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07 Aug 2017

Warped Tour: Two Decades After Appearing on the Tour, Hardcore Band Sick of It All Makes a Triumphant Return

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Sick of It All Performs at the final Warped Tour stop, in Pomona, on Aug. 6. Sick of It All Performs at the final Warped Tour stop, in Pomona, on Aug. 6. Cory Courtney

For New York hardcore band Sick of It All, this year’s Warped Tour was a homecoming, of sorts: The band returned 20 years after last playing it in 1997.

Although Sick of It All was the first band to perform on the Hard Rock stage at the Pomona stop, just after noon on Sunday, the band had a great crowd—including many people who were seeing them for the first time.

Later in the afternoon, frontman Lou Koller smiled while discussing this year’s tour experience, which concluded with Pomona’s show.

“Twenty years later,” Koller said. “It had its ups and downs, but it was great. We wanted to stay away from Europe, because last year was our 30-year anniversary, and we toured the shit out of Europe. Our only other option was getting real jobs this summer. But luckily, (tour founder) Kevin Lyman called us and said he was slowly easing older bands into coming back on the tour. Some days, we played last, where we didn’t really have a following, but every show, we got new young fans. I’m not saying it was by the hundreds, and some days it felt like only three people.”

Sick of It All has always been politically minded, and Koller said that with Trump as president, it’s going to be an interesting time for punk music.

“It’s back to the bullshit. Even when Obama was president, we were always watching what he was doing,” he said. “People who I know support Trump are like, ‘Oh, you really think Obama was the greatest president?’ No, he wasn’t the greatest president, but he was a good president. He did a lot of good for this country that Trump supporters ignore. But there were things that he did that I hated, like he was always on the side of Monsanto, that company that rules all the food.

“To be Sick of It All with Trump as president? Just let the anger fly even more.”

Koller expressed his feelings on political correctness—a topic on the forefront of the minds of many after several incidents during this year’s Warped Tour.

“It’s such a hard subject, especially with that whole thing that happened this year on the Warped Tour with the Dickies, but political correctness starts with you,” he said. “You just have to be cool with people. I understand trying to educate people, and we have friends who say, ‘Everybody is so PC.’ Why not? Who cares? You have to be a dick to someone because they’re different? That’s shit my mother taught me not to do when I was fucking 5 years old. It’s really hard, because I don’t like Trump bringing in this whole attitude of, ‘We don’t have to be politically correct anymore, so fuck these people!’ Why? Because religion tells you to do something? Religion is made up; it’s not real!”

Koller told me he hopes Sick of It All will be invited back again, perhaps two years from now for the 25th anniversary of the Warped Tour.

“It’s funny: A lot of the crew guys from every stage come and watch us,” Koller said. “The one thing I want to make sure that everyone knows is that this was exactly like the 1997 Warped Tour, between the Hard Rock stage and the Skullcandy stage: No matter what the bands were, we went and saw each other every night. This guy William Control—who does this, like, new wave, dance goth style of music—he was in the mosh pit this morning. He hates the sun; he always carries an umbrella because he doesn’t want to be in the sun, but he was dancing in the fucking pit during Sick of It All. We were one of the bands he grew up listening to. Last night, every band from the stages was in the pit, and we were all dancing. I’m talking Hatebreed guys, Municipal Waste guys and Valient Thorr were all there dancing like we were in a fucking ’80s new wave club, and it was hilarious. Everyone was supporting each other, and that’s what it was like back then in 1997.

“I’d like to do this again if we could come back and have camaraderie like that. One of the crew guys came up to me and said, ‘The camaraderie that you guys bring and how you’re cool to everyone is really touching, because some of the bands who are more popular, it makes them think.’ … We had my birthday on this tour, and my daughter ran around giving cake to everyone. I said, ‘Make sure you give it to all the crew, because they work the hardest.’ They were all like, ‘You’re giving us cake?’ and I was like, ‘We all work together, man!’”

Sick of It All came out of the New York Hardcore Scene—which Koller said is still very much alive.

“The mainstream is so focused on other things. We’re 30 years old; Agnostic Front is pushing 40 years old,” he said. “But there are still a lot of good clubs and places to play in Brooklyn. Freddy Cricien of Madball started this place called the Black N’ Blue Bowl with a bunch of other guys, and that has really helped to keep the scene alive. It brings back a lot of old bands, and he has a lot of newer bands to play as openers. It’s an all-day thing, and it really helps to keep the scene going.

Sick of It All plans to keep touring, and should have some new music out soon, Koller said.

“The last full length we put out, The Last Act of Defiance, was in 2014, and last year for the anniversary, we did a five-song EP that came in a special photo book that has our history,” he said. “This tour, we just made a run of the EP to sell for $5 so the kids can buy it.

“We’re actually writing right now. When we go home, we have a month off, and we’re going to tour Southeast Asia and Japan, then back home, and then back to Europe again for a week of shows. Then we’re done for a year—and hopefully we get stuff together for early next year to start recording.”

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