Warped Tour. Love it or hate it, you know what it is. To my knowledge the longest running punk & alternative festival in the world, it comes to Kansas City this July 28, 2016 at the newly renamed Providence Memorial Amphitheater in Bonner Springs (known by other previous names, but most commonly Sandstone).

Personally I find this year’s lineup to be the strongest in several years. With paired stages arranged so many of the pop-punk and nostalgia acts perform together, the heaviest acts have their own set of stages, and an arrangement of smaller punk, alternative, and metal acts scattered over three other stages, anyone that is a fan of one particular genre will likely be able to just camp at one stage for the day, and for those of us looking to sample the various styles and see particular bands, finding where a certain band plays should be very simplified. Likewise, the acoustic stage and a couple smaller stages appear to have vanished this year, making locating your favorite band easier as well, although unfortunate for those looking for slightly more intimate performances at the smaller stages.

All told, the lineup this year is too good to skip. If I can someone manage to attend three different stops I’ll just camp at a different paired stage each day (the lineup is that good), but the more likely situation for all of us is being forced to choose who to see over the course of one day. Here’s a dozen bands I intend to prioritize.

By stage, from smallest to largest:

Old Wounds
Stage: Full Sail

One of the smallest acts on this year’s tour, I listened to Old Wounds at the suggestion of a couple friends whose taste I trust. I’m usually not very into hardcore, but this band is incredible. Sludgy riffs and an almost black-metal style scream makes an interesting combination, and I can’t imagine this band’s set -not- erupting into the day’s best pit.

Cane Hill
Stage: Full Sail

Cane Hill combine djent-y metalcore with early nu-metal influences. They’re kind of the halfway point between Sworn In and KoRn, and they go HARD live. If you’re looking for a band that provides a new take on the current in-fashion sound, Cane Hill provide.

Like Pacific
Stage: Full Sail

One of the few modern pop-punk bands to really draw me in, Like Pacific have amazing lyrics and music rooted both in tradition and current taste. Similar to bigger acts like The Story So Far and Knuckle Puck, Like Pacific just outmatch their contemporaries in songwriting.

Palaye Royale
Stage: Full Sail

If you looked at Palaye Royale before listening, it would be easy to assume the band are a Black Veil Brides ripoff. And while they dress like a melodramtic goth rock band, their sound is actually much more in line with classic rock and southern-fried radio darlings Kings Of Leon. Featuring swampy organ lines, a foot-stomping 70s hard rock swing, and impeccable stage presence, this is a band with a very good chance at headlining Warped one day. Or Lollapalooza.

Too Close To Touch
Stage: Cyclops

Too Close To Touch are a lot more melodic than most of their fellow Warped Tour acts, but that doesn’t make them less heavy. Featuring dark, swirling instrumentals and intense clean vocals often bordering on screams (think Issues or Saosin), this band isn’t likely to trigger many mosh pits, but that doesn’t mean the crowd is going to be going any less crazy.

Stage: Monster Energy South

I caught Coldrain a few months ago opening for Northlane and Volumes, and they blew both of the headliners off the stage. Coldrain are a Japanese melodic metalcore band, but they also liberally add elements of post-hardcore that were popular 10-12 years ago. The result is something that sounds both like the bands I grew up on and the bands currently dominated the scene. They’re going to be huge, so if you can spare the time, make sure you see them soon.

Stage: Monster Energy South

My favorite act from Warped two years ago, Vanna are back. If you’ve never experienced a Vanna performance, there aren’t really words to describe it. Every Time I Die’s energy, Letlive’s antics, and the biggest, most mosh-ready riffs song after song. They had the day’s wildest pit two years ago despite playing at 12:30 in the afternoon. If they get a late afternoon time slot, watch out.

Every Time I Die
Stage: Monster Energy North

Every Time I Die are Warped Tour veterans, but every ETID show you can attend is one you should attend. They simply do not have off days, and always put on an amazing show no matter where they are.

Stage: Monster Energy North

Legends of the scene a decade ago, Atreyu recently reunited, and are easily one of the biggest names on this year’s tour. Drummer and clean vocalist Brandon Saller somehow sounds better live that recorded, and screamer Alex Varkatzas is one of post-hardcore’s most signature voices. Likely to play a mix of greatest hits and new songs, there will be a little something for everyone during their performance.

Real Friends
Stage: Journeys Right Foot

Much like Like Pacific, Real Friends combine the New Found Glory brand of pop-punk with the gruffer, more vocally intense style that’s currently popular. And also like Like Pacific, they excel at hooks and songwriting. It’s great to see them get Main Stage billing.

Sum 41
Stage: Journeys Left Foot

One of my longest running bucketlist bands, Sum 41 is touring again for the first time after frontman Deryck Whibley’s drinking nearly killed him. They’re also one of the biggest “old school” names to join the tour in a long time. Their blend of punk with elements of metal sounds a little out of the current mainstream, but it still sounds as good as it did a decade ago.

Good Charlotte
Stage: Journeys Left Foot

When you think pop-punk, there’s a very good possibility Good Charlotte come to mind as the number one band that either popularized or killed the genre. They are hands down the biggest name on this year’s tour, which is a surprising choice for their first full comeback tour after going on hiatus a few years ago, and the opportunity to catch them should not be missed.

There are many, many more legendary bands on this year’s lineup (New Found Glory, Less Than Jake, Yellowcard, Whitechapel, Veil Of Maya, Bullet For My Valentine, and excellent up-and-coming metalcore act Silent Planet, to name a few), so this is far from a complete list of bands worth seeing. Who did I miss or pass up?

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