Categories
Event Reviews

Warped Tour 2008

Warped Tour 2008

Vinoy Park, St. Petersburg, Fl • July 11, 2008

The blue water of the Gulf of Mexico glistened beneath the blistering Florida sun and palm trees swayed above the sun-soaked heads of the thousands gathered at St. Petersburg’s Vinoy Park for this summer’s Warped Tour. Those in attendance for what is sure to go down in the books as the worst Warped Tour bill in its 14-year history at least found solace in the natural beauty of the event’s surroundings.

Jen Cray

The Warped Tour has always been heavy on the teen-friendly, mainstream acts, but this year’s lineup is so bogged down with Hot Topic poster boys that there are no open spots left for the old school punk acts whose music was originally the foundation of the tour.

Oreskaband

Jen Cray
Oreskaband

This would still be completely acceptable if the young bucks on the big stages had anything to offer the audience beyond bad haircuts, ass cracks, and forgettable songs. With the exception of Against Me, the bands scheduled for the two main stages didn’t seem too promising, and so I did my best to steer clear of them.

Pierce the Veil

Jen Cray
Pierce the Veil

I spent my day running between the many small stages beginning at high noon with the refreshing and buoyant grooves of Oreskaband. I had previously found their album fun but disposable, but maybe it’s just that this sextet only makes sense when you see their smiling faces dancing around in front of you. The Japanese beauties dress like school girls and are hell-bent on reinvigorating traditional ska. It’s even in their name — Oreskaband translates as “we are ska band.” The girls seemed to be having more fun than any other band on the tour, and when they included a cover of Toots & the Maytals “Monkey Man” in their set, I, too, was one happy Warped Tour audience member.

In the past I have expressed my frustration with the tired genre of screamo, a genre that though present at the festival was not responsible for the worst music I heard for the day. This year listeners have to grit their teeth through the latest trend: hip hop-infused disco that’s dressed up in emo clothing. The worst of these offenders is a stoned duo that goes by the name Shwayze, and whose best lyrics go something like, “If you got the weed/ I got the pipe/ We can get high together all night.” Dress that up in fluorescent colors and smoke it.

The Lordz

Jen Cray
The Lordz

If you insist on finding your hip hop fix, The Lordz (formerly Lordz of Brooklyn) is a safer bet. Remember Travis Barker and Tim Armstrong’s rap/punk side project, The Transplants? The Lordz is just like that, only without members of Rancid and Blink 182. It wasn’t particularly to my liking, however they did put on one hell of an energetic show. Plus, one of the two vocalists was keen on doing the robot. How can you not like a band that seeks to bring back the robot?!

In need of at least the slightest dose of punk, I managed to find a bit of a silver lining in the form of The Saint Alvia Cartel. For this reggae-inspired punk band from California there were maybe a dozen kids in the “crowd,” none of whom seemed to be doing anything more than killing time. The band take their cue from The Clash delivering a sound seeped in the islands, but painted with the grime of the street.

Saint Alvia Cartel

Jen Cray
Saint Alvia Cartel

Also paying homage to bands of punk rock’s past was Longway. Another tiny band with a tiny crowd that most people missed out on, but a diamond in the rough for fans of street punk. One of the precious few who gathered got to strum a few guitar licks when the band’s guitarist (whose eye patch comically proclaimed “out of order”) jumped onto the barricade and handed over his instrument. It’s bands like this that I seek out at each summer’s Warped Tour, and — sadly — there seem to be less of them with every passing year.

Longway

Jen Cray
Longway

The crowd that stood before Broadway Calls was only slightly less tragic, and those three kids from Portland are delivering some of the best pop punk on the entire tour! Picking up the reins from a pre-politically aware Green Day, these guys have got infectious three-minute nuggets that will stick in your brain upon the first listen! Speaking of Green Day, these boys recently got signed to Billie Joe Armstrong’s Adeline Records — so there’s your street cred!

