Valley Bands Sweat It Out on Warped Tour Stages
A decade ago, it wouldn't have been difficult to imagine the Vans Warped Tour sputtering out long before the final year of the Mayan calendar. How could it even be possible to keep the freewheeling tour — uniting rock, punk, and everything-in-between bands — for 19 years? But it bears stating the obvious: Warped Tour has proved a resilient beast.
Massive, too: More than 100 groups will share time on multiple stages, including local Warped Tour veterans Blessthefall, who will be playing the full tour, and Blood on the Dance Floor, who embark on July 10 for the tour's duration, until it winds down in August.
But they aren't the only Valley bands getting Warped this summer. Get to know three up-and-comers that will be playing on Thursday, June 28, at Camelback Ranch in Glendale, along with headliners Taking Back Sunday, New Found Glory, and The Used.
Forget showering for a week — that's one luxury local rock band Sleepwalker can go without when it means hitting the road. The band lives by a DIY work ethic, which includes completely renovating a van the guitarist's dad purchased for $500 and a gun in a trade. With their limited budget, hotel stays aren't a priority — connecting with new fans is.
"We're going into it with optimism and a good attitude," says singer Brian Blevins, 24. "If it means we're broke, smelly, and tired all day, we'll deal with it with a smile on our faces."
Their week-long Warped Tour jaunt, earned by winning the Ernie Ball Battle of the Bands last year, began last week in Las Vegas and culminates in Phoenix. While they played the Phoenix date last year, this year's tour is the band's most extensive touring experience. Expect songs from their debut album, New Age Inertia, which was released in March and includes some socially charged themes.
"It's about people being aware of everything around them as a person and as a citizen," Blevins says. "It talks about recognizing you do have a voice and an opinion and can be smarter than society would think you are, just in recognizing what's going on and having deeper thought going into your surroundings."
Beyond spreading their music to the masses, the band has been showing off its hometown pride, both in conversations with new admirers and in on-stage apparel.
"I went to Buffalo Exchange and bought a Phoenix Suns shirt to wear while I'm playing," Blevins says. "Plus, Arizona's got a really eclectic, hard-working music scene, so just walking the walk most of us talk about playing locally will show how hard-working the Phoenix bands are. We want to not only promote ourselves but also a lot of our talented friends."
And they learned some important lessons from their Warped Tour date last year for their show today.
"Last year, the Arizona date was notoriously one of the hottest," Blevins says. "It was tough because we hadn't played in that climate before, and it was really tiring. We were surprised how much it took out of us. This year we're going to be a little smarter about it, bringing extra water, taking it easy, not getting too pumped up and burning ourselves out before we play our set."
THIS COUNTS FOR EVERYTHING
The Ernie Ball Battle of the Bands has been good to This Counts for Everything, too. The six-piece group beat out nearly 300 bands to play the Phoenix stage, a feat considering they've only been together since November 2011.
But the group has always been used to moving quickly — they released their first single, "Dangerous Ties," within a week of recording, and they released their debut EP, Taking on the World, this past April. The band credits its unique and refreshing sound with the win.
"We have a vocalist whose tonality isn't quite conventional for the style of music we play, but it still sounds and feels good," says bassist Justin Kristich, commenting on the melodic talent of singer Colten Hood, whom the rest of the band found on YouTube. "We believe that helps us stick out and is what is most unique about our music. On the refreshing aspect, we are pretty open to the styles of music we write. We can go from a high-energy pop punk with leads that make you want to move, and we can go to a harder rock style with just as much energy but having a heavier undertone that is an in-your-face feeling."
The guys say they're looking forward to reaching such a big audience at the Phoenix show and hope they stick in audience member's minds after the Warped Tour.
"We want people who watch us to remember us because of the energy and passion we have for our music," Hood says. "We are looking forward to playing because this is the biggest and best music festival, and we are extremely grateful for the opportunity to play."
THE SECRETS WE KEEP
The Secrets We Keep is a Warped alumnus, taking the stage in Phoenix last year and earning another spot in Phoenix this year, thanks to a New Times-sponsored battle of the bands, beating out more than 20 bands. The post-hardcore fivesome credits their professional act with beating the competition.
"We usually try to go all out and interact with the crowd as much as possible, and we just like to have a good time live," says bassist Josh Lopez. "We put all our passion and blood, sweat, and tears into our music."
The band released its debut disc this March, the six-song EP, Please Stand By, which they'll be performing during their Warped Tour set. The EP was influenced by like-minded bands from The Receiving End of Sirens to Emery, uniting heavy themes with melodic elements.
The band plans on releasing a video for their single "Cellmates in Hell" by summer's end, but for today, it's all about staying cool and collected for the fans who voted them in and for the new ones they hope to gain.
"Last year, I felt like we played a set three times when we got off-stage — I was drenched in sweat, and my fingers had blisters on them from rubbing on my guitar," Lopez says. "Last year, we made the mistake of coming without water, so water's going to be a big thing."
And even though their show this week is a hometown performance, the band still plans on making their mark amid the national acts they're sharing the bill with.
"As far as representing Phoenix, I think we earned our way onto this show," says singer Jeffrey Becker. "We worked really hard to earn the fans we have now, and we really want to impress the people at Warped. We want to say, 'Hey, Warped Tour, we are here to show you what Arizona music has to offer, and this is what we do.'"
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