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Ten Must-See Bands at Warped Tour

Motion City Soundtrack

Kevin Lyman‘s travelling punk rock circus will return to Chicago’s First Midwest Bank Amphitheatre for another day of blistering temps, circle pits, and “free hugs” signs. In hopes of helping you navigate the chaos, we’ve put together a list of bands you’d be nuts to miss at this year’s Vans Warped Tour. Strap on your Chucks, kids.

Motion City Soundtrack: 2013 marks Motion City Soundtrack’s eighth year sweating bullets at punk rock summer camp – which, as far as we’re concerned, cements their spot in the ranks of Warped Tour O.G.s like Pennywise, NOFX, Flogging Molly, and Less Than Jake. Regardless of whether you’re into Motion City’s bright, neurotic synth-pop, you owe them a visit in the name of Warped Tour history.

The Story So Far: This No-Cal quintet represent a quickly shrinking camp of no-frills punk. Despite the glimmering sound and catchy hooks permeating Under Soil And Dirt and What You Don’t See, The Story So Far’s sound is wholly organic. They remain, at base level, five kids playing honest tunes fast, loud, and tight – if that doesn’t give way to a great live set, we’re not sure what will.

The Wonder Years: The Wonder Years might not have invented DIY pop punk, but they’re certainly its new kings. With The Greatest Generation, the final installment of the band’s quasi-conceptual punk trilogy (does three concept albums make a concept career?) Soupy C. and his band of hyper-posi West-Philadelphians have pushed pop punk to almost uncomfortably daring limits. They’ve taken risk after risk and landed on their feet, this time at the front of the overcrowded (albeit fringe) pop punk pack. In that regard, this summer’s Warped audiences will witness The Wonder Years at a peculiar artistic crossroads. They’ve been the best; what comes next?

Citizen: If the Wonder Years are the kings of DIY, Citizen are its burgeoning tadpoles. Recently signed with indie-punk haven Run For Cover Records, these grunge revivalists released their aptly titled full-length debut, Youth, last month to positive niche reviews. Be sure to stop by their set (likely an early one) and take part in what Warped Tour was once all about: new talent.

Chiodos: This entry brought to you by: Craig Owens’ ceaseless artistic wanderlust. Though Michigan post-hardcore outfit Chiodos are currently touring in their fully reunited form, there’s no telling when one of Owens’ other pet projects – D.R.U.G.S., Isles & Glaciers, Cinematic Sunrise – will come calling. Though the band reportedly plans to enter the studio after their time on Warped, the fact remains that every Chiodos show could be the last Chiodos show. Best to catch them while you can.

Man Overboard: Going to Warped Tour and skipping Man Overboard is like going to Woodstock and skipping The Grateful Dead. They may not be the headlining act, but they epitomize the heart of the event, almost to the degree of satirizing it. They’ve got three chords; they’ve got gang vocals; they’ve got easy rhymes about ex-girlfriends. Hell, they’ve even got an old-fashioned forlorn-teen-skateboarding music video. Defend pop punk, kids.

Reel Big Fish: Reel Big Fish are one of the few remaining ghosts of the time when punk and ska bands headlined Warped Tour in peaceful cohabitation. Their set will be worth watching if only for a checker-clad trip down memory lane. Just don’t be surprised when RBF are having as much fun as in 1996; after 20 years in the game, what else could keep a band going?

August Burns Red: It’s not really Warped Tour if you don’t stumble upon some bloodcurdling metalcore act on your way to the Port-a-Potty. This year, make August Burns Red that metalcore act. Provided you can hold it, find somewhere a healthy distance from ABR fans’ windmill kicks and give these guys a serious listen. Once you’ve acclimatized to Jake Luhrs’ jungle cat-like roar, move on to JB Brubaker and Brent Rambler’s mathematically freakish guitar work. ABR will be supporting their June release, Rescue & Restore – the band’s most complex release of their ten-year career. We dare you to try keeping up.

Letlive.: This vicious post-hardcore quartet practically seeps with frenetic energy, and that’s just on tape. We could try helping you imagine how wildly Letlive.’s blend of hardcore, Southern rock, and rap (seriously) might translate to a live setting, but a few loops through their most recent LP, The Blackest Beautiful, will do the job twice as well. When a band sounds as rabid as Letlive. does in the studio, a near-apocalyptic live show usually follows.

We Came As Romans: If you’re going to watch one electro-melodic-metalcore-y band at this year’s Warped, make it We Came As Romans. Though relatively young in age, these Michigan natives trumpet an atypically positive message for their genre: hope (also the name of the first single off their third LP, Tracing Back Roots, scheduled for a July 23 release). While We Came As Romans may not be the biggest, baddest metalheads on this year’s bill, one gets the feeling that these kids are doing it for the right reasons. Not to mention, they’ve got a healthy appetite for fun. (Saturday@First Midwest Bank Amphitheatre.)

– Matt Pollock

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