Reviews

Warped Tour 2012: The Here and Now

All Time Low

While not yet veterans, these bands are far from newbies and have spent a summer or two honing their skills on the tour and becoming some of this year’s must-see acts.

Warped Tour

City: Cincinnati, OH
Venue: Riverbend Music Center
Date: 2012-07-31

Yesterday, PopMatters took time out to give our due to a few of the revered bands making a return to this year’s Warped Tour. Today we’re showing love to some of the bands that are currently coming into their own and making a splash in the scene. While not yet veterans, these bands are far from newbies and have spent a summer or two honing their skills on the tour and becoming some of this year’s must-see acts. Whether you’re into pop-punk, metalcore, electronic rock, or post-hardcore, there’s a little something for everyone on this year’s Warped Tour.

Mayday Parade

Mayday Parade got their first taste of Warped Tour in 2005, not as performers, but as a newly formed band following the tour across the country and selling their debut EP Tales Told by Dead Friends to those standing in line outside of the venues. By 2007, the band was officially on the tour, celebrating the release of their classic full length A Lesson in Romantics. In only a few years, the band has become a scene staple, especially after last year’s self titled album helped them avenge the demons of 2009’s Anywhere but Here. Lead singer Derek Sanders plays to the crowd as well as anyone on the tour, whether he’s singing well known tracks like “Jamie All Over” or newer cuts like “Oh Well, Oh Well” and “No Heroes Allowed”. With a continually growing fan base and an increasingly impressive live performance, Mayday Parade is as ready as anyone for the main stage.

blessthefall

The first time that Phoenix, Arizona, metalcore act blessthefall took the stage at Warped Tour was in 2007, when then-lead singer Craig Mabbitt was months away from leaving the group to take the reigns of Escape the Fate. Now two full-length albums into their stint with front man Beau Bokan, the band has matured into one of the more appealing and talented heavy bands in the scene. Lead guitarist Eric Lambert absolutely shreds his way through tracks from last year’s Awakening while Matt Traynor has become one of the most respected and talented drummers on the tour. While Bokan may not hit every note pitch-perfect, his throw-caution-to-the-wind stage presence is just one of many things that set this band apart and has caught the eyes and ears of many a Warped Tour passerby.

All Time Low

It was somewhat fitting that All Time Low took the stage directly after Yellowcard at this year’s stop in Cincinnati. The Baltimore, MD, pop-punk powerhouse developed a bond with Yellowcard in the past year while taking them on a tour across the UK and United States. That relationship was undoubtedly important during the band’s major label fallout last year and subsequent resigning with Hopeless Records earlier this summer (the same label as Yellowcard). All Time Low may be a product of the greats that came before them, but they are undeniably talented, catchy, and just punk enough to carry the Warped Tour Torch. Whether it be the raunchy and hilarious stage banter between guitarist/singer Alex Gaskarth and guitarist Jack Barakat or the band’s whirlwind of a set list consisting of summer anthems like “Weightless” and “Dear Maria, Count Me In”, All Time Low have become the poster boys for this current Warped Tour generation.

Of Mice & Men

When Of Mice & Men took their first trek on Warped Tour in the summer of 2010, lead vocalist Austin Carlisle couldn’t take part in the tour with the band he helped create. Months earlier, Carlisle had been relieved of his duties in the band, being replaced by former Sky Eats Airplane screamer Jerry Roush. It wouldn’t be long before order was restored and Carlisle rejoined the band as they headed out for Warped Tour 2011. This year, in the wake of their pummeling new album The Flood, the band is taking the main stage by storm. Quite possibly the loudest band of the day, Of Mice & Men are able to turn the Riverbend Music Center’s amphitheater into a storm of bodies not-so-carefully moshing their way around the built-in seats. While the band still has some work to do to fully set themselves apart from the rest of the metalcore pack, they’re well on their way with an excellent live performance to build off of.

