MANSFIELD — The 20-year-old Vans Warped Tour presents itself as a one-stop counterculture shop, with more than 10 stages serving as lazy Susans for a dizzying array of artists who use their musical talents to rage against the machines of romance, law, and mortality. Thursday’s stop at the Xfinity Center also showed how, for those artists, the brief window during which they get to show off their chops is only a small part of what they have to do to keep audiences’ attention.
Warped’s roots lie in aggressive, guitar-based music, and that was in no short supply during Thursday’s battery of short-and-snarly sets — the hydrochloric-acid vocal of Every Time I Die frontman Keith Buckley and Born of Osiris’s pummeling update of prog-metal were only two of the day’s myriad occasions for the sweaty hubs of bodily contact known as circle pits. Acts like the bubbly We Are the In Crowd and the violin-assisted Yellowcard presented a poppier take on punk; tour veterans like ska-punk lifers Less Than Jake acted as elder statesmen to the young-skewing crowd.
A couple of acts used punk as a jumping-off point into other genres; Breathe Carolina’s sneering take on electro was one of the day’s closer approximations of what’s on pop radio right now, while the hometown R&B/funk outfit Bad Rabbits blazed through an early-afternoon set on the Xfinity Center’s mainstage (which was split in two in order to facilitate constant movement between acts). Hip-hop, too, was in the mix with a makeshift “Bring It Back” stage and acts like Denver’s Air Dubai.
Walking through Warped is not unlike strolling through a particularly crowded bazaar; stages and booths stretched beyond the Xfinity Center’s confines and into the parking lot, which meant there were distractions at every turn. In addition to the food stands and outposts for sunscreen and battery-charging, each band had a stand where they could sell merch (including CDs, which were priced to move) and pose for pictures with fans; booths for streetwear brands, nonprofits with cheery aims like fighting cancer and going vegan, and sponsors (some of whom offered on-site music lessons to foster future Warped aspirants) were in plentiful supply.
Even though Warped stretches from midmorning to dusk, it’s possible to spend an entire day there without focusing on a particular set. This gives each individual act extra motivation to give their 30 or so minutes onstage their all, and to hustle just as hard in the off-hours — and it adds a charge that makes the day fly by.