That’s not what the Warped Tour fans circa 2008 are looking for. These kids want big hair, tight jeans, and mindless pop songs, and so the crowd that gathered for Forever the Sickest Kids was large enough to be main stage-worthy. Several hundred fans tightened up against the itty bitty Ernie Ball Stage to catch this “next big thing.” This brightly-colored, power pop band of boys from Texas is well on its way to being next year’s stars. That’s not a compliment, but a prediction.

Broadway Calls

Jen Cray
Broadway Calls

Everything about this tour has become homogenized. At one point in my day, I walked past a stage and heard a sincere cover of Kelly Clarkson’s “Since U Been Gone” (by the band A Day to Remember). The audience was singing along, and even crowd surfing.

Forever the Sickest Kids

Jen Cray
Forever the Sickest Kids

Seriously, what the hell happened to the Van’s Warped Tour?!

To see more photos of this show, and others, go to www.jencray.com.

Warped Tour: www.warpedtour.com

Categories
Event Reviews

Rancid

Rancid

Voodoo Glow Skulls, Knock-Out

House of Blues, Orlando, Fl • June 20, 2008

There was a time when the notion of a true punk rock band playing a venue on Disney property was unheard of from both sides. The punks wouldn’t want to be associated with the patriarchal Mouse, and Disney was too family-oriented to ever allow such debauchery in its midst. For better or worse, times have changed. It’s 2008, and Rancid is headlining House of Blues at Downtown Disney in Orlando, with Voodoo Glow Skulls supporting.

Rancid

Jen Cray
Rancid

Easing the sold-out crowd into the ska-soaked groove was southern California’s Knock-Out. The trio, whose sound compares to Authority Zero or Less Than Jake, has found its way onto Voodoo Glow Skulls’ brand new Empire Music label and seem to be in awe of the company they’re keeping on this tour. Many thanks were extended to both VGS and Rancid throughout the set. Even Whole Wheat Bread was thanked — and they weren’t even playing on this date of the tour, though they were watching the show from the side of the stage.

Knock-Out

Jen Cray
Knock-Out

A circle pit opened up early, as the audience warmed themselves for the nonstop pile-up that would greet Rancid’s appearance. Voodoo Glow Skulls has been dishing out some of the best ska punk on record since 1988. That’s twenty years worth of a fan base, so Rancid’s audience was also largely a VGS audience, and the excitement was fierce for the veterans of their genre.

Voodoo Glow Skulls

Jen Cray
Voodoo Glow Skulls

Skanking around the stage wearing a Mexican wrestling mask for the opening song, vocalist Frank Casillas straddled the line between creepy and comical. After shedding the costume. the band served up two of their most loved songs, “Shoot the Moon” followed by “Charlie Brown,” for an enthusiastic crowd reaction.

At the end of their set, a kid and a dancing mascot wearing an oversized green voodoo skull mask stormed the stage. Once more it was borderline between comical and just plain weird, like Sesame Street on crack.

Tim Armstrong

Jen Cray
Tim Armstrong

Prior to this show, I had never seen Rancid. I know, it’s crazy — how could this be?! I’d seen Tim Armstrong’s mediocre side project The Transplants a few years back, but Rancid had somehow eluded me. It was time to put an end to such blinding oversight in my concert attending history.

Kicking off their generous set with 2003’s “Fall Back Down,” the band played the soundtrack to 2,000 fans going ape shit. “Roots Radicals” (a personal favorite) followed on its heels, and a set full of songs dating way back to 1987 followed. Bodies toppled atop heads, tumbling toward the stage only to be systematically ushered down and out by the security guards who lined the stage.

Ah, what it must have been like to see Rancid in the small clubs when there were no guards to keep the chaos at bay!

Armstrong and Lars Frederiksen share both guitar and lead vocal duties and neither have to do much in order to excite the already adoring crowd, but when either one plants his feet firmly on the stage’s edge to grind out a riff, the levels of excitement rise.

Rancid

Jen Cray
Rancid

The highlight of the band’s set was the Operation Ivy cover (can you call it a cover when half of the band’s members are present on stage?), “Knowledge.”

To see more photos of this show, and others, go to www.jencray.com.

