The Vans Warped Tour
30 July 2009
The Riverbend Music Centre
Every year, right around the same time, a bunch of punk rock kids get together and go on tour across the country. Some of them have made the trek, survived, and somehow have come back for more. Some of them are complete rookies. That’s what makes it fun, of course. Every day is a frenzy of activity to get ready for the days events. The events of the day are, of course, putting on a full production of the Vans Warped Tour. Now in its 15th year, the tour shows no signs of slowing down. You know that summer has arrived when Warped Tour rolls through your city. For some, it’s about spending time in the hot sun, paying way too much for a bottle of water, just for a chance to meet your favourite band. For others, it’s about making new friends with the person next to you…who has been smashed against the same barricade right next to you for the last three bands. For others, it’s a chance to discover their new favourite band and the next big thing. If you’re like me, it’s a chance to see some old friends whom you haven’t seen in forever because they’re always on tour. Whatever your motivation is, Warped Tour has a little something for everyone. The day usually begins with waiting in line, a very long line. Once inside the gate, it’s a mad dash to check the schedule to find out who is playing where and then sprinting across the venue to find the stage where your favourite bands are playing.
Chiodos were the first band to open the mainstage. Having been absent from the touring scene for quite a while, it’s always a bit of a crapshoot to see how well a band is going to do. Always the rebels, Chiodos quickly proved that they were there to make up for lost time. Blasting through an explosive set , Owens and company proved that despite the torrential downpour, the early 12:15 draw, and the fact that they haven’t had a release since 2007’s excellent Bone Palace Ballet, they could draw a packed amphitheatre. People clawed across the top of the crowd to sing a long with Owens. From the moment he stepped out onto the stage to the minute he put his microphone on the ground to walk back, he was a commanding presence, hell bent on crowd participation. Following Chiodos on the mainstage were Pittsburgh’s own Anti-Flag. In a year following an election that saw the conservative right give way to a more liberal administration, one would be inclined to think that political punk would go by the wayside. This was the farthest thing from the truth. Firmly back on an indie where they belong, AF were filled with all the fire and bile that everyone has come to know and love from their set. Acerbic opener Turncoat, Killer, Liar, Thief set the tone for the remainder of their set. They were explosive and in fine form. Back to back renditions of Die For Your Government and Death of a Nation certainly didn’t hurt in getting the crowd whipped up into a frenzy. Nothing, however, could have prepared the crowd for the aural assault that was to follow. If The Devil Wears Prada had taken the stage to The Boys Are Back in Town, I don’t think that anyone would have batted an eyelash. Gone is the awkward band that played last year’s side stage. The band that stood before the masses were a sonic tour de force, ready to destroy any misconception that they were just a band from Dayton that caught a lucky break. Both in performance and in sound, they were tight. They have started to function as a single solitary unit instead of a bunch of boys on stage.
Unfortunately, bands can’t always have goods days as evidenced by the performance of Saosin. Perhaps it was due to the sound engineer’s butchering of their sound. Maybe there’s more going on behind the scenes than we know, but they just seemed a little shaky. They managed to turn in a more solid performance towards the end of their set, playing songs that they were comfortable with, most notably Seven Years and You’re Not Alone. Usually a powerhouse behind the microphone, Cove seemed distracted (maybe it was anger, rightly directed at the soundman), with his bandmates overpowering him in the background. From the sidestage back to the mainstage underOATH fared little better. There was tangible tension in the air before the band even stepped out to perform. Usually one of the highlights of the day, they turned in an unusually lacklustre performance. They appeared to be going through the motions in a bid to get on and get out. Conversely, following underOATH, Jersey’s finest turned in the highlight of the day. Bouncing Souls never cease to put on a high energy, all around fun show, whether it’s on Warped Tour or on their own headlining trek. They pulled a 1-2 punch, playing Say Anything and Hopless Romantic, the latter saw vocalist Greg absconding with the videographer’s camera and, well, running away with it. He ran around the stage, around his bandmates, and then proceeded to take it off stage to get personal with the crowd. By this time, it had started pouring again, so they kept with the gloom and doom of the day and injected a little Hybrid Moments cover courtesy of the Misfits into their set followed by a particularly animated version of East Coast, Fuck You. Unfortunately, due to the rain, sets by both the AKAs and Gallows were missed.
The day took us back to the smaller of the side stages to catch a stellar performance by innerpartysystem and a…interesting…performance by a skylit drive. After all of the post-hard-metal-speed-death-metal core of ASD, all attention was turned to Aiden. Granted, they haven’t toured much in the past two years, so one would be inclined to think that the general populous would have forgotten about this little band from Washington State. Absence definitely makes the heart grow fonder. Closing out the Ernie Ball Stage was both a wonderfully brilliant and wonderfully terrible idea on the part of tour founder Kevin Lyman. Putting a band of their calibre on one of the smallest stages is never a smart move. More than four hundred kids showed up to support a band that they have grown ever increasingly rabid for. Out of deference to the photographers, Will assuaged his need to be near the crowd until after the second song, and then…all hell broke loose. He politely told security that they were no longer needed and then proceeded to instruct every member in the crowd to get as close to them as they possibly could. At his word, kids climbed over the barricade and smashed themselves up against the edge of the stage. The closer their kids became, the more energy the band put out. It’s refreshing for a band that has been through so much in the past five years to still play with the heart and the passion that they possess.
We soon found ourselves back in front of the mainstage in time for veterans Bad Religion to take the stage. The fact that they could be the parents of most of the people present didn’t deter them from running through a solid set, comprised mainly of a sort of “greatest hits” set. Some might be disappointed, but when one takes into consideration the influence that this band has had on almost every band on the bill, you realise that “greatest hits” are better than almost any other band on the bill. It would make sense that Bad Religion, being who they are, would close out their stage like they did every night during Warped Tour 2004, but that wasn’t the case. They were followed by somewhat of a musical anomaly, 3Oh!3. There were more people who were excited for their set than were excited for the Souls or Bad Religion before them. It is increasingly perplexing when nonsensical lyrics and rather absurd subject matter takes precedence over traditional song writing. Never the less, the band put out more energy than almost every other band that had played before them. While a little confusing, they are always entertaining to watch whether it be the breakdancing between verses or the fancy footwork that carried the duelling vocalists across the stage. The last set of the day has always set precedence on Warped Tour; it will either make a good day better or a terrible day worse. Senses Fail closed out the SmartPunk stage with a bang. No band played with as much passion, heart, and zeal as they did. Whatever happened on their time home did them well, because Buddy Neilsen was angry. He blasted on stage with a renewed fire that has been missing for a while now. He lambasted the distinct lack of talent that had been placed on this tour for making a mockery of what he and bands like the AKAs and the Bouncing Souls put their everything into. It was his righteous anger that fuelled one of the most intense and caustic sets of the day.
If anyone happens to know the who the gentleman in the 3rd photo with Craig is, please have him contact me at brittany [at] mammothpress [dot] com.