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July 29, 2014

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Warped Tour recap: surviving the heat and celebrating youthful exuberance

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Sam Morris

Anti-Flag drummer Pat Thetic plays from in front of the stage during the Las Vegas stop of the Vans Warped Tour Wednesday, June 20, 2012.

It was a sweat- and hormone-fueled afternoon at the 2012 Vans Warped Tour, which hit the Luxor festival grounds Wednesday. Thousands of fans, largely of the underage, dyed-and-pierced persuasion, braved the 104-degree heat to enjoy the daylong celebration of pop-punk, screamo, metal and more.

The grounds were already packed when the festival started just after 2 p.m. It was clearly a decision many regretted, and, for most of the afternoon, there were as many people sitting in the shade of the merch booths as there were standing and walking around. Stretchers flitted back and forth across the blacktop throughout the day wheeling off overheated attendees who waited too long to refill their water bottles.

2012 Vans Warped Tour

Fans cheer during a set at the Las Vegas stop of the Vans Warped Tour Wednesday, June 20, 2012. Launch slideshow »

In spite of the heat, a handful of fans could always be found attempting to mosh in front of one of the festival’s nine stages. Try as they might, even the most committed could do little more than march angrily in a circle, or throw their limbs around while standing in place in a move that was more akin to capoeira or krumping than the traditional head-banging and body slams.

Onstage, bands screamed, flailed and hurled themselves into the crowd, which sung (and screamed) along to songs with an almost religious fervor. In some cases, that was literal, as with Christian metal act For Today; with others, it was more about reveling in teenage nihilism.

“Las Vegas, let me see how many middle fingers you can put up!” shouted electro/screamo/dubstep act Breathe Carolina during their song “I.D.G.A.F,” an acronym that won’t take long to figure out.

Falling in Reverse, led by Las Vegan Ronnie Radke, drew an especially crazed crowd. After their set, the fans rushed the band’s merch tent in anticipation of their record signing, blocking all walking traffic and shrieking with Beatles-like hysteria upon Radke’s arrival.

One act stood out from among the testosterone- and power-chord-fueled angst: LA’s Dead Sara, one of the few Warped Tour bands with female members. But it was the quartet’s raw hard rock sound—not their gender—that ultimately distinguished them from the rest. Equal parts Siouxsie Sioux and Axl Rose, frontwoman Emily Armstrong howled, head-banged and writhed her way through the set, while the rest of the band delivered meaty, punk-infused anthems. By the end of the four-song set, the modest crowd had doubled in size; many were cheering, most looked shell-shocked.

And at a festival known for its raucousness, that’s no small feat.

Stray observations:

* Ill-advised: Putting the Jack Links beef jerky tent across from the Farm Animal Rights Movement booth.

* When you’re young and in love, you want to shout it from the rooftops; when you’re young and in love and at Warped Tour, apparently you want to show off the excessive amounts of hickeys on your neck and chest.

* If you want an idea of just how many teenagers go to Warped Tour, there was a “reverse daycare” tent, an air-conditioned, centrally located oasis for the many parents on chaperone duty

* Festival fail: Copies of the schedule—handed out for free at most festivals—cost $5. If you didn’t want to shell out, you had to press through the sweaty masses to get a glimpse of giant schedule board near the main stage and hope your memory served you well.

* Favorite moment: Watching two young fans gasp, shriek, then hug each other after waving at a favorite band member, who then waved back. Maybe it’s ridiculous, but it’s also one of those special moments and feelings you can only have when you’re a teenager.

Follow Andrea Domanick on Twitter at @AndreaDomanick and fan her on Facebook at Facebook.com/AndreaDomanick.

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