Breathe Carolina

It’s true -- Breathe Carolina is one of several reasons that Warped Tour purists bristle at the lineups and culture that surround the event in its current state. Their brand of electronic rock has gone through a number of changes over the course of three albums, currently taking on a more pop oriented sound, playing a role in the band’s recent signing with Columbia Records. However, I was told by more than one band backstage that they’re happy to see Breathe Carolina take off and they’ve been a welcome addition to this year’s tour. Certainly, the band has improved in nearly every way since their first trek in 2009. Now, when David Schmitt and Kyle Even take the main stage, they perform with a sense of purpose and charisma that had been lacking in the past. It appears that Breathe Carolina believes that they belong on this tour, which is just the kind of confidence it takes to succeed here.

Pierce the Veil

There’s no longer any excuse to not take notice to San Diego, California experimental post-hardcore act, Pierce the Veil. The band, who has felt on the brink of a breakout for the past few years, has used their first stint on the main stage to their full advantage, putting on one of the more passionate and captivating performances of this summer’s tour. Having just released their new, eclectic album Collide with the Sky, Pierce the Veil seems ready to be listed among the best bands in the scene. Vic Fuente’s signature vocals sound better than they ever have, while his brother Mike’s work on the drums has had a significant impact on the band’s shifting sound. During the band’s Cincinnati performance, Vic could be found jumping off the stage into the crowd, shouting through a megaphone, and rolling about on the stage, making for one hell of a performance.

Other must see acts: Fireworks, Title Fight, The Ghost Inside, We Are the In Crowd, Memphis May Fire, Polar Bear Club, You Me at Six, Senses Fail, Bayside.

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

Editor's Note: Originally published 30 July 2014.

10. “Bedlam in Belgium”
(Flick of the Switch, 1983)

This is a massively underrated barnstormer from the boys off the much-maligned (unfairly, I think) Flick of the Switch. The album was missing Mutt Lange, but the Youngs did have his very capable engineer, Tony Platt, as co-producer in the studio at Compass Point in the Bahamas. Tony’s a real pro. I think he did a perfectly fine job on this album, which also features the slamming “Nervous Shakedown”.

But what I find most interesting about “Bedlam in Belgium” is that it’s based on a fracas that broke out on stage in Kontich, Belgium, in 1977, involving Bon Scott, the rest of the band, and the local authorities. AC/DC had violated a noise curfew and things got hairy.

Yet Brian Johnson, more than half a decade later, wrote the lyrics with such insight; almost as if he was the one getting walloped by the Belgian police: He gave me a crack in the back with his gun / Hurt me so bad I could feel the blood run. Cracking lyrics, Bon-esque. Unfortunately for Brian, he was removed from lyric-writing duties from The Razors Edge (1990) onwards. All songs up to and including 2008’s Black Ice are Young/Young compositions.

Who’ll be writing the songs on the new album AC/DC has been working on in Vancouver? AC/DC fans can’t wait to hear them. Nor can I.

 
9. “Spellbound”
(For Those About to Rock We Salute You, 1981)

"Spellbound" really stands as a lasting monument to the genius of Mutt Lange, a man whose finely tuned ear and attention to detail filed the rough edges of Vanda & Young–era AC/DC and turned this commercially underperforming band for Atlantic Records into one of the biggest in the world. On “Spellbound” AC/DC sounds truly majestic. Lange just amplifies their natural power an extra notch. It’s crisp sounding, laden with dynamics and just awesome when Angus launches into his solo.

“Spellbound” is the closer on For Those About to Rock We Salute You, the last album Lange did with AC/DC, so chronologically it’s a significant song; it marks the end of an important era. For Those About to Rock was an unhappy experience for a lot of people. There was a lot of blood being spilled behind the scenes. It went to number one in the US but commercially was a massive disappointment after the performance of Back in Black. Much of the blame lies at the feet of Atlantic Records, then under Doug Morris, who made the decision to exhume an album they’d shelved in 1976, Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap, and release it in-between Back in Black and For Those About to Rock.

In the book Phil Carson, who signed AC/DC to Atlantic, calls it “one of the most crass decisions ever made by a record-company executive” and believes it undermined sales of For Those About to Rock.


