The biggest problem with the typical all-ages show is that it usually takes place when the sun is still up. And, Lord knows, it's next to impossible to make rock happen before sundown. Making things more difficult, the show often happens outdoors underneath an oppressive sun that changes the challenge from winning over new fans to just making it off the stage without dehydrating and passing out.
Audiences don't have it any easier either. Shade is scarce, water is expensive, and the blacktop is blistering. However, the Warped Tour brand of fun is synonymous with those no-school, no-job summer days of outdoor freedom, so almost by definition the heat comes part and parcel with free stickers and promotional CDs. Oh well, sometimes you've just got to suffer for the schwag.
The Warped Tour is, after all, the mother of all-ages shows, and no one has ever claimed punk rock was hard (as in difficult to execute, not as in loud and fast, which it is). So despite the heat year after year, the bands--usually consisting of little more than four assholes playing three chords--manage to maintain adequate levels of aggression in midafternoon and thus bring the rock. The brand of guitar rock associated with the tour may not be groundbreaking or "important" critically, and, in fact, it may not even be punk (seeing that punk should be era-specific, like disco, mod or new wave). But regardless of label, the importance of this tour to the summertime blues set and companies seeking this particular audience's expendable income proves that--whatever it is called--it is still a dynamic force in youth culture.
The Vans Warped Tour
Smirnoff Music Centre, 1818 First Ave. in Fair Park
Featuring Less Than Jake, Rancid, The Ataris, 311, Kool Keith, Sum 41, The Vandals, Alien Ant Farm and more is Friday. Doors open at 11:30 a.m. Tickets are $25.25 from Ticketmaster, (214) 373-8000. Parking is $9.
Therefore, the list of sponsors is almost as long as the list of bands, and the list of bands is too long to mention. We're not capable of playing favorites by naming just a few, because, quite frankly, none of them are favorites of ours. Suffice it to say that, except for the notable and noble inclusion of multiple personality hip-hop weirdo Kool Keith, the roster is more or less a monochrome and monotone affair that ranges from the barely legal Sum 41 to the barely living The Business. Little separates the bunch dynamically except for a dash of California ska here (Bouncing Souls and Rancid), big beats there (Dub Pistols) and a few standout crowd pleasers such as Alien Ant Farm and its crunchy cover of Michael Jackson's "Smooth Criminal."
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Besides the action on the music stages, the Warped Tour's other essentials are sports (skateboarding, freestyle bicycling, Rollerblading and motorcycling done by pros) and booths aplenty to hawk everything from music to magazines, clothes to video games and extreme drinks to (and we're not making this up) Xtreme sports deodorant, which is probably not a bad thing in this case. Considering the temperature expected, the day's success might rely on a little more perspiration than inspiration.