Get Warped: Vans Warped Tour 2003
Erin and Zach Hibbard
7/16/2003 4:15:02 PM

Perhaps at first sight of this year’s Warped Tour, one may have thought that there is no way in hell that it could possibly live up to last year’s event. Everybody who was anybody was on the roster last year. The biggest names in the punk scene came out: Bad Religion, Reel Big Fish, NoFX, MxPx, The Ataris—not to mention the fact that the entire Drive-Thru Records label had a stage all to themselves, and on that stage, every Drive-thru band made at least one appearance. Basically, we’re talking Who’s Who in the Punk/Ska/Hardcore/Emo Scene. Although this year’s Warped still has names such as The Ataris, AFI, The All-American Rejects and Sum 41, it is mainly a platform for bands that are going to knock your socks off in the near future. Up-and-comers such as Matchbook Romance, Thrice, and The Used are tearing up the main stage this year alongside the veteran acts of The Ataris and AFI.

The Vans Warped Tour in St. Louis was a success cut short after the last few acts got cancelled due to severe thunderstorms. The day started out promising, however: bright, sunny, and extremely hot. Luckily, most of the bands got to play (with exception to the Used and A.F.I.) managed to catch these acts before the rain came in:

The freshly signed Epitaph band, Matchbook Romance, has been causing such a commotion on the tour this year. Not many people have heard much about them, but when they do hear them, they can’t stop listening. The band recently appeared on the Atticus 2 compilation where they virtually began their following, yet still only a handful of people could tell you who they are and what they sing. Now, with every passing day and every city they go through, more and more are taking a liking to this five-piece punk outfit. St. Louis still hasn’t had the pleasure on account of the aforementioned bad weather, but on the way out we overheard many people already making plans to catch MR at other cities along the Warped Tour, ourselves included.

Mest – Lead singer Tony Lovato did his best to get the crowd pumped and it worked. Mest brings a new and different spin to the punk world. With a loud, fast, and captivating sound, Mest is awesome and their set was exceptionally good, though at times we were paying less attention to the band and focusing more on staying alive in the mosh pits. Lovato called out to the back of the crowd and told them to form a circle pit around the sound tent, and we had to wonder how safe that idea was.

Never Heard Of It – is the only unsigned band to play every date on the Vans Warped Tour. The band is 100% DIY and it has paid off. They focus only on the music and the. Each member of the band did their part to work the crowd. NHOI integrates a punk rock attitude with a pop feel. Their latest album Limited Edition, which was self-funded and self-produced, is available in stores now.

Flashlight Brown – Haven’t heard of them? Neither had NT until we happened upon their impressive set on the Maurice stage. Their sound is a punk-pop mix with cool guitar riffs and catchy tunes. Their debut album, My Degeneration [Hollywood Records] was released earlier this spring and is available in stores now. From Toronto, Canada, Flashlight Brown is: Mike Conroy: lead guitar, Fil Bucchino: vocals & bass, Matt Hughes: vocals & rhythm guitar, and Tim Thomson: drums.

The Ataris – just may have put on the best show of the day. No strangers to the Warped lifestyle, The Ataris having been a part of almost every one since Vans began the tour. Once again they were able to impress as they played selections from their recently released So Long Astoria as well as favorites from past records such as the emo-kid Bible Blue Skies, Broken Hearts…Next 12 Exits, and End Is Forever.

The Ataris have moved past singing about girls, for the most part, to singing about childhood memories and reminding fans that “being grown up isn’t half as fun as growing up.” Kris Roe (lead vocals) truly knows how to get the crowd going and he kept with it – even after slipping off the speaker and busting his mouth open, he never missed a beat.

The well-traveled band has seen every city the tour will hit this year, but still brings the biggest crowds in the place. As the band wrapped up their set by traditionally letting a fan play “San Dimas High School Football Rules,” frontman Kris became more and more pumped up. The crowd seemed to grow larger after every song. Kris then began to climb the tallest monitor, stage left, then slipped and busted his mouth open. With blood everywhere, his shirt, the microphone, his hands, and the music still spilling from his lungs, the crowd was in a panic with excitement. Blood, great music, mosh pits and The Ataris—what more could a punk rocker ask for?

An unlikely member of the tour this year brought in a crowd that was second only to that of The Ataris. That’s right! The party-hard sensation himself, Andrew W.K., partied hard on the mainstage. Not too many emotional lyrics and ear-turning chord progressions from this man, just “Have fun and party hard.” After seeing his set, it is hard to stress that enough. Crowd surfing, moshing, and smiles on everyone’s face is what this man is all about. He’s been called the Tony Robbins of music. After seeing him live, it fits.

Poison the Well – is one of the fastest rising and most extreme hardcore bands on the national scene, known for their excellent hardcore sound. Their vibe taps into other musical styles ranging from acoustical emo to full-fledged hardcore screaming and incorporates melodic accents into intensely emotional lyrics. Circle pits broke out fifteen seconds after the band began playing and continued throughout the set causing some distraction away from the band – primarily for fear of getting trampled. In the hardcore scene, screamers are a dime a dozen, so what makes Poison the Well stand out? Jeffrey Moreira. The guy can sing! And sing he did.

Simple Plan – contradicted some hype that they would deliver a mediocre show. This Montreal-based band gave an electrifying performance despite the extreme heat. These guys rocked the stage, singing their hit singles, “Addicted” and “I’d Do Anything.” Too bad they didn’t sing “I’m Just A Kid,” but their cover of Bad Religion’s “American Jesus”--the highlight of the show-- more than made up for it. They have a magnetic stage presence that seizes your attention - whether you like them or not. With lyrics that anyone can relate to, and a sound best described as a blend of Green Day and Blink-182, these guys are headed nowhere but UP. Pick up their new album No Pads, No Helmets…Just Balls (Lava Records) in stores now!

New Empire – This St. Louis-based band took on the Maurice stage just before the storm hit. They played a wild set of upbeat melodies and hardcore guitars complete with perfectly-timed jumps and guitar throws. If you’re in St. Louis, you can see them next with Calico System at their CD release party July 19 at Mississippi Nights. They’ll be releasing their first full-length album. Keep an eye on this band.

All in all, Warped 2003 doesn’t have anything to worry about. The newcomers are more than living up to the expectations of fans. If you missed the St. Louis event, you can catch the tour in another city, or obtain the Warped Tour 2003 compilation in stores.


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