MY SUMMER VACATION – PART II: WARPED TOUR
This is my summer vacation (Part II).
WHO: THE GHOST INSIDE, ANTI FLAG, IMPENDING DOOM, NEW FOUND GLORY, PIERCE THE VEIL, STREETLIGHT MANIFESTO, AFTER THE BURIAL, VAMPIRES EVERYWHERE!, IWRESTLEDABEARONCE, EVERY TIME I DIE, BORN OF OSIRIS, RISE TO REMAIN
WHERE: AT&T Center Parking Lot — San Antonio, Texas
WHEN: June 30, 2012
I recently reviewed the Vans Warped Tour documentary entitled No Room For Rock Stars here. I dug it and said I would finally go check out Warped Tour in person. It’s been around for 18 years, so it was about fucking time.
Texas summers are hellacious. Last year we suffered through 100+ days of 100º-plus heat. This year, Mother Nature has been a bit more kind. Just last week we had only three 100º days. Hell, the forecast was calling for only 92º and a 50% chance of rain. Almost chilly in comparison. So, I packed an umbrella, three Nature Valley trail mix bars, a Polar Bear bicycle road bottle, my shitty digital camera, my cellphone, various cords, batteries, and chargers, a travel-sized 30 SPF sunscreen tube, a gray Holliston baseball cap, a gray Housecore Records t-shirt, sunglasses, and my black leather man purse which I use to carry it all. I was going to fit in, nooooooooooo problem.
Pierce The Veil Bassist’s Footwear. Srsly.
I first had the privilege of paying $15 to park in a dirt parking lot so I could have the privilege of standing in a paved parking lot across the street. Luckily, thanks to MetalSucks, I was able to skip the serpentine lines for the box office and head straight to the Vans Guest List tent to pick up my credentials. Even this extremely short line took 15 minutes, so I felt bad for the literally thousands of people (okay, kids) standing in line. Especially when it started to pour down rain. Luckily, I had my trusty umbrella. I only saw two more pop out in the extended queue. Staying dry, I scored my ticket and wristband and was guided to the front of another extremely long line where the concert-goers were waiting to be tagged with wristbands. I probably bypassed a few thousand kids. Again, I felt bad for them having to wait so long to get in.
Once inside, I easily made my way to the Press Tent, which was not really a tent, but rather a table with a tarp above it. On the table were approximately seven pieces of paper, laid out horizontally. On each sheet was a list of all the bands playing that day and whether or not they would be conducting interviews with press. I was a guest of Epitaph Records, so I was already pre-approved to interview such acts as The Ghost Inside, Every Time I Die, and three other bands of which I had never heard.
There was one more sheet of paper on the press table. It was the scheduled times for that day’s shows. This is, of course, integral to having a good time at an event like this if you are a journalist. Betthany, a cute, thin redhead who manned the press table, warned me that the set times were subject to change and that they were already running behind.
I headed over to the Kia Rio Stage, one of the two headliner stages. There were several smaller stages including the Monster Energy Stage, the Ernie Ball Battle Of The Bands Stage, the Marley Stage, an acoustic tent, supposedly a small electronica tent, and the Kevin Says Stage, named after Warped Tour mastermind Kevin Lyman. I noticed on the press sheet that Lyman was not on the grounds in San Antonio. Too bad. He seemed like a cool cat in the documentary.
On my way over to the Kia Rio Stage to see The Ghost Inside (whom I had never heard of before, but had given them a spin on Spotify and thought they weren’t half bad), I noticed a vendor selling schedules. I don’t have too many complaints about Warped Tour, but this is one of the big ones. Yeah, it was only $2 for a schedule, but seriously? You charge kids $50 for a ticket, $15 for parking, and then you’re going to charge them two more bucks so they know who is playing when and at what time? Fucking ridiculous. One of the many things I preferred about Ozzfest (R.I.P.) was that you knew who was playing and exactly what time they were supposed to go on before the circus rolled into town. But, hey, I guess there’s money to be made. I mean with 16,000 attendees in San Antonio, the potential to rack in an additional potential $32,000 is appealing, huh?
If you didn’t want to spend money on a schedule, you could go to a giant inflatable wall that had the day’s schedule slated on it. Of course, you could only bring in a Sharpie (for autographs) to write down the list. Plus, this made the area around the inflatable needlessly overcrowded and it also happened to be right in between the two Kia main stages which caused major traffic jams throughout the day.
