Music News & Reviews

Local hard-core bands rock Sleep Train on Vans Warped Tour

Two area rock acts are bringing the noise closer to home when Vans Warped Tour ’14 makes its way to Sleep Train Amphitheatre in Wheatland on June 26.

Sacramento-area post-hard-core outfits A Lot Like Birds and A Skylit Drive are touring alongside the more than 100 bands that travel to 44 U.S. cities from April through August. Each show features artists performing 30-minute sets on 10 stages.

Even for the larger acts that play the tour’s two main stages, daily schedules are a mystery, with set times posted on an inflatable billboard each morning, said A Skylit Drive singer Michael Jagmin.

“You just don’t know where the day’s going to land,” he said. “It’s a different ballgame every time.”

Lodi-based A Skylit Drive will perform material from “ Rise,” its fifth and latest studio record, on the Ernie Ball Stage, a smaller side stage.

Jagmin, 29, who lives in Texas (the rest of band resides in Lodi), said he remembers looking forward to the Warped Tour every year when he was younger, waiting in meet-and-greet lines and venturing into the mosh pit. And not much has changed.

“It’s just crazy,” Jagmin said of the atmosphere.

The Warped Tour has expanded since it was established in 1995. Back then, it primarily featured punk bands. International versions of the tour have since taken Warped overseas to places such as Europe, Australia and Japan, and its lineup has expanded to include other alternative rock-based genres as musical tastes have changed.

In addition to burgeoning metal-core acts such as Of Mice & Men and Chelsea Grin, the 2014 bill includes established groups such as ’90s ska-punk band Less Than Jake and pop-rock act Yellowcard.

A Skylit Drive first played the Warped tour in 2009 alongside bands such as Chiodos, The Devil Wears Prada and A Day to Remember. Skylit members now consider themselves Warped Tour vets, said Jagmin, who added that performing so many dates in the summer sun takes stamina.

“It’ll push you to every extreme, but it’s not like you only enjoy it once it’s done,” he said.

The Warped experience – on and off stage – can be taxing for performers who can’t keep it together, Jagmin said.

“Most people go into it and things kind of take them over,” Jagmin said. “All of a sudden, they’re like, ‘Oh, I wonder why I can’t play to my full potential when it’s 100 degrees outside and I just drank a 40-ouncer last night.’ There’s your answer right there.”

But fans have it the hardest, he said, with many concertgoers standing outside in the heat for more than 10 hours.

“If we had to do it exactly how they do it, then it wouldn’t be possible,” he said. “Bands would be dropping like flies.”

Home sweet anxiety

Hometown gigs are a special night for A Lot Like Birds, which is set to play Warped’s Hard Rock Kevin Says Stage, another smaller stage.

It can be nerve-wracking with friends and familiars in the audience, said Like Birds singer Kurt Travis. “I always say I’d rather play in front of a thousand kids than five of my closest relatives,” he said.

The band plans to perform energetic material from its entire catalog, Travis said, including songs from their third and latest album, “ No Place,” released in September.

Alternative Press critic Jason Schreurs described “No Place” as a “maelstrom of screechy vocals and kinetic riffing one minute, and then an epic, noodling prog band the next,” calling the group one of the most ambitious “screamo” acts in years.

Travis, 30, grew up in Cameron Park and attended Ponderosa High School in Shingle Springs for part of his junior and senior years.

“There was never a shortage of kids to play with,” Travis said. “In high school, that’s all we were trying to do.”

The six-piece band formed in 2009, but is playing its first Warped Tour this year. The group previously toured internationally in support of “No Place.”

Travis said that being included on such an established tour is an honor, but he’s constantly thinking about what’s next for his band.

“I’ve gone to Australia,” he said. “I’ve gone to Europe three times. I have no idea how many times I’ve toured the U.S. It’s given me the opportunity to travel and have a good time. But am I satisfied? Hell no.”