The Warped Tour is back, and kicked off Friday, June 19, at the Pomona Fairplex, about 80 miles from Palm Springs.
The lineup was a little different this year: Metalcore came second to only pop-punk. Gone are the days of pure punk.
Shortly after the festival kicked off, the Family Force 5 (below) performed on the Unicorn Stage. The Atlanta “crunk-rock” band, which comes out of the Christian rock scene, was an interesting sight to see; it felt like the early days of !!!, given the band has a dance music element to it. During various songs, people in tiger costumes came out to dance on the stage; fog machines blew huge clouds of smoke; and frontman Jacob Olds at one point played on a second drum set, keeping in sync with drummer Teddy Boldt.
“We thought we’d copy every hipster band in the world that has a million drums,” Olds said.
After Family Force 5, metalcore band Blessthefall appeared on the Shark Stage, which was located directly to the left of the Unicorn Stage. The band had an intense metal sound, and the lead vocals of Jared Warth were a perfect complement—but whenever backing vocalist Beau Bokan began to sing, the lyrics took on a pop-punk sound, killing the metal vibe.
Attila next appeared on the Unicorn Stage—and was the one metal band that didn’t sound like the others. Attila has been credited as having a “nu-metal” sound, in part because frontman Chris Fronzak includes rap in his lyrics, but this band does not belong in the same genre as Korn or Limp Bizkit—Attila has a brutal sound. During the song “Middle Fingers Up,” Fronzak told the crowd, “You can do anything you want in life—just don’t be a fucking bitch!”
On the Monster Stage in the late afternoon, Senses Fail took the stage. The lineup has certainly changed since the band’s formation in 2002. Frontman James Nielsen declared that it was his sixth Warped Tour—but his first while sober. As with many of the other participating metalcore bands, the combination of the pop-punk and metal vocals gave the band a milquetoast feel.
There was only a little bit of variety at this year’s Warped Tour. On the Kevin Says Stage, a band called Baby Baby from Atlanta played to a small crowd. It sounded like a modern day Oingo Boingo, but without a horn section. The band had an upbeat, fun vibe and didn’t really adhere to specific genres.
The Warped Tour this year was missing the Shiragirl Stage, even though Shiragirl performed. (Sadly, the band is only slated to play two dates on the tour.) Stunningly sexy and full of innuendo as always, Shira and her backing dancers and put on one hell of a punk-rock-style pop-music show. (See a photo above.)
Koo Koo Kanga Roo offered up a rather strange performance on the Beatport Stage. The Minnesota duo is known as a children’s entertainment act, even though the two also perform for adults. In what sort of felt like the Aquabats meets Yo Gabba Gabba!, Koo Koo Kanga Roo went into the audience to get some crowd participation. A large circle of people danced in what was called a “modern-day hokey pokey,” and the group brought out a parachute.
Following Koo Koo Kanga Roo was Kosha Dillz. The New Jersey Israeli-American rapper made some interesting demands for crowd participation, such as when he sang a song in Hebrew and Spanish, and asked the crowd to respond, “Yes, Yes,” after singing the chorus. He also asked for people’s personal items, saying, “I’ll give them back,” as people passed him a pocket watch, a bag of ice, a prophylactic from the Trojan Condoms booth, a dollar bill and other various things. He freestyle-rapped and included a line about every item given to him.
Later, a duo named Drama Club—clad in feminine-looking white masks, and with long black hair— appeared on the Beatport Stage. It was hard to figure out what it was they were doing; the duo had a DJ setup, keyboards, a bass guitar and a set of drums, and the music was all over the place. While the group sounded interesting at times, the show didn’t make sense, and people appeared to lose interest after a while.
While the Warped Tour is applauded as being cheap to attend, it’s not without its critics, upset over the seeming exclusion of the punk rock element that gave birth to the tour. Another thing worth criticizing: Attendees need to purchase a schedule. That’s right: Want to know what’s going on? That’ll be $2. Also, the layout of the Pomona festival didn’t make sense. There were narrow walkways and lines for the food vendors melding with overflow from the stage area.
The odd mix of vendor tents is amusing: PETA, the U.S. Army, Trojan Condoms, IAmSecond.com and Full Sail University were all on site, as were Straight Edge Lifestyle clothing vendors and Hare Krishnas passing out fliers. You can find yourself in a dilemma: Should one join the Army, become a vegan, enroll in an online university, or accept Jesus?
All in all, despite some impressive performances, the tour was an odd and less than rewarding experience. It just didn’t make sense.