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The Warped Tour 2017 - Darien Lake PAC, Darien, NY - July 13, 2017

By John Jeffrey
The Warped (Concert) Tour 2017 (presented by Vans) is the yearly music festival sponsored by Journeys, Monster Energy, Alternative Press, Epitaph Records, Full Sail University, Music Saves Lives, and several other music-related organizations.
The 2017 line-up announcement show was held on March 22nd at Full Sail University's campus in Orlando and was streamed online via webcast.  The main tour, which began June 16th, will run until August 6th in North America.  Following the tour, there will also be a sponsored cruise titled, "Warped Rewind At Sea," that will travel between New Orleans and Cozumel from October 28th to November 1st.  The cruise will include performances by a variety of bands from past Warped Tour lineups as well.
Warped Tour's stop in WNY at Darien Lake on Thursday, July 13th began as an uphill struggle for the concert promoter and stage crew, as the night before the show, the area was hit with severe thunder storms, which resulted in immense flooding throughout WNY.  In addition to main Darien Lake pavilion stage (which was divided in half - as Journeys Left Foot/Right Foot stages), there were 5 additional side stages needed to be constructed and due to the flooding, the staff had to be creative as to where side stages could be located within the confines of the venue, as the original designated areas were essentially a swamp marsh.
Due to time constraints, I was very limited on the number of bands I could cover on this year's Warped Tour, so the 2 main acts I sought out to review were 80's throwback, the Alarm, and the "Scumdogs of the Universe," Gwar.  Both being veteran bands in the truest sense of the word, I felt their addition to the Warped Tour added a unique element to the lineup.  While many of the bands appearing in this year's festival may still be paying their dues, both the Alarm and Gwar have certainly stood the test of time and certainly don't have anything to prove at this point in the careers.
The Alarm appeared on stage-left of the main stage, as their scheduled slot-time was 6:15pm.  As the band CKY continued  on - well past 6:15 - Mike Peters and his abridged, 3 piece version of the Alarm (they normally perform as a 5 piece, featuring a second guitarist and keyboard player), featuring Craig Adams (bass) and Steve "Smiley" Barnard (drums), seemed a bit antsy to get their set going.  Opening up with "Where Were You Hiding When the Storm Broke" around 6:30pm, Mike Peters and the Alarm hurried through a 10 song set, playing in front of the absolute smallest crowd I've ever seen gathered in front of the Darien Lake main stage.  While many people left the pavilion area in favor of some of the other side stages after CKY finished their set, this didn't seem to affect the Alarm one bit.  Having not performed in the United States for some time, this band from Wales smiled and waved to crowd, appearing to enjoy every minute that they graced the stage.  The 58 year old Peters ran around the stage like a madman, constantly switching between the center, left and right stage microphones, intermittently, throughout every song.  The older, diehard fans who stayed to watch their performance, loved every note of their set, and as the Alarm left the stage - after closing with "Two Rivers," Peters expressed his gratitude to the fans who stuck around.
Considering there was about an hour time difference between when the Alarm ended and Gwar would play the Mutant South stage, I decided to check out the next band playing on the Journeys Left Foot Stage. The band that took the stage looked like early Black Veil Brides fronted by Kat Von D.  The had a very heavy sound, but the vocals were completely melodic, with hooky, pop sensibilities.  Come to find out that the band just blew me away was a group by the name of: New Years Day.  Hailing from Anaheim, CA, the band has been pushing their twisted, theatrical metal since 2005.  Fronted by fashion guru, Ash Costello, of the "Bat Royalty" clothing line, New Years Day may very well be the "future of Heavy Metal," as recently cited by the one and only, Alice Cooper.  Blazing through their 7 song set, New Years Day were clearly a fan favorite, and for whatever they may lack in originality, they certainly make up in moxie.  Once New Years Day finished their set, it seemed as though the entire crowd watching them, followed the band to their merch tent, as they clearly had the largest line out of all of the merchandise stands I had seen throughout the day at Warped Tour.
Gwar hit the Mutant Stage right at 8:15pm sharp.  The first thing I noticed was that the band members are sporting brand new costumes.  While most of them were minor revisions of their traditional costume pieces, the member whose outfit was the most different was current lead singer, Blothar.  Blothar is now wearing a new mask, which was heavily inspired by the mask of Oderus Urungus, which was worn by the late Dave Brockie.  The other thing which was immediately evident was the fact that guitarist Mike Derks (aka Balsac, the Jaws 'o Death) was absent from the performance.  Guitarist Brent Purgason (aka Pustulus Maximus) did an impeccable job filling the void of the missing 2nd guitar, but Balsac's larger than life persona was definitely missed.
Although Gwar's super short 7 song setlist was a huge letdown (but kind of what you expect in a festival type setting), I still feel Gwar should have been on the main stage, doing their full show.  Doing such a short set on a small stage made their show come across kind of 'rinky dink.'  They certainly deserved a bigger and better platform for the one of a kind show that they always put on.
Of the 7 songs they performed, one was a new song ("Fuck This Place," from the forthcoming, 'The Blood of Gods' CD, which will be released in the fall on Metal Blade Records), the first to feature Blothar on vocals.  The song was 'OK' as I still feel the jury is still out on Blothar's voice.  Blothar sounds dramatically different from the sorely missed Oderus, and has a somewhat nasally Sam Kinison quality to his voice.  In fact, Blothar's voice seemed to suit the AC/DC cover, "If You Want Blood," better than the majority of the Gwar material he sang.  It's obvious that nobody can ever replace Dave Brockie, and perhaps it might take some time for Blothar's voice to grow on me.
At the end of the day, I wound up catching 3 short, but entertaining sets, by a trio of vastly different musical acts.  That's the great thing about Van's Warped Tour - you can take in as little or as much live music as you could possibly want, and come away completely satisfied.  Definitely an experience well worth the price admission.
For more on the Van's Warped tour, click here