Warped Tour 2009 - live in Cleveland (Cover Artwork)

Warped Tour 2009

live in Cleveland (2009)

live show

As I walked towards the entrance of the Time Warner Cable Amphitheater, I felt a strange mix of nostalgia and fear. I can recall going to early Warped Tours as a 13-year-old kid and being amazed that all my favorite bands were playing in one place. That being said, with the inclusion of bands like Brokencyde, Millionaires and 3OH!3, it seems that the image and the demographic has shifted a bit since the tour's inception. That may be an understatement.

We parked in a garage and I immediately heard the beginning to Less than Jake's "Plastic Cup Politics" booming over the loudspeakers. I adored that band when I was 15. By the time we made it to the main stage I rushed towards the pit and pogoed and danced and sang along like it was sophomore year of high school. Though I would probably never come home from work one day and think "Man, I wanna listen to Less Than Jake!", there's definitely something to be said about remembering where you come from. "Look What Happened" still puts a smile on my face.

Bad Religion played next and the three older punkers standing around started to flip out. Watching Greg Graffin front that band is hilarious -- it looks like when someone's dad gets drunk at a party: awkward but awesome at the same time. Fake Problems was playing at the same time, and in retrospect I probably should have seen them instead. Next time.

We wandered around for a little and ended up catching the second half of Minneapolis rapper P.O.S.'s set. My experiences with live hip-hop have never been that great, but P.O.S. had abandoned the stage and was standing in the middle of a crowd of about 200 kids and was just KILLING it with an amazing amount of intensity. Everyone was dancing, singing along to the parts that they knew, and generally just having a great time. He introduced one song as "the Bouncing Souls meets De La Soul" that included the chorus from the Souls' "Argyle," which was awesome, but made me a bit sad that the Souls weren't gracing Cleveland with their presence at this year's Warped. P.O.S. ended up being one of the best sets I had seen in a long time.

The next band on my list was Big D and the Kids Table. I remember seeing them play out of the side of a truck in 2004 and putting on one of the most energetic shows I've ever seen. However, it seems like their musical ideas have just become diluted and misguided -- their set consisted of "Little Bitch," "Steady Riot," "Fly Away" and four newer songs that are half laid-back-ska, half showtunes complete with backup singers who were fun to look at but didn't add an incredible amount of…anything. Times are changin', I guess. When they finished the crowd stayed and chanted "L-A-X!" for a solid two minutes. The band just looked back at the crowd and laughed, which was a little bit disheartening.

Streetlight Manifesto played next. They are consistently awesome, although their singer Tomas kept referring to Cleveland as Cincinnati. Their set consisted almost completely of requests, which was nice to see.

I caught some band -- I think they were called Gallows -- who were just shit-talking the entire Warped Tour in a fashion that one might call "very British." They had a circle pit that went around the soundboard with a diameter of about 250 feet, which was impressive until I realized that it was a bunch of 14-year-olds running in a circle and not even making any physical contact, which I guess makes it more of a track meet and less of a circle pit.

I closed out the day with back-to-back-to-back sets from NOFX, Westbound Train and Flogging Molly. Fat Mike was obscene and Hefe did a bunch of impressions -- pretty much par for the course -- but they did play "Linoleum," "The Brews" and their cover of Rancid's "Radio," which was great. I really enjoyed Westbound's set -- relaxed, soulful reggae and ska tunes complete with covers of "Stand by Me" and "Cupid." Their singer has a great voice for the type of music that they play, and it was a nice deviation from the rest of the acts I'd seen. Flogging Molly played a very energetic set too, but it's the same thing every time I see them. At that point I was too tired and sunburnt to dance anymore, so I stood by the soundboard and thought about when I was younger and was one of the annoying crowdsurfers whose shoes I now rip off and throw.

The bottom line is that Warped does represent everything wrong with punk rock and independent music today -- I saw enough scenesters and half-naked 13-year-old girls to tide me over for the next few hundred years. But why focus on the negative aspects? I think the 30-something guy in the NOFX shirt said it to me best: "I don't even know why I come here -- The Fest is a million times better…but I don't know, it's still fun though."