Now in its 16th year, Warped Tour is now as old as the median age of its attendees. The tour exhibits a more eclectic variety of music (including metal, electronic and emo) than the punk roots concert series which began in 1994, showcasing bands such as Bad Religion, Pennywise and NOFX. Though the music has changed over time, Warped Tour still employs its time-honored style of performances, including multiples stages performing at the same time, forcing tour goers to pick and choose between their favorite bands. Still, like clockwork, many locals return to the same venue to catch the annual tour. In addition to the usuals who make a tradition out of the show is the new generation of music fans. As the bands will attest, a day at Warped is nothing short of chaos, but what else could be expected of the longest running punk tour?
All photos by Pamela Lin
Often coming under fire for its widespread, rampant commercialism, Warped consists of an assortment of advertising booths. Willy Wonka had their own covered canopy area, offering a boost of sugar to passer-bys and a free photo booth. Trojan condoms presented a large, inflatable tube, reminiscent of a condom, which housed several bands throughout the day as they signed autographs for their fans. The Monster energy drink truck was in attendance, giving out free samples of their newest model of beverages. In a very non-commercial display of kindness, an inflatable slip-n-slide existed in the center of the tour grounds, offering a refreshing drench to all who dared on the hot, summer day. A number of charities also exist, petitioning everything from halting animal cruelty (Elephants Never Forget) to preventing teen suicide (To Write Love on her Arm). Of course, each band present also has their own merch booth at the tour, including the bands Alkaline Trio, AM Taxi, Andrew WK, Anti-Flag, Attack Attack, Automatic Loveletter, Closure in Moscow, Dropkick Murphys, Fake Problems, Every Time I Die, Eyes Set to Kill, Green Jelly, iwrestledabearonce, Mayday Parade, Pretty Reckless, Parkway Drive, VersaEmerge, Reel Big Fish, The Cab, The Casualties and many other bands on Warped Tour 2010.
Bands’ sets don’t last any longer than 30 minutes. They use this time to crunch as many hit songs as they can into their set, leaving no room for idle banter. The Dillinger Escape Plan played on the main stage early in the day, beginning things with a heaping dose of metal. Their stand-in singer screamed the lyrics to the first song before handing the microphone to Greg Puciato, their vocalist. With powerful shredding guitar and throbbing drums, The Dillinger Escape Plan scream their way into a high energy performance. Though the lyrics may be inaudible, the band delivers a form of experimental metal that is unique to modern trends in the genre. At least they have that going for them.
Green Jelly take the stage after a dramatic entrance. The singer is dressed as a comical shogun, with shoulder pads, dreadlocks, light sabers on his back, giant skulls for shoes and a pig face as a codpiece. The entire get up lends to the image of a Power Rangers villain reject and makes it very difficult to take them seriously. The actual vocals aren’t as bad as the singer’s choice of wardrobe, sounding a little bit like Lemmy from Motorhead. The guitar player almost makes up for the awkwardness with original chords and riffs. Their set list includes several of their own songs and a cover of “The Bear Went Over the Mountain” in a similar comical fashion.
In front of a throng of middle aged punks sporting their leather jackets that survived the 80’s, The Casualties played on a stage in the far corner of the tour. After denouncing the other bands on the tour, Jorge Herrera instructed everyone to stage dive, chicken fight, and circle pit, much to the chagrin of security. A few fans took their orders slightly too far when people in the crowd were trampled and bleeding, though no serious injuries occurred. Their performance of old-school-in-your-face punk was pumped with attitude and energy in their iconic Casualties style.
Bursting their way into the pop punk scene is VersaEmerge, who played a very well-executed set. Their melodic brand of pop rock, with the use of subtle vocal harmonies by the female vocalist Sierra Kusterbeck and the backup vocalist/guitarist Blake Harnage, gives them the sound of a heavier Paramore. This team of musicians quickly developed their own unique style of performance and delightful sound that should give them some momentum in the future.
Automatic Loveletter serve a set that is honed with a certain style of dissonance. With the use of poppy thrash rock, they develop a sound that isn’t so dissimilar from Circa Survive. Their pulsing performance gets the audience on their feet and moving on one of the smaller side stages.
