Warped Tour 2011 - live in Denver (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review

Warped Tour 2011

live in Denver (2011)

live show

There was a time when the night before Warped Tour was even harder to sleep than the night before Christmas as a little kid. Various factors have has soured me on the whole experience: growing older and more jaded; becoming accustomed to more intimate shows and longer sets; the festival gradually moving away from the kind of music I'm interested in; et. al. However, with this year's inclusion of some of my favorite bands (Against Me!, Lucero), as well as some talented up-and-comers (SHARKS, the Menzingers), I decided to take a stroll down memory lane and go to Warped Tour for the first time since I became a legal adult.

The first band of the day that I had any interest in seeing (and surprisingly, the first band on the main stage) was Oregon's Larry and His Flask. Even though the band play a mix of folk and bluegrass, they exhibited more of a pure punk rock spirit and attitude than any other band I saw that day. They gave more energy at noon than most bands do at a nighttime headlining club show, and won over just about anyone that happened to walk by. By the end of their set, there were hundreds of people watching them, dancing, clapping and singing along. I can imagine seeing these gentlemen in a more intimate setting would be a gigantic party.

As soon as Larry and His Flask stepped off stage, I ran to the Kevin Says stage to catch recent Epitaph signees, Scranton, Pennsylvania's the Menzingers. This was my second time seeing the band, and they didn't disappoint. The vocals were a bit hard to hear at times, but that's hardly their fault. They played a fun set, mostly from last year's Chamberlain Waits.

Set list:

  1. I Was Born
  2. Who's Your Partner
  3. Deep Sleep
  4. Sunday Morning
  5. Home Outgrown
  6. Straight to Hell [the Clash cover]
  7. A Lesson in the Abuse of Information Technology

The next band I was interested in seeing was Lucero, and they weren't scheduled to play for more than two hours, so I decided to grab some lunch. After grabbing a burrito and a bottled water for a total of $12, and taking a seat under some trees, I noticed the worst band on the tour, Blood on the Dance Floor, setting up at a stage not too far from me. I decided to watch them for a bit just to see how bad they were and laugh at them, but after about 30 seconds, I just decided to leave. Some things are so bad they can't even be enjoyed ironically.

I scanned the schedule to see if there was anyone I didn't absolutely abhor playing in the meantime, and decided to check out Set Your Goals. I watched a few songs, and didn't hate it, but I wasn't terribly impressed either. I walked to the next stage over to watch the Wonder Years do a few songs. They played pretty much the same style as Set Your Goals, but they executed it slightly better. Still, I wasn't very amused so I decided to go say hello to Against Me! at their booth not too far away.

From there, it was Lucero time. We walked over to the stage they were playing about 35 minutes early, just in time to see the last song from D.R.U.G.S., another band the music scene would be better without. Lucero's style of music seems at odds with Warped Tour's outdoor festival atmosphere, as singer/guitarist Ben Nichols noted on stage ("Most of these songs were written to be played in a bar in the middle of the night"). Their horn section sounded great on the 1372 Overton Park songs, and the couple new songs they played, but it was a bit jarring on the older songs. "That Much Further West" really doesn't need horns to get its point across. That aside, the band played a great set, and despite sticking out like a sore thumb on this tour, had a good turnout and plenty of fans singing along.

Set list:
  1. That Much Further West
  2. Sounds of the City
  3. Darken My Door
  4. Like Lightning [new song]
  5. My Best Girl
  6. Colorado Girl [Townes Van Zandt cover]
  7. Shots [new song]
  8. Nights Like These

After watching a few songs from Moving Mountains, I decided to go to the main stage and secure a good spot for Against Me!'s set. Just as we arrived, Less Than Jake (minus Roger Manganelli) were taking the stage to the theme song from The People's Court. I've never been a huge ska-punk fan, outside of OpIvy, but I would take LTJ over 90% of the rest of the tour's lineup, so I didn't mind watching them. They told a few more dick jokes than a group of men in their 40s probably should, but hey, it could have been worse. The only songs they played that I recognized were "Johnny Quest Thinks We're Sellouts" and "All My Best Friends Are Metalheads", as well as gimmicky covers of the Spongebob Squarepants and Scooby Doo theme songs.

And with that it was time for Against Me!. I've seen the band quite a few times over the years, with several different drummers, and never have I once gone home disappointed. However, every time I see them with new drummer Jay Weinberg, I am even more impressed than usual, and I'm reminded of what made them my favorite band in the first place. They implement a "Less talk, more rock" policy, and this was no exception. After a quick "We're Against Me!," they were off. Managing to squeeze 13 songs into their half-hour set, they played a little bit of everything, from 2001's Reinventing Axl Rose to the newly released Russian Spies 7-inch. They nailed it, as they always do, and left the stage with smiles on their faces, and the faces of the crowd.

Set list:
  1. Pints of Guinness Make You Strong
  2. Cliché Guevara
  3. New Wave
  4. White Crosses
  5. Russian Spies
  6. Turn Those Clapping Hands Into Angry Balled Fists
  7. Don't Lose Touch
  8. Piss and Vinegar
  9. Miami
  10. Walking Is Still Honest
  11. I Was a Teenage Anarchist
  12. Sink, Florida, Sink
  13. We Laugh at Danger and Break All the Rules

There were a couple more bands I would have liked to see after Against Me! finished up (SHARKS and Middle Class Rut, to be exact), but I would have had to wait about an hour and a half, and it had been a long enough day already.

The Vans Warped Tour is not what it used to be, but I managed to have more fun than I thought I would. It is no longer the day of year I look forward to the most, but as long as they have enough good bands to keep me busy, I will go back next year.