- Sunday, July 1, 2007
- The stage was set, the sun shining bright, and it was the third day of the punk/alt-rock onslaught known as the Vans Warped Tour. The Warped Tour is a summer staple worldwide now as it enters its 13th year. This is one of the longest running festival shows going to date, and with little mystery. Its funny how something that is essentially run from a kids perspective works out more professionally than many larger corporate-sponsored tours. This powerhouse of a festival has always worked on punk rocks DIY (do it yourself) ethics, and they have paid off. Warped is now one of the most respected tours out there. It comes around like clockwork, you know what youre getting (by getting a variety of things that you may not know to expect), and its always fun.
Although its primarily a punk rock extravaganza, the show prides itself on showcasing much diversity in music, and more importantly, allowing exposure for lesser-known - or rather totally unknown - bands to share their aural wares.
No matter what your personal musical tastes, the Warped Tour is almost guaranteed to have something for everyone. With 6 primary stages, and usually quite a bit more sidelining stages for smaller bands and exhibits, if you dont like something, just move on over to the next stage until you find something to suit your palate. From the main force of punk to hard rock to metal and screamo stretching over to rockabilly, jazz, lounge, Christian rock, experimental and much more, Warped Tour is a musical smorgasbord not to be missed.
On a personal note, and not just from a journalists perspective, if one had to pick on tour or concert to attend in a year, this would be it.
So now were on to Sunday, July 1, 2007 - the third day of the tour. As it began on the West Coast, it had been two days tested (in the Los Angeles area) to work out any potential bugs in the system. The cavalcade of performers, crew, and others made it safely to the Shoreline Amphitheatre in Mountain View, CA. The tours usual stop in the Bay Area had been at San Franciscos Piers 30 / 32, which provided a great rock setting underneath the Bay Bridge, with sea air, and breezes to cool the suns rays. The Shoreline was unfamiliar testing grounds for the show, and it was a wonder (until the morning of the show) how it would all go over. Thankfully, everything worked out great. Although many of the employees and security had no idea where everything was going to be placed, let alone how they would fit the thousands planning on showing up into a venue that normally holds 20,000. It all happened, and nicely too. Kudos and respect to the Shoreline Amphitheatre for pulling it off without a hitch and keeping it a safe and fun concert.
The doors opened at 11am, show starting at 12 noon. Unfortunately a handful of bands were set to start before the official starting time, but thats what rotating performance times are for from day to day (if they are still playing by those rules). The Shoreline normally has a main stage with seats and grass seating in front. This turned out to become one of the secondary stages (although some bands seemed to think it was the main stage due to its placement), and was split into two sections. The stage had no barrier separating the two sides.
While one band played, the crew would set up the next band on the other half of the stage. This is where it got a bit odd, but interesting. We were all gathering in the backstage, which had an open curtain with full view of the stage and audience behind. After a short while, crew and friends eventually would wander onto the stage, surrounding the band while they watched. Eventually the paying audience got to see not only the bands playing onstage, but a whole gang of people around them. Definitely a unique experience, but no one seemed to mind as it all turned the whole show into a private living room party atmosphere. No pretensions, no egos, just a group gathering of people enjoying music and each other.
A punk rock hippie festival -
This is a termed I coined while at the show. It may not make sense, nor sit well with some, but if anyone remembers what Woodstock was supposed to represent, compared to what the Warped Tour offers, it is similar. This is a show that really unites people and offers a lot, not just with music. There are a lot of booths and vendors, with many social and political issues covered, along with wares being sold. But overall, there is a lot to see. And not to forget the skaters and BMXers who get to show off their talents in the half-pipe.
With somewhere between 55 - 75 bands, you can imagine that it is literally impossible to see every single act playing at the show. But the way it was spread out gave the audience a good opportunity to at least see a snippet of most bands. Another way of curbing any egos or issues is that every band got to perform a 30 minute set - enough to give a taste to everyone.
Alesana / Scary Kids Scaring Kids -
With all the traffic on the highway, we did get in close to start time, and just in time to see Alesana onstage, followed by Scary Kids Scaring Kids. We (the press crew backstage) had to get situated, so it took a bit to get our bearings, not to mention trying to figure out where all the other stages were placed. But we did get to see a few glimpses of the both bands as they really put their all into their early schedule performances. Although I myself am not that familiar with either band, both Alesana and Scary Kids Scaring Kids had great sets.
The Vincent Black Shadow -
This is a band whom I had found out about only two days before the show, but what a band it is. This was one of the main newer acts whom I did not want to miss. Every since hearing their CD Fears In The Water, vocalist Cassandra Fords voice has haunted me. Seeing her (very) under 5 tall frame belting out vocals reminiscent of nostalgic 1940s torch singers, backed by a very strong and talented band was a great start off for my day. Backed by the three Kirkham brothers (and touring keyboardist Mary Anchetta), TVBS rocked and rollicked with their brand of edgy alternative-tinged rock infused with jazzy construction. It was unfortunate that more people didnt get to see them perform, as it was still early in the day, and Im not sure if everyone got it, as many kids were there to see some of the heavier acts. But then, thats what the Warped Tour is for, to enlighten people to new sounds. Playing their own tunes, such as the haunting yet driven Control, Metro, Bullet On The Tracks, The House Of Tasteful Men, the band also threw in the odd but fitting White Rabbit, made famous originally by the BayAreas own Jefferson Starship (and their enigmatic vocalist Grace Slick). A solid addition indeed. By the end of the set, without a doubt there were some new TVBS converts.
Killswitch Engage -
Our other photographer/writer Keith Denison wandered off to see Killswitch Engage, the band that seems to be making a lot of noise in recent years. The band ripped through a mighty set that included some melodic portions along with a bit of cookie monster thrown in. Killswitch definitely made the crowd wanting more as the bodies piled up - and over - the railings during the set.
