Lollapalooza, it seems, didn't die after all. Instead, it became the Warped Tour, taking its disparate lineups and carnival atmosphere with it. And looking at the bands participating in this year's installment of the skateboard-competition-with-a-soundtrack, you'd swear that's what happened. After five years in business, it's not an all-punk, all-the-time concert anymore: Trad-country revivalists BR5-49 are joining up for a handful of dates (though, sadly, not the Dallas show), and more hip-hop acts than ever before will be performing, including Ice-T, Eminem, and Black Eyed Peas. Of course, last year, there weren't any hip-hop bands on board -- unless you count Kid Rock, which no one with ears would -- so it wasn't too hard for the Warped organizers to shake things up a bit. A varied lineup for the Warped Tour in the past meant both ska and punk bands were on the bill; for the past four years, the Warped Tour was about as diverse as a Klan rally. Now, it's more like a Republican Party meeting, with just enough new faces to keep people from being suspicious.
It makes sense that Warped would finally decide to mess with the formula: Ten years ago, skateboarding and punk rock went hand-in-hand; in the past few years, hip-hop has turned it into a three-way. Still, punk remains the name of the game, especially with groups such as Pennywise and Less Than Jake leading the way. The star power from recent years has been diminished somewhat, as a less established group of bands carry the weight of this year's edition. No Descendents or Bad Religion this year -- those guys are too old anyway, right? Besides, with Pennywise, fans have the best of both worlds: Its members went to the same high school as the Descendents, and its music bears more than a passing resemblance to Greg Graffin and company's brainy, brawny punk. However, it's up to singles hitters such as Blink-182 and Lit to bring in the crowds so that someone's there to see lesser-knowns such as Australia's Frenzal Rhomb and Houston's River Fenix, as well as local boys The Darlingtons, Riot Squad, Stink!#bug, and Underage.
As with all package shows, you have to take the good with the bad. For every performance of tension-mounting pop by Jimmy Eat World, there is a spirit-killing one by Grinspoon. And for each return to old-school hip-hop with Black Eyed Peas, there is a pointless return to old-school Reverend Horton Heat with The Living End. Hey, you may have to grab a beer at some point; at least you won't be missing anything. If nothing else, the Warped Tour is, by far, the most organized tour crossing the country this summer. The main stage is split in two, meaning that while one group is performing, another is setting up its gear. And the side stages use the same begin-at-the-end setup. Until the last band finishes, there isn't a silent moment, which, depending on the strength of your earplugs, could be a bad thing. And all the while, skaters (both inline and on boards) and BMXers take to the various half-pipes and launches surrounding the stages. You can't say that the Warped Tour doesn't keep its audiences entertained.