 
8. “Down Payment Blues”
(Powerage, 1978)

This is one of the best songs off Powerage -- perhaps the high point of Bon Scott as a lyricist -- but also significant for its connection to “Back in Black”. There are key lines in it: Sitting in my Cadillac / Listening to my radio / Suzy baby get on in / Tell me where she wanna go / I'm living in a nightmare / She's looking like a wet dream / I got myself a Cadillac / But I can't afford the gasoline.

Bon loved writing about Cadillacs. He mentions them in “Rocker” off the Australian version of TNT and the international release of Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap: Got slicked black hair / Skin tight jeans / Cadillac car and a teenage dream.

Then you get to “Back in Black”. Bon’s dead but the lyrics have this spooky connection to “Down Payment Blues”: Back in the back / Of a Cadillac / Number one with a bullet, I’m a power pack.

Why was Brian singing about riding around in Cadillacs? He’d just joined AC/DC, wasn’t earning a lot and was on his best behavior. Bon had a reason to be singing about money. He was writing all the songs and just had a breakthrough album with Highway to Hell. Which begs the question: Could Bon also have written or part written the lyrics to “Back in Black”?

Bon’s late mother Isa said in 2006: “The last time we saw him was Christmas ’79, two months before he died. [Bon] told me he was working on the Back in Black album and that that was going to be it; that he was going to be a millionaire.”

 
7. “You Shook Me All Night Long”
(Back in Black, 1980)

Everyone knows and loves this song; it’s played everywhere. Shania Twain and Celine Dion have covered it. It’s one of AC/DC’s standbys. But who wrote it?

Former Mötley Crüe manager Doug Thaler is convinced Bon Scott, who’d passed away before the album was recorded, being replaced by Brian Johnson, wrote the lyrics. In fact he told me, “You can bet your life that Bon Scott wrote the lyrics to ‘You Shook Me All Night Long’.” That’s a pretty strong statement from a guy who used to be AC/DC’s American booking agent and knew the band intimately. I look into this claim in some depth in the book and draw my own conclusions.

I’m convinced Bon wrote it. In my opinion only Bon would have written a line like “She told me to come but I was already there.” Brian never matched the verve or wit of Bon in his lyrics and it’s why I think so much of AC/DC’s mid-'80s output suffers even when the guitar work of the Youngs was as good as it ever was.

But what’s also really interesting about this song in light of the recent hullabaloo over Taurus and Led Zeppelin is how much the opening guitar riff sounds similar to Head East’s “Never Been Any Reason”. I didn’t know a hell of a lot about Head East before I started working on this book, but came across “Never Been Any Reason” in the process of doing my research and was blown away when I heard it for the first time. AC/DC opened for Head East in Milwaukee in 1977. So the two bands crossed paths.

 
6. “Rock ’N’ Roll Damnation”
(Powerage, 1978)

It’s hard to get my head around the fact Mick Wall, the British rock writer and author of AC/DC: Hell Ain’t a Bad Place to Be, called this “a two-bit piece of head-bopping guff.” Not sure what track he was listening to when he wrote that -- maybe he was having a bad day -- but for me it’s one of the last of AC/DC’s classic boogie tracks and probably the best.

Mark Evans loves it almost as much as he loves “Highway to Hell". It has everything you want in an AC/DC song plus shakers, tambourines and handclaps, a real Motown touch that George Young and Harry Vanda brought to bear on the recording. They did something similar with the John Paul Young hit “Love Is in the Air”. Percussion was an underlying feature of many early AC/DC songs. This one really grooves. I never get tired of hearing it.

“Rock ’n’ Roll Damnation” was AC/DC’s first hit in the UK charts and a lot of the credit has to go to Michael Klenfner, best known as the fat guy with the moustache who stops Jake and Elwood backstage in the final reel of The Blues Brothers and offers them a recording contract. He was senior vice-president at Atlantic at the time, and insisted the band go back and record a radio-worthy single after they delivered the first cut of Powerage to New York.

Michael was a real champion of AC/DC behind the scenes at Atlantic, and never got the recognition he was due while he was still alive (he passed away in 2009). He ended up having a falling out with Atlantic president Jerry Greenberg over the choice of producer for Highway to Hell and got fired. But it was Klenfner who arguably did more for the band than anyone else while they were at Atlantic. His story deserves to be known by the fans.

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