Warped Tour Launch
Gexa Energy Pavilion
June 24, 2011
Better than: spending all day on traffic control at the new In-N-Out Burger.
Let's address the elephant with the pink tutu standing in the corner: Sure, there were doubts about this year's lineup, but given how the day played out, the opening date for the 2011 Warped Tour was nowhere near disappointing.
Yeah, there were too many chugga-chugga bands with singers who channeled the Cookie Monster, and far too many drummers who loved to use their double-kick pedals. There were plenty of pop bands dressed up in Hot Topic outfits, too, complete with song catalogs perfect for teenage girls to scream along to.
Also, 3OH!3 played.
Still, there was a lot of enjoyment between 11:30 am and 8:30 pm at the old Starplex. Thousands upon thousands of people in a wide age range came out. The majority consisted of those below the legal drinking age, yeah. But many well over that age walked about, too.
And, by the looks of things, they weren't all understanding older brothers, sisters and parents.
With 70 bands on the schedule, there were no lulls for those who wanted to roam around and sample a bit of everything.
A few stages got going right away at 11:30, with bands playing to small, but gathering crowds. By noon,though, Attack Attack! had a mass of people facing the Teggart main stage. Fans and spectators alike filled the area beyond the mixing board tent as the group performed their metal-ish pop.
As Attack Attack! wound down their set, former Warped titans Unwritten Law played on the Tilly's/AP stage on the other end of the venue. Reduced to sole original member Scott Russo, who not plays with younger backing musicians, the band played to an audience that actually knew "World War III" and "Seein' Red."
Seeing how Simple Plan was scheduled for this same stage later in the day, one could think the Tilly's stage was where elder statesmen bands were put out to pasture.
Simple Plan played to a dedicated crowd that filled the pit area and several rows of seats. Their squeaky-clean pop with punk flair still connects, somehow, well after the band had its day in the post-Blink-182 spotlight.
There were a few embarrassing sights during the day. Blood On the Dance Floor was one of them. Looking like the old WCW wrestling duo The Road Warriors playing metal electro-clash, you didn't have to watch too long to get the band's gimmick.
At this point, the outside temperature was tolerable and there was a decent breeze blowing through. But the temperature rose and surprisingly, so did attendance.
Less Than Jake came out with a set that leaned on their best-known material. After all these years and albums from the band, it's never a bad thing to kick off a set with "Johnny Quest Thinks We're Sellouts."
People gathered around the Teggart stage at 2:30 waiting for 3OH!3 as The Aggrolites played to a small and mostly indifferent crowd on the Tilly's stage. Too bad, too -- their seamless blend of classic reggae and soul was a welcome break from the rest of the fare on this day.
Attendance was at its peak by this point. Or, at least, it felt that way. 3OH!3 played to the largest gathered audience while A Skylit Drive and The Word Alive played to large amounts of people on other stages.
3OH!3 entertained, more than anything else, with its schlocky mix of hip-hop and pop. Consider it perfect for parents who don't want their children listening to Lil Wayne.
Meet-and-greats drew big numbers, too, as should be expected at this event by now -- and especially during this time of day. An incredible amount of fans wanted to shake hands, get autographs, and take pictures with members of Attack Attack! and Simple Plan.
As this went on, Enter Shikari offered up a clinic (to use a term Jeff Van Gundy used a little too much in the NBA playoffs) on how to balance hardcore and glitchy techno. Performing like gravity was their worst enemy, the band pummeled themselves, jumped off of speakers and dove into the crowd -- all while giving people something more than riffs previously heard on Killswitch Engage, Carcass and Botch records. All four members sang through their throats without detours through the nasal passages. It was refreshing -- especially knowing clenched-vocal offenders The Devil Wears Prada played within an earshot.
After The Wonder Years' speedy punk (and unnecessary use of three guitars), Lucero came onto the Tilly's stage as the odd band out. With their style of Christie-Front-Drive-by-way-of-Bruce-Springsteen-and-George-Jones, the six-piece played to the people standing up in the front. Frontman Ben Nichols was very giving and cordial, even acknowledging (and playing) a request for "Sixteen." And they reprised their reworking of Jawbreaker's "Kiss the Bottle." Natch.
After 6, the sun began its descent in the sky and after every half hour, more people left.
But there were still numbers of note: A Day to Remember gathered a crowd almost as big as 3OH!3's, Asking Alexandria's and Attack Attack!'s. At the same time, Relient K played to a smaller crowd on the Nintendo 3DS stage. Their punk-tinged guitar pop even included covers of "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun" and Gnarls Barkley's "Crazy."
For the long-timers who hung around, two of the final performers played right into what they wanted. Street Dogs, fronted by former Dropkick Murphys singer Mike McColgan, delivered a pointed set, recalling the kind of enjoyment often found at Bouncing Souls shows. McColgan even went down into the crowd and sang right into people's faces. Then Against Me! played the last timeslot for the Teggart stage and pulverized the small gathering. The wide range of fans in their audience were not as energized as the crowd at the previous night's unofficial kickoff party at the Double Wide, but the heat was more to blame than anything else. The band's 14 songs went over like homemade apple pie. Powerful, engaging and enlightening, this was a perfect way to end the day.
Personal Bias: This was my fourth Warped Tour in 17 years.
By The Way: I had a big smile on my face when Against Me! played. When I saw two adults (who had a good 20 to 25 years on me) passionately singing along as well, my smile widened.
Best T-shirts Seen: "Keep Calm and Fuck Cancer," "Fuck Lebron," "AD/HD: Highway to Distraction," "I had a friend on the Death Star" and "What Would Jesus Bomb?"
Random Quote: "Now I know what my ramen noodles feel like," on fan said in regards to the heat.
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