31 Jul 2012: Riverbend Music Center Cincinnati, OH
The arguments made by Warped Tour detractors have been resounding for a number of years now, always boiling down to one main point—“It’s just not as good as it used to be.” This overly-simplistic and cliché idea stems from the fact that musical climates invariably change, and in the eye of the punk enthusiast, always for the worse. Truthfully, when Warped Tour set off on its inaugural run in 1995 with the likes of Sublime, No Doubt, and No Use For a Name, America was well into its post-punk hangover and the tour itself seemed to breathe life back into a sub-culture that desperately needed to feel relevant again. As Warped Tour gained steam and made its way towards the mainstream, the pushback from the original audience felt inevitable.
Regardless of your thoughts on the metalcore, dubstep, or electronica genres that have found their way into the Warped landscape as of late, tour founder Kevin Lyman has expressed continually that the tour itself is about more than clinging to nostalgia or presenting bands that currently closely capture what purists consider true punk. No, the tour is a representation of a sub-culture that thrives off of community, innovative ideas, and expressing its voice, no matter how different those voices may sound. There has become increasingly more for everyone in terms of musical taste at Warped Tour, but the purpose has remained the same.
That being said, it was a pleasant surprise to many when this year’s lineup was announced. Along with the expected bands that define today’s scene, there were a large number of bands who had once ruled the roost of the tour returning for another run. Bands like Anti-Flag and Rise Against would be sharing the main stage with the likes of Miss May I and Falling In Reverse, creating one of the most intriguing and unpredictable lineups in recent memory. With that in mind, PopMatters has decided to take a closer look at a few of the bands returning to this year’s tour that have had a significant influence on the current Warped Tour scene.
When Yellowcard played their first Warped Tour in 2002, they were on the brink of crafting one of the all time great summer anthems in Ocean Avenue. By their 2004 run, they were on top of the pop-punk world thanks to increasing MTV and radio airplay, opening the floodgates for the likes of Fall Out Boy, My Chemical Romance, Panic! at the Disco, and more to invade the mainstream. As unlikely as it may have seemed that the band would rebound from their descent from the spotlight and subsequent hiatus in 2008, Yellowcard exploded back onto the scene with last year’s When You’re Through Thinking, Say Yes, reclaiming their stake amongst the pop-punk landscape. Now on the verge of releasing their newest album, Southern Air, the band has returned to the main stage of Warped Tour with a renewed sense of vigor and purpose. The band sounds, and looks, as confident as ever, ripping through what could be considered a greatest hits set list along with their newest, and appropriately titled, track “Always Summer”. Ryan Key’s vocals have never sounded better –throw in LP’s incredible drumming, Sean Mackin’s insane violin skills, and a wild Warped Tour crowd, and Yellowcard appears primed to be scene kings once again.
Taking Back Sunday
It’s odd to think that the majority of Taking Back Sunday’s existence has been without John Nolan and Shaun Cooper, but with so many emotions and memories for so many fans attached to the band’s 2002 debut Tell All Your Friends, it made last year’s original lineup reunion feel as though things were going to pick up right where they left off. Never mind that the band fared quite well in their absence, releasing the underrated Where You Want to Be and the stellar Louder Now before faltering with New Again. Nevertheless, the band’s stint on Warped Tour this summer has felt as much like a high school reunion as anything else, offering fans both old and new the chance to relive performances of songs like “Cute Without the E (Cut From the Team)” and “Timberwolves at New Jersey” while singing along as loudly as they did nearly a decade ago. Nostalgia is a powerful thing, and Taking Back Sunday’s original lineup gracing the main stage at this year’s Warped Tour is exhibit A. Singer Adam Lazzara’s vocals don’t pack the same punch that once did and the band doesn’t necessarily unleash the same amount of force that they used to during some of these older songs, but it’s damn near impossible to not follow up Lazzara’s lines of “your lipstick is calling, don’t bother angel” with “I know exactly what goes on” with just as much gusto as you did while driving home from high school ten years ago.
New Found Glory
While there’s probably no one that would argue that New Found Glory never got the due that they deserved in the limelight, the band has enjoyed a career that has shaped the pop-punk genre as we know it and influenced almost every band to come out of the scene since their inception. They have also developed a rabid fan base that comes out in droves to scream their lungs out to every song, making them one of the most revered acts of the past decade of Warped Tour. This year, the band’s colorful set was topped off with matching basketball uniforms worn by the band, who ripped through the likes of staple tracks such as “Hit or Miss”, “All Downhill From Here”, and “My Friends Over You”. It doesn’t matter how many times you’ve heard these songs—when Jordan Pundik takes the mic and leans toward the crowd before the band rips into the first song, you’re reminded how timeless New Found Glory seems to be. In a scene where bands come a dime a dozen and rarely connect outside of a narrow audience, New Found Glory has managed to not only bridge the gap between pop-rock and straight punk listeners, but they’ve made a career out of crafting songs that sounds as fresh and memorable today as they did ten years ago. Literally every pop-punk band that struck gold in the 2000’s owes credit to New Found Glory.
Every Time I Die
Every Time I Die front man Keith Buckley is one of the most captivating performers you’ll find. Buckley’s voice demands your attention in a way many have tried to mimic, but to little avail. The first time I heard the band was several years back at Warped Tour, when I heard a scream so piercing and raw that I felt my body being pulled toward the stage where the band was playing. The band’s music was years ahead of the curve, influencing the current influx of metalcore bands, many of whom play a shallow rendition of Every Time I Die’s complex guitar riffs and unrelenting breakdowns. The band’s set is created to be a party of epic proportions, giving onlookers little chance to catch their breath. Newer tracks like “Underwater Bimbos from Outer Space” mesh well with earlier trashers such as “Bored Stiff”, “Floater”, and “We’rewolf” as the band wastes no time getting down to business. Buckley’s crushing vocals, made even more poignant by his razor sharp lyrical abilities, coupled with the band’s southern metal/hardcore blend have created some of the most memorable Warped Tour performances of the past decade. Fortunately, as evidenced by this year’s Ex Lives, Every Time I Die isn’t ready to pass the torch to the current wave of scene-core bands just yet. One can only hope the party will continue for another ten years.