I headed to the photo pit at the Kia Rio Stage about two minutes before The Ghost Inside were scheduled to go on, but there was no one on stage. There were plenty of people in the audience waiting patiently behind the stage barrier, but there was no band to be seen. I ran into a photographer friend, Gary Miller, and he said he has been shooting WT for nearly ten years and that they were almost never late. He was quite stunned by this delay. Subsequently, while waiting for The Ghost Inside to go on, I missed my second scheduled set, Memphis May Fire, who were playing the Monster Energy Stage on the other side of the parking lot. I know nothing about that band, but that was one of my objectives for this show: to check out bands whom I had heard of but had never heard their music. But I had been graciously given my pass by Epitaph Records and The Ghost Inside is on their label. I felt it was my duty to catch the band so I could give them a review.
Here’s where my second complaint comes in. Water. Sure, it wasn’t scorching hot like it was last year, but it was still hovering around in the 90s. I was lucky, I had brought my Polar Bear cycling water bottle with me that holds around 20 ounces of fluid and was able to continually tap water from a cooler used by security. I drank at least eight 20-ounce bottles throughout the day, so I was fully hydrated. So what’s the problem? The WT website bragged about how they were able to secure $3 water bottles of the 12-ounce variety. I drank at least 160 ounces of water. That would be nearly 13 bottles of water at $3 a pop. Again, I’m not feeling the communal spirit, but rather the spirit of captive audience capitalism.
Alright, enough bitching. On to the music. Music that started almost an hour late.
THE GHOST INSIDE
As I said before, I was not familiar with these guys or their music. They came barreling out of the wings, full of energy and didn’t let up for their entire 30-minute set. Heavyish metalcore sounds, but nothing too memorable. The crowd, however, ate it up from the first note to the last. I’d be willing to give these guys another spin on Spotify, but they’re not really my cup of Red Bull.
I’ve heard the name Anti-Flag for what seems like decades. I cannot believe I have never listened to their music before, especially back in my more hardcore days. Of course, they tend more to the bouncier side of punk and not the Cro-Magnian style that I preferred. Nonetheless, they rocked it hard for a bunch of old dudes. Bassist Chris Head (pictured above) was definitely the focal point and hype man for the band. I enjoyed his exhortations more than the band’s music. He went off on guys who tell girls to show their tits at concerts, declared that he wanted a “non-machismo pit,” and mocked the VIPers on their covered risers by telling them that “it just looks lazy, man.”
Highlight song: “Die For Your Government.”
Time for some metal. Finally! I recently considered Impending Doom’s latest release, Baptized In Filth, to be a Bleeder on the first spin. After subsequent listens my opinion changed and I dropped them down to a Meh’er. Not unusual for me, so I figured they may still be worth checking out live. Things started off promisingly enough when the singer strolled out sporting a Decrepit Birth t-shirt. By the second song, however, he started spouting off about Christianity. I am not a religious person. I do not care if you are a religious person. I just don’t want to hear about your religion at a metal concert. That was enough for me.
I decided it was time to stroll the grounds and check out what supposedly makes Warped Tour so unique. As far as I can tell, absolutely nothing.
The crowd is waaaayyyyyy younger than the old Ozzfest days. A lot of girls (and, yes, I’m not being derogatory. They were mostly girls.) who loosely carry their cell phones in their frayed back pockets. I guess they assume their phones will be recovered via GPS if they are stolen.
The guys displayed their steadfastness to non-conformity by all dressing alike. You know the drill — baggy pants, swoopy haircuts, fauxhawks, etc. Whatever.
The booths weren’t any better. I was hoping to find some interesting people to talk to about some serious issues of the day. Maybe they were there, but I never spotted them.
Instead, it was just another typical shillfest. Young bands struggling to try to get noticed (yet can afford to travel the country and pay for a booth at Warped Tour? WTF???). Warped bands with long lines of fans waiting to get crap signed. Tits and ass hanging out everywhere, which made me laugh when thinking about Anti-Flag’s Chris Read telling the women not to take shit from the leering male pigs. Expensive bottles of water. Greasy $4 slices of Pizza Hut pizza.
Just yet another Scion-like take on capitalism, brought to you by Punk Rock™ and Monster Energy Drinks.
One of the bands I was actually looking forward to catching was Of Mice And Men. I confidently rated their latest release a Bleeder last year and stated that they were evidence that not all metalcore bands have to suck. Sadly, the earlier delays on the Kia stages caused me to miss their set.
Four hours into the Warped Tour, I was not having much luck. Or, much fun.
After an unsuccessful journalistic attempt at trying to elicit opinions backstage from various Warped Tour bands about Randy Blythe’s current plight (most had no clue that he had been arrested, though the guys in Taking Back Sunday seemed truly startled and wished him the best of luck with his ordeal), I headed back into the throng.
