Vans Warped Tour Hits Miami

Our must-see picks for this year's edition.

How best to catch the sprawling, guitar-driven extravaganza that is the Vans Warped Tour? To put it simply: You can't see all of it. Faced with multiple stages and 50-plus bands, you've got to prioritize. To help, Miami New Times has compiled a list of our favorite can't-miss acts, from Warped classics to newcomers pushing genre boundaries. Enjoy, but remember to arrive early and check the lineup boards — Warped's famous democratic scheduling system means your favorite Fuse stars could go on as early as noon.

A Dream of Reality

HorrorPops: Devilish and Danish.
Octavio Winkytiki
HorrorPops: Devilish and Danish.
Every Time I Die promises to survive this gig.
Photo courtesy of Ferret Music
Every Time I Die promises to survive this gig.

This Coral Springs (holla!) quartet recently achieved many a contemporary punk band's dream when it was plucked out of near-obscurity and chosen to join Warped for nearly its entire run. Just 18 to 22 years old, the bandmates boast only one album, the recently released It's Nothing Personal, out on Miami-based Powerline Records. But despite all of that freshness, their songwriting chops are polished and spit-shined, with hooky, clean riffs that recall early My Chemical Romance (that's a huge compliment!). YouTube the video "After Dark" for a dose of the band's carefully controlled, propulsive guitar hysteria. (AC)

Anberlin

Orlando's Anberlin could be called the quintessential emo pop-rock band. With sounds along the lines of older acts such as Copeland and Mae, these guys deliver a blend of earnest hearts-on-their-sleeves acoustic pop and gutsy, ambitious rock. On the scene since 2001, this quintet has three albums under its belt, with a fourth, New Surrender, set for release this September. Its pure, distinctive melodies and positive, uplifting lyrics have made Anberlin a favorite on gospel stations, and gaining the group the label of a Christian rock outfit. The band claims it's not, but continues to reap the best of both worlds. Intricate musical moments driven by climaxing guitars, as well as singer Stephen Christian's unique vocal style, set this band apart from the rest of the acts on the emo market. (MC)

As I Lay Dying

For those who might have thought Christian death metal was an oxymoron — or maybe music tailored for double-morons, depending on your perspective — As I Lay Dying might confound your expectations. Death metal has actually had its share of Christian acts for quite some time, but naturally it's been a tough sell with the upside-down-cross-and-pentagram set that typically flocks to the genre. But with persistent touring and sticking to its Jesus-loving guns, AILD stands to make inroads into underground legitimacy, if not mainstream acceptance outright. And come to think of it, with its ever-recurring themes of grimness and gore, death metal actually seems perfectly suited for the harshness of the Bible, the Christ story, and end-times angst. (SRK)

Bedouin Soundclash

Easily one of the mellowest acts on this year's bill, Bedouin Soundclash boasts a gentle wash of hook-filled dub that should sound especially soothing against the generally more aggressive sound of the other bands. But when you consider the affinity British punks had for ska, reggae, and dub early on, the band's presence makes sense — even as it provides a stark contrast to what's going on the rest of the day. Where other reggae-based bands tend to emphasize deep, body-moving grooves, Bedouin Soundclash focuses on twinkling electric guitar lines and vocal melodies that land somewhere between the catchiness of pop and the dusty immediacy of folk. (SRK)

Charlotte Sometimes

Fans of Regina Spektor, Vanessa Carlton, or Poe will either love or hate the melodic whimsy and subtle girl-power edge of Charlotte Sometimes. Love because of Sometimes's uncanny similarities to these artists, and possible hate because of her lack of real individuality as an artist. A New Jersey native, Sometimes has always been drawn to the stage, be it theater, dance, or music. She dedicated herself to music at age 14, when she began singing and writing songs on guitar. Her 2008 debut, Waves and the Both of Us, is a collection of catchy, mainstream melodies and lyrics focused on the highs and lows of relationships. Even though her voice is sweet and bright, Sometimes comes off fiery and fun enough to earn some nods from tough girls. Hers just might be one of the most unexpected sounds on this year's Vans Warped Tour, but that also gives good reason to check out this budding songstress. (MC)

Dillinger Escape Plan

Dillinger Escape Plan is sort of like a band of Vikings, blazing through a town in a maelstrom of chaos that leaves the feeble shivering in a puddle of their own secretions. Think noise, destruction, and flames — literally. Frontman Greg Puciato has been known to shoot fireballs from the stage between bouts of expelling the demons from his head.

And, well, being in a band this perfectly brutal isn't easy. Originally from Morris Plains, New Jersey, Dillinger Escape Plan formed more than 10 years ago. The group has gone through about nine members since, not counting those in the current formation. Original vocalist Dimitri Minakakis threw in the towel thanks to sheer exhaustion after a few years; other members were forced to drop out owing to accidents and injury. Most recently, drummer Chris Pennie decamped to join the mystical proggy-core outfit Coheed and Cambria, nearly the polar aesthetic opposite of DEP.

