Photos: Warped Tour Denver 2013 at Invesco Field at Mile High - Reverb

Warped Tour Denver 2013 at Invesco Field, 6-30-13 (photos, review)

Warped Tour turned 19 this year. And, as with any teenager, there have been growing pains, awkward moments, a few zits and plenty of attitude. But if you look really hard, there’s also something quite spectacular under all the swagger.

Warped started out in 1994 as a skate punk music and culture showcase. To say the tour has changed considerably since then would be an understatement: Gone is the mostly-punk line-up, replaced mostly with scene and metalcore bands.

Check out our photos of the crowds and the people of Warped Tour Denver 2013 here.

There was nary a mohawk in sight on Sunday at Sports Authority Field as the Warped train rolled into town. Instead, there were lots of kids wearing carefully-selected-from-Hot-Topic outfits. But guess what? We were all there to have a good time.

Main stage acts brought their A-game, with blistering sets from bigger-name bands such as August Burns Red, Chiodos, Reel Big Fish and Memphis Mayfire. And sure, that was fun. But Warped also has a great knack for giving an audience to bands that are just starting out. The festival’s real value lies in the smaller stages.

Here are a few bands we caught that are ones to watch:

William Beckett: Fans of now-split-up band the Academy Is… will be stoked to hear former frontman William Beckett is pouring all his emotions into solo efforts. The result are pop-punk songs that manage to be emotive yet still catchy (read: not whiny). His acoustic set in the Acoustic Basement tent was fun and intimate.

The Bunny Gang: The Denver-based band, fronted by Flogging Molly bassist Nathen Maxwell, plays honest and soulful punk/folk/dub-influenced songs that are unapologetically political in nature, yet a hell of a lot of fun to dance to. Conscious music is hard to come by, but this quartet will open your mind and get you moving.

Crossfaith: Japanese metalcore with turntables. Tamano Terufumi, who is also credited on their albums as contributing “screams” to the music, at one point somehow climbed up on top of the semi trailer/stage and started headbanging while running around. Watching the roadie chase him was almost as entertaining as their set. Almost. Unbelievable band, even if you don’t like metalcore.

Wallpaper: One of the most fun additions to this year’s Warped line-up was the Spotify stage, where the best in nerdcore, trap and dance music whipped the crowd into a frenzied mash-up of feather earrings, neon clothing and fedora hats. Among the day’s best was Wallpaper from Oakland, Calif. With songs like “BEST FU**ING SONG EVERRR,” this clearly isn’t music for deep thinking. And it doesn’t try to be.

Middle Finger Salute: Lead singer Adam Marsden set up his mic stand in the middle of the crowd for his set. The result was an intimate experience culminating in Marsden leading the crowd in Pied Piper-like fashion through the vendor area over to the MFS booth to buy merch. Brilliant. And terrific street-smart music that reminded me why I love punk rock so much: honest, raw and genuine.

letlive.: Complete chaos in post hardcore form, these guys went off. Vocalist Jason Butler makes Joe Cocker look calm on stage. Don’t know who Joe Cocker is? Google it.

Beebs and Her Moneymakers: Front lady Beebs is really a rockabilly Rainbow Brite. With her band decked out in equally-cartoonish outfits, it would be easy to write this band off as a gimmick at first glance. I’m glad I didn’t. Beebs has a set of pipes on her that must range four octaves, and her band, complete with horn section, aren’t slouches either. Funk, disco, ska and more, and it’s a hell of a lot of fun.

Side note observation: the last decade has seen a disturbing trend of really, really good-looking bands with perfectly-placed neck tattoos and hair coiffed just so. This year, we witnessed a 300 lb. front man rock his face off, nerdy-looking dudes playing solid music and having a blast, and lots more female-fronted acts. This is a step in the right direction. Music should be made for the sake of music. Not for image.

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Seth McConnell is a member of YourHub at The Denver Post and a regular contributor to Reverb.

Laura Keeney is a community manager for YourHub Denver who also writes about technology, business and nerdy things for The Denver Post. She’s quite obsessed with Joe Strummer. Follow her @yhlaura and @onnabugeisha.