If you're pumped to see every band hitting town with the Warped Tour on Friday, you're either insane or you're 12. But if you're an aging skate rat with more than a passing interest in what the heirs to your throne are up to (or you're 12 but you really know your stuff), there might be more at the Smirnoff Music Centre's parking lot than a killer sunburn and overpriced bottled water.
For one thing, you've got the legitimately good: The Alkaline Trio are the dark heart beating within pop-punk's brainless body, a Chicago band that offers all the three-chord thrills of the Sum 41 set, but filled out with creepy diary entries about drinking too much and wishing you'd never said that one thing to that one girl at that one party. Bad Religion, too, who've made up for what they've lost in relevance in recent years by simply sticking around and playing these kinds of shows; if punk doesn't suffer its elders, at least the competition makes them look good. And Thrice and Hot Water Music will be on hand, offering their gruffly anthemic songs as proof that emo needn't involve lots of limply picked arpeggios.
But what might be more interesting than those reputable acts are the simply strange ones: How is it possible that seven years after they rocked the high school dance in Clueless the Mighty Mighty Bosstones are still kicking, as if the ska thing hadn't even happened, let alone died a miserable death? Why are Reel Big Fish doing the same when they made even less of an impact the first time around? How did Florida pop-punkers New Found Glory debut inside the Billboard Top 10 last week, selling nearly 100,000 copies of their new MCA disc, Sticks and Stones? And why in the hell aren't Quarashi, the Icelandic rap/rock band, as bad as they should be?
Then, of course, there's the bad: Thursday, the awful New Jersey outfit for whom At the Drive-In couldn't break up fast enough; the splendidly named Something Corporate, whose wonderful/horrible "If You C Jordan" is Ben Folds Five for turtleneck-wearing bullies; Teen People punks Good Charlotte, still keeping it real for the mall-stalkers; and Handsome Devil, who are so great Lit threw them some cred by signing them to their Dirty Martini imprint. Bottom line? Plan strategically and bring a big book.
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