The annual teenage rite of passage for concert-goers known as the Vans Warped Tour returns to PNC Music Pavilion on July 7. With dozens of bands in tow, it's usually difficult to sort through the mediocre pile of artists to find the ones you ought to be paying attention to. Sure, there are the "headliners" — the bands that draw the crowds regardless of the time of day (Black Veil Brides, Asking Alexandria, Pierce the Veil), but there are also those bands on the verge, the artists with unique stories and, of course, the performances you should avoid. To help make Warped Tour easier, we offer this quick guide of five off-the-radar bands worth checking out, and three you'll be happy to stay away from.
WHO TO SEE
This Atlanta duo is comprised of drummer Michael McClellan and former Chariot/Norma Jean singer Josh Scogin. Scogin's raspy screams drive forth with abandon as McClellan hammers away constructing the rhythms. They're not afraid to let feedback ring before soaring into a riff and pummeling listeners with song after song. The music comes across as a fusion of the Black Keys and Jucifer. From all that I've seen and heard online, this one leads the pack going into the day for most-anticipated set.
Sgt. Corrin Campbell
Looking for the interesting story coming out of this year's Warped Tour? Here it is. Sgt. Corrin Campbell is the only original music artist endorsed by the military. She's an active Seargent in the Army. She's been deployed to Iraq, served in the National Guard and is currently stationed with the United States Army Recruiting Command in Kentucky. Go check out her pop-rock set and give some thanks to the armed services in the process.
Rami Matan Even-Esh, aka Kosha Dillz, raps in English, Hebrew and Spanish. He came up in the scene through freestyle battles which got him noticed by artists including RZA, Snoop Dogg, Matisyahu and Ghostface Killah. A recent anti-war song collaboration even got him noticed by ISIS — yep, they hacked his website. Warped Tour has always been known to bring hip-hop artists of note on tour — Yelawolf and Machine Gun Kelly come to mind from previous years — so Kosha Dillz is the one who should be on your radar this time around.
In the "which one of these bands is not like the other" category, Onward Etc. is at the top of the heap. An acoustic guitar and a fiddle on Warped Tour? Why not?! Not only can this South Dakota acoustic outfit give you a rest from all of the mosh pits and crowd surfing, they also sound really good, too. So far, they've been performing in the Acoustic Basement, which isn't always easy to get a good viewpoint, but they're worth making the effort to catch even part of their set. This is one of those bands I'd love to see do a late-night show at the Evening Muse.
Juliett Sims is one of those singer-songwriters I'm surprised isn't more of a household name by now. She first hit my radar on Warped Tour in 2010 when she was the attention-commanding frontwoman of the band Automatic Loveletter. In 2013, she performed a heart-wrenching solo set showing off her vocal prowess as her boyfriend, singer Andy Biersack of Black Veil Brides, looked on. In 2012, she was the runner-up on the television show The Voice. So, there's plenty of evidence that Simms has the talent it takes to make it in the business. Catch her now while she's still "that girl on Warped Tour..."
WHO TO SKIP
If there was just one band you should avoid at all costs, this is it. The metalcore band has plenty of cookie monster vocals to go around, but they take a big step toward Sucksville when they fuse in bad rapping — "I do whatever I want, I get whatever I need/And if you got a fuckin' problem you can swallow my seed" from "Horsepig." Or how about "Put your lips on my dick so you can taste success" from the song "About that Life." That's quality writing, innit? That's not to mention the homophobic slur on "Proving Ground." Seriously, you'd be better entertained if you let someone shit in your fishtank.
Fuse together elements of metal and EDM and lay on top of it the most juvenile lyrics you can think of, and you've got Drama Club. "I tried to get high, but I did the last hit/ I'm sick of this shit. Motherfucker goddamn here we go," the band sings on its single, "Fuk It." Yes, that's the way they spelled the song title, too. It gets better from there — "Fuck it, say fuck it with me/ with your hands in the air like 1, 2, 3." Ah, he must have been an English major in college.
Koo Koo Kanga Roo
This comedic dance-pop duo bills themselves as "Beastie Boys meets Sesame Street," but their music's not as cool as either. What grown adult wants to hear songs about favorite colors, the utlity of fanny packs and the chomping action of dinosaurs. Checking out the YouTube comments online, even some fifth graders aren't entertained. I mean, I know Warped Tour is aimed at a younger generation, but not that young. I wouldn't even play this music for my 2-year-old.