Warped Tour @ PNC Bank Arts Center

HOLMDEL, NJ—From the moment I stepped outside of my home, I knew it would be one hell of a hot day. Even though it was a cloudy day, the two-second walk to my car made me sweat. When I got to the venue, a line of cars extending onto the parkway greeted me. After a short wait, parking attendants directed me to a lot. With my press credentials in hand, I ventured into the festival.

If you’ve never been to Warped Tour before, the eccentric crowd might throw you off. There are girls with electric blue hair, black eyeliner raccoon-looking eyes, strange hair sticking up in different directions, and a plethora of “Free Hug” signs on shirtless bodies. Over the years, it seems one thing has remained the same: The crowd. Even when the lineup changes, you see familiar faces, acquaintances, and old friends every year.

The stages were spread out around the grounds, which made it fairly easy to navigate. Inside the theater, the stage was split into two. Many sought out the seating area for much-needed breaks from the heat. Local and unheard bands kicked the day off, while I head over to the Kia Rio stage to see Poughkeepsie natives, We Are The In Crowd. Vocalist Tay Jardine has quite the stage presence. Even when her microphone cut out, she didn’t stop performing for their fans. She grabbed another mic and kept going, but that one wasn’t working either. She ran over to her guitarist, Jordan, and sang with him until they got her another one. She encouraged the crowd to sing louder and jumped around the stage with endless energy.

When their set was over, I made my way through a sea of sweaty man-boobs and body paint-covered girls to grab some food. If there’s one thing that annoys me about this day, it’s the price of food. After spending $7.00 on a cheeseburger, I decided I’d have to survive the rest of my day on a protein bar and water. Luckily for me, I made a security guard friend at the Kia Soul stage. He gave me ice-cold water and some snacks throughout the day so I could save some money. We talked in between bands, and he told me some pretty interesting stories. He told me that he does this for fun, meaning he catches sweaty bodies and half-naked teenage girls on his spare time.

It was noon, which meant the next band on my list would start soon. Mayday Parade played at 12:05 at the Monster Energy stage. I’ve never been a huge fan of them, but I have to admit that their set was good. They played “Jersey” and the crowd went wild. After that, I decided to check out Jersey locals, I Call Fives. I’d heard a few of their songs before, and I thought they’d be good live. I was correct in my assumption, as they put on a very energetic pop punk set.

Around 2:30 p.m., I was ready for my blast from the past. The anticipation of reliving my teenage years was exciting. Yellowcard are that band—the band that everyone used to jam out to in his or her bedrooms as a 14-year-old. If you haven’t heard of “Ocean Avenue,” you must’ve lived under a rock. My friend Max and his sister walked to the stage with me through the crowd. Upon our arrival, a redhead, clearly under the influence, turned to us and said “’Merica! F*** Yeah!” When Yellowcard were about to start, I made my way to the barrier, flashed my wristband, and walked in. They played a few new songs and a lot of great old songs. The group seemed to enjoy their set at Warped, considering it had been quite a long time since their last appearance on the tour. If I could choose a band to crown for the day, it would be them. Their energy and enthusiasm created a family atmosphere. To me, that’s what Warped Tour is all about.

I refilled my water bottle and wandered off to look at the merchandise tables. If you want to get the full Warped experience, you should definitely bring some extra cash. Buying band T-shirts, shorts, and other various items with your favorite act’s name on it is a sure way to make great memories. When I attended the tour for my first time, I bought a few shirts and some stickers. Six years later, I still have most of the items I had purchased. Another great aspect of the tour is signing events. Most bands will set up times in their tents to sign items for their fans—body parts included. I walked past a few of them during my walk, and the lines were pretty long. Fans can’t get enough of their favorite bands, even when the heat is a hot blanket of unpleasantness.

The day wasn’t even halfway through and I was exhausted. Every year, it gets harder to deal with the heat. Even though I was slightly red and tired, I was excited to see the rest of the bands on my schedule. New Found Glory put on an amazing show for their large crowd. The group wore matching blue and gold basketball shorts and jerseys on stage. Singer Jordan Pundik jumped down from the stage and sang with the crowd while balancing on top of the barrier. The energy didn’t stop there.

Next up was All Time Low, then The Used. These two acts are polar opposites, as were the vibes. At the Kia Soul stage, underage girls were tossing colorful bras onstage at Jack and Alex. The atmosphere was like a Justin Bieber concert. Following the bra fiasco, The Used put on one hell of a show on the Kia Rio stage. Their mood was on the darker side, but still maintained an energetic performance. No bras, no pop—just rock. In between thanking himself for showing up and walking around with a crazed look on his face, vocalist Bert McCracken sang a few oldies from my teenage years and some newer songs I’d never heard before.

The day was almost over but I still had a few bands to watch. It was 6:45 p.m. and Four Year Strong were about to come out. I’ve seen them about 10 times, but for some reason, it never gets old. With their keyboardist gone, they still have what it takes to put on an entertaining set. Their love of music and playing shows is evident through their lively performances. Some bands lose their spark after some lineup changes, but not them. Even their newer songs were a punch in the face. Once their set ended, I walked over to see Taking Back Sunday. Forgive me, but I am not a fan of their newer material. The best part of their performance was old songs—the ones that I listened to at age 16. The photo pit was swarming with photographers, which I always expect when bigger bands play. During one of their songs, a photographer standing next to me was texting on her phone. I assume she was telling a friend that Taking Back Sunday were playing, or something of the sort. Frontman Adam Lazzara, still singing, walked over to us and smacked the phone out of her hands with his microphone. The girl, stunned, managed to hold on to her iPhone and looked over at me with a shocked expression. I looked up to see guitarist John Nolan smiling and laughing at what he had seen.

After the rest of their set, I didn’t stick around for too long. It was fairly early, but my body was waving a white flag of surrender. I said goodbye to my friends and made the fairly long walk to my lot. It turns out that the lots look extremely similar, and I entered the wrong one. After wandering around like a lost puppy, I finally found the correct one. The traffic to exit wasn’t bad at all, which is rare for Warped Tour. I exited the grounds and made it to the Parkway. Normally, the drive home from Warped is a long one, but luckily, my house was less than 10 minutes away.

There are so many ways to describe Warped Tour. One thing is for sure: this tour brings people together. Fans all over the world are already counting down the days until the next summer. Amazing bands, wonderful memories, and crazy, half-naked people walking around with Trojan Condom airbrushed tattoos—what else could you want in a day? This event is made for fun, and that’s exactly what you’ll get during the summer at Warped Tour.