NEW FOUND GLORY
Another pop punk band whose name I have seen before but whose music I have never heard. The picture above should tell you everything you need to know about this band — dressed in matching NBA New Found Glory jerseys and baggie shorts, an autographed Taylor Swift guitar, third grade graffitti, and a plush stuffed Animal on the drummer’s kit. Oh, and they covered Green Day. Not kidding. And not just Green Day, but fucking “Basket Case.” This shit is why I am not a fan of pop punk.
PIERCE THE VEIL
I decided to chill by hanging out in the photographer’s pit before mallcore (okay, honestly, I have no fucking idea what microcosmic sub-genre these guys fall under!) mutants hit the stage. While sitting on the barrier, I noticed a huge influx of young girls waiting in front of the stage. No easy feat. I decided to ask one group of girls how old they were. Most were 18 and 19 years old. I asked them why they were there to see Pierce The Veil. They hesitated and couldn’t come up with an answer. I jokingly chastised them hoping they didn’t like the band because they’re cute. Again, they hesitated. How about their songs, I wondered? Finally, they nodded their heads and said that is exactly why they were there. I had to laugh.
I then told them how cool I thought it was that so many girls and women were out at a big punk and metal fest. Told them that back in the day, the ladies tended to steer clear of metal shows, mainly because the guys were such pigs and treated women like dirt. The girls tried to play it off at first and said that the guys these days were fine and that they could hold their own against them. But then one of the girls told me that, no, most guys today were dicks and that they still give the girls a hard time.
Fuck off, guys! Grow up.
As for Pierce The Veil? They were terrible. Whiny vocals and ripping off Suicidal Tendencies graffitti does not make you a cool band. Or even a decent one.
At this point, I decided I needed a break from the crappy music. I received a text from someone from Epitaph that said I had an interview with The Ghost Inside. Now, I rarely conduct interviews for MetalSucks. I can’t fucking stand doing them, mainly because I have to do hundreds of them for each book I write and I want my music to be entertaining, not homework. But, I figured Epitaph hooked me up. It was the least I could do. I headed back to the press area and met up with the band’s tour manager. Super nice guy who told me the band was ready to go and that they were excited to talk to MetalSucks. Then I told him that the interview had been set up by someone from the label and he looked depressed. He told me that the interview had to be set up by someone else, not the label, and that the band could not do it. Now, if I gave a shit, I would raise hell and be sure to get the interview. Frankly, I didn’t really care. The band seemed like fun on stage, but I had already forgotten all of their songs in just a few hours. No loss for me.
By this point, I was beginning to think the entire day was a bust. I had heard from several Facebook friends, however, that Streetlight Manifesto was worth checking out. They’re a ska band. I’ve enjoyed a few ska bands live in the past, but always found the music too repetitive on record. So, I figured 20 minutes of ska might be fun. And it was! I know zero about Streetlight Manifesto other than they pack a ton of players on the stage — most playing various horns — and they had just as much energy as any of the previous bands half their age. Good call Facebook friends.
AFTER THE BURIAL
Things continued on a positive note as I was able to walk about 200 feet around a truck stage to catch Minnesotans After The Burial. Though I am not a fan of the their recorded work, they put on a good show, led by lead singer Anthony Notarmaso, who looks like he could be doing your taxes once he steps off the stage. He truly gets into what he’s doing on stage. Very emotional without being cheesy.
The song “Aspiration,” from their 2008 release Rareform, started off sounding like U2 before kicking in to some serious head-banging, hair twirling madness. Good show that was only marred by the tiny area between the stage and the vendors’ booths and Porta-Potties. Of course, that tiny space was further shrunken down by the influx of Teenage Idiot Ninjas™ flailing their arms like, well…teenage idiot ninjas. These morons are the bane of a metal concertgoer’s existence. But more on them later.
Now is when I lose any credibility I may have built up over the last four years of writing for MetalSucks and the nearly 25 years I’ve been in the metal business.
I had never listened to Vampires Everywhere! before this concert. I had seen the goofy ass pictures of the band with their Nikki Sixxisms and their Marilyn Manson contacts. My impression of the band was that they would be pseudo-industrial rock with annoying metalcore breakdowns thrown in about every 30 seconds or so. In other words, music to slit your wrists to. Things weren’t looking up when I headed over to the photo pit only to be greeted by another scrawny goth vampire wannabe slowly pacing back and forth across the stage before the set had started. Apparently, it was someone from Motionless In White, whom I have had the misfortune of hearing before this show. His scrawny pale arms were duct-taped behind his back and he was trying his best to appear menacing to the young crowd standing behind the barricade. I thought, This is going to be greeeeaaaaat!
When Vampires Everywhere! pounced on the stage one member at a time, I just knew this show was going to suck. The skin-tight leather pants, the sliced up lycra bike shirts, the studded leather biker hat worn askew, the excessive pancake make-up, and the bored hottie female stagehand removing the mic stand reeked of pretension and nausea.
