How do you see eighty bands—plus professional skateboarding exhibitions--in one day—while you’re pulling various members aside for interviews? You don’t. Your best bet is to find a stage you love that caters to your preferred niche in the punk/alternative scene, grab yourself a cold one, and hold on for dear life.
Unlike past tours, this year’s the Vans Warped Tour in St. Louis was more divided than ever, with some of the biggest bands on side stages, and the main stage hosting two bands at a time, taking turns so that there was quiet literally, never a dull moment. And like past Warped Tours, a late June date made 2005’s event hotter than Hell--any way you wanna take that.
Says Tom Higgenson, lead vocalist for the Plain White Ts, “Most bands don’t get to play many festivals at all. This one, of course, is the biggest and the best, ya know? Everyday, seeing all this madness around us, the production of it all…it’s amazing to be a part of it.” The Plain White Ts, who've been happily rocking on the Volcom Stage, actually got bumped up to the Main Stage on this St. Louis date by some Warped Higher Power. "I don't know how it happened, but it's great!" he laughs.
The Vans Warped Tour is the place to sport your tattoos and muscles, to flaunt your toughness wearing black in the heat, and to listen to new sounds, either visiting music booths for a quick hit of new CDs on the headphones, or standing in front of new bands to catch them live. The Vans Warped Tour is all about the Goths, the nerds, the tough punks, the young junior high kids and the older alt-rockers, the Somebodies and the Nobodies, commingling for a synergistic blending of sounds: aggro, emo, alternative, rock, punk and pop in a beautiful display of peaceful, energetic aggression. Heck, the world could take a lesson from the Warped Tour.
“I’m just here for the girls,” chuckles the sunburned, blond drummer Johnny ("Just Johnny"), of the band Coppermine, who played one of the changeover sets on the Hot Topic stage.
The audience, however, was there for the biggest names gracing the UMB Bank Pavilion: My Chemical Romance, Underoath, The Offspring, MxPx, Dropkick Murphys, Fall Out Boy, Senses Fail, Hawthorne Heights, Avenged Sevenfold, Matchbook Romance, Artreyu and the All-American Rejects.
Still, there's plenty to know about the smaller bands too, and that's half the fun. One of the coolest stages (in this writer’s opinion) was the Ernie Ball Stage, featuring bands in the more alternative/melodic/experimental vein: Scary Kids Scaring Kids, Rushmore Academy, My American Heart, and The Receiving End of Sirens. When we asked most bands what nighttimes.com readers should know about them, most of them embraced the basic, succinct message of newcomers My American Heart, saying simply, "We rock."
Here are notes on some of our favorites:
Bedouin Soundclash—It was just too damned bad they put this Canadian band on first thing, before everybody was able to get in the door. A new favorite on Les Aaron’s New Music Sunday radio show, this band takes the coolest elements of Reggae, classic Brit-Pop, a healthy dose of aggressive punk rock, and swirls it together into one of the most palatable mixes of the festival. Check them out next time you get the chance.
Femme Fatality— The first band of the day to defy the heat and perform under the blazing hundred degree sun in black suits (believe it or not, they were not the only ones!). These St. Louis locals, who regularly pack houses around town with the Goth and neo-New Wave set, did their electronic eighties synth schtick to a new, tougher crowd that seemed mostly receptive, despite the fact their style didn’t fit in at all.
Tsunami Bomb—Sure, there was the pink grrrl’s stage over on the North side, but female-fronted Tsunami Bomb rocks as hard as the big boys and that’s where they belonged. Keeping a swirling moshpit happy, Tsunami hammered out rhythm and energy to spare. It almost made you forget the heat.
My Chemical Romance—If you planned on walking anywhere in the Bishop Stage region during the My Chem set, that idea was soon abandoned. Packed with bodies from the top of the hill down to the walls of the restrooms, this was breathing-room only for the biggest band of the day. Die-hard punks might resent the fact that these MTV kings were on their festival, but witnessing the show, even indier-than-thous can’t help but dig them. Over the last few years, lead singer Girard Way has become an expert at working the crowd, and even in the intense afternoon heat the audience was singing, dancing and gaining understanding for the reasons of this band’s cult status.
Rushmore Academy— Flat-out fun, Rushmore Academy takes us back to the days when punk rock first collided with pop and became its own breed of music. This band is about a good time versus aggression, and it’s pretty much impossible to keep your feet still while you’re watching. Oh, and impressive backflips by the bandmembers!
My American Heart—The youngest bunch of boys on the tour, these band members are all 17 and 18 years old, but they perform like seasoned pros. With a mix of ethnicities, this band shows what America really is. They’ve got those magic dualities of art and aggression, melody and mayhem, energy and all the elements required to give the audience a good ass-kicking. A must-see.
Fall Out Boy--Perhaps the most active mosh-pit and body-surfing crowd of the day, Chicago-based Fall Out Boy lived up to its name, with bodies flying past faster than you can say, “Sugar, We’re Going Down” (their hit single). With their dynamic blend of surging guitars, pounding percussion, and, face it…pretty faces, this is a hardcore band to love.
Underoath--It’s just so damned hard to believe that these nice, sweet Christian boys can take the stage and roar like Satan incarnate. Underoath is one of God’s bands, but their coolness more-than-appeals to saints and sinners alike. A roiling moshpit, high energy, and audience appeal like they had the power to summon the end of the world through their percussion alone. Can you say ‘Revelation’?
The Receiving End of Sirens—Amazing vocal and harmonic interplay, a return to big guitar, smart lyrics and complicated layering of sound. If you’re gonna fall in love with a new band this year, this oughtta be the one. Coming back to St. Louis at the Hi-Pointe, July 6th.
All-American Rejects--Closing out the festival in the 8:00 hour, the All-American Rejects played to a full crowd in front of the South Stage near the exit, but they were also appreciated as a fond and peppy farewell to those cutting out for the evening.
After spending nine or more hours in almost hundred-degree heat, the sunburned crowd made their way out the gate in a bleary, overtired sweat; stepping gingerly through the remains of the day: sample condoms blown up into balloons, crushed water bottles, soda cans and concert fliers. No longer was anyone beautiful, the venue was trashed, and our ears were ringing. In the words of My Chemical Romance, ‘So long, and goodnight.’ Oh, and sign me up for next year!
Look for our interviews with Underoath, Bedouin Soundclash, My American Heart and My Chemical Romance, to be posted soon!
Pictured: My Chemical Romance performs before a sea of humanity.
Read NT's Underoath interview
Read NT's My Chemical Romance interview
Read NT's Bedouin Soundclash interview
Click here for more pictures of Warped Tour 2005 in St. Louis.
Photos by J. Gordon