Review / photos: Warped Tour 2013 brings The Used, Chiodos, Never Shout Never, Set It Off to Vinoy Park in St. Petersburg
An hour after performing at the Vans Warped Tour, Cody Carson was back amid the buses, still squeezing sweat from his necktie.
He gestured toward the gates of Vinoy Park. “It’s so weird,” said the Set It Off singer. “I’m so used to walking through that entrance, trying to see if I can see my favorite bands through the gate. Now we’re that band.”
It was a Warped Tour to remember for the North Pinellas pop-punk band that, after playing a couple of smaller Warped dates since 2009, had graduated to full-summer status. Sure, they played early in the day, on the fifth- or sixth-biggest stage, but who’s counting?
“I woke up this morning, my cell phone was blowing up with text messages: Hey, I’m here, let’s hang out,” said Set It Off guitarist Dan Clermont, who’s been coming with Carson to St. Pete Warped shows since 2004. “There’s no place like home.”
Carson and Clermont have been coming to St. Pete Warped shows since 2004. They have to. It’s a rite of passage for kids of a certain type, those heedless and tattooed loners and lovers who want to lose themselves in their music. And for all the shirtless circle pits and eardrum-piercing punk and metal, it’s Warped’s message of inclusion that draws them back year after year. To a one, every artist on every stage preached a message of gratitude, of optimism, of community, of positivity.
“Believe in yourself and know what you want,” Never Shout Never singer Christofer Drew Ingle told the crowd. “That’s all.”
That sense of inclusion was reflected on this year’s bill, one of the most musically diverse in years, with artists spanning genres from pop to folk to EDM. On one stage you had postmodern party-starter Wallpaper., who advised the crowd: “Be safe. Don’t f--- without a condom.” In an acoustic tent, you had intimate, heartfelt, unplugged performances by headline-level singer-songwriters like William Beckett of The Academy Is... and Craig Owens of Chiodos (who did, in fact, draw a massive crowd to one of the two main stages earlier in the day.)
You had ska kings Reel Big Fish, who’ve been playing Warped since 1997, ripping up silly covers of A-Ha’s Take On Me and Carly Rae Jepsen’s Call Me Maybe. You had Maroon 5-ish pop-rockers Action Item, whose jazzy Lucky meandered into a slinky, piano-driven chorus to Daft Punk’s summer anthem Get Lucky. You had New Zealand rockabilly chanteuse Gin Wigmore, who — mark it down — is a star waiting to happen, the sort of fierce talent Jack White would love to jam with, singing about how she’s “got lots of jealous lovers that all wish they had me back” on Black Sheep.
And then you had Five Knives, a mirror-masked electro-pop quartet from Nashville whose singer, Anna Worstell, couldn’t bear the thought of missing Warped. “I almost canceled this show today because my foot might be broken,” she said, adding: “Just because my foot’s injured doesn’t mean I’m not going to jump on your faces.” And that she did — after scaling the drum kit, she actually leaped into the crowd to surf, bum foot and all.
This being Warped, it did get mighty loud on the main stages. The Used, and a bevy of women behind them, all donned neon balaclavas, proclaiming their support for jailed Russian punk gruop Pussy Riot; after stripping them off, frontman Bert McCracken became a pained, painted dervish, spewing spit and colored dust packets from the stage. Metalcore singers Matty Mullins of Memphis May Fire, Oliver Sykes of Bring Me The Horizon and Kellin Quinn of Sleeping With Sirens led their groups through dynamic main stage sets that transcended the crushing brutality that can constrain that genre.
And then there were the locals. Set It Off, acolytes of Fall Out Boy, Panic! At The Disco and My Chemical Romance, played to the crowd with Carson’s acrobatic voice and theatrical energy. Carson, delivering a version of a speech he’s delivered many times on the road, thanked the crowd and reminded them that just a few years ago, Set It Off stood where they stood.
This was the third time Set It Off has played St. Pete’s Warped Tour stop, but the first two were small-time, with limited access. This was the first time that Carson’s mom, Stephanie, and sister, Cambia Carson Catarelli, actually came out to see them.
“The coolest thing to me is to hear the crowd sing all the words that Cody wrote,” Stephanie said.
It happened on Dream Catcher, a song where the band dropped out and the hometown crowd kept singing. Afterward, Carson said he got goosebumps just thinking about it.
“I’m never gonna forget today for the rest of my life,” he said. “This is a milestone. This is what you fight for.”
So it was for Jenna Bush, 14, of Ocala. She came to see Juliet Simms, the former Clearwater singer who found national fame on NBC’s The Voice, and her boyfriend Andy Biersack of glam-metal outfit Black Veil Brides. It was their music, she said afterward, that helped convince her to stop cutting her arms with a razor blade; she specifically cited Simms’ song Hush.
So when Simms closed her short acoustic set with Hush — with Biersack watching admiringly from behind the stage, no less — Jenna, standing in the front row, couldn’t help herself, bursting into tears. Simms stopped the song to hug her and kiss both her cheeks, and later passed her the mic to sing along.
“It was literally the most amazing moment of my life,” Jenna said, still shaking. “I will never forget this day."