I'll be 24 in a month. It's an age that's a middle ground for Warped Tour with both attendees and performers. Honestly, the last Warped Tour I attended was in 2002. Boy, was it a portrait of my youth. One giant bill filled just about every CD in my collection. (That's right kids, those shiny plastic things that were played on ancient brick machines with giant headphones.)
This year (and the line-ups for the past few years) make me feel old and out of the loop. Catching some glimpses of some artists' (can we call them that?) sets was bewildering enough, but it was the young crowd's reaction - bright neon and high pitch screams fit for teeny-bopper showcases - that made me want to raise my cane and scream "Get off my lawn!"
One of the things that has always attracted me to punk - or whatever the thing is - is its ability to be creative and off the track. It's not the sound, it's the substance and the passion. There's a performance fit for a stage and then there's a staged performance. It's cookie cutter, predictable, and as an avid music fan constantly looking for a fix, not worth the time and space when so many others are having to claw at it with music of greater value.
How much of an elitist prick do I sound like at this point?
It just boggles my mind. Then again, I was young once. Like generations before me who shunned the "next" thing that was "ripping off the old thing," I guess I'm that bitter old fan at this point in my life. So to cut this rant short and get on to the day, I'll end on this: Whether you're a music listener or a creator, just don't be in it for a market. Be in it for the music and your love and true devotion for it. We already have a major label industry we've all had enough of that's a process of American mediocrity. We don't want to instill that on the next generation.
So, how was the day?
Well, the rain held up (for the most part) and starting off the day was Every Time I Die who just came out blazing and heavy. It was the pregame everyone needed for the day. As the band launched into "Ebolarama," the crowd went absolutely insane. "Bored Stiff" opened up the biggest circle pit I had seen all day. During "Floater," Keith Buckley asked the crowd to (which they did) perform the "crawl of death."
Missing Motion City Soundtrack for my interview with Andrew WK, I could hear Ace Enders belting out a great set for I Can Make a Mess Like Nobody's Business outside the press area. Talk about a guy's voice that carries. Pretty bummed I missed the gig, but glad I got to hear most it. Word is he ended with "Ever So Sweet," so another reason to catch Enders out there this summer.
I was able to catch a bit of Face to Face's set before my interview with Alkaline Trio, and they were spot on. After my interview with Matt Skiba, I walked around the booths. A lot of organizations out there this year, including Keep a Breast, Take Action, To Write Love on Her Arms, Truth and Shirts For a Cure.
Truth has a full ride set up including games and giveaways happening all day. I was able to speak with Jason over at To Write Love on Her Arms. He says the response this year has been great. He's also informed me of a new program the organization is working on called I'm Alive. The program will set-up online relay networks (much like the 1-800-Suicide Hotline). The organization is still in the process of working out funding for the program to train their relay workers and get things off the ground.
Shirts For a Cure was selling a swank new tee (which I picked up) in regards to the BP crisis in the gulf. Four Year Strong was selling a similar one. The best shirt of the tour goes to Top Shelf Records though, with the tag line "Stop Listening to Awful Fucking Music," being a big seller for the tour so far. The record company was teamed with No Sleep Records for a tent this year. Go by and check out some great music from both labels.
After a walk around the tents, I ended up at the Kevin Says stage where The Mighty Regis was playing a set Ireland would be proud of. Absolutely fun, and for the 100 or so people that were there, they were all having a blast. Definitely the "stumble upon" winner of this year's visit.
Whether you think Andrew WK's music is best spread upon crackers with a glass of wine, there's no denying the energy and positivity the man brings to the table. In an interesting interview, it seems like Andrew WK is the definition of the reverse mullet. He's a smart businessman who puts his music and fans first. Everyday he opens the "Party Tent" to hours of signings and photos to his fans. His music is infectiously outgoing, and when the set ended with "Party Hard," the crowd went absolutely ape shit with a positive rage. Great set. Great guy. Good times.
I split sets with Alkaline Trio and Set Your Goals. Both artists put on great shows. While Alkaline's soaked up the newly arrived sun with a punk ease, Set Your Goals got the younger crowd going, even pulling out one from their old EP. Unfortunately I missed Four Year Strong right after to catch Dillinger Escape Plan (sorry Dan). Be sure to support both bands. They certainly give me hope in the pop punk genre and make me feel just a bit like it's 2002 all over again.
The Dillinger Escape Plan are crazy. Ben Weinman is fucking nuts. During the second song, he knocks over his amp. Drums are destroyed during the final moments, members climb to the pit, and through all the insanity, the band still tore it up. There's no gimmick, only a raw show. It's like watching The Descedants play the main stage around watered down pop punk, or Black Flag open for uninspired hardcore. It was eye opening to sit there and watch a veteran run circles around the young ones' choreographed sets.
After my interview with Keith Buckley following Dillinger Escape Plan's set, something fierce finally fell from the sky. Kids scrambled. Pressed scrambled. We waited. It let up. We moved on. I caught a bit of VersaEmerge's set. The band really isn't my thing, but front(wo)man Sierra Kusterbeck's pipes are excellent and the band is tight. VersaEmerge is something worth giving a chance after sifting through the rest of the muck.
Dear Tyson Ritter: You are either a brilliant frontman or absolutely insane. This is all that was going through my head during The All American Rejects' set. The songs were spot on, but it was Ritter's showmanship that took the set to a whole other level. What level that is - whether it was taunting a girl who eventually flashed him or heckling the crowd for more energy - I still haven't the slightest clue as to what the hell was coming off that stage.
After catching half of that spectacle, I decided to end my day with Sum 41. People were coming in droves to catch these guys. We all wanted a bit of that tasty nostalgia on our tongues and in our ears. The band did a pretty good job of bringing me back full circle to 2001 - the first time I saw them and my first Warped Tour. The crowd was "pogo-ing" and "fist pumping" with the back catalog hits, one after the other.
I then ended my day. I snagged some Taco Cabana in honor of the 4th and headed back to my little hipster home of Austin with a lot of thoughts running through my head. Maybe it was the literal cloud that hung over said head all weekend, or maybe it's that bitter taste in my mouth to see bands that have carried depth for years struggle with the new class of uninspiring, salted processed meat.
For all the negativity I have brought to the table in this review, Warped Tour is still about the positive things: music, a day off and great causes. I'm not here to put the blame on Warped Tour for bringing on who they bring on. If you look back to the '90s, some of those bands who came to the summer camp were crap as well. The crap will always exist, and in our lowbrow ways, many of us will stick out our tongues for a taste of the lackluster meal. Just like the dollar menu, these things are only a quick fix. Eventually some of us will bite into something that transcends what we constantly intake. When that happens, maybe you'll understand my point.
Until then, the most punk rock thing to do here is listen to what you want. Who am I to say, I'm just the old fucker with a cane and an older generation iPod. "Nice flat cover art grandpa. What is that, a 30GB? Where's your touch screen? What the fuck is a CD again?"
Every Time I Die
Circle Pit during "Bored Stiff"
The Mighty Regis
Set Your Goals
Dillinger Escape Plan
On the back of Every Time I Die's Andy Williams
Tents and Good Causes
To wake the crowd up, I got them to scream "Fuck AP.net" HA!