Orlando, FL • June 25, 2006
The Warped Tour, for me anyway, isn’t about the subtleties of the music, but about the overidulgence of noise, colors, crowds, heat, and- because it is Florida- rain. For most of the bodies lined up at the gates at 10am it doesn’t really matter which bands are on the bill because they decided they were gonna buy tickets long before the lineup was even announced. The Warped Tour is a summer event, a tradition, a day to see friends, meet musicians, sample new music, get wasted, and – in my case- photograph an absurd number of acts in a relatively short period of time! For this reason, I look forward to The Warped Tour.
If you’ve never been to this annual travelling circus of misfits and mayhem (which is now in its 12th year), you may wonder how 100+ bands can possibly play between 11am and 10pm. Let me paint you a picture: there are 2 main stages, a few medium-sized ones, and several tiny can-you-even-call-them-stages. Music can be heard from every angle at any given moment. With so much going on, how do you know who’s playing at what time on what stage? There’s a huge inflatable schedule that is to be your first order of business upon entering the grounds. Find it and frantically start writing it all down before planning your day. This is the best way to avoid the inevitable frustration you will probably suffer later in the afternoon when you realize you missed one of your favorite bands’ sets because they played at noon. And I’ll tell you right now, many big name acts play very early in the day. Examples? On the Vagrant Stage, Senses Fail did an acoustic set @ 11:45am; Joan Jett went on @ 1:30 at Main Stage Right (more on that later!); Thursday rocked at 2pm; and Less Than Jake put on one of the most entertaining performances of the day at 2:30pm. Since the rain clouds rolled in soon after that, it was a damn good thing that the music started early!
Early on I taste-tested several small stage bands before catching NJ’s Bouncing Souls. One of a good number of veteran bands on the tour this year (Buzzcocks, Joan Jett, Helmet, Less Than Jake, NOFX…), Bouncing Souls kicked the spark that Joan Jett soon set to fire! The moms came out of the reverse daycare tent (where the parents chill while the kids party) to join their daughters for what was to be a multi-generational celebration of punk. Like Billy Idol, Jett is approaching 50 and looks better today than she ever has. She still rocks the same 80’s songs we grew up singing along to (“I Hate Myself For Loving You,” “Bad Reputation,” “Cherry Bomb”), but also plays some new material from her long-overdue new album Sinner. She’s hardcore, she’s one of the original feminists punks (a mere teenager in the 70’s when she started The Runaways out in L.A.), and though it may not be the most journalistic thing to say- she’s fuckin’ hot! “Do You Wanna Touch Me?” …. Uh, yeah.
Cross-field on the opposite stage, Thursday appeared before a near hysterical crowd. Vocalist Geoff Rickly was a spastic child in need of a strong ritalin dose. He spun himself and the crowd into a frenzy before plunging head-first into the crowd’s madness early in their set. Meanwhile, Florida’s own ska punk pioneers, Less Than Jake, got the largest waves of crowd surfing going for the afternoon. The always entertaining crew pulled out some old material that got wandering concert-goers quite literally running towards the stage. The most unique “only at the Warped Tour” moment happened on the LTJ stage. NOFX‘s Fat Mike came out and cut saxophone man JR’s long metal hair into a mullet- while the band played on!
The Casualties followed up with some true NYC hardcore punk that I could have watched all day long. But the storm clouds did not allow. As the hard rain fell I wandered the grounds. A wrestling pit in the mud of the venue’s baseball diamond formed and those who had found shelter in the bleachers watced and cheered. Bands played on, and I shot what I could (one handed using a garbage bag to protect my Nikon). I stumbled upon Helmet doing a signing- they told me that at the day before’s show, lightning caused an early shutting down. Walked into another tent and found Against Me! playing foosball! It’s as if for one days, fans and musicians are equals. If you pay attention, and know what everyone looks like, you will run into countless bandmembers on any given Warped stop. The unity is inspiring.
After trudging through Against Me! and Rise Against‘s sets, I regrettably had to shelter my equipment and call it a day. Missing Anti Flag, NOFX, and Buzzcocks was not my intention, but- alas, music readers- I’ll be catching Buzzcocks at a 4th of July party at Tampa’s Hard Rock Casino and reporting back to you on the classic 70’s UK punk band. Until then, remember, as awesome as it is to spend one day a year seeing an overwelming amount of performances, don’t forget to check out these- and other- bands when they come through your town to give more intimate and focused sets within the comfortable confines of your favorite venues!