Finally, the Warped Tour has a comeback year! As an avid attendee since 1997, I saw the tour peak in 1998 and go steadily downhill since then. Last year was pretty lackluster, as well [you can read my review of last year's tour stop here], but as the bands for this year were slowly announced, I grew more and more excited. I hadn't been excited about Warped in a long time. Let's see how my anticipation paid off.
My friend Mike and I rolled in at around 1:30 PM, after getting lost and being stuck in bumper to bumper traffic. We got in line [to the competing sounds of Tiger Army and Ultimate Fakebook] and checked in at the press tent and were out strolling the grounds by 2 PM. Luckily we had only missed one band that we wanted to see, No Use For A Name. We quickly marked down our schedules for the day and took off to rock out.
First up on our list was Dekalb, IL pop-punkers Amazing Transparent Man. I've seen this band grow from humble beginnings, and I have to say that they really have everything it needs to make it big in this business. We caught the last half of their set [which included a rockin' cover of Meredith Brooks' "Bitch"] and quickly moved on to catch Further Seems Forever.
It seems like we weren't the only people with this idea. There were easily 500 people crowding the tiny Punkrocks.net stage, providing for an electric atmosphere for the band. FSF opened up with a blistering version of "Pictures Of Shorelines," and then went on to play [in no order] "Snowbirds and Townies," "The Bradley," a new song whose name I missed, and "Wearing Thin." Mike and I had to leave their set early so we could catch Thursday, but after a quick glance at their setlist, I saw that they were going to close with "The Moon Is Down." They sounded absolutely fantastic, and Jason once again proved that Chris Carabba made the wrong decision leaving this band.
Interview: Further Seems Forever
During the end of FSF's set, we tore ass over to the main stage to catch the phenomenon that was Thursday. Being in the photo pit for this was insane, as the crowd was immense [and very, very loud]. I'd venture to say that Thursday might have had the overall largest audience of the day. Geoff, looking like he had just crawled out of a Chicago gutter, was all smiles as he saw thousands of kids singing along to blistering tracks like "Cross Out The Eyes," "Paris In Flames," and "Understanding In A Car Crash." The band sounded tight as all hell, and I can't wait to see them in a smaller setting.
As soon as Thursday finished, Hot Water Music cranked it up on the stage next door. Their set was very "No Division" and "A Flight and a Crash" heavy, with the only old song being "Turnstile." They also played some new material off the upcoming album, as well as "Wayfarer" off Punk-O-Rama 7. They also played "Rooftops," and surprise guest Matt Skiba of the Alkaline Trio took the stage and sang the whole song to a rousing ovation from his hometown crowd. Definitely a Warped Tour moment.
Interview: Hot Water Music
Keeping in the "heavier music" spectrum, I treaded over to the Drive-Thru stage to witness Finch rock the crowd pretty much nonstop for their entire set. They played all the best songs off their "What It Is To Burn" LP, which was nice. My only advice? Pull your fucking pants up, dudes. The singer and the bassist's pants were both completely below their crotches. How on earth is that cool? If you're gonna do that, at least wear cool boxers. Sheesh.
Moving on, [and again staying in the heavier music spectrum], I ventured over to watch Boy Sets Fire. As I waited for Death By Stereo's set to finish on the neighboring stage, I noticed that they stopped early. Why? So Chicago natives Rise Against could storm the stage and play an impromptu 3 song set for the small but rabid crowd at the stage. Tim's voice sounded dead-on, and I wish the band could've gotten a full half hour. Maybe next year.
So after the surprise appearance by Rise Against, Boy Sets Fire began to rip through their own set with ferocity. They played "My Life In The Knife Trade," which completely made my day. Singer Nathan also ripped into the Marines recruiting tent set up across the field [who let them in, anyway?]. The band played a few new songs in their set, which were amazing. This band gets more and more hardcore with each song. As the opening riffs of "Rookie" wafted over my ears, I ran back towards the Punkrocks.net stage to catch what might be the most underrated band on the whole tour, the Ã?ffect.
The Ã?ffect is what the Faint wishes they could be. The Ã?ffect don't need fancy light and smoke shows, or matching outfits. All they need is some catchy, dancable beats, and all three members singing some really, really good lyrics. The crowd didn't get to into their slower stuff, but there definitely were some dancers in the crowd for their last song, "Burning in the Bed on Fire." Go watch this band, you'll thank me later.
Interview: The Ã?ffect
After I finished that interview, I gave myself a little downtime to do some record shopping. I did catch Lagwagon's set from a distance, and they sounded tight as ever. They also played "Violins," which made me a very happy boy. I picked up the new Fat sampler at their booth with 2 brand new Lagwagon songs on it - definitely a return to form.
After my break, I needed a band to get me back into the rock. Who better than the hometown boys themselves, the Alkaline Trio? The crowd was absolutely massive for this one, and singalongs were taking place on every song. From set opener "Clavicle" to set closer "97," it was like a big family reunion. They also played such spicy jams as "Queen Of Pain," "I Lied My Face Off," and "Goodbye Forever." The only downside to their set? Flogging Molly, the band who performed right before them, went over by about 10 minutes. This time came directly out of the Trio's set, so they only got about 20 minutes to rock the crowd. Talk about getting the shaft, and in front of your hometown crowd, too! Totally unfair. They still rocked out, and it was the best I had seen them since Glenn left the band.
A New Found Glory played next. I saw a girl puke during their set. That pretty much summed up my experience, too.
NOFX were the penultimate band for the day. Their set consisted of pretty much what you'd expect from NOFX - way too many stupid jokes and stage chatter, and the same selection of songs. "Soul Doubt, "Buggly Eyes," "Linoleum," and the end of "The Decline" all made an appearance. Any surprises? Not really. I didn't care too much, though, because the one band I really wanted to see was the last one: Bad Religion.
I'd just like to say something right here. The only thing better than watching Bad Religion live is watching Bad Religion live onstage, directly behind Brian Baker's amp. The only thing better than that? Having Fat Mike and Erik Melvin of NOFX on either side of you, singing the lyrics to all the BR classics in your ears. This made the band's performance all the more special. They opened up with "Stranger Than Fiction," then "Recipe For Hate" and "Generator" soon followed. After a short break, "21st Century Digital Boy" and "You" made appearances, as did "Supersonic" and "Can't Stop It." "American Jesus" was played to a thunderous ovation, as was "Kyoto Now!" "Infected" started to wind the band's electric set down. As my voice started to give out, the opening chords of "Sorrow" rang out, and the crowd's emotions started to pour out in the chorus. It was completely magical for me [shit, I'm getting goosebumps typing this right now]. The band sounded dead on, and Brian did a commendable job of covering Brett's guitar solos in his absence. What an amazing ending to a phenomenonal day.
Warped Tour finally made the comeback it needed. There were no *huge* radio draws this year, and about 95% of the acts somehow fit under the gigantic punk rock umbrella. Kevin Lyman, keep up the good work, and I'll be sure to be back next year.