Warped Tour 2010 Review

I’m flying down K-7 toward Bonner Springs in a beat-up old blue Cadillac. The windows are down. My legs are stuck to the seat. It’s already the hottest day of the summer, and it’s only 10 a.m.

I’m headed to someplace called the Sandstone Amphitheater. Never been. Never even heard of it. I got two free tickets to the Warped Tour but my date flaked on me at the last second.

They’re charging $10 for parking. I only brought ten bucks total and I bought a water bottle on the way up, so I have to cover the difference with quarters and dimes. The girl handing out parking stubs is not pleased.

Inside, the first thing I notice is that nothing makes any sense. The gates open onto the main stage, a sunbleached outdoor half-circle of an amphitheater, divided in half to give each act time to set up. Is this all there is? I thought there were more stages, more bands. There’s supposed to be a schedule here somewhere. I make my way around to what on normal days is the parking lot. It looks like Pac-Sun unfolded into an old-fashioned flea market. There are vendors selling t-shirts for bands I’ve never heard of. I notice a few smaller, trailer-sized stages.  There are people everywhere. I’m completely lost. Figured the place wouldn’t be packed like this, especially considering the forecast.

After wandering blindly for far too long, I find the band line up board. It’s a 15-foot inflatable cube, band and stage names stuck on with sheets of paper. The kind folks at Warped printed off portable versions of this schedule but neglected to actually include the bands’ names and (most importantly) showtimes. Apparently the lineup was more fluid than I’d thought. No one really knew who was going to play on each of the seven stages until just before they went on. I sat on the already-hot ground and wrote down the ones that caught my eye.

First up:

Artist vs. Poet

Courtesy of davidconger.com

Since I haven’t been on top of the punk music scene since seventh grade, I chose most of my lineup based on how cool the band’s name sounded. Artist vs. Poet was the first to catch my eye, and the first to go on.

The Glamour Kills Stage is one half of that main amphitheater I saw on the way in. It, along with its other half, the AP/Advent Stage, is the only one that actually has seating — hard plastic fold-down seats that might have been blue at some point. Better than the ground at least.

Like most other bands I saw at Warped, I had no idea what to expect from Artist vs. Poet. The singer bounced onstage decked out in hipster chic with long Brady Bunch-hair (the mom’s hair) and launched into a song that wouldn’t be out of place on a station like Mix 93.3. That’s not a compliment. AvP’s synthpop stylings did come as something of a surprise from the punk-focused Warped Tour, but that wasn’t what really made them stand out. As soon as they hit the chorus, ELO-style violins kicked in over a hip-hop beat and moved Artist vs. Poet from decent-but-unremarkable pop act to something genuinely different. The only thing that bothered me was just how hard the singer was selling the skinny-sensitive-modern-guy act onstage. I thought about deducting points for this until he stopped and thanked his roadies between songs. Aww.

Artist vs. Poet gets three ironic stars.

Alkaline Trio

Courtesy of loganwestomphotography.wordpress.com

I was never really a fan of Alkaline Trio. I recognized the name from the soundtrack to an old Tony Hawk game I used to play and figured it’d be nice to hear something familiar.

AvP ended a half hour before Alkaline Trio were scheduled to go on, so I spent the most agonizing 30 minutes of my life sitting on a fiercely hot metal sheet on the ground. The sun was directly overhead at this point so there was zero shade. I took off my hat, soaked it with water and sat on it because the ground honestly felt like a stovetop. It did not help.You might guess that this had some effect on my opinion.In short, Alkaline Trio bored me. They played The Doors’ “The End” over the PA system while tuning up (which took forever). Now, the film-savvy might recognize that song from a movie by the name of Apocalypse Now — remember that particularly unsubtle bit where they chop up a water buffalo? By this point in the concert, I felt exactly like a water buffalo steak — an extremely well-done water buffalo steak.

They kicked things off with “Armageddon,” the song I knew from Tony Hawk. It wasn’t as rebellious or hardcore as I remembered it. Still, not a terrible song, just a limp one. The next few were so unremarkable that I’m not actually sure how many songs were played. They all sounded like the kind of songs suburban wannabe-punks would steal money from their parents to buy in 2003.

The only thing that pulled my attention back to the band was when the singer announced that the next song was called “Dine, Dine My Darling,” which I heard as “Die, Die My Darling.” I got all excited for the Misfits cover that was finally gonna make this show worth it and then they started playing. I wondered if maybe I’d forgotten what the Misfits sounded like, or if I was thinking of the wrong song, or maybe I’d just made the entire thing up in a fit of heatstroke-induced desperation. Turns out Alkaline Trio just felt like being clever.

For making me question the Misfits, and for being all-around meh, Alkaline Trio gets one star.

The Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band

Courtesy of bigdamnband.com

Rev. Peyton, on the other hand, made the entire trip worth it. If you had asked me to come up with the craziest band I could possibly see at Warped, I could not have given you a more unlikely group of people.The entire band consisted of the epically-bearded Reverend Peyton on the steel guitar wearing bluejeans, a wifebeater, suspenders, and a flatcap; his wife, who dressed like an Old West hooker — in a good way, on the washboard; and the bandana-headed drummer who wouldn’t look out-of-place nude from the waist down at Burning Man.

But this isn’t some ironic costume party. These guys are for real. They don’t even play punk music. It’s some kind of psychotic hillbilly slide-guitar soloing over the clacking washboard and the occasionally audible drums. Even watching their YouTube videos (which I suggest you do) can’t convey the sheer unbridled insanity of that performance. It was loud, it was angry, it was utterly unlike anything I’d ever heard.

The best part was watching the crowd’s reaction. I picked out Rev. Peyton because, like most of the others I saw, the name sounded cool. They were the one band I was sure I had to see, just based on the name alone. Most of the crowd, however, looked like they were just waiting for the band on the other half of the stage to set up. No one seemed to be excited for Rev. Peyton—at least, not until they finished the first song. The crowd erupted into spontaneous cheers and whistles before the band started in to “Everything’s Raisin’,” which contained what were easily my favorite lyrics of the day: Everything’s raisin’ but the wages / gasoline, groceries, and our ages.

For single-handedly reviving my faith in the Warped Tour, Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band gets five awesomely-bearded stars.

iwrestledabearonce

Courtesy of trevorcreative.com

Most of the names I picked had a certain mystery. They made me want to know more. iwrestledabearonce had none of that. I was sure I knew everything there was to know from the name alone. This was some cutesy scenester band more concerned with image than any actual talent.
I was so wrong. Not about the talent, though. I’m not even sure what it means to have talent. I’m not sure of anything anymore. The one thing I know is that those logos — that crazy neon vomit of nonsensical pop-culture imagery spattered on IWABO’s t-shirts — are by far the most accurate depiction of a band’s sound that I’ve ever seen.You see, I left to fill my water bottle at the single station they had in the entire park and came back halfway through the first song. That’s all I can remember. Thirty minutes later, I came to my senses slumped in one of those bleached-blue chairs. I know it wasn’t the heat. The hottest part of the day was over. I was in the shady part of the amphitheater. I was properly hydrated. My only explanation is that the sheer cosmic horror of iwrestledabearonce was simply too much for my mortal mind to bear (no pun intended). All I have to go on are the mad scribblings I found in the notebook I was carrying. They don’t look like my handwriting.nails on a chalkboard is the sound this woman makes. squealing tires. this music plays in the elevators of hell. antithesis of music. laughs at the notion of a time signature. this music sounds like the act of murder.There’s no way to explain that sound in words. I’m tempted to say that since you weren’t there, you can’t understand it but…I was there. And I still don’t understand.

I’m not sure if what I heard from IWABO was the worst music ever created or a genius, Captain Beefheart-esque parody of my expectations, but either way, I think I loved it.

For making me question every belief I’ve ever held, iwrestledabearonce gets 5 divided by zero stars. Times infinity.

Never Shout Never

Courtesy of blog.muchmusic.com

I confess, I didn’t go into Never Shout Never’s set unbiased. I didn’t know much, just his name and the kind of people who wore his shirts, but that was enough for me to pass judgement. I felt like I had to cover this guy, just because I knew people at school were into his stuff. I blew off Reel Big Fish — guaranteed entertainment, something I knew wouldn’t be awful — to see NSN. The crazy part is, I didn’t regret it.

Never Shout Never drew a real crowd. The amphitheater was the fullest I saw all day — all the shady seats were already taken. The guy walked out barefoot, wearing American flag pants and a Ramones shirt. Strange, but not in the way I was expecting. For some reason I got the idea he doesn’t just ironically like the Ramones. His whole setup was oddly E Street: two guitars, bass, drum, piano, and if I’m not mistaken, there was a Hammond organ in there somewhere.

Like I said, I didn’t know what to expect. I figured I’d be in for some kind of Artist vs. Poet electro-pop thing. I hate to drop big names like this, but it turns out the Never Shout Never sound is closer to Neil Young than MGMT. Clean acoustic guitars, borderline-falsetto vocals, actual talent…it was the polar opposite of what I expected. He doesn’t even fake his stage presence the way AvP’s singer did. After all the strange and oftentimes dissonant music I’d heard today, it was an incredible shock to hear some real groove onstage for once.

Now, it wasn’t perfect. Never Shout Never’s a much better guitarist than lyricist, and even though he’s not as insincere as I expected, the cutesy-innocent sort of thing he does can be grating. The guy named his ukulele, for god’s sake. I took off a whole star for that. It’s one thing to have the audacity to play one of those things onstage but to go so far as to name it (and to tell everyone this) makes me want to barf. In the end though, I think there’s real talent there, and if he can tone down the hipster act to a believable level I just might have to buy a record.

For being a oxymoronically sincere hipster — with actual talent — Never Shout Never gets four bad haircut-sporting stars.

Wyatt Anderson