It was a bittersweet day this past Monday for Charlotte music lovers as the Vans Warped Tour 2018 made its annual stop at the PNC Music Pavilion. The traveling music festival has been a staple on the summer concert scene for over twenty years making its way across the country and bringing a full day of music and mayhem to festival attendees. But alas, as they say, all good things must come to an end and earlier this year festival founder Kevin Lyman announced that 2018 would be the final cross country run of Vans Warped Tour.
The festival brought over sixty musical acts to the Queen City crossing over just about every genre of rock music including metalcore, pop punk, alternative rock, ska, and even rap. The music was spread across six stages and offered a little something for everyone. I arrived at the venue amidst a sea of people waiting to get in for what would be for many a sad goodbye to an event that they grew up with and also a day to make musical memories that would last a lifetime. Once inside the gates, the first stop of the day is to the enormous blow up schedule that lists the set times for all the bands. Unlike most festivals, the lineup and set times change throughout the tour so you never really know what time each band is going on until you get there. Since I was already in the area, I decided to check out the side by side Monster Energy Mutant Stages which hosted a vast array of mainly metalcore bands throughout the day. I made it over just in time to see Buffalo natives Every Time I Die hit the stage. The band always puts on a high energy, intense live set and today was no different as vocalist Keith Buckley and guitarist Jordan Buckley lit up the stage. Unfortunately, before the end of their first song, the skies opened up with torrents of rain that would last for the next several hours so I grabbed my rain gear and made my way to the Journeys Stages which were under the roof inside the main amphitheater. The ska punk of Reel Big Fish was just getting under way and I enjoyed a short set of fun tunes led by vocalist and guitarist Aaron Barrett. The band is always a fan favorite and boasts a terrific horn section complete with sax, trumpet, and trombone. It was a party atmosphere as they led the crowd through a sing along of “Everyone Else Is An Asshole.” There are simply too many bands to touch on every performance that I saw but a few stand outs were Falling In Reverse who came out in flak jackets and were fronted by the one and only Ronnie Radke. I was also impressed by another ska punk band, The Interrupters. The band came out in cool matching black suits and lead vocalist Aimee Interrupter was on fire amping up the crowd at every turn.
When it looked like the weather finally cleared, I headed back outside to see what else was going on. The tour not only offers tons of music but also opportunities for fans to meet bands and get merchandise signed and learn about various charitable organizations and how they can get involved in helping animals, the environment, and to feed the hungry to name a few. The sun was really cooking as I hit the Mutant Stages once again.
Highlights of the evening included an outstanding set by Warped veterans Motionless In White. Led by frontman Chris Cerulli, MIW plays a unique blend of gothic metal and industrial and had a horror themed stage set complete with giant cemetery angels on each side and a bouquet of black and red roses on Cerulli’s microphone stand. They were easily one of the crowd favorites as they ran through some of their biggest hits including “Voices” and “Reincarnate.” Other standout acts were August Burns Red, a band that has made countless appearances at Warped and at one point was joined onstage by a giant gorilla. Australian metalcore band In Heart’s Wake also had a unique set as lead vocalist Jake Taylor made his way across the crowd, crowdsurfing in a huge inflatable raft.
For me the best was yet to come as the horror inspired Ice Nine Kills was still to come. The band has lyrics with horror themes and the music to match. This time out their set was off the charts with a horror movie theme with a theater background and ghoulish ushers on each side of the stage. INK always put on a hell of a show and tonight was no exception with lead vocalist Spencer Charmas making his way into the audience on several occasions as the crowd surfed to the barricade to get as close as they could. Before I knew it, Vans Warped Tour 2018 was officially over but the friends and memories made will last a lifetime. Do not miss your chance to see this iconic tour one last time before it’s too late.
Ice Nine Kills Set List:
Communion of the Cursed
Bloodbath & Beyond
Hell in the Hallways
The American Nightmare
Thank God It’s Friday
Me, Myslef, & Hyde
We would like to thank Natalie Schaffer from Big Picture Media for the credentials to review the show.