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09 Aug 2016

Live: The Vans Warped Tour at the Pomona Fairplex, Aug. 7

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Sum 41. Sum 41. Guillermo Prieto/Irockphotos.net

The Warped Tour returned for its annual appearance at the Fairplex in Pomona on Sunday, Aug. 7.

The 2016 stop represented a huge improvement over last year, thanks to a far-less-stale lineup, welcome layout modifications and stage changes.

Here are some of the musical highlights.

Sum 41

The Canadian pop-punk band, which reached peak popularity in the early 2000s, has seen soaring highs and cratering lows. Those lows included the drama surrounding frontman Deryck Whibley’s four-year marriage to Avril Lavigne, the departure of guitarist Dave Baksh, the exit of drummer/vocalist Steve Jocz, and a trip to the Democratic Republic of the Congo—where the band and other civilians needed to be rescued by armored United Nations carriers after being holed up in a war-zone hotel.

On Sunday, Sum 42 played a noon-time set to a large crowd at the Journeys Left Foot Stage. While Dave Baksh has returned to the band, Steve Jocz has not and was replaced by Frank Zummo. Sum 41’s set was epic, to say the least. The band still has a lot of power and energy—as well as quite a large fan base, including teenagers who were toddlers or not even born yet when the group debuted with All Killer, No Filler in 2001.

In case you were wondering, Whibley stated many times during the set that there’s a new album, 13 Voices, coming in October.

Reel Big Fish

When I was in high school in the late ’90s, third-wave ska band Reel Big Fish’s “Sell Out” was all over the radio waves—played to the point where people were sick of it. Well, Reel Big Fish is still around, even though frontman Aaron Barrett is the only remaining original member. The band was a surprise late addition to the lineup, and I wondered what the mostly younger-than-18 Warped Tour crowd would think.

Playing a mid-afternoon set on the Journeys Left Foot Stage, Reel Big Fish started the set with “Everyone Else is an Asshole,” which was … well, appropriate for this particular music festival. Barrett poked fun at the band’s history, stating, “We were very famous in the ’90s” and announcing the band was going to play its hit song … before playing the first 30 seconds of Nirvana’s “Smells Like Team Spirit.” Barrett then said: “Just kidding. That was a Pearl Jam song.” The band did play “Sell Out” early in the set, and included a cover of Van Morrison’s “Brown Eyed Girl” along with “Beer” and a cover of A-Ha’s “Take on Me.” Those latter two songs were featured in the movie BASEketball.

Mother Feather

Independent photographer Guillermo Prieto has an eye for female-fronted bands, so we had to take a peek at this psychedelic-looking indie band that played on the Full Sail University stage. The group offers a sound that includes dance music, psychedelic rock and indie-rock—all rolled up together. This is a band that is on the rise, as evidenced by numerous write-ups and acclaim. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the group at even bigger festivals like Coachella next year.

Warped Tour founder Kevin Lyman and the Ernie Ball Stage

Warped Tour founder Kevin Lyman appeared on the smaller Ernie Ball Stage late in the afternoon to introduce Justine and the Highs, a band he said he saw in a battle-of-the-bands competition that he believes is in store for bigger and better things. He reminded the crowd that the Warped Tour is where the band Paramore cut its teeth before becoming a huge national act. The point of the Ernie Ball Stage is to offer unsigned local and regional bands a chance to perform for the festival crowd. Lyman was right: Justine and the Highs rocked.

The Miracle Dolls

The Miracle Dolls, hailing from the Morongo Band of Mission Indians reservation in Cabazon, also played on the Ernie Ball Stage later in the day. The band has a stripped-down sound without guitar effects or fancy gimmicks. Influences of Fugazi, The Pixies and Gordon Gano could be heard in the band, fronted by twin sisters Dani and Dezy Doll. 


Some non-music-related things we found interesting:

The Waterslide and Alec Corral of the local band Tribesmen

There’s not a lot of shade at most of the Warped Tour venues—but there is a water slide. Little kids, big kids and adults alike get hosed down before taking a ride down the inflatable slip-and-slide.

Alec Corral, guitarist of the Coachella Valley band Tribesmen, has been with the tour throughout the summer.

“It’s been a lot fun,” Corral said. “I’ve gotten to see a lot of cities, and I never really traveled before. I got to see New York City, Detroit, Chicago and Denver.”

How important is the water slide, considering all of the summer heat?

“It’s very important. We have to keep these kids cool and hydrated, and we don’t want them passing out,” Corral said. “It’s the adults, too. I get to hose down the parents as well.”

Voter Registration

HeadCount.org, a nonpartisan based organization that works with musicians to promote the appeal of voting and participation in democracy, was onsite to register voters. Given the … um, state of the upcoming presidential election, it’s not a surprise that a voter-registration effort had a presence—albeit not as much a presence as during the 2004 Warped Tour, when Fat Mike of NOFX was promoting PunkVoter as a means of voting then-President George W. Bush out of office. (That effort, as you may recall, was not all that successful.)

During the late afternoon, a worker with HeadCount.org told me they’d managed to register about 40 voters so far.

“They’re saying, ‘I don’t like either of these people running, so I’m not even going to vote,’” said the volunteer. Eek.

Cheap or Free Water

Unlike other festivals that charge from $4 to $6 for a bottle of water, the Warped Tour has vendors that sell cold bottled water at just $2 to $3. There was also a station where attendees could refill water bottles at no cost. Considering all of the moshing, crowd-surfing and walking that was going on in the heat, hydration was a must.

Attention-Grabbing Social Campaigns

Nothing is more annoying than when a guy comes out from under a canopy and asks if I want to “take” a copy of his CD after putting it in my hand—and then tells me I need to give him $5 for it.

Ugh. No thank you.

On a more entertaining note, some of the social campaigns were fascinating. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals had a tent that simply said “SKIN” on the top, with good-looking male and female models on advertisements outside the tent … promoting the wearing of human skin as jackets and boots. Of course, the products weren’t real, but the effort certainly grabbed one’s attention. You didn’t even know PETA was involved until you asked.

Meanwhile, Truth, the anti-smoking campaign, was encouraging tug-of-wars or and other ridiculous things near its big orange van, where workers/volunteers gave away prizes to spread awareness.

The Warped Tour itself

The only major complaint I have about this year’s edition of the festival involves the weird set times at the Journeys Left Foot Stage. Less Than Jake, a popular ’90s third-wave ska band that headlined the very same stage in 2014, was the first band to play as the gates opened. I previously mentioned how Sum 41 played to a noon crowd.

Still, it was good to see some more impressive names on the schedules. While the days of Bad Religion, Pennywise and NOFX playing the festival are long gone, it was nice to see recognizable names on the bill this year. Last year’s tour offered no such thing.

Kevin Lyman has stated many times before that he’s made adjustments to the Warped Tour so he can attract the teenage demographic while retaining some of the tour’s classic elements. Considering that the Warped Tour is the only one of the national traveling festivals that started in the ’90s—along with OzzFest, Lollapalooza and Lilith Fair—that is still going and is profitable, Lyman is definitely on to something.

Yes, it’s a hard pill to swallow for people my age who don’t get to see the bands we loved back in the day at the current Vans Warped Tour. Well, I had my day at the Warped Tour as a teenager in the ’90s … so it’s now this generation’s turn.

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