Rancid: www.rancidrancid.com

Categories
Music Reviews

+44

+44

When Your Heart Stops Beating

Interscope Records

I like Blink 182. I admit it. I like their intensity, humor and that they know how to write the perfect punk rock song. I also liked Mark Hoppus’ singing better than Tom DeLong’s (although I also enjoy DeLong’s Angels & Airwaves). So when I received +44’s When Your Heart Stops Beating, I thought that it would be fantastic. Other than Travis Barker’s inhuman drumming skills, the album is average at best upon the first listen. Then it grows like a fungus on forgotten leftovers.

“Lycanthrope” is an in-your-face rocker that is a perfect opener to an album that is energetic and highly catchy. “No It Isn’t” showcases the band’s songwriting skill and ability to invoke some passionate feelings with the last lines, “So please understand/ This isn’t just goodbye/ This is I can’t stand you.”

The best track on the album is “155.” Barker plays at a machine gun pace and intensity that is not even fathomed by other rock drummers and he is the main reason that the album –especially “155”– goes at a breakneck pace.

+44, even though they only have one album, have already gone through their share of member changes. It started off with Hoppus, Barker and Get the Girl’s Carol Heller. Heller only appears on one track (the unexpectedly beautiful “Make You Smile”) and left to spend more time with her family. Then they grabbed Craig Fairbaugh of Lars Fredrickson and the Bastards (Barker played with Fredrickson’s Rancid bandmate Tim Armstrong in The Transplants) and Shane Gallagher of The Nervous Return.

Even with all of that When Your Heart Stops Beating is an album that initially sounds like another generic rock album. But after a couple of listens you find yourself unconsciously singing along to every song. And before you know it, +44 becomes a staple in your CD player or Ipod.

+44: www.plusfortyfour.com

Categories
Event Reviews

No Snow Show

No Snow Show w/ AFI

Taking Back Sunday, Angels & Airwaves, Buckcherry, Sugarcult, Red Jumpsuit Apparatus, Kill Hannah

Orlando, Fl • Dec. 1, 2006

AFI

Jen Cray
AFI

The annual O-Rock 105.9 No Snow Show graduated from the House of Blues to Tinker Field this year. With the big jump came a heavy bill of talent topped off with AFI– who did not play the southern leg of this past year’s Warped Tour and so haven’t graced Orlando with their presence in years. Also on the bill was Taking Back Sunday, Angels & Airwaves, Buckcherry, Sugarcult, Red Jumpsuit Apparatus and Kill Hanna.

Before diving into the music, let me just paint a picture of how shoddy of a setup this festival was. First of all, the beer vendors didn’t handle cash, instead drinkers had to line up in one of three lines to purchase drink tickets. A few thousand concert goers, eight hours of music, three lines. I waited for 35 minutes to purchase my beer passes, missing Kill Hannah‘s set completely! The second screwup- one merchandise booth for the 7 bands on the bill… and one single file line! Good thing I didn’t want a t-shirt!

Between the absurd line situations and the appearance before every single band of radio djs doing their cocky banter onstage, it’s a wonder I can still look back on this show as a success… but the set changes were fast, the bands prompt and there were even a couple moments of auditory bliss.

Taking Back Sunday

Jen Cray
Taking Back Sunday

Jacksonville emo-pop boys Red Jumpsuit Apparatus have got one of the most ridiculous band names in history. Despite that, or perhaps because of it, they are riding a train to fame. Last spring you didn’t know their name, this winter it may ring a bell, by next summer they’ll be on a Fall Out Boy plain of popularity. They play to their crowd, which is horny teenage girls, and it’s working for them.

Sugarcult‘s not a band I’d seek out to see, but they can entertain a crowd, I’ll admit. It’s modern pop with rockstar poses, esspecially from the platinum blond frontman and 70’s rocker lookalike guitarist. They strike some poses, whereas Buckcherry are just posing and trying to convince the world that frontman Josh Todd is the heir to Mick Jagger (which he ain’t). They had a couple of sort-of popular songs in the 90’s, broke up a few years ago and are now back together and touring. Most famous for Todd’s tattooed torso, the band’s cock rock is an odd addition to the modern “punk” and emo bill.

