On August 11th, I woke up at 4:30am to head to Seattle. Why, you ask? I don’t quite know, other than I was going to shoot my first Warped Tour. Why I picked such an early flight though? I don’t know, but Seattle is one of my favourite cities in the world so I guess I wanted to spend as much time there as I possibly could. The flight was smooth and didn’t take long which was nice, but we had tons of time to kill at SeaTac Airport. It beats driving for a whole day to get there though, so I'm not complaining. There was a girl on my flight who I saw wearing a Maine hoodie, so when I saw her waiting for her bags, I complimented her on it and told her that’s why I was here too. We got talking and ended up hanging out for a few hours while we waited for a ride, turns out she’s from Germany and has seen The Maine over 20 times! I really think it’s amazing how wearing something as simple as a hoodie can spark a conversation and you can meet people who you have a lot in common with. It was a really nice way to kick off the trip. (Katharina if you are reading this you are awesome and I wish we could have hung out longer!)
I woke up on Warped day feeling the usual pre-concert anxiety (or let’s be real, my day to day life anxiety). The venue was about 15 minutes outside of Auburn, a suburb half an hour south of Seattle. We got there around 10:45, and doors were 11. I went and got my photo pass, which was just a wristband, and then in my usual fashion, I cut the line. If you’ve never been to Warped then trust me, it’s not a big deal - it’s basically just organized chaos and easy to sneak in. If it was a normal GA show, I wouldn’t be that jerk, but also, I had a pass and a job to do, not to sound arrogant. I was confused as ever once I got in as I thought I had to “check in” with a press rep, but after wasting 20 minutes, turns out all I needed was my wristband and I was free to roam around. I missed The Summer Set which I was bummed about as I wanted to photograph them. On a personal note, I got to meet John O’Callaghan from The Maine again, and he wrote out lyrics that I’m getting as my next tattoo, so that was definitely a highlight of the day.
The 2016 Vans Warped Tour: A Look Back
The first band I photographed was Four Year Strong. After their set, I just wandered and got water, scoped out the amphitheatre, and then went to photograph Less Than Jake. Their set was really fun and entertaining, and their lead singer was decked out in a swaggin' outfit. Next I went to photograph one of my favourite bands, The Maine. They were so good. I stayed to watch their full set and they were awesome, I could watch them every night for the rest of my life to be honest. Next up was Reel Big Fish. Ska punk isn’t really my thing, but it’s so fun to watch live and definitely makes for more interesting shots. One of my favourites from Warped was actually of them.
Chris Demakes of Less Than Jake
John O'Callaghan of The Maine
Billy Kottage of Reel Big Fish
For the whole day, I basically just bounced around between the two main stages, because I liked pretty much all the bands that were playing and it just seemed like the easiest way to not miss anyone and to shoot as much as I could. Issues were on after Reel Big Fish. I really enjoyed their set, I don’t normally listen to them but they were really good live. Not to mention their Pokemon themed stage set up is so cool - they also opened their set with the Pokemon theme song. I was really disappointed though because I underexposed a lot of my shots from the set so I only had about 10 useable photos. I would love to photograph them again and do better next time.
Michael Bohn of Issues, favourite shot from their set for sure.
After Issues, it was back to the Left Foot Stage for one of my favourite pop punk bands, Yellowcard. It never gets old seeing them play on Warped Tour, and it’s hard to believe that was my last time ever seeing them play on Warped Tour. I remember first hearing them in high school, and seeing them open for All Time Low. I got really into their music, and their songs really had an impact and helped me through 10th grade. They’re one of the greatest pop punk bands of the last decade and I will miss them so much.
Sean Mackin and Ryan Key of Yellowcard. There are a few things compositionally wrong with this photograph, but I don't care because of the emotion they show in this shot. Knowing that I'll likely never see these two share the stage again breaks my heart.
After Yellowcard was The Story So Far, who played a tight set filled with old material and new. I was happy with my photos but not stoked. After them was Set It Off, and wow. They played a high energy set and were one of my favourite bands of the day. I’ve been a fan since lead singer Cody Carson was better known as rockmaniac89 on YouTube, so around the time they released their Calm Before The Storm EP. To see how much they have progressed and matured is incredible. I saw them on the Kevin Says Stage at Warped 2014, so to watch them tear up the main stage was really incredible. I don’t love their music as much as I used to, but it’s still really great and I wouldn’t ever want to miss out on seeing them.