But then, something unusual occurred.
I just listened to the band and, fuck me, they were simply rocking out. No cheesy pandering to the crowd with ridiculous stories of bagging babes and no stomach-churning Poison pouting. No, just straight-up rockin’ old school hair metal. But more along the lines of Ratt, Rough Cutt, and Black ‘n Blue, not of the Theater of Pain-era Crüe, Britny Fox, or Winger persuasion. And they weren’t trying to cater to the teenage deathcore crowd with pointless breakdowns. They were simply playing what we old timers called “heavy metal” back in the days before Metallica, Slayer, and Anthrax.
Usually, on big festivals like this, photographers get to shoot for three songs and then are sent packing. Sometimes, I’ll just grab my photos and head out to catch something else. Not this time. After I shot my pit photos, I went out into the crowd and watched Vampires Everywhere!’s entire 30-minute set. I’m glad I did because it was fun, energetic, and they rocked.
Now, where do I surrender my heavy metal credentials?
Oh, IWABO. It was my second time to see you this year (the first being SXSW). I still do not get Axl’s fascination with this band. I did find lead singer Krysta Cameron’s loogey-dripping skills to be quite impressive, even if she was trying to land one directly on top of my head. Maybe it had something to do with the fact that she would soon discover she was pregnant — some sort of saliva lactation response.
One thing I can say in their favor is that they should have been on the much larger Monster Energy Stage instead of the tiny Ernie Ball Battle of the Bands Stage. Based on crowd size, they should have switched with Vampires Everywhere!
EVERY TIME I DIE
This is the main reason why I decided to attend my first Warped Tour. I’ve been a fan of this band since Hot Damn! Last time I saw them was way back in 2004 on the small stage at Ozzfest. They kicked ass then and have been consistently releasing stellar albums seemingly every other year. Their latest, Ex Lives, is probably their best to date, and was recently accorded Bleeder status by me.
Not surprisingly, ETID did not disappoint.
Pure energy on display for 30 minutes. It’s impossible to focus in on one individual in the band as they are all constantly moving around like a pack of rabid cats stalked by a group of angry, Ritalin-addicted pubescent thugs.
Singer Keith Buckley, who headed up the maelstrom, jumped down to the barricade (as evidenced by the photo at the top of this extremely long-winded (yet informative!) article) to get the crowd directly involved. He also cracked me up every time he told the crowd, “You may not know who we are, but you should be able to get our music and move your asses to it!”
Boy, did they ever. Of course, this led to another fucking Teenage Idiot Ninja Pit™ extravaganza, with fuckwads taking punches at people standing near the pit, running field goal block leaps onto the unsuspecting patrons standing near the front of the stage, and generally taking up about 35% of the available crowd space so these 15-20 idiots could unleash their frustrations about having such tiny dicks.
Is there really any wonder why security guards toss stage-divers?
Fuck you! Get off my damn lawn!
BORN OF OSIRIS
I caught these guys on the bizarrely packaged tour of Hate Eternal, BOO (yes, they played after HE), Cannibal Corpse, and Hatebreed a couple of years ago. They were terrible all the way around. Surprisingly, I actually enjoyed their last album, The Discovery, and even gave it a Bleeder recommendation. I figured the band had to have improved in those two years. Sadly, it was more of the same. I did get some cool shots of their feet and some gear though.
Of course, BOO’s crowd was filled with another douchebag Teenage Idiot Ninja Pit™ populated by tiny-penised, twirly armed warriors of doom, like this dipshit who purposefully punched another guy in the nose for grabbing his pretty purple jersey.
RISE TO REMAIN
Another band I just had to catch. I mean, c’mon, it’s Bruce Dickinson’s son. It’s gonna be great, right? Mmmmmmm, no. Sorry. R2R is proof that nepotism should be nipped in the bud.
I could only take about two songs before I decided I had simply had enough. Motionless In White and blessthefall were still to come, but…oh, never mind.
My Douche-O-Meter had practically exploded and I knew the best move for me was to just fucking leave. Thankfully, I saw a great show by Every Time I Die, enjoyed After The Burial’s performance, and discovered two surprises in Streetlight Manifesto and Vampires Everywhere!
As for the Warped Tour as a whole? If you’ve never been and are above the age of 13, I’d say just watch No Room For Rock Stars. You can get a good feel for the event, minus the beer bottle throwing turds, the Teenage Idiot Ninjas Pit assholes, the scorching heat, the shitty food, the overpriced water, and the pseudo good-cause vibe.
Save The Whales! Shoot The Seals!
All photos © 2012 Corey Mitchell