VANS WARPED TOUR 2012, Cricket Wireless Amphitheatre, Chula Vista, CA, June 27th, 2012

The Vans Warped Tour Party in Sunny Southern California continued with the long running festival’s appearance in Chula Vista. About an hour away from San Diego, the weather once again proved to be utter perfection, and would be a brief reprieve before the scorching hot temperatures they would be encountering at the following Arizona and New Mexico dates. Unlike previous years, the tour would not be coming back through the Golden State, so this would be the last chance this year that SoCal kids would be able to experience all things Warped. The grounds of Cricket Wireless were easy to navigate and all of the stages were in fairly close proximately of each other, so it was easier than ever to explore new music as well as seek out the must see favorites. Here are the bands we reviewed at Warped Tour Chula Vista…


The Acoustic Basement Stage is the newest addition to the Vans Warped Tour, and judging by its overflow crowds throughout the day, chances are we will be seeing it happening in the future years ahead. Conceived by singer / songwriter Brian Marquis (ex-Therefore I Am), The Acoustic Basement Stage featured unplugged sets from acts such as A Loss For Words, Sleeping With Sirens, and Koji. Opening up the day was local San Diego talent James Morris, promoting his recently released EP entitled Speed Of Dark. Morris definitely has the knack for writing introspective lyrics and catchy melodies, and caught the attention of quite a few early arrivals who stayed on for the entire set. Kicking off with the title cut Speed Of Dark, Morris instantly won over the crowd with his easygoing manner and impressive songs. On The World Will Be Ours, Morris had an interesting message for reviewers, which I am not entirely sure is within the context of the original lyrics. Paper Planes was a song that impressed the audience along with the stunningly reflective Vacant – which clearly showed what a powerful songwriter James Morris is. Definitely a pleasant way to start off a Warped day, even if he isn’t too fond of reviewers. (Editor’s Note: I interviewed him and he’s a cool kid. Should be online soon.)


One of the big winners of the annual Ernie Ball Battle Of The Bands competition was A Shattered Hope, whose home base is in San Diego. The band’s humorously titled See You At The Grammys EP was released through ALF Records last year.  Although they are now a free agent with no apparent record label ties, there is no stopping the intensity and energy of their live set. Champion City was a highlight, a stunner of a tune that they are currently shooting a video for. Not A Damn Thing was another blast to the senses, and the sonic reverberations of Thanks For The Coffin really sent the hometown crowd spinning into the pit. They’ve toured all across the nation, so it was especially exciting to see A Shattered Hope perform on their own turf at an event as prestigious as Warped Tour. When chaos and melody mesh into a form of hardcore musical madness, you will find A Shattered Hope bringing you a live set well worth seeking out! Not sure if they will win ever be presented a Grammy by Kanye West, but expect to hear a lot more from A Shattered Hope in the months ahead.


The most refreshing music of the day was definitely coming from the House Of Marley Stage, where mostly hip-hop, reggae and ska artists converged. Ballyhoo! from Aberdeen, MD performed a wondrous mix of alternative and reggae, enrapturing all who wandered over to check the sweet melodies out.  On tour in support of their recently released Daydream effort on LAW Records (a label owned by members of Warped Tour veterans Pepper), Ballyhoo! brought the fun in the sun with their super infectious songs. Tunes such as Evil Penguin, Last Night, and Walk Away captured the crowd’s attention, and surely gained the band a good deal of converts who may not even normally listen to this style of music. Definitely the party band of the summer or any time of year, be sure to check out Ballyhoo!’s live set when they show up to bring the jams into your town! For fans of 311, Sublime, or anyone who wants to have a good time at a rock show.


