By Neda Salamat Tue., Jul. 5 2011 at 7:48 AM
Ventura, CA – July 3, 2011
Since its 1995 inception, the Vans Warped Tour has tried to be a youthful, day-long gritty, grimy window into festival culture, all while representing the punk rock music market.
A check-in with the 2011 tour confirms that on the first front, at least, Warped has remained entirely too successful.
The Ventura County Fairgrounds, blessed and cursed with its coastal location (parking is a nightmare), was unrecognizable on Sunday. Covered with a thick layer of paper-mulch and tots, it became increasingly impossible to find a place to sit on the asphalt as the evening wore on.
But I’m not exactly the tour’s target audience — for one, I’ve attended a plethora of pricier large-scale concerts and festivals and come to expect a level of hygiene. Two, I have my driver’s license.
But it’s the nature of the tour — cheap ticket prices ($40) ensures crammed, kid-packed spaces with lots of trash. Vendor booths, a staple on the tour, line the pathways from one stage to the next selling everything from Trojan brand merch to Bob Marley Zippo lighters.
The bands themselves are dirty and — to the chagrin of long-time fans — young (we miss you, Joan Jett). And most of them, despite the festival’s roots, hail from the plethora of music outside the punk genre.
Acts like electro Ke$ha-collaborators 3OH!3 (on the tour the past four years now) and power poppers Hellogoodbye (their second year with Warped) still seem woefully out of place in the midst of this post apocalyptic grunge world, touting anthems too cheery for these disenchanted, blood-flecked tweens. The latter seemed especially misplaced, as nasal vocalist Forrest Kline whines over the tinkling, synthpop bells of “When We First Met,” it’s hard not to wonder how this band jives with fans of indie/post-rock group Moving Mountains, whose haunting, atmospheric live performance of their ditty “Cascade” emanated from those same speakers only hours before.
It’s definitely an imperfect science.
But despite the controversy and disquiet surrounding the festival’s long history (Warped has been frequently accused of selling out), a select number of acts are proving that young rock is alive and well.
Newcomers The Feaver stormed the Ernie Ball Battle of the Bands stage — the high school kids rocked with a professionalism beyond their years, enthusiastically whipping the small group that’d gathered into an jumping frenzy. Vaguely reminiscent of The Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach, 14-year-old lead vocalist Dylan Minnette ‘s laidback distressed crooning should belong to someone twice his years.
Against Me!, a punk rock (turned semi-pop punk) group from Florida, rained sweat on the crowd, as drummer Jay Weinberg (who just joined the band in 2010) proved he could keep stride with the rest of the band, hammering the percussion with lighting speed, as the band strummed out the production-heavy high-energy “I Was a Teenage Anarchist” and the laidback island-esque “Sink, Florida, Sink”. The band’s set was mostly comprised of the newer songs, but older, more minimalist bar-anthem “Pints of Guinness Make You Stronger” had fans shouting along to the discord.
Headlining, the ill-named Christian Metalcore group The Devil Wears Prada took the mainstage at 8 p.m. to screams, and within minutes, had bodies churning to their face-melting power ballads and wailing guitar rifts. Their music urgently pulsated and surged to frontman Mike Hranica’s demonic, raspy screams and low growls, infecting the night sky with harrowing intensity and sweeping up the crowd with their frenetic melody, as lights flashed over the audience — illuminating fervent faces like snapshots of the new generation of rock and roll.