But no matter — Puciato and the gang soldier on. Their current stint on the Warped Tour is just the latest national outing in support of their album Ire Works, released last November on Relapse Records. (AC)

Every Time I Die

Although formerly categorized as a post-hardcore type of act, the Buffalo-based Every Time I Die has flexed its muscles far beyond convention. Together now for more than a decade, the quintet boasts a brutal but nuanced guitar assault, largely thanks to the axe attack of Andy Williams, who also is often a public face for the band. An imposing physical presence, with a lumberjack's beard and arms covered with a patchwork of tattoos, he blogs frequently on the band's MySpace page. There he defends peers, connects with fans, and even, most recently, offers free hugs before shows. Meanwhile, the band's latest and best record, The Big Dirty, is relentless in the best possible way. Moving further away from easy genre categories, it's loud and pulverizing, but with serious song-craft and the propulsive, meaty energy of, say, Motörhead. (AC)

HorrorPops

If Bettie Page were a tattooed vampiress who played upright bass and sang, she might be the frontwoman for the HorrorPops. This Danish trio has been making psychobilly pop-punk since 1996 but has only three albums to show for it. The group's retro-Hollywood-glam-gone-goth fashion statements and theatrical performances seem to be just as important to them as their Misfits-meets-Cramps sound. Their upright basses are elaborately handcrafted — one shaped like a coffin, another elaborately painted by a tattoo artist. They've also been known to put on lively shows with go-go dancers and an overall sexy slasher-flick, if not slightly campy, style, making them totally unforgettable and fun. The band claims to have an affection for all kinds of musical genres, but there's no mistaking the fact that its forte is a New Wave punk-pop fusion. (MC)

Protest the Hero

Cross the hallucinogen-fueled metaphysical inquiry of Terence McKenna with the goofy stoner charm of Tommy Chong, and you get Protest the Hero bassist andwith a righteously over-the-top prog-metal soundtrack, Mirabdolbaghi and bandmates traverse high-minded spiritual concepts with the cartoon swagger of the Scooby-Doo gang. It takes a hell of a lot of panache to sound like a wise-ass while you're wailing operatic about the return of the archetypal goddess, the refeminization of the planet, and humanity's move from cold science to mysticism. But PTM boasts balance in spades and pulls it off with flying colors — not to mention awesome Mongolian battle imagery. It's no surprise, then, that the band keeps tongue firmly in cheek while showing off its staggering musical chops. This is mushroom-cloud metal for the children of a new age. It's also fun as hell. (SRK)

Set Your Goals

Fast-paced, in-your-face lyrics and energetic epic choruses define the hardcore pop-punk quintet Set Your Goals. Riding along the lines of the old-school versions of New Found Glory, Blink-182, and Saves the Day, this group delivers rage-charged battle cries. Perhaps the best thing about their live performance is the alternating scream-sing dynamic between vocalists Jordan Brown and Matt Wilson. Their monstrous roars can be intense, but these guys aren't so hardcore that they lose their sense of humor. Songs such as "We Do It for the Money, OBVIOUSLY," "This Song Is Definitely NOT About a Girl," "Goonies Never Say Die," and their cover of The Police's "Every Breath You Take" prove the bandmates also have a playful side. The group's 2006 debut, Mutiny!, is one of the most enthusiastic, spirited punk albums released in the past three years. The record's title track is a message to the record industry, but also shows how Set Your Goals is clever and self-motivating without being overwhelming and preachy. They sing, "Don't sign our lives away to impure industries/You're going under/We have come to take it over." (MC)

Street Dogs

Combining the hardy liveliness of Irish pub sing-alongs and brash, unapologetic ska-punk rock, Boston's Street Dogs make music that keeps spirits high and mosh pits raging. The band's lead singer, Mike McColgan (formerly of rowdy Celtic-infused punk band Dropkick Murphys) had taken a hiatus with his music career to serve in the Gulf War and become a Boston firefighter, before forming Street Dogs in 2002. His experiences often influence the band's working-class and political-minded lyrics. Topics explored on the group's 2006 album, Fading American Dream, hit home with their tireless rants and fist-pounding cries about our bleak economy, lying politicians, and the struggles faced by common Americans. Although Street Dogs continue to address politics on their fourth and latest album, State of Grace, they are also focused on paying homage to family and friends who are no longer living. It might sound kinda gushy, but have no doubt there is still plenty of feisty punk energy and massive hoorahs for change. C'mon, grab a pint and join the cause. (MC)

We the Kings

Imagine any song you've ever heard on a CW or MTV drama series, and that's exactly the kind of mainstream hit music made by We the Kings. The band has already been featured on The Hills, and there's no doubt the group will earn more TV spots. These guys produce such catchy, radio-ready melodies that if they didn't play instruments, they would be one step away from being called a boy band. At live performances, this Bradenton quintet inspires starry-eyed teenage girls to passionately sing along to every word of its high-school-drama-fueled tunes. It's only fair to explain that We the Kings might sound like a contrived commercial band, but the members met in high school and earned a following DIY-style through MySpace before getting signed. That fact alone is probably reason enough to check out these small-town-gone-big-time musicians who are turning heads and stealing hearts on the teen scene. (MC)

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