Warped Tour 2004 - live in Milwaukee (Cover Artwork)

Warped Tour 2004

live in Milwaukee (2004)

live show

As I walked through the gates for this year's Warped, I finally considered myself a Warped veteran. This was my third year doing this, I knew how things worked, how stages were organized, the whole shebang. Fortunately, the setup was basically the same as Warped 2003, so the grounds were easy to navigate, and I was able to get around pretty fast. Not that this mattered too much, but nice to know Warped was making things easy on us repeat attendees. So with all this going from me, Warped 2004 got under way...

To start the day off I had to represent the local Milwaukee boys and go check out The Response on the Ernie Ball stage. The Response boys were as usual, amazing. They effortlessly ripped through a bunch of excellent new tracks, one off their current split with Welton, and an old classic from 2002's Six EP. Despite the fact that I see these guys an average of about once every month and a half, they never get old and boring. I can only hope they score the recognition they deserve.

Next came the hardest choices of the day: Warped decided to go and schedule Anti-Flag and Letter Kills at the same time. I was in the mood for some good angry punk rock sing-a-longs, but when it comes down to it, Letter Kills is still one of the greatest rock bands out there right now. Now making this the 5th time I would be seeing Letter Kills, I knew what to expect, but no matter how much you brace for it, there's always opportunity to be blown away. The sheer command that frontman Matt Shelton has over the crowd, combined with the ridiculous stage performance (that's ridiculous in a good way kids), always make this band an entertaining watch. After hanging from the top of the stage (a popular move that day...more on that later), and busting out the familiar songs like "Don't Believe", "Lights Out", and "Clock Is Down", Letter Kills ended their rock assault, to what I hope were a lot of new fans. The bonus thing here: Letter Kills had their new album The Bridge for sale, even though it technically doesn't come out until the 27th. As I listen right now, it sounds pretty fantastic.

After walking around trying to find something to listen to (I know I was surprised too), finally decided upon Don't Look Down. DLD is one of those bands that started off as really crappy Blink-inspired pop-punk a few years ago, but slowly matured their sound into a decent pop-punk band. This maturity however cannot cure the fact that their live show is well, not that fantastic. The boys seemed to put a lot of energy into it, but the guitars were kind of muddled together, and the lead singer's voice just seemed kind of flat. A good watch to fill in the time, but don't go out of your way to check these guys out.

After this, things got kind of boring. And when I mean boring, I mean none of the bands that were on really interested me. Thus, we analyzed the grounds, walked around a bit, and slowly passed the time picking up free shit. After making stops at the Amnesty International and PETA booths and picking up some free shit, we were off to the main stages.

Lars Fredriksen and the Bastards were rocking out as we showed up. If I were into Lars and The Bastards, I probably would have enjoyed this a lot more. Eh, I guess this is the point where you yell at me for not being punk enough.

Alright then, so really the reason we were waiting was for Alkaline Trio. The Trio came out as a 4 piece (of course) and launched into "We've Had Enough". The band played a fairly decent mix of tunes, including "Maybe I'll Catch Fire", "Private Eye", "Warbrain", "This Could Be Love", and a few others that are escaping me. The Ak3 sounded decent enough, but really for as much energy as you think the band would put forth on stage, they kind of just stood there and delivered their songs.

Up on the next stage was Coheed and Cambria. And just like last year, I skipped C&C. Yes yes I am a dumbass and am regretting it right now. Instead I stopped over by the punkvoter.com booth and watched a verbal battle ensue between one of the guys working the tent and a girl wearing an "I Love Bush But I'm Not A Dyke" sticker on her shirt. Although I'm sure C&C would have been way more entertaining, my ears got a slight break, I got some much needed shade, and I got political entertainment. By the way, major props to punkvoter.com for all the free stickers. Back to the music...

Once again, for lack of anything better to do (and because we had to find our friend), headed back over to the main stages and watched some of New Found Glory. I'll tell you this, the band can put on a show. Jordan was bouncing off the walls (Sugarcult played after them, so ha, clever pun right there), the band was constantly yelling "go go go go!!" and really trying to get the crowd into it. They sounded really damn good, and delivered a pretty safe, mainstream set. Did you expect anything else? "Hit Or Miss", "Head On Collision", "My Friends Over You", "Better Off Dead", "The Truth Of My Youth", "Something I Call Personality" maybe one or two others, and the keyboardist for the Sounds joined NFG for "Failure's Not Flattering". Some part of me still enjoys New Found Glory, and that part of me was definitely satisfied with their performance.

