Vans Warped Tour
July 5, 2009
Better Than: falling asleep on the beach and getting a funny-looking tan.
The weather could have been way worse for Sunday's Warped Tour date. It could have rained all day. Or it could have been sunny and extremely hot.
Luckily, the weather fluctuated between cloudy, sunny, and overcast. In a lot of ways, that weather rundown sounds like the kinds of moods the entire day was for all things Warped.
For those that have never been to the Warped Tour (or have not been in a long time): Basically, the music starts when the gates open and doesn't really stop until the gates close. All kinds of bands that attract more of a teenage audience were represented, and like what Pete saw at recent show at the Plano convention center, there were all kinds of neon colors represented as well.
Make no mistake, there were a lot of different stereotypes represented: punks, metalheads, jocks, preps, and so on. But the thing that makes things different in these times as compared to when the Warped Tour started fifteen years ago was the Screaming Girl factor--as in: anytime some young guy singer tore up his voice on the microphone, girls screamed, and screamed really loudly.
Also something that comes with the Screaming Girl factor: Long, long lines around merch tents where band members would do autograph signings.
You can factor these social parameters in all you want but, mostly, these folks wanted to see a decent variety of music that speaks to them. No, that's not some rare Captain Beefheart bootleg that a record geek would pay a full month's rent for. It's music that could be from bands like Dance Gavin Dance, A Skylit Drive, Anti-Flag, or Underoath.
It's music that speaks to them now, whether or not the older folks think this is "real" music or not.
Between a handful of stages that were thankfully close (but not too close) to each other, no set was back-to-back the same. Warped Tour veterans the Ataris, Anti-Flag, and Less Than Jake shared the same stage with relative newcomers 30H!3--all drawing different crowds and all sorts of different responses. Especially 30H!3: With their blend of hip-hop and pop, the band drew one of the largest crowds--to many people's delight and plenty of others' pure hatred.
But, thankfully, if you didn't like what you heard, you could go somewhere else and see something else.
There was the WTF factor with an act like Jeffree Star (who would have been booed off the stage ten years ago at Warped or would have had better luck opening for Fischerspooner). But there were incredibly inspiring sets elsewhere and various points of the day, too: Shooter Jennings (yes, Waylon's son) played some fantastic southern rock with bluesy, Sabbath-like grooves; Thrice played a very solid set of its thinking-man's version of post-hardcore; Bad Religion zipped through sixteen great tracks and put on one of the most engaging sets of the day.
But probably the best surprise of the entire day? England's Gallows. Playing a style of punk rock that recalls Ron Reyes' and Henry Rollins' times in Black Flag, the quintet didn't disappoint in the slightest. After only a couple of songs, vocalist Frank Carter came down from the stage and sang in the middle of the mosh pit. Carter would go on to criticize many of the other bands on the tour, but instead of just whining about it, he showed the crowd the difference between his band and 30H!3: He asked the crowd to do a large circle pit around a nearby tent for one very short song, and a large number of people did so accordingly. That kind of spontaneity is what can make any live show great, and it was definitely a bright spot of the whole show.
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Towards the closing of the gates, with plenty of people with awkward tan lines and sore feet, the mass audience got what they wanted: a full, enjoyable day of music at a reasonable price.
Personal Bias: The last time I went to the Warped Tour was in 1998 in Houston. Because of a threat of rain, the show was moved indoors to the Astroarena. NOFX, unhappy with the sound inside, decided to throw their payment for the day into the crowd. That was definitely a memorable, "Is this really happening?" moment.
By the Way: If you want an easy summer job, be a beer vendor at Superpages.com Center for the Warped Tour. I've never seen more bored-out-of-their-minds people than the ones hoping that somebody over 21 was going to buy some booze.
Random Note: The pizza one could get from the venue wasn't a complete rip-off: $9 for a pizza about the size of one and a half slices...