Cody Carson of Set It Off
Sleeping With Sirens played next, and in terms of photos, I took some of my favourite ones of the day. I’m not into their music anymore, but they played a good set and I can see why I used to enjoy them and why so many 15 year olds nowadays enjoy them. New Found Glory were after them, and they definitely brought it. I was getting tired at this point though, I should have had a Red Bull or something but I'm TRYING to be healthy..... (If anyone from Red Bull is reading this - hi, my name is Josh and Red Bull excites me like the song "Don't Stop Believing" excites white people. Please sponsor me.)
Kellin Quinn of Sleeping With Sirens
Ian Grushka of New Found Glory. I'm such a sucker for posed live shots, I don't even know why - I think they just look really cool!
Tonight Alive played the Right Foot stage next, and it was challenging to shoot due to how bright it was and how low in the sky the sun was getting. I was bummed that I didn’t take any footage of them in the pit, but I was really happy with my still shots compared to the first time I ever photographed them back in 2014.
(Top): Jenna McDougall of Tonight Alive performing at MacEwan Ballroom in Calgary, AB, 2014.
(Bottom): Jenna McDougall of Tonight Alive performing at the 2016 Vans Warped Tour. I would say I've improved slightly.
After Tonight Alive was Waka Flocka Flame. Yep, you read right. Waka Flocka Flame played the last few dates of Warped this year. He’s really awesome to photograph, but we got kicked out after 2 songs instead of 3 which kinda sucked but hey, you gotta follow security’s requests. Real Friends played after, and they were good. Wasn’t super stoked on my shots as I was getting tired and it was again really bright and challenging to shoot.
Waka Flocka Flame
Mayday Parade played next, and they were good as usual, all six members jumping around and having fun. I was really happy with my photos of them compared to the first time I photographed them as well. After them was the always amazing We The Kings, who were full of energy despite playing so late and at the heat of the day. They’re always a crowd favourite which made for some cool footage. I watched their full set, and as they played Check Yes Juliet, it was clear to me that Warped was almost gone again.
Charles Trippy of We The Kings
The last band that I photographed was State Champs, who were one of my favourites of the day. Their music is great and their live show is even better. I didn’t get amazing photos of them, but I was happy with what I produced. As they played their last song, it was another one for the books, because there was no way in hell I was gonna stay to watch Falling In Reverse.
Derek DiScanio of State Champs
Overall, my first experience photographing Warped Tour was a positive one. I feel like my photography has improved a lot and that I know what to look for and how to execute it and not miss a shot. I learned a lot, and know what I can improve on for next time. I think next time, I’ll definitely shoot for (pun intended) going to more than one date. That way I’ll be able to not miss a single band. I missed out on Emarosa, With Confidence, Knuckle Puck and Waterparks this time around, just because I didn’t want to miss other acts on the main stage. I was also disappointed I didn’t shoot any heavier bands, so if I do more than one date next time, I can do that. Maybe I’ll even spread the dates out and I can photograph a variety of bands that might only be playing certain dates of the tour as well, who knows.
One of my favourite things about Warped was definitely how it’s still a first 3 song rule, despite sets being usually only 6. It means you basically get to shoot for half the set which I really enjoy. I was also really happy that I got shots of every drummer of almost every band. Normally I find drummers challenging to shoot, and sometimes even impossible, but I got useable shots and some favourites as well which you can see below.
Maxx Danzinger of Set It Off
Jake Bundrick of Mayday Parade
Evan Ambrosio of State Champs
To be perfectly honest, I don’t know how much longer Warped Tour will last. All I know that it’s been a huge part of my teenage years, and it was the highlight of my summer - just like I was 15 again (aside from seeing The Wombats in Seattle as well). To say that this was a dream come true would be an understatement. I'm proud to call these photos mine, and feel so blessed to be able to cross this off my bucket list. Hopefully I'll be back next summer, because after all - summer isn't the same without a good mosh pit.