Thursday, August 11, 2005

Warped Tour 2005

Summer time, summer festivals. Those two phrases always seem to go hand and hand in the live music industry. Over the last ten plus years the festival scene has grown and morphed to accommodate many forms of live music. The 25th anniversary of Woodstock basically restarted the festival scene and two of the first festivals to be organized thereafter were Lalapalooza and The Warped Tour. The Warped Tour, in its long lifetime, instead of floundering or dying off has managed to flourish and become quite the corporate entity.

With this year’s iteration of the Warped Tour we see yet even more of a mainstream focus on the main stages, but if you are willing to venture away from the main stages every now and then you can easily find more than a few bands that are off the beaten musical path. In attending this year’s Warped Tour we (my photographer, Kristin Welch, and I (photo) ) attempted to catch many of the main stage bands as well as take in a few of the smaller acts.

The Minneapolis stop of the tour was attended mostly by the 13-18 year old age group. I would estimate that only one out of every four people was over 18. The odds of finding a person over 21 were even worse. Being 24 I felt a little out of place at times, almost like I should be acting as a chaperone to some of the attendees, but even so this year’s Warped was just as much fun as years past… except for the weather, which was humid and 90+ degrees, which made staying hydrated a key concern, but you don’t go to the Warped Tour to bitch about the weather, you go for the bands, so here’s a rundown of who Kristin and I managed to see this year.

The first band that we managed to catch was The All American Rejects (photo). After a few songs, we realized that there was no reason to stay. Bland, unoriginal, alternative radio styled rock is all these guys were—if you like that type of thing, by all means go see AAR because they do it well, but to us they were quite boring.

After taking a look around at the stage and tent layout, we came back to the main stage to see The Starting Line. I’ve always been a closet fan of them and Kristin is a big pop-punk fan, so it was a no-brainer that we’d try to see these guys. They played a fair mix of songs from their latest release and their debut album which made for good flow since the majority of the crowd knew the old songs but weren’t as acquainted with the new material. The Starting Line’s set was nice and tight, energetic, and lively. We were both bobbing to the music and found ourselves drawn in by their infectious brand of pop-punk.

As we moved on from the main stage, we caught the last 20 minutes of Lost City Angels’ set (photo). They had a very small crowd of about 40 people and to make it worse for them no one was getting into it at all. I don’t think it helped any that they continually tried to get the crowd to yell out “fuck” as loud as they could which was simply alienating them even more. Musically their style of dirty, trashy punk was quite unimpressive. Then again, so was their last cd.

Thankfully after the unimpressive Lost City Angels’ performance we were treated to a rousing, full-bodied half hour of Funeral for a Friend (photo). Of all of the bands that we saw at Warped this year, FFAF put on what was probably the tightest set of the day. They started off aggressively with a track from their last disc before playing songs exclusively from their latest effort, Hours. Even though the material on Hours is much more mellow than their previous releases, they manage to infuse it with a raw intensity when playing the songs live (photo 2).

As we made our way back to the main stage to see what was going on back that way, we saw Relient K starting out their set and after the second song realized they were definitely not for us. Oddly, we found their set comical. As sugar-coated and saccharine sweet as their cds are, they are even worse in concert. They overplay the vocal harmonies and act as cute as possible to get all of the 14 year old girls in the front row to scream their brains out. At times the high pitch screeching was too much to take so we left to go seek out other bands and see what the Hot Topic stage had to offer.

Lo and behold, there was a ska band playing at the Hot Topic stage! One thing that has definitely been lacking from the Warped Tour the last couple of years has been a ska presence, but I suppose with the rise of screaming emo, pop-punk, and radio-friendly metalcore something was bound to get the shaft and it looks like ska got that shaft. Fred Savage and the Unbeatables (photo) are a local band from St. Cloud, MN and we heard rumblings in the crowd that this might be their last show. I don’t know if that was true or not, but it was definitely the talk while they were playing. I’ve seen these guys play before and they still sound like a decent mix of Weezer and old school Reel Big Fish. Most of their songs were very peppy and actually attracted a few passers-by to stay and listen (photo 2).

The rest of the day I don’t remember the order of the bands we saw so I’ll just rattle them off in no particular order. Besides, the set times differ from stop to stop anyways so it doesn’t so much matter now does it?

Billy Idol (photo) definitely made an impression, a bad one. Every band is allotted their half hour set at Warped Tour, which isn’t a lot of time, but that’s the concession that has to be made in order to be a part of the tour. Apparently Idol didn’t get that memo as he just kept playing away almost 15 minutes past his set time which meant for that 15 minutes The Offspring and he were both playing so you really couldn’t hear either band. It was like a really bad DJ mash-up gone even more wrong. So this year Mr. Idol wins the tour’s Dickface award. Congratulations, dickface.

