Traditionally a punk-rock showcase, the roving cavalcade known as the Vans Warped Tour has grown to feature nearly 100 bands on multiple stages throughout the day, offering a reliable mix of pop-punk, metal, emo, and hardcore acts. The 20th annual tour, which rolls into the Xfinity Center on Thursday, is anchored by big names in those genres from around the world, including Less Than Jake, Breath Carolina, Mayday Parade, the Devil Wears Prada, and the Story So Far. And as usual, there’s a strong showing from New England-based acts, including melodic-hardcore bands Four Year Strong from Worcester and Vanna from Boston.
“Warped is so unique because there are so many different styles of music being played everyday,” says Spencer Charnas of Ice Nine Kills, a metalcore act that formed in Swampscott and Marblehead in 2004. “Kids can hear everything from extremely heavy metal bands to radio-friendly pop acts. This gives the bands such a great opportunity to be heard by people who they could never have otherwise reached.”
We checked in with Charnas and two other acts with local ties, Bad Rabbits and Brian Marquis, for a midtour update.
Vans Warped Tour
Although it’s the band’s third summer playing Warped dates, this is Ice Nine Kills’ first time doing the entire tour. “Back in 2008, we were a band just following the tour and selling our music with iPods, Charnas says. “We hoped that spreading our music to potential listeners would eventually pay off and allow us to play on this very tour someday. Today we played in Indiana, yesterday in St. Louis, the week before in Los Angeles, all to massive crowds screaming our lyrics back to us. It’s these kind of shows that prove to me that all that heart that we put into this band over the years is paying off.”
For bands like Ice Nine Kills, whose latest album is “The Predator Becomes The Prey” — and who have been featuring a heavy cover of Adele’s “Someone Like You” on tour — Warped is as much about being a fan as a performer. “Finch, Saves the Day, and Less Than Jake are three of my favorite bands, who still influence the stuff I write to this day,” he says. “Getting to play alongside bands that shaped my musical taste and writing is absolutely incredible. I’ve gotten a chance to hang with all three of those groups, and they are all really down to earth and humble people.”
Now appearing on their second Warped run, funk-R&B-pop party-starters Bad Rabbits have been a familiar name on the Boston scene since they started out at Northeastern University around 10 years ago. “The sense of camaraderie and community is pretty crazy,” guitarist Salim Akram says. “It’s like summer camp for bands.” The romantic, danceable tracks on the band’s latest, “American Love,” set them apart from some of the other acts on the tour. (Check out their recent “We Can Roll” video for a “good sense of what a Bad Rabbits show is like,” he says.)
But they’ve been subsisting on a steady diet of heavy, Akram says, with Every Time I Die, Vanna, Stray From the Path, and Enter Shikari being particular highlights. As for advice for kids coming to their first Warped, Akram’s pointers are ones you’ll hear from most of the bands: “Bring sunblock and a water bottle. They’ve got a free water station every day.”
“Bad Rabbits are hands down the band to catch out here,” says Marquis, who previously played Warped as the frontman for post-hardcore act Therefore I Am. Now taking his third tour as a solo folk act, Marquis also curates the Acoustic Basement tent, in which bands offer a quieter alternative to their usual high-energy sets. “They’re incredibly talented and have so much energy on stage,” he adds. “They also play acoustic in my tent, and it’s killer.”
Warped, Marquis says, is “truly something unique and special. There is more of a family bond amongst all of the crew and artists here that is unparalleled on any other tour I have ever done. There is nothing quite like it.”
It doesn’t hurt that Marquis has actual family on the tour: His younger brother Shawn plays with Vanna. “I got to jump up and sing a song with them on the main stage one day,” he says. “It’s fun to be in a loud band again for a song.” Certainly more fun than getting struck by lightning last year, an event the stage crew commemorated by attaching a promo poster of Marquis’s face to a weather vane atop the stage.
There’s more to the show than just partying, Marquis says. “Get here early, see as many new bands as possible, wear sunscreen, drink loads of water, and eat something,” he advises. Equally important, “check out all the nonprofits doing good for our community and the world. And have a blast.”