One of the  surprises of Vans Warped Tour 2012 is the booking of unsigned artist Catchingyourclouds to most of the Southern California dates. This was definitely a star making chance of lifetime for front man Drake Christopher and his band, which normally reside within a small town in Arkansas. The songs Drake Christopher presents are enormously heartfelt, performed with a vibrant intimacy that really brings you deep into the material. There are a few random comparisons here and there to Warped troubadours of the past, but one clearly sees a massively talented singer / songwriter who can connect with fans in the same profound way Conor Oberst from Bright Eyes does. Your Very Own Trend was a standout song that really showed just how powerful a songwriter Drake Christopher is. And then there was the closing Lawl, which many in the Chula Vista crowd appeared to know and sang along with. This is music from the heart that will appeal to many. It will be very exciting to see what the future now has in store for Drake and Catchingyourclouds. Stay tuned and Catcharisingstar!


It was back to the House Of Marley stage to check out the groovy reggae vibes of Echo Movement from Asbury Park, NJ. Promoting an agenda of peace and love on this third planet from the Sun, Echo Movement presented an exciting selection of tunes that really made you want to dance and sway blissfully to the beat. Opening with the dynamically ambitious Spaceship Earth, Echo Movement were clearly one of the most compelling acts on the Warped road show. The funky retro keyboard work was a definitive standout, weaving its magic through the dazzling wall of sound. The sax and horn playing gave the tunes a timeless ska feel that was a lot of fun to witness. And especially noteworthy was front man Stephen, making sure the happy people in the crowd were feeling the positive vibes exuding from the stage. Other highlights from the show including the smoky inflections of the carefree Ganja and the wondrously crowd pleasing Red Sunday. Superb musicians all, making Warped an even more memorable experience.  An treasure trove of sonic artistry from true professionals who can deliver the goods!


It very well may have been several years since we’ve seen Yellowcard on the vast stages of Warped, but judging by the admiration of the very sizable crowd, the band was welcomed back with massively open arms. Opening with the familiar yet gorgeous sounds of Breathing, Yellowcard and their audience reconnected in a triumphant way. Performing a set of tunes from all periods of their illustrious career, selections such as For You And Your Denial and 5 Becomes 4 really dazzled the the sun drenched throngs. The band also premiered Always Summer from their upcoming album Southern Air, an instant hit with the audience at hand. Whether it was the technical strains of Light and Sounds or the thoughtful Only One, Yellowcard displayed pure showmanship and versatility that really stood out on the Kia Soul Main Stage. Closing their set with the trademark party song of the summer Ocean Avenue, one could see a band playing with a new found passion and energy, clearly enjoying time spent entertaining their fans. With Almost Summer being their second recording in two years, this is a clearly a new creative renaissance for Yellowcard. It is great to have these wonderful musicians back and in such top-notch form!


The last set this reviewer caught at the Chula Vista date of the Vans Warped Tour was the much-revered New Found Glory. On the tour supporting their superlative new effort Radiosurgery, New Found Glory unleashed a rapturous set of songs clearly demonstrating the now well-known fact that “Pop Punk is Not Dead!” In addition to their own exhilarating tunes, the band launched into a dazzling cover of the Green Day mainstay Welcome To Paradise. The crowd at the Kia Soul Main Stage pretty much exploded with sheer joy at hearing one classic band performing the signature tune of another great pop punk entity. Front man Jordan Pundik spoke of the Warped Tour as a community of people, stating the ultra vivid truth that, “This tour will change your life.” Even after 14 years, the music of New Found Glory sounds as fresh and alive as ever, and their connection with the audience was wondrous to behold.


And thus ended the Southern California dates of the Vans Warped Tour. With several more dates to go until their concluding show in Portland, Oregon on August 5th, there are still many chances to catch up with this legendary punk rock traveling show. As Warped Tour founder Kevin Lyman would tweet later on in the evening, “Country club living on the westcoast is over, dog days of warped are on and I love it.” If you see one single tour the entire year, you absolutely must go Warped!

(Review and Photos by Kenneth Morton)

James Morris on Facebook
A Shattered Hope on Facebook
Ballyhoo! on Facebook
Catchingyourclouds on Facebook
Echo Movement on Facebook
Yellowcard on Facebook
New Found Glory on Facebook
Vans Warped Tour Official Home Page


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