The beloved Andrew W.K. steps onto the main stage in the afternoon, giving out t-shirts and other swag in between his songs. His fast and hard party anthems whip the crowd into a fist pumping frenzy as he switches between keyboard and microphone multiple times during songs. With his charismatic attitude and affinity to partying, Andrew takes command of the crowd and bids them to live it up while they can. A brunette in a leotard joins him on stage (his wife Cherie Lily), raising the impossibly high liveliness through the roof by egging on the audience. Although many of his songs closely resemble one another, Andrew W.K. certainly developed his own brand of music that keeps fans coming back for more.
Warped Tour seniors Anti-Flag take the main stage as the audience expands to what is probably the largest of the day. After bidding everyone to disregard one another’s race, age, and sexual orientation, singer Chris Barker instructs everyone to make new friends by engaging in the “Wall of Death.” “You come to Warped Tour with 5 friends and leave with 5,000,” Chris yells into the microphone. “I want to see the biggest mosh pit Warped Tour has ever seen!” While perhaps not the biggest in the history of the tour, it is certainly the largest that day. Youths charge one another in a full sprint only to be pushed face first into the dirt. After getting helped up by other moshers, they dive back into the pit again. Such is the nature of performance Anti-Flag commonly provides.
Taylor Momsen of Gossip Girl is pretty reckless, and also the singer for a band named The Pretty Reckless. With powerful pop-punk vocals, she is the Joan Jett for a new generation. They have the feel of a 70’s rock band and a demeanor to boot; at one point she tells the audience to smoke pot during their performance. The reggae and dub influences are pronounced in their music, as is the catchy guitar riffs. This band may just be the next big thing.
Carving out their musical niche, Dropkick Murphys show us the power of Celtic influenced punk rock. While fans are stage diving, Al Barr screams out each song, holding nothing back. The eight-piece punk band sounds almost like heavy metal (if it weren’t for the banjo and flute) with their heavy use of guitars and exclamation vocals. With an obviously large fan base at Warped, Dropkick Murphys rock the main stage with their older songs as the audience jumps and bobs along.
The very last band to perform, just as the sun began to set, iwrestledabearonce play as many fans are leaving. This doesn’t stop them from playing an over the top set with their unique brand on experimental metal. It does, however, stop them from taking themselves seriously. “Krysta Cameron [the singer] wanted me to tell you that she is shitting out of her vagina,” says Steven Bradley the guitarist into the microphone to the amusement of the adolescent audience. With jazzy breaks and electronic interludes, this band’s originality goes unmatched. Krysta’s singing involves her yelling things inaudibly into the mic, yet still manages to provide certain vocal harmony, if very subtle. The band revels in the high emotional energy they produce on stage by jumping around and swinging instruments. Described by singer Krysta as “esoteric,” iwrestledabearonce is not for everyone, but still a performance worth seeing.
As the day winds down, in the parking lot packed with tour buses, bands are either packing up their gear or sitting out front in collapsible chairs, anxiously awaiting their next venue on the tour and one day closer to going home. The band-only catering begins packing things up before the last few bands even begin playing. Under a canopy in the parking lot there is even a mobile barber shop, for band members only. Weary from their time on the road, bands like Sum 41 spend this time downing beer in anticipation to leave. Sum 41 was scheduled to perform at the show, but due to Deryck Whibley’s slipped disc in his back, he is out in physical therapy and the band is on the bench, though they still grudgingly follow the tour in their bus.
“Everyone says Warped Tour is the hardest tour to do,” Ryan Metcalf from Automatic Loveletter tells me. With sporadic scheduling, blistering heat and technical setbacks, it is in truth nothing short of chaotic. This, however, is one of its most enjoyable features. Seeing so many up and coming bands all in one place is unheard of with any other festival, and that’s why Warped has always been so successful. For these same reasons (and a little luck), Warped Tour will continue to be around for years to come and hold its title as the longest running punk tour.
All photos by Pamela Lin