Review by Robert Moody and Photos by Sean Larkin
Rock City was full to bursting on Sunday night as a quartet of American bands joined forces for the opening night of the Road to Warped Tour, which culminates in the multi-stage Warped Tour UK event in London next Saturday.
Providing an appropriate start to the evening, a band taking their name from a song by the evening’s headliners, The Story So Far, took to the stage to open the show. And a large portion of the crowd had no hesitation in joining in from the first note of a 25 minute set full of anthemic singalongs and crowd surfing. Vocalist Parker Cannon has a passionate delivery and this clearly resonated with the crowd as every song had the crowd surging forward and joining in with the show. Whilst this is the 3rd time the band are touring the UK promoting last year’s release Under Soil and Dirt, on tonight’s evidence the songs have not lost their appeal with their fans and the strong response from the audience as they closed out with ‘Quicksand’ suggested they had won themselves several new fans.
After a short break it was the turn of New Jersey pop-punkers Man Overboard to keep the energy levels up. Once again the crowd responded from the first song and kept going throughout the half hour set, which showcased a variety of the bands work, from the more upbeat ‘Fantasy Girl’ through to the more melancholy ‘Atlas’. Vocalists Zac Eisenstein and Nik Bruzzese have contrasting styles but complemented each other well, and the band hardly paused for breath throughout the whole set. Once again there was a warm response for Man Overboard as they ended their set, and it would not be a surprise to see them playing to bigger audiences in future.
Having opened with two bands who are relatively new to the music scene, the focus then shifted to a far more established name, in the shape of Gainesville, Florida’s Less Than Jake. Now into their 20th year as a band, there was no easing into their set, as they launched straight into ‘Gainesville Rock City’ to a huge reaction from the crowd. Favourites such as ‘The Science of Selling Yourself Short’ and ‘All My Best Friends Are Metalheads’ appeared surprisingly early in the set, which helped to add to the party atmosphere. As always, the band were also determined to have fun on stage, with no shortage of crowd interaction and insults being hurled and random audience members – “why have you come dressed as a convict?” was a particularly random highlight. As they finished the set with ‘Plastic Cup Politics’, Less Than Jake left everyone in no doubt that even after two decades of making music, they are still at the forefront of their genre, and probably won’t be going anywhere anytime soon.
There was still one more band to play though, as Floridian Pop-Punkers New Found Glory closed out the evening with a slightly different set to their usual offering – playing their 2002 album Sticks And Stones cover to cover in celebration of its 10-year anniversary. This meant that the set kicked off with ‘Understatement’ and ‘My Friends Over You’, two huge songs which had the entire audience singing along to every word. Whilst the level of movement in the crowd died down somewhat during some of the lesser known ‘album tracks’ every song was well received, and after leaving the stage to a chorus of cheers the band then returned to a play a 6-song encore of some of their most well known songs, including ‘All Downhill From Here’, ‘Dressed To Kill’ and ‘Hit Or Miss’ that sent the crowd into overdrive. The whole band looked to be thoroughly enjoying the whole set – vocalist Jordan Pundik covered the length of the stage countless times and guitarists Chad Gilbert and Steve Klein played with a level of energy and enthusiasm that belied the band’s many years of touring. With a set lasting well over an hour, the crowd was left more than satisfied with what was a thoroughly enjoyable night.
And you can see more shots from the show here: