Eryn Makes a New Friend
I bumped into Jamie somewhere near the “Press-Pit” and told
her about my adventures. I had caught a few good acts including the Suicide
Machines, a band that I found at the Teal Stage, just before the group’s
30 minute set (note: each band is allotted a half-hour to pump out the
jams, a rule that highlights the A.D.D. nature of the tour).
The Suicide Machines provided what turned out to be one of the day’s
better sets, performing ska/punk tunes from more than seven years’
worth of material. The Detroit natives pleased the old-schoolers while
also attracting the new. A four-year old with glue spiked hair swung some
mean fists in the mosh pit in front of me, giving insight into a question
that had been nagging at me since we arrived: What was the significance
of the Warped Tour?
Yet just when I thought I’d found the answer—that bands like
the Suicide Machines were the reason that the tour rocked—I bore
witness to a very unsettling undertaking: A group of next generation,
converse-clad, emo sick kids were openly mocking a group of spiky-haired,
leather-clad old-schoolers. I was aghast at the display of disrespect
for those who had paved the way for a new scene.
Noticeably shaken, I made tracks away from the Western Stage, hoping to
erase the scene from my head. Was it possible that all the things I remembered
the tour standing for—tolerance, unity, rock and roll—had
been replaced by silly feuds and misplaced aggression?
Jamie and a Murphy
As Eryn related his troubled experience, I pointed out that although it
was disturbing to see the bountiful display of ignorance from the younger
set, the “silly feuds” were not exactly a new phenomenon.
In fact, one of this year’s headlining bands, The Dropkick Murphys,
had taken a five-year hiatus from Salt Lake City after an unpleasant incident
with a group of local straight-edgers at the 1999 Warped Tour. Just as
I was relating this fact, Murphy’s mandolinist Ryan Foltz walked
by. I caught up with him and started up a conversation regarding the band’s
return to Utah. In regard to the group’s absence, Foltz cited that
it was not simply the threat of additional brawls that kept them away,
but also the unlikelihood of attracting clubs to house the Murphys.
“It doesn’t make sense for us to play a show just to have
it shut down,” Foltz said. “So we waited until things simmered
down [before coming back to town].”
It seemed as though the Warped Tour provided a nice buffer for a tentative
comeback. But what were Foltz’s overall views on the tour?
“The good thing about this tour is that a lot of kids are going
to see bands that play with a lot of heart,” Foltz said. He cited
fellow tour members The Unseen as one of the groups to still embody the
punk-rock spirit. The Boston quintet has appeared on A-F Record compilations,
a label run by punk stalwarts, the members of Anti-Flag. I agreed with
Foltz’s observation, noting that The Unseen’s appearance that
day had helped reconfirm my faith in the endurance of old-school purity
and heart. The highlight of the band’s set came when drummer Mark
Unseen abandoned his kit to take over the mic. “You guys paid a
lot of fucking money to be here so let’s have some fun, alright?”
He then launched into a rapid fire song fueled by a string of “Oi!
Oi! Oi!”s, inspiring a few walk-outs from some shocked “tweenies.”
Before Foltz and I parted, he offered another observation on the tour’s
enduring appeal: no rock stars. “It’s the kind of music that
is not really ego-driven,” Foltz said. “Everyone is going
to be friends at the end of the tour.”
Eryn Loses His Lunch and Chats With a Videogame
Jamie’s lecture on the history of punk-related feuding, I headed
back to the Brian Stage where The Unseen was playing. The highlight of
the show came when the band played a song called “Are We Dead Yet?,”
a question I had been asking myself since I got to the show. The answer?
Hard to say. The circle pit seemed to yell, “Nay! We be not dead!
We be but alive!” But the majority of the crowd seemed apathetic
and only responded to Mark Unseen’s middle finger as he announced,
“This is a song from our first record and I don’t think any
of you have ever heard of it.”
I agreed and exited the stage with a large, scary looking man who I thought
might be able to help me on my quest. His name was Lukas Norton and when
I questioned him, he just turned, scowled and said, “I am shaking
with rage from the display of idiots.”
Fair enough, though not really helpful. When Norton walked away, mumbling
something about being a punk since he was 10 and taking this shit personally,
I took it as my cue to pursue other avenues of enlightenment.
On my way to broader horizons, I bumped into Michael Davenport of The
Ataris. He and I ended up talking about the importance of size, stage
size, how the tour has changed and ultimately what its importance is.
He offered some uplifting insight.
“I think the meaning of the Warped Tour is education,” he
said. “We need to educate the old schoolers about the new schoolers,
and vice-versa. The Warped Tour is about kicking ass for people who are
not necessarily [fans of all the bands].”
Very good point. There were several bands that I saw today that I was
not a fan of prior to their sets, but after seeing them rock, I had to
give them the credit they deserved. Of course there were also some bands
that I really liked (cough, cough…The Ataris) that thoroughly disappointed
with their shows.
Maybe I needed to focus on the music itself and not the populace whoring
itself to it. Maybe I needed to stop looking and start listening. Worried
that I had wasted so much time on the wrong focus, I rushed outside while
Jamie spoke with some guy from the Dropkick Murphys. I am not sure what
they talked about, but I think he told her to steal my lunch money, because
after they spoke, Jamie stole my wallet, took my cash and muttered something
like, “So long, sucker” and took off.
Still, my spirits were not dampened, and I ventured forth into the land
of the next unknown band.
Jamie Longs for G.G. Allin and Drinks Smoothies
with The Used
I left Foltz and raced to the Brian Stage where Andrew W.K. was slated
to appear. I was excited to see the man whose onstage antics (blood smearing
and general irreverent behavior) had garnered him a fame that could very
well have escaped him had it rested solely on his musical abilities. Unfortunately,
the craziest thing the long-haired “party guerrilla” did was
wear gross sweat pants while pouring energy drinks on the audience. His
gruff, professional wrestler-style voice echoed across the grounds as
he offered hyperbolic speeches such as, “It’s up to us to
make this day one to remember for the rest of our lives!”
Suddenly feeling as though this was part of a recreation of my high school
graduation, I opted to miss the end of W.K.’s mellow (i.e lifeless)
That was a mistake. I wandered over to the Maurice Stage where a bunch
of young, Strokes-like boys were busy dismantling their instruments. S.T.U.N,
a newly signed Geffen band, was brimming with energy. However, the overwhelming
enthusiasm failed to translate into quality music. “Our first album
comes out on Tuesday!” said lead singer Christiane J. First, not
latest, but first album. I stayed just long enough to listen to a horrid
cover of Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick In the Wall, Part I.”
The generation gap had not been bridged.
Another up-and-coming band, New Transit Direction, was playing at the
Volcom Stage. The local rockers proved that being young and new on the
scene did not necessitate a complete lack of maturity. NTD was classy
and composed as members raced through songs that originally debuted in
more low-key venues such as Kilby Court and the Urban Lounge.
It was satisfying to see one of Salt Lake City’s many talented bands
finally get the recognition it deserved. Just as I was wondering how NTD
managed to snatch a spot on the tour, I noticed Branden Steineckert, drummer
for fellow Utah-bred group The Used, standing to my right. We started
chatting,but moved from the stage to avoid the mounting noise. Over a
couple of Maui Wauis, Steineckert discussed NTD’s involvement along
with his band’s own rise to success. “I think Quinn [Allman,
guitar/vocals] helped out New Transit,” Steineckert said. “They’ve
been friends for a while.”
It’s not surprising that The Used would want to spread some of the
stellar karma it has accumulated since its recent retrieval from obscurity.
“Last year we were such the new band,” said Steineckert. “We’d
be playing for like 30 kids.”
Though the band has since garnered increased status, Steineckert reconfirmed
the sense that the tour does not cater to massive egos. “It’s
not glamorous—it’s dirty. You’re eating together and
dealing with the same weather conditions,” he said. “There
are no rock stars on Warped.”
Suddenly I realized that no matter how few original acts remained on the
Warped Tour, no matter how many YooHoo and Easy Mac trucks distracted
from the main action, superficial threats can not destroy punk’s
heart. “People can nitpick over whether [punk] is dead or not,”
said Steineckert. “I don’t give a fuck anymore.” With
that, the mohawked faux-redhead sauntered off to prepare for a hometown
Eryn’s First Time
They say it’s always easy to remember your first time, but I am
having a hard time. I know I was young, maybe 15, and I know that there
were lots of people around. I was sweaty and thirsty…but I am having
a hard time remembering the specifics from my first Warped Tour. Ain’t
that always the case? I’ve grown up on the music of the Warped Tour.
It was a chance for me to see all of the awesome bands that never came
to my town playing with some of the bands that did. And, while show promoters
made up for lower ticket prices by gauging the public with expensive bottled
water, I think I always had fun.
But it’s been a while since I had such fun at a big show.
I heard the trademark bass riffs of Rancid peripherally and made my way
to the show. During the set, near the end when they played “Ruby
Soho,” I realized what everyone else had been talking about. The
unity and the trust that I hadn’t seen all day was all around me
at the Rancid show. The circle pit was a true circle—the old schoolers
put their arms around the new-schoolers and I felt good.
The show ended and I went to find Jamie (and retrieve some of that lunch
money). But I got sidetracked when I thought I saw Sammy Hagar wailing
in pain on the stage. “Hey Sammy—you alright?”
Sammy replied, “Yeah man, but I’m not Sammy Hagar. I’m
Zach Davidson from Vendetta Red and we’re about to play. You should
I agreed and took my place in the crowd. Vendetta Red had amazing stage
presence and sang with, not to, the crowd (even though no one knew the
words). Davidson screamed and yelped like a man from a band without any
fans—a man who just wanted people to hear him. The set ended with
Davidson hanging from his feet on the rafters, and me remembering why
I liked the Warped Tour so much.
Jamie’s Tidy Conclusion
The day closed out on the Dropkick Murphys’ show, which was greeted
not with fists, but with special homemade flags emblazoned with encouraging
slogans like “Let’s Go Murphys!”
The Boston band performed old favorites along with songs from its new
album, Blackout, while fans celebrated the long-awaited return of bagpipes
I squeezed through the swelling crowd, past smiling faces and across a
field littered with mounds of cups and flyers. My feet were tired, but
I was not. In fact, I was actually inspired. The Vans Warped Tour was
not the abomination I had concluded it to be. In fact, the festival proved
to be one of the remaining lifelines to a genre that is dangerously close
to burning out.