Angels & Airwaves

Jen Cray
Angels & Airwaves

Easily the best band of the night, Angels & Airwaves took the stage as the first of the big name acts. Former Blink 182 guitarist Tom Delonge has been bragging about how his new band is the best thing to happen to music since the microphone, so he had a lot of hype to live up to. While they’re not the monster band he claims them to be, they are damn good- esspecially when compared to his former bandmates’ post-Blink projects (The Transplants, +44). Adopting a U2 guitar sound (check out the song “The Adventure”), the songs are epic in scope and, yes, mature. If Green Day can grow up, so can Tom Delonge. During a touching moment in the too short set, he told a story about watching his grandmother die. “I just hope that she had no regrets… live your life the way you want, don’t let anyone tell you different. Be who you are!”

NY’s Taking Back Sunday took back the crowd with a microphone-wielding Adam Lazzara at the helm of an energized machine of a band. An obvious favorite amongst the youth in the baseball field, the fans’ adoration was encouraged further when Lazzara finished the band’s set by hanging upside down from the rafters- still singing. If only he would have jumped down into the mass of hands below! I guess that sort of mania is reserved for Valient Thorr these days.

Davey Havok

Jen Cray
Davey Havok

At last, on an unusually white stage the unusually dressed in white AFI showed their faces to the now fanatical crowd. Frontman Davey Havok sauntered slowly to center stage wearing lace gloves and green eye shadow, and posed for a moment to allow the fans to get their fill. The band threw themselves into their latest single “Miss Murder” and it was as perfect a performance as you could hope for. Noone in this band could stand still, everyone was pouncing off of the drum riser left and right. Mingled with the white-hot spotlights, and ever-changing color effects, it was an overdose of visual stimulation, with Davey at the epicenter.

As I’ve stated recently in my review of AFI’s latest release, Decemberunderground, this was not a band I had ever shown any interst in. After what I saw at the end of a long night, I just might have to go dig up some old releases. And I’ll definitely see their live show again.

To see photos of all of the bands on the No Snow Show, as well as other concerts, go to www.jencray.com.

www.afireinside.net

Categories
Music Reviews

Punk-O-Rama

Punk-O-Rama

Volume 8

Epitaph

I know with absolute certainty that I wrote this review, and with near certainty, that I submitted it to the Ink 19 honchos. Well, since I can’t seem to find a copy anywhere, here I go again, with, I’m sure, a little less gusto.

Before I continue with the review, however, I must say the first, nonexistent review was sheer brilliance, the best I’ve ever done, or you’ve ever read. But alas, we’ll just have to settle for this crap. Oh, and only some of that disdain is pointed towards the eighth installment of Epitaph’s Punk-O-Rama series.

V8 — oh how clever I am! — is a two disc extravaganza of punk, emo and hip-hop. Yes, hip-hop, as in rap, as in that shit we must live with on MTV. Before I discuss the merits of Epitaph’s token hip-hop, allow me to start from the beginning.

Disc One is comprised of mostly what we critics have labeled emo, as in emotional core or emotional hardcore, or…whatever. Let’s see — I’m checking the liner notes — we have Hot Water Music with their controlled vocal, sentimental lyrics and overabundance of melody on “Trusty Chords.” There is also Matchbook Romance’s “The Greatest Fall (Of All Time).” (Why bracket “of all time” with parenthesis? Don’t they know that that is so pretentious of them? Suppose not.)

Also on Disc One, the good ol’ boys at Epitaph have given us tunes by Division of Laura Lee, Ikara Colt and The (International) Noise Conspiracy to round out the “critics’ choice” of emo. We also get songs from some of the old timers. Rancid provides “Wicked,” a mediocre tune off …And Out Come The Wolves (Are they trying to sell their back-catalog? Whattaya think?), Bad Religion’s “Who We Are” rocks-out hard as always and F-Minus offers a little hardcore with “Sweating Blood.”

