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This past Friday was Neostar Promotions’ first date covering the 2013 Vans Warped Tour at the Susquahanna Bank Center in Camden, NJ. With the weather forecast in the high 80’s and a 70% chance of rain, it was not looking good. This year, we partnered up with friends from various media outlets. Matt from Sight of Sound Magazine, Liana from Buzznet and Jess from Plugged In Promotions. New to the cast is contributing photographer Jaime Heim. Jaime has done several coverage for NSP before in the past but this year was his first year out at Warped with us. Even though Camden is only an hour-plus away from us, we decided to hit the road at 7:30am to meet the 11:00am door opening.

By the time we arrived, dark clouds have already gathered over the venue and a light sprinkling befell us. As the day progressed, it got wetter and wetter.

In the parking lot, I ran into the guys from Us, From Outside. I had contacted them the night before through a mutual friend to let them know I’ll be there. I have photographed these guys before in the past and was very happy for them to be playing on the Ernie Ball Stage today.

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Once we arrived at the venue, we checked in with Bethany, Warped’s onsite press coordinator, to get our credentials. After that, a brief chat with Warped Tour founder, Kevin Lyman, to get a feel of what’s in stored for today and then off we went. In the press room we received the daily schedule and saw that letlive. was playing first on the Kia Soul Stage inside the amphitheater. With half an hour before doors open, so we scouted the venue for the locations of the other stages and got ourselves ready for letlive.

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While most bands hate being the first performer of the day, letlive. seemed to really enjoy it. If there was any band that I say that you NEEDED TO SEE on Warped this year, it was letlive.! Within the first note, the band was on fire. Comparing the band on record to seeing them live is night and day. The energy and passion this band puts into their performances is something that I feel is missing in music today. Within the second song, frontman Jason Butler was already in the crowd. With fans tearing at his Black Flag shirt, he did not miss a single note. With that, the bar was already raised. The only question left was whether or not the rest of the acts could meet this high of an expectation.

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Next up was I See Stars on the Monster Stage. Over the years, I’ve probably photographed these guys about five-times already. But each time I shoot them, they put on a different performance. Be it in tank tops and shorts, wearing suits, face masks and lasers or for Warped Tour, custom basketball jerseys. It’s been great seeing this band move up over the years and I can see that they have MainStage potential. Though no strangers to controversy, I was relieved to see that they were still on the tour. Normally, when a band has duo vocalists, it tends to be a nightmare to shoot because you have to keep an eye on both singers as well as any of the other bands members near you. Luckily both Devin and Zach don’t run around the stage too much that I can get get a shot of both together.

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Immediately after the I See Stars set, I raced over to the Kevin Says Stage for Secrets. I was a fan of their debut ‘The Ascent‘ so I was really excited to see these guys. What really surprised me was how heavy they were live. Now with a sophomore release ‘Fragile Figures‘ heading out, the band has been hard at work introducing some of their newer material onto their set. So far, I liked what I heard.

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Back inside the Kia Forte Stage, Warped veterans Story of the Year was about to go on. 2013 marked the 10th year anniversary of Story of the Year’s debut release ‘Page Avenue.’ To celebrate, the band has been playing songs off of ‘Page Avenue’ as well as having an acoustic release entitled ‘Page Avenue: 10 Years and Counting’ due out sometime this year as well as a possible fifth studio release. It may seem like it’s been years since SOTY has been at Warped but in actuality, members of the band have been on consecutive years. In 2011, bassist Adam Russell, was on the tour along with Destroy Rebuild Until God Shows, a side project “supergroup” with with Craig Owens (lead vocalist, Chiodos), Matt Good (guitarist, From First to Last), Nick Martin (guitarist, Underminded), and Aaron Stern (drummer, Matchbook Romance). In the previous year, guitarists Ryan Phillips and Philip Sneed was on the tour with their own project, Greek Fire with SOTY vocalist Dan Marsala on drums.

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Back outside, I headed towards the Ernie Ball Stage to meet up with Us, From Outside as they were getting ready to go on. It was great to see the size of the crowd that has gathered in front of the stage. Again, having photographed them before in the past gave me an advantage as I knew what to look for as far as reading the band member’s body language. I was pleased with the results and so was the band.

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Seeing as every photographer and journalist was in the photo pit to cover Bring Me The Horizon’s set, I decided to head out and check out the other stages. The one thing I remember Bethany told me about Warped is that ‘it’s not about the bands you know, but the ones you don’t know. It’s all about discovering music.’ So I headed to the Spotify Stage and caught a band called Wallpaper. I was intrigued seeing as they had two drummers and a percussionist and was playing electro-pop. So I jumped into the photo pit at the start of their second song and snapped away. Today happened to be one of their drummer’s birthday so they surprised him with pies to the face. The guy didn’t miss a single beat and kept on playing. It was a very fun set and I’m glad I was there to witness it.

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Back on the Kia Forte Sage, the newly reformed Chiodos, with original vocalist, Craig Owens, and the return of Derrick Frost on the drums and the addition of Thomas Erak, former lead singer and guitarist of The Fall of Troy, the band seemed to have a renewed energy. I was relieve to hear “The Only Thing You Talk About,” a song off of Craig Owen’s side project D.R.U.G.S., become a staple on the setlist.

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Braving the rain, I set out to cover The Chariot‘s set on the Monster Energy Drink Stage. No stranger to The Chariot’s chaotic shows, I was both excited and nervous. Excited to see them live again but nervous because the rain is REALLY coming down hard and the makeshift rain cover I have on my camera gear is starting to fall apart. As the band was about to take the stage, they are introduced by “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” playing in the background. As soon as that first note was struck, frontman Josh Scogin was already at the edge of the stage leading this controlled chaos.

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Hoping to squeeze in a few more shots before throwing in the towel, I raced over to the Domo Stage to catch Tonight Alive‘s set. In the previous year, though I got the opportunity to interview Jenna and Whakaio, but have ended up missing their sets twice so I was determined not to miss them this time around. Unfortunately, the rain’s gotten so strong, it was impossible to keep the water off of my lens. Regardless, I stayed to watch their performance and it was worth it!

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Taking a break from the hectic schedule, I met up with Matt from Sight of Sound Magazine at press room and ran into Amanda, this year’s Pit Reporter, as well. (We ended up filming a clip about how to keep our gear dry in the report.)

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Unfortunately the rain had kept us from checking out most of the bands that played outside the amphitheater. But it did not keep us from getting the most coverage as we could for the day. Unfortunately, it was also too dark to continue shooting inside so we packed our gears and headed home. This was our first date of coverage but we will be back on for the Scranton show. See you in the pit!

This post was written by:

Henry Chung – When Henry’s not busy updating this page and speaking in third person, he’s busy shooting and editing pictures from concerts and designing logos for bands.

Photos Credits:
Henry Chung (www.flickr.com/photos/neostarstudios/)
Jaime Heim (www.jheimphotography.com/)
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