Once Idol finally left the stage we actually had the chance to listen to the rest of The Offspring’s set. It was nice to hear them playing most material from Smash as a lot of their more recent stuff has been pretty, how shall I put this, atrocious? I was saddened that they didn’t play anything from Ignition or their self titled disc, but then again they might have during the 15 minutes they were dueling with Billy Idol. I’d never seen The Offspring so it was fun to actually see them perform. Dexter turning a fire hose on the crowd was much appreciated by everyone in the front, but I would have rather had them play another song instead of watching Dexter play fireman.

I only caught half of Strung Out’s set (photo), but from what I saw they still know how to tear it up. Fast, furious, and always trying to get the crowd into it, Strung Out were fun to watch. They mixed in a good amount of old and new songs so fans of both eras should be pleased. It’s just too bad they didn’t have a bigger crowd, but what do you expect when the median age of the show’s attendees is 15?

One band that I was glad I only saw a partial set of was Senses Fail (photo) . I’m pretty sure their ship has set sail for nowheresville, but they don’t know it yet. It felt like their playing was sloppy and the vast majority of the crowd just wasn’t into it. It might be because their style of music is better suited for emo boys to listen to while crying in their basement about girls than in a live setting, or it might just be that they aren’t very good. I’ll let you decide (photo 2).

MXPX (photo), stalwarts of the Warped Tour that they are, played another inspired performance. They played through many classics, such as “Chick Magnet”, “Responsibility”, and “Punk Rawk Show” to name a few. They also threw in some new tracks such as “Wrecking Hotel Rooms” and “Heard that Sound”. Personally I think the new material fits in perfectly with their usual repertoire of live songs. If you’ve never seen these guys, or even if you have, make sure to go see them (or see them again).

Another partial set that I managed to take in was that of No Use for a Name (photo). As much as I used to really like this band back during my early college and late high school years, I haven’t kept up with them lately and since I didn’t recognize many of the tunes they played, I’m assuming they’re rocking out a lot of new stuff. Their performance was good, but nothing unbelievably spectacular.

Atreyu were, well, Atreyu. They acted as much like big time rock stars as they could doing the guitar theatrics while playing their version of updated 80’s hair metal riffs underneath uninspired screaming and whiney melodic vocals. You either hate this type of crap or love it. And as always, they ended their set by covering Bon Jovi. They’re not exactly my favorite band to watch, but a lot of people seem to enjoy them.

What was interesting to see was how much the crowd got off on Hawthorne Heights (photo). I personally think they’re one of the most underwhelming “screamo” bands on the scene right now, but the kids were eating it up, especially when they ripped into “Ohio is for Lovers”. The crowd was putting more energy into the songs than the boys in HH from what I could see, which is sad if you are HH.

Mae (photo) was definitely an interesting band to see in a live environment. They stuck mostly to their guitar driven songs, starting off their set strongly with “Someone Else’s Arms”. The one thing that stands out about Mae’s live performance is how the vocals fail to translate when it comes to hitting the higher register, drawn out lines, such as the chorus to “Someone Else’s Arms”. They don’t feel as full as on disc and actually come off a little strained. The crowd still ate them up, and by ate them up I mean they stood around and nodded along to their songs. I do have to applaud the boys in Mae for being one of the few bands at Warped not sporting ugly as hell emo haircuts (photo 2).

One band that I thought was really out of place on this tour was Skindred (photo). Their sound was something I would have more likely expected at Ozzfest or opening up Sounds of the Underground, but even for being at a “punk” festival they had a good handful of fans who were really getting into it. Circle pits formed, kids ran into each other, and there was lots of machismo emanating from the crowd… it would have just been better if the band would have stuck more to playing songs instead of playing around with turntables and talking to the crowd. As it was, when they were playing they were decent, but they need to focus more on playing their instruments instead of playing around.

Rounding out the night was Dropkick Murphys (photo), a band who never disappoints. This year was no different. They played mostly older, familiar tunes that had just about everyone within earshot jumping around, but they threw in a couple of new tunes, the crowd favorite being “Citizen CIA”. You can’t really say too much about these guys other than their stage presence is huge, the crowd is nuts, and every minute they’re playing you’ll be enjoying it.

So with another year’s Warped Tour making the rounds, there will be some who love this year’s lineup and others who hate it. Either way, you have to admit that this traveling festival sure has changed since its start 11 years ago. I won’t say that this year’s lineup is the best it’s seen, as it is actually quite far from it, but it manages to hold its own against other recent years.

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