West Palm Beach, FL
July 25, 2009
The Vans Warped Tour is celebrating its 15th anniversary of “punk rock summer camp,” but somewhere along the line, the promoters let MTV-style commercialism take over and the punk rock spirit fade.
Sure, there are still pure punk bands like Bad Religion, Less Than Jake and Anti-Flag that have managed to stick it out, but their age is showing. Less Than Jake’s Roger Manganelli dedicated a song to boycotting ten-dollar beer, but when one kid piped up that he was straight-edge, Manganelli told him “that’s because you’re nineteen.” At least he has a sense of humor about it. However, many of this year’s bands like Millionaires and brokeNCYDE fall into trendy genres like crunkcore and are bound to die as soon as their listeners finish puberty. And while Warped Tour was always defined as a music and extreme sports fest, the half-pipe seemed like an afterthought this year, with little interest from passersby. These reasons have been contributing factors as to why I stopped attending Warped Tour after high school. I mean honestly, why would concertgoers want to play Guitar Hero under a tent when they paid 50 dollars to see live bands? Plain and simple, Warped Tour’s target audience keeps getting younger and doesn’t offer much to seasoned fans anymore.
Don’t get me wrong: It wasn’t a complete loss; a lot of the bands were worth watching, if just for entertainment value.Underoath, for example, sent crowd surfers into the waiting arms of security, knocking them over like oversized bowling pins. Spencer Chamberlain spit water at the crowd and climbed in among them, shoving his microphone into their screaming sun burnt faces. Alexisonfire played a memorable set in short shorts and tank tops. My eyes were drawn to the Canadian maple leaf on George Pettit’s shorts, conveniently located right over his package. It was no wonder I found a mud-soaked bra nearby among the crowd surfers wreckage. Unsurprisingly, 3OH!3 attracted the largest crowd of the day, seeing as “Don’t Trust Me” plays on Y100 every hour. While it’s easy to hate on them, their fans were the most diehard, throwing up the 303 hand sign, singing every word, and screaming for Nate and Sean who were captivating with their synchronized dance moves.
My eyes were drawn to the Canadian maple leaf on George Pettit’s shorts, conveniently located right over his package. It was no wonder I found a mud-soaked bra nearby among the crowd surfers wreckage.
Yet with every large festival lie a few hidden gems, some more obvious than others. Miami natives, Black Tide, rocked out harder than ever on the Hurley.com stage. Although slightly hindered by technical difficulties with his guitar, singer Gabriel Garcia improvised, thrashing around with his microphone stand instead. Black Tide hasn’t always been taken seriously because all members are under 21, but after talking to bassist Zakk Sandler, that judgment is not warranted. “We’ve played all the major festivals in Europe,” Zakk explained. Black Tide first toured internationally with Avenged Sevenfold to England and Ireland where Zakk said the kids there “live the rock and roll lifestyle, where in the U.S. it’s something they’re a part of, but it’s not their life.” But for Zakk and his fellow band mates, rock and roll is their life, and they are taking matters into their own hands. While they are working on new material, hopefully out in early 2010, it may sound different than their previous album, “much to the annoyance of our label,” said Zakk. But he assured me, “We’re not a trend,” and how could I disagree when he pointed out they’ve been rocking out together since they were pre-teens.
Another group I had the privilege to speak to was Dear and the Headlights, the only indie rock group on Warped Tour. They definitely stuck out among all the pop punk, emo, and hardcore, which they told me they don’t listen to. Singer Ian Metzger assured me they mostly try and “lay low.” “I’m doing a lot of writing in the back of the bus. It’s the first time we have all this extra time and space for that on tour,” said Metzger. Additionally, guitarist PJ Waxman explained, “we play golf” to which Metzger added “or drink beer.” While all this makes them seem sort of boring, their set was anything but. So much feeling was invested into each member’s performance, the songs really came alive. Metzger commented on this, saying “Sometimes you have to see people play to make sense of what they’re doing.” Most of the audience did, but before one of their songs, Ian pulled out an acoustic guitar and some kid in the crowd gave him a thumbs down and walked away. I couldn’t help thinking of when Bob Dylan went electric and everyone booed. Oh, the times they are a’ changin’.
While any concert can be severely enhanced by mind-altering substances, Warped Tour just doesn’t seem to cut it anymore. Next year, take that $50 and save it for Harvest of Hope fest, which has three days of real punk rock plus camping for the same price. You can thank me later.
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Review and photos by Liana Minassian