifex began their set as soon as The Adolescents wrapped up theirs, so it was perfect timing, and for the next 30 minutes, this band from San Diego did what they do best. For many people, Carnifex is very much on top in the “not my thing, but they’re good at what they do” category, and witnessing them live makes you realize this even more. It was a little crazy to hear vocalist Scott Lewis yell, “Keep supporting death metal!”, but it wouldn’t be wrong to at least partially classify Carnifex in that category. The deathcore breakdowns are still there, but in recent years Carnifex has incorporated more death and black metal influences, which is clear from any live performance of theirs. They garnered a good response from this crowd and fully earned their spot as the main support act on this stage.
And then there was GWAR. The longstanding Richmond VA metal/shock rock band headlined the Mutant South stage, and arrived in front of a crowd that was eagerly and anxiously waiting for them, ready to be bathed in stage blood. In case you couldn’t read or see the giant letters on the stage backdrop, the sight of the barricade security staff covered in clear plastic coats would have given you a clear indication that GWAR was up next. Despite the sudden and tragic demise of iconic frontman Oderus Urungus in 2014, GWAR has not slowed down one bit, and still put on a show that lives up to their legacy. The sun had finally set and it was an ideal time for this crowd to fully enjoy GWAR, which they did, and complete with all the costumes and theatrics they’re well known for, their set was well worth the wait, and although there were still a couple of bands playing or yet to play on other stages, this was the time to walk away, because nothing could possibly follow this typically epic GWAR set.
GWAR set list:
1. War Pigs
2. Saddam a Go-Go
3. Hail, Genocide!
4. Fuck This Place
5. Crack in the Egg
6. Horror of Yig
7. Bring Back the Bomb
8. If You Want Blood (You’ve Got It) (AC/DC cover)
Yes, charging for the schedule was ludicrous and the food was overpriced as expected, but there were free water refill stations (sponsored by who else but H2O Wireless), and there was plenty of green grass around to lay down in and take power naps between bands. There were times when you’d feel completely wiped out, but the music was good enough to make you want to stick it out till the end.
This might sound extremely strange, but as long as there are 10 bands or thereabouts in the hard rock/heavy metal category, like there were in this year’s lineup, attending a Warped Tour is a more efficient and fruitful exercise for metalheads than going to a full-on metal fest, because at a Warped Tour you can actually catch all or almost all bands you would want to see, and you’re not sold on the optical illusion of a lineup of 80 metal bands where you can realistically catch only a small fraction of them. If every future Warped Tour lineup is as excellent as the 2017 edition, we will certainly return to the Fairplex for more in the years to come. Take it from us, you’re not too old for Warped Tour even if you think you are.
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