Now, on to Disc Two. I am mostly impressed by its “heaviness” as oppose to the first disc’s “sappiness.” See, they give us Pennywise, Turbonegro (how fuckin’ weird is this shit!), Pulley, Millencolin, US Bombs and two newer acts (for me anyway) that play with the skirt of metal, Death by Stereo and Refused.

And just as I was thinking, “You know, I think punk rock should experiment more,” I’m blasted with the Transplants’ “Quick Death,” a ditty mixing programmed drums with Sepultura metal intensity.

Well, that’s all for now. Oh, the hip-hop.

Naturally, I was a bit surprised to find Sage Francis’s “Makeshift Patriot” and Atmosphere’s “Bird Sings Why The Caged I Knows.” Sage Francis gives a socially conscious tune ala Dilated Peoples or De La Soul, while “Bird…” is a “semi-rap” tune that blends good melody with energetic lyrics.

All in all, V8 is a decent addition to the series. If you are new to these bands, and I doubt you are, I’d start with Disc Two and then look up the names on the other disc and search out the bands’ earlier work.

Epitaph Records: www.epitaph.com

Categories
Music Reviews

Punk-O-Rama

Punk-O-Rama

Volume 8

Epitaph

I know with absolute certainty that I wrote this review, and with near certainty, that I submitted it to the Ink 19 honchos. Well, since I can•t seem to find a copy anywhere, here I go again, with, I•m sure, a little less gusto.

Before I continue with the review, however, I must say the first, nonexistent review was sheer brilliance, the best I•ve ever done, or you•ve ever read. But alas, we•ll just have to settle for this crap. Oh, and only some of that disdain is pointed towards the eighth installment of Epitaph•s Punk-O-Rama series.

V8 — oh how clever I am! — is a two disc extravaganza of punk, emo and hip-hop. Yes, hip-hop, as in rap, as in that shit we must live with on MTV. Before I discuss the merits of Epitaph•s token hip-hop, allow me to start from the beginning.

Disc One is comprised of mostly what we critics have labeled emo, as in emotional core or emotional hardcore, or•whatever. Let•s see — I•m checking the liner notes — we have Hot Water Music with their controlled vocal, sentimental lyrics and overabundance of melody on •Trusty Chords.• There is also Matchbook Romance•s •The Greatest Fall (Of All Time).• (Why bracket •of all time• with parenthesis? Don•t they know that that is so pretentious of them? Suppose not.)

Also on Disc One, the good ol’ boys at Epitaph have given us tunes by Division of Laura Lee, Ikara Colt and The (International) Noise Conspiracy to round out the •critics’ choice• of emo. We also get songs from some of the old timers. Rancid provides •Wicked,• a mediocre tune off •And Out Come The Wolves (Are they trying to sell their back-catalog? Whattaya think?), Bad Religion•s •Who We Are• rocks-out hard as always and F-Minus offers a little hardcore with •Sweating Blood.•

Now, on to Disc Two. I am mostly impressed by its •heaviness• as oppose to the first disc’s •sappiness.• See, they give us Pennywise, Turbonegro (how fuckin• weird is this shit!), Pulley, Millencolin, US Bombs and two newer acts (for me anyway) that play with the skirt of metal, Death by Stereo and Refused.

And just as I was thinking, “You know, I think punk rock should experiment more,” I•m blasted with the Transplants’ •Quick Death,• a ditty mixing programmed drums with Sepultura metal intensity.

Well, that•s all for now. Oh, the hip-hop.

Naturally, I was a bit surprised to find Sage Francis•s •Makeshift Patriot• and Atmosphere•s •Bird Sings Why The Caged I Knows.• Sage Francis gives a socially conscious tune ala Dilated Peoples or De La Soul, while •Bird•• is a “semi-rap” tune that blends good melody with energetic lyrics.

All in all, V8 is a decent addition to the series. If you are new to these bands, and I doubt you are, I•d start with Disc Two and then look up the names on the other disc and search out the bands• earlier work.

Epitaph Records: www.epitaph.com/