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Talking to Tom Gabel feels like the polar opposite of seeing Tom Gabel perform with his band, Against Me!
Rather than look at his ink-filled arms flail away or watch him sing himself hoarse behind a microphone, Gabel comes across as incredibly polite and friendly on this particular day off from his band's rigorous tour schedule. And he sounds downright wistful when talking about the Warped Tour, which kicks off its 17th summer of touring around the country this weekend at Dallas' Gexa Energy Pavilion.
Now 30, Gabel remembers going to the Warped Tour as a teenager, long before he was in a band that played on its expansive bill. He only went once as a teen, but he remembers there were plenty of bands he wanted to see at the Pompano Beach, Florida, stop near his hometown of Naples—acts such as Social Distortion and The Descendents, as well as on-the-rise (at the time) acts like The Suicide Machines.
"It was hot as hell," Gabel says with a laugh. "But it was a fun day. It's just tough being punk in South Florida."
Unless you're a talent like Gabel, whose band combines the punk vitriol of acts like the aforementioned Descendents with near-Springsteenian social commentary. And in the summer 2006, with Against Me! between 2005's Searching for a Former Clarity and their 2007 major-label debut, New Wave, they got the chance to prove their mettle, playing the tour for the first time—and all of its dates, no less.
"It was an incredibly positive experience," Gabel says. "Just had a blast. Part of the fun of Warped Tour is that you find out every morning when you're going to play, and we being a new band, we had some early-ass slots."
This year, though, with the band playing a number of the tour's early dates and then returning for a stint at the end of the summer-long run, chances are fans won't have to arrive too early to see Gabel and his band. Sure, they might still have the rare early-afternoon or sunset set to contend with, but Gabel says he doesn't mind. Nor is he discouraged by how Against Me! is now one of the few heritage bands in a lineup filled with baby bands.
"I think Warped Tour does a good job of actually having a variety of bands on it," he says. "This year in particular, one of the reasons I'm so excited about being on it is that Lucero is on there."
z"I think, on the flipside, they recognize that it's important to younger bands too, to have that mix," he says. "Those kids and those bands end up becoming heritage bands."
After two critically acclaimed albums released for Sire, Against Me!'s next record (which Gabel says the band hopes to work on this fall) will come on their own label, Total Treble Music. In the meantime, the band has just released a new 7-inch, as well as a collection of demos that the band had recorded prior to Searching for a Former Clarity called Total Clarity.
And, in an added treat for Dallas fans, Gabel is scheduled to play an acoustic set at Warped Tour's free kick-off party at The Double Wide on Thursday, June 23. As for the Warped Tour's annual tradition of throwing after-parties at The Double Wide once things die down at the festival? Well, Gabel says fans just might be able to catch him and his bandmates there on Friday night, too.
"I'm sure," Gabel says with another laugh, "that some of us will end up back there."