Next up, it was time to partake in one of the smaller stages at Warped, the Space Station. Okay let me rephrase that, it's not so much a stage as it was a tent with amplifiers. The Matches came on, huge blonde afro and all. The band played a highly energetic set, sounded dead on for most of it, and pleased the crowd to the fullest extent, even playing "December Is For Cynics", their X-mas track. Most of the other tracks were from their recently re-released album E Von Dahl Killed The Locals, and those in attendance sang along word for word. Enjoyable performance on a very very tiny stage.

As I was leaving the Space Station, I could hear Story Of The Year off in the distance. Last year those guys played to about 100 fans on the Ernie Ball stage (myself included), and were tossing out samplers hoping for some new fans. Guys, I think you achieved your goal. I didn't actually watch Story Of The Year, I just wanted to make the point of how amazed I was at how fast a band can grow. Once again, back to the music...

The next plan of attack was to see Atmosphere. Yes this involved me missing Bad Religion, and I was okay with that. As we were waiting for Atmosphere to come on, we caught a good chunk of an up and coming band called Bleed The Dream. These guys sounded pretty tight, and even got the drummer of Yellowcard (ya know the one, really skinny black dude with dreads) to come out and scream balls to the wall with them. As my friend said "wow...Yellowcard just got cool". Anyways, Atmosphere finally hit the stage. Last year Slug tore up the stage with his brand of hip hop, and this year was no different. Moving the crowd side to side, firing imaginary guns, and doing a fantastic mix of new and old songs, Slug and Crescent Moon (hype man!!) had the crowd under their control for the entire duration of the set. Running through "Godlovesugly", "Trying To Find A Balance", "Lovelife", "The Bass And The Movement", "Shrapnel", "The Woman With The Tattooed Hands", and a few others I'm failing to remember, the rhymes were tight, the beats were fresh, and once again an entire crowd of punk kids were turned into head bopping hip hoppers.

After closing with "Always Coming Back Home To You", the race was on from Atmosphere over to Taking Back Sunday. We arrived to catch a total of 5 songs from TBS and it was almost close to being worth the jog over there. The band's new material didn't sound very powerful, and even their old songs just didn't sound like they were killing like TBS usually does. Adam was entertaining as always, with the mic being thrown violently, and during the closer "Cute Without The E" scaling the stage and hanging from the rafters just like our buddy in Letter Kills did. However the stage for TBS was just a tad bigger, so Adam took a pretty big fall once the song was over and he had to drop down. I was slightly disappointed in how Taking Back Sunday came off, but here's to hoping their new record is better than the songs sounded.

Warped was once again evil, scheduling both Motion City Soundtrack and Taking Back Sunday at the same time. Having seen MCS 4 times before and TBS only 3, and factoring it's a lot more likely that MCS will show up in Milwaukee again before TBS, I picked TBS. I did get back to Motion City in time to see them do "My Favorite Accident", my favorite song off their record, so that one worked out well.

Post stage-running, we settled back and just waited for Rise Against. The band came out, and the crowd blew up. Circle pits, mosh pits...all the great crowd action you'd expect from Rise Against. The band played some songs off Revolutions Per Minute, a few new numbers, and I'm not too sure what else. After about 8 songs, me and my friend decided to duck out and get out of the parking lot early, as we had both heard the Rise Against songs we had wanted to. I definitely want to see them again, and see their entire set, but after a long day of sun, standing, and sweaty bodies I needed to go home.

Overall, Warped 2004 was not quite as I had hoped. A few of the bands delivered sub par performances, and there were a lot of times during the day when I really was just not interested in anything. I suppose that's all based on personal preference, but usually in year's past I was at least able to find something to occupy my time. It was still worth the $30 ticket, even if my third installment of punk rock summer camp wasn't quite what I had hoped it would be.

Final Note: Bands I Regret Missing Include Anti-Flag, Motion City Soundtrack, Waking Ashland, Flogging Molly, and Bad Religion. Eh, there's always next year.