Warped Tour 2002 - live in St. Paul, MN (Cover Artwork)

Warped Tour 2002

live in St. Paul, MN (2002)

live show

For the first time ever, the Vans Warped tour invaded the beautiful regional park Harriet Island here in St. Paul, MN. Featuring a wonderful view of the picturesque St. Paul skyline and the tranquil Mississippi River flowing a few feet away, the site was an oddly-perfect place for a punk show.

When I arrived at the gate, it was unbelievably hot! The temperature was well into the 90's by 12:00 p.m. and I highly doubted it would get any cooler. My friends and I had a little time before the first band we wanted to catch so we surveyed the area. In my opinion, one of the coolest parts about the Warped Tour is that first glimpse you get when you arrive. Tents and stages always seem to go on for miles and this year was no exception. What a view! By 1:30, we were ready to go check out the Alkaline Trio on one of the main stages.

The Alkaline Trio never fail to impress with their unique take on the proven pop-punk formula. Their performance was tight, if somewhat unremarkable. They mostly played songs off their first two albums, neglecting some of my favorites off of "From Here to Infirmary." I tried to stay in the pit for their whole set but it was way too hot! It didn't help things that the Trio's music really isn't suited for a 1:30 p.m. performance. All in all, they were OK, but I don't think it had anything to do with the band's actual performance. I would still see them in a club, any day.

My friends and I immediately sought shade after the Alkaline Trio set. We amused ourselves for awhile by watching people on the pirate-themed slip ‘n slide thing, though I admit it was hard to watch all that water being wasted when they only had one freakin' water fountain for the whole area! Oh well, what can ya do?

By the time 3:00 p.m. rolled around, we headed back to the main stages to catch one of my favorite bands of all-time, Reel Big Fish. If there is one band that fits in perfectly on the Warped Tour, it's RBF. Their fun, catchy rock-with-horns sound was welcome relief from the heat. No one cared that it was 90 degrees, we just wanted to have a good time and believe me, a good time was had by all. In between the beachballs and the skankin' pit, RBF found a way to cram about nine or ten songs into their set. The band were accompanied by the trombone player from the Mighty Mighty Bosstones and, though I didn't catch his name, he added a lot to the overall sound of the band. They ripped through a bunch of new tunes and then, with the final bars of "Sell Out," they were gone and we were off to catch them at a tent signing autographs. After chatting with the fish for awhile, we walked over to the Drive-Thru stage to see the Rx Bandits.

Unfortunately, before this show, I had never had the opportunity to see the Rx Bandits live. Let's just say that I am kicking myself in the ass right now because they totally blew me away. I have (and love) their album "Progress" but I had no idea how explosive they could be live. Their entire set pulsed with energy and their on-stage movements were, in all honesty, insane! They rocked through a bunch of tunes and I was sad to see them leave the stage. A word of advice: catch the Rx Bandits if they come to your town!

After being rocked by the Rx Bandits, we were un-rocked (can I say that?) by New Found Glory. I admit, I like this band a lot. I have all of their full-length CDs and I really enjoy them. Seeing them at this year's Warped Tour, however, left much to be desired. First of all, Jordan just CANNOT pull off some of those high notes live. Instead, he substitutes a different (and far worse) melody line in the original's place. Here and there is fine but come on, it gets really annoying after awhile. The other main gripe I have with their live show is the lack of harmonies. All NFG albums are loaded with double- and triple-tracked Jordan-sung harmonies. Nowhere is this more apparent than at the show. The songs seemed somewhat empty and lifeless at times and this was a major downer. The band did display a lot of energy, however, so I have to give them some credit. Mediocre at best.

Ok, well you've made it through my long, boring review and I bet you are wondering where it gets interesting. Right about...now! Just as Ozma was finishing up their set on the left main stage, it began to lightly sprinkle. Flogging Molly took the right stage at 6:00 and the light sprinkle turned into a total downpour! I cannot describe what followed but I will definitely try. Try to imagine thousands upon thousands of punks all doing a jig in the pouring rain while listening to an Irish punk band. It may sound a little bizarre but that's only because it really was. Singer Dave King remarked that it reminded him of "fuckin' Ireland!" I'm not sure if that is a positive thing or not but he sounded pretty enthusiastic about it. In any case, the rain continued to fall and Flogging Molly continued to play. The pit was absolutely insane during their set! We were all completely soaked but nobody really cared. I chanted "oi!" along with everyone else, sang myself hoarse, and ran around in a giant puddle of mud. It was amazing! The band, to say the least, was tight. They played a bunch of songs from their newest record and a few from "Swagger". I would have to say, however, that the crowd really pushed their set over the top. By the time Flogging Molly left the stage, I was completely soaked and pretty cold. Nevertheless, we headed over to the other main stage for the next band, NOFX.

Unfortunately for the thousands of people still left at Harriet Island, they never actually played. It quickly became obvious that the rain wasn't going to let up anytime soon and our chants of "RAIN OR SHINE!" (as printed on our tickets) didn't do much to help matters. After about 20 minutes of this, El Hefe directed us back to the other main stage. Apparently, the rain had shorted out the power on one stage. What followed could probably be considered one of the most random and cool things I have ever seen at a show! Someone plugged in a guitar amp and gave El Hefe a guitar. Hefe and Fat Mike proceeded to play a few different NOFX tunes with just vocals and guitar. Jay from Bad Religion gave Mike his bass and Mike thanked Jay by playing and singing the BR classic, "Do What You Want." Some more cool stuff followed with two dudes from Good Charlotte playing Weezer's "El Scorcho" and Morgan Heritage doing a few Bob Marley tunes. After about 45 minutes of randomness, we were finally kicked out of the park.

All in all, the 2002 Vans Warped Tour was definitely the coolest show I have ever been to. From the great bands early in the day to the awesome ending, the day was perfect. Even weeks later, a smile comes to my face whenever I hear a Flogging Molly song. I highly doubt that I will soon forget that day/evening in the rain!