Meg & Dia -
We had to run off to an interview, but got a chance to watch at least a couple of songs by Meg & Dia. This sister act, with Dia on vocals, and Meg on guitar, had a tight backing band. I didnt know any of their pop-infused tunes, but was quite impressed with their ability to really churn out the music and get the audience into it with as much passion as they put out. Equally impressive were both the vocals, as well as Megs guitar soloing. This is another act that really deserves a chance in the open pop market. Remember, when you think that music today sucks, that only refers to what you have heard. There is so much more out there that is well worth listening to. Meg & Dia are amongst that choice of quality acts that should be heard more of.
Tiger Army -
This is another one of the bands that I did not want to miss, and they did not disappoint. Admittedly Im a bit late on the scene to be learning about Tiger Army, but better late than never. The band is labeled as psychobilly and punk, but their roots seem to be deeper than that as they have a bit of soft edge around the tunes, along with a touch of swing, country, and pop melodies. Nick 13 did an exceptional job vocally and on guitar, being backed by stand-up bassist Jeff Roffredo and drummer James Meza. The band was tight and their performances mesmerizing. A few fans complained that Tiger Army had gone a bit pop for their tastes and may have lost a bit of their original bite, but from my perspective this band is sure to only rise higher. Again, more exposure will put this band where it belongs. After seeing this show, my opinion is that Tiger Army could become a household name.
Family Force 5 -
Yet another main reason for my attending the Warped Tour this year. Family Force 5 first caught my attention on MySpace. I get besieged by tons of bands all wanting to be my buddy. Many are met with the delete button (one can only listen to so many bands in a day) as they just may not grab my cojones. FF5 however really deliver the goods. For those of you old enough to remember the San Jose funk/punk scene in the late 1980s (Limbomaniacs), and the same LA scene in the late 1990s (Zebrahead), FF5 may not be completely original, but they definitely get the sound out there. A mix of disco, punk, metal, and hip-hop with a healthy dose of fun makes this band a must-see. Vocalist Solomon Olds showed the crowd he meant it by wearing giant fist gloves during the show. Im still not sure how to take the fact that they are Christians in a band (as opposed to being a Christian band) with an album titled Business Up Front / Party In Back, for those who remember the old joke. In any case, the pumped-up funk-infused got the party started around the dinner time hour and kept the audience alert to enjoy the rest of the evenings show.
The Vandals -
On of my all-time favorite LA punk bands, The Vandals played, and unfortunately I missed most of the set. But what I did see, showed that three of the members still take their music - and their humor - seriously, while guitarist Warren Fitzgerald is still the resident madman. Their set closed with a cover of Queens Dont Stop Me Now, which is actually a funny video on YouTube. If you have a chance to see The Vandals ever, do it!
Circle Jerks -
One of Los Angeles quintessential punk bands, going back to 1979, got to be seen by the masses, and for good reason. I last saw them at the Keystone Palo Alto in 1983, and remembered their show like it was yesterday. Although a few years older, the band still put out the energy and raw aggression that they did in their younger days. Keith Morris vocals are angst-filled as ever, as guitarist Greg Hetson chunked out the notes. From the short fury-burst of Deny Everything, to their cover of Wild In The Streets, Circle Jerks are amongst the originals of the early LA punk movement, and is always entertaining.
Another band whom I knew nothing about until happening upon their set at the Warped Tour. While walking past their stage to another location, vocalist Hayley Williams powerhouse vocals caught my attention, until I saw the diminutive singer and her emblazoned colored hair and had to stay to watch the set. Paramore knows how to rock. Hayley is the second youngest in the band, at 19, but has the sound and presence of a seasoned professional. The band themselves had a great sound and performance - the band really gelling well as a team. I will definitely see them again anytime they come through.
And yes, another band whom I had only recently discovered, but was blown away by on their CD. This band is beyond ready for the mainstream market. Vocalist Stephen Christian is one amped-up performer. Stephen is a singer who really gives his all, although from a photographers standpoint, he is a nightmare. Does this guy ever sit still?! Running around the stage, he barely stopped to catch a breath, almost like watching a hummingbird in action, just without the wings. The band played songs from different points of their CD selections. One of my personal favorites was Adelaide dedicated to the Australian city. Anberlin is definitely headed for the big time, and hopefully the rest of the world is ready to catch up.
Coheed & Cambria -
The new heroes of progressive rock, replacing the void that Rush left when they disappeared off of non-classic rock radio, C&C offers up their brand of layered and textured music that brings the listener into different spaces. Claudio Sanchezs definitive high vocals are the main comparison to Rush, while their music goes into different depths. The show itself was tight and delivered the consistent sound that the band is known for.
Bad Religion -
Punk rocks stalwart performers. Greg Graffin and gang, including Circle Jerks guitarist Greg Hetson, came out guns ablazing with their anthemic rock and sociopolitically charged punk seriousness. Gaffin, a UCLA professor, delivered no-nonsense lyrics of oppression in our America today. It was also great to see drummer wünderkind Brooks Wackerman playing with the band. The only complaint that I can offer up about the band is simply that they did not play long enough. There were a lot of songs that many fans hoped to hear, but of course everyone understood that the plan was to stick to the 30 minutes each stage time. For the record though, Bad Religion is one band whose messages are relevant and important, while their musical performances are always right on the mark. I cannot say so much that they are the punk rock band they are made out to be, so much as a band who knows how to deliver great, quality music with all the proper trimmings, while cutting out the fat. Bad Religion can keep coming to town, and Ill keep going to see them. A great closing to a great Warped Tour show.
Written by Philip Anderson