Punk fans get a lot for their money at Warped Tour

The Vans Warped Tour was a daylong music extravaganza that featured strong sets by dozens of mostly punk and/or metal influenced bands. The show was well worth the $30 entrance fee.

Some of the highlights included the goth and horror film-influenced HorrorPops, the melodic and tuneful Charlotte Sometimes, the reggae influenced Aggrolites and the Street Dogs, who embodied the very spirit of punk.

The Saturday festival featured mostly punk and or metal based genres but included some lighter acts. It had an interesting mix of styles, and it had a mostly teenage audience.

The tour, started in 1995, a few years after the birth of Lollapalooza, is known for featuring harder bands, but the acts usually aren’t heavy metal or as metal as those at Ozzfest. A few of the groups, especially the metal core bands, could play at Ozzfest, and a few would fit into lineups at the Pitchfork or Lollapalooza festivals. One of the best groups in this year’s Lollapalooza lineup, the Gypsy punk band Gogol Bordello, appeared first at Warped Tour.

The best and most eclectic performance came from HorrorPops, which often transcended or matched its influences: The Blasters, The Cramps and X. Lead singer Patricia Day strummed on a colorfully painted bass sporting heavy makeup and leather gear. The mohawk-sporting Kim Necroman played a Eddie Cochran/Billy Zoom-influenced guitar. At one point they switched instruments and Necroman played bass with his teeth. The group brilliantly combined elements of punk, metal, rockabilly, metal and even a bit of ska. Many of the songs they played contained references to trashy B movies and film noir.

Some highlights of their set included “Kiss Me Kill Me,” from their new LP, and “Thelma and Louise,” a great seize the day anthem which was named after the film. All the members have great stage presence.

The Street Dogs gave the best pure punk performance of the evening and added a needed element of danger to the show. They dedicated a song to the Ramones, but they sounded more like the early '80s LA punk bands like Black Flag and Fear (who actually played some dates on the tour.) The band was ferociously effective on a set of machine gun fast numbers, including the autobiographical “Tobe’s Got a Drinking Problem,” and “Mean Fist,” which featured some great Greg Ginn-like guitar work by Marcus Hollar and Tobe Bean II. The ex Dropkick Murpys member and lead singer Mike McColgan is a powerful vocalist, and he had complete control of the crowd.

At one point, McColgan encouraged the crowd to open a section in the front so they could start a circle pit. Dozens of mostly male audience members raced around in a circle and brutally pushed or smashed into other people in the circle and the audience.

Overnight pop sensation Katy Perry did most of her most well-known songs, including “I Kissed a Girl,” “Ur So Gay,” and “Hot and Cold,” Some of her songs show the influence of Alanis Morisette and Liz Phair, and the audience was really getting into the performance.

Some other bands also aquitted themselves well. The California based Randies lacked originality (sounding like a poppier L7 or more metal version of the Donnas) but partially made up for it in spunk. The Frantic did a unique and surprisingly effective punk cover of the Foundations’ standard “Fill Me Up Buttercup.” The Briggs perfectly captured the frustration of youth in “Bored Teenager.” The solo artist dubbed Charlotte Sometimes delivered haunting vocals in her songs with tough below the surface lyrics including “Cry Baby.” Her band (which included keyboards) helped recreate an 80s syth pop sound and provided fine support.

There were some bands that failed to ignite on stage. The metal/hip-hop band 3OH3 started promisingly, but its sonic barrage eventually grew tiresome. Classic Crime’s wailing and generic playing pleased the crowd, but to my ear, had no distinction. Like the original Lollapalooza, Warped Tour travels throughout the country and overseas. Unfortunately this can cause tour schedule conflicts, preventing some bands from playing at all shows. It’s the reason one of the most acclaimed Chicago based punk bands, Rise Against, were on the tour but unable to play Saturday.

Of all the music festivals I have attended, The Warped Tour was by far the most poorly organized. There were ten stages, but no maps or band schedules were distributed (I was told by a Warped Tour employee that people in charge were being eco friendly by saving paper). On top of this, many of the performance times kept changing, making it difficult to decide what to see.

Although the festival did not have as much variety as the Lollapalooza, Intonation, and Pitchfork festivals, Warped Tour did a great job in giving some lesser-known bands exposure. The median quality of the performances was high, and punk fans got a lot for their money.

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