In 1995, Timothy McVeigh blew up an Oklahoma City federal building; umpteen thousands were slaughtered in Bosnia and Rwanda; O.J. Simpson was acquitted of double murder; Forrest Gump beat out Pulp Fiction for the best picture Oscar; and Mickey Mantle died. But there was a tiny bright spot amid all the misery. The very first Vans Warped tour, a leaner, skate-punk-rock version of the getting-crappier-by-the-year Lollapalooza festival, hit the road that summer!
A decade later, horrible shit is still happening in the world, but at least Warped continues to provide a bit of loud, aggressive joy for the pierced, inked, green-haired, and fashionably alienated among us. This year's tenth-anniversary edition offers a whopping 69 acts on eight stages, plus tons of side attractions. There are tents where you can download songs, trick out your cell phone, play new and vintage PlayStation games, make customized buttons, and check out fanzines; a monster rock climbing wall and a slip-and-slide; the certain-to-be-swarmed Hot Topic booth; and lots more.
But you're going for the music, right? As always, there's both vets and rookies in the lineup. Here are just a smattering of the bands you can check out:
New Found Glory: Despite being shrunken down to the size of fleas for the new "Failure's Not Flattering" video, the second single from their latest album, Catalyst, the boys of Coral Springs' own New Found Glory are giants in the pop-punk world, residing on the same plateau as Good Charlotte and Blink-182. Which means that millions of people have seen singer Jordan Pundik and said, "Hey, that guy kinda looks like Morrissey!" Though Catalyst contains enough mopey lyrics to do the ex-Smiths frontman proud, NFG can always be counted on for an upbeat, high-energy set. The kids love 'em, the crusty old-schoolers think they're candy-ass MTV lightweights ... ain't that the way it always is?
NOFX: Place your bets, place your bets! Will the first words out of NOFX frontman Fat Mike Burkett's mouth be A) "Hello, Miami!"; B) "Somebody hear me, somebody listen to me!" (the opening line of their 1991 tune "Brain Constipation"); or C) "Fuck George W. Bush!!"? Our money's on C, given that he runs Punkvoter.com, an organization devoted to helping remove the current administration from power this November. So be prepared to get hammered with the message, as well as 21 years' worth of SoCal-style punk rock.
Coheed & Cambria: Let's say you're in your bedroom cranking up Thursday's War All the Time, and your older brother is across the hall doing the same thing with Rush's 2112. As fate would have it, you both decide to grab a Red Bull from the fridge, and as your doors fly open, both albums mesh into a weird nebula in the hallway. What does it sound like? Coheed & Cambria! Fusing together the seemingly disparate worlds of emo and prog metal, this odd-but-powerful New York quartet's catalog is entirely based on the continuing saga of two sci-fi characters named, yup, Coheed and Cambria. Can't wait to see what happens when they perform "The Velourium Camper III: Al the Killer" and its charming, chant-along chorus, "Die white girls, die white girls!"
Atmosphere: There's not a whole lotta hip-hop to be found at Warped, so Minneapolis rapper Slug and the rest of his Atmosphere crew will offer a refreshing change of pace with their crisp, eclectic beats and rhymes. Then again, as card-carrying members of the emo rap underground (hell, Slug once wrote three EPs about the same ex-girlfriend), these guys fit right in.
The Vandals: Seems like the big trend in pop-punk is "growing up." Blink-182 did it, and Sum 41 is heading in that direction, too. Thank God, then, for the long-running Vandals, who are about 97 years old and still playing vintage three-chord punk that's goofy and juvenile as hell. They've got a brand-new album, Hollywood Potato Chip, to draw from, but let's hope they throw in such classics as "Live Fast Diarrhea" and "I've Got An Ape Drape," the latter an ode to mullets.
Yellowcard: The mid-Nineties ska resurgence gave hope to all those suffering high school marching band geeks by proving that trombonists could be rock stars, too. Now Sean Mackin is doing the same thing for orchestra nerds across the nation -- that's right, he plays violin with this California punk quintet (which originally formed in Jacksonville in 1997). His four-string action adds all kinds of interesting texture and depth to the band's aggressive guitar attack. And just to further prove that violin players can be cool, Mackin is so adept at the onstage backflip that he could've probably made this year's U.S. Olympics gymnastics team.
Lars Frederiksen & the Bastards: What would Warped be without at least an approximation of Rancid on the bill? Lars Frederiksen is the guitarist for the Bay Area stalwarts, and the self-titled debut from his side project was produced and co-written by Rancid frontman Tim Armstrong. Whaddaya know -- it sounds like Rancid! Which means it kinda sounds like the Clash, only a bit rougher.
Lennon: Lennon Murphy is one of the very few female performers in this year's lineup, and yeah, we know what you're thinking, but guess what? She hates the Beatles (or so she claims). Known for her dramatic stage presence, the just-out-of-her-teens Tennessee native is kinda like a cross between Nine Inch Nails, PJ Harvey, and Tori Amos, if you can possibly imagine that combination. She's fresh off an opening slot on the Suicide Girls Burlesque Show tour (no stripping, just singing) and will likely be playing songs from her forthcoming third album, I Am. And please, don't holler for her to do "Imagine"; that one's almost as old to her as the "Freebird" joke.
Bad Religion: Like NOFX, the melodic hardcore vets of Bad Religion are pissed off at our Prez. That seething anger feeds the bulk of their awesome new album, The Empire Strikes First. BR has been at it for more than two decades with its credibility and intensity intact. Missing this set would be a huge mistake, my friends.
Fallen From the Sky: This Boca Raton four-piece definitely comes from the Descendents/All school of punk rock: fast, crunchy, ultra-catchy, pep talk tunes with bouncy bass lines and some nice harmonies. They could be the sleeper hit of this year's whole show. Hey, the 246 friends the band has accumulated on its MySpace.com page can't be wrong, right?
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