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The 2017 Warped Tour came to a close at the Pomona Fairplex, 80 miles west of Palm Springs, on Sunday, Aug. 6.

A cloud hung over much of the summer tour after The Dickies made some jokes that angered feminist punk band War on Women during a stop in Denver, dividing many fans over questions of free speech and political correctness. On the plus side, tour organizers included many of the old-school punk bands who had played the Warped Tour in the 1990s.

While entering the tour grounds on Sunday, we encountered a significant problem. If there’s one item that is a MUST-HAVE at a festival—an item that every festival I know of allows and even encourages—it’s sunblock. Well, when I walked up to security, a woman working the festival screeched: “NO SUNBLOCK! TAKE IT BACK TO YOUR CAR OR THROW IT AWAY!” I noticed a large trash barrel full of sunblock, into which I threw mine. Upon entering the festival, I found it hard to find sunblock for sale, and I was afraid what the price would be. Luckily, I found a booth selling small bottles of SPF 30 for $2 … but I’d already noticed by 2 p.m. that there were a lot of people getting sunburns. I was asked at one point if I could spare any sunblock for a young kid. What a terrible idea by festival managers.

As for the music: The Hard Rock stage featured performances by Sick of It All, TSOL, Municipal Waste, Adolescents and Strung Out. Jack Grisham, of TSOL—wearing a pink suit that is probably up for auction on the TSOL site by now, with proceeds going to charity—wasn’t shy about giving the finger or offering an amusing anecdote. Tony Reflex of Adolescents look sunburned to a crisp and ready to go home after playing the entire tour, pointing to the mountains in the background and saying, “I live in those mountains!”

At the Skullcandy stage, feminist punk band War on Women performed. Frontwoman Shawna Potter had a tank top on that stated, “I’m a fucking feminist,” and declared that if any woman felt uncomfortable at the Warped Tour, War on Women and their friends at the Safer Scenes were there and “had their back.” She then went on a rant about reproductive rights before singing a song with a chorus during which she screamed “GIVE ME THE PILL! GIVE ME THE PILL!” The song included lines about abortion and rape, and someone pretended to rip a baby out of her stomach. As a gay man in my late 30s who understands and respects the ideals of feminism, I feel that War on Women should write a song: “We Give Feminism a Bad Name.”

For attendees who love everything metal, the two Monster stages, which took up one whole side of the festival, offered delights all day long. One of the highlights of the afternoon was Hatebreed, who praised Sick of It All, TSOL and Adolescents for kicking the door down for bands like them. Hatebreed was returning to the Warped Tour for the first time since 1998.

At the opposite end of the festival, the two Journey stages featured performances in the afternoon by pop-punk band Goldfinger, rap metal band Attila and stoner-rock band CKY.

As the sun went down, it became time for the headliners, and the notorious costumed metal band GWAR took to one of the Monster stages. After the death of Cory Smoot (Flattus Maximus) in 2011 and frontman Dave Brockie (Oderus Urungus) in 2014, GWAR is continuing on with new frontman Blothar (Michael Bishop, who is also a history professor and software engineer; he was the original bass player, Beefcake the Mighty). As soon as GWAR came onstage, the band began spraying blood all over the crowd through hoses … and through all six of the penises on Blothar’s costume. At one point in between songs, Blothar said, “Hey baby, you’re pretty cute!” to one of the female attendees in front of the stage. When she acknowledged him, he said, “No, I wasn’t talking to you!” and then he said, “Yeah, you, hi!”

With all the controversy that surrounded the Dickies, one has to wonder how GWAR was given a free pass. GWAR was pretty misogynistic—but both the men and women who caught the band’s set seemed to be having a hilarious good time.

Published in Reviews

The Adolescents are part of the Vans Warped Tour this summer—and the band is retaining its punk cred by eschewing a cushy tour bus in favor of a van. Yes, after almost 40 years in the business, the Orange County punk outfit is still kicking ass.

The Adolescents are one of several legendary bands—including T.S.O.L. and GWAR—playing the Warped Tour at the Fairplex Pomona on Sunday, Aug. 6.

During a recent phone interview with front man Tony Brandenburg (often known as Tony Reflex), it sounded like he was losing his voice. He told me the humid weather at the Nashville tour stop was getting to him.

“I thought this was going to be brutal, and the weather has been, but the tour has been a lot of fun,” Brandenburg said. “We are where it’s real humid, and that’s a lot harder than the drive. When you get closer to the water, it gets a little tricky.”

He scoffed when I mentioned tour buses.

“No!” he said with a laugh. “I like the van better. It’s a comfort thing for me. I find it to be more comfortable.”

I asked Brandenburg how it felt to be singing the same songs as an adult, now 54, that he sang as a teenager.

“We first started when I was 15 or 16, so I was still really a kid,” he said. “In the years that have passed, I’ve looked back on it, and it was a fun ride. It was fun being that kid, and it was kind of scary, but it was what it was. Playing the stuff now, I find it to be exciting how other people dig it. Kids take it one way and are really into it, and there are people who are generations older; you can see in their reactions where they are in life. The songs are just as valid to (older listeners), even though they’re in a different place.”

Brandenburg said that he always sort of feels out of place, and the Warped Tour is no different.

“I feel like I’m in the wrong spot, at the wrong time, all the time, so do I feel like that more than usual? No,” he said. “The bands are really cool. There are a lot of young bands that come from different genres, and they’ve all been really super-sweet to us. Of course, I feel like I’m distant, but I feel that way by generation and by genre. We may have the art in common, but our lifestyles might be completely different. … But I’m enjoying this. I’m enjoying meeting the kids, the younger bands and older bands. It’s just fun to watch how this is all playing out.”

The Adolescents continue to keep a busy schedule—but the Vans Warped Tour is allowing the Adolescents to reach a different audience, including … well, adolescents.

“We’ve toured the United States about every two years, and we tour Europe annually, sometimes twice within a year,” he said. “South America, Australia, Asia—we’re pretty busy. Our opportunities to do an all-ages (show) are very limited; we can do those in other countries, but we can’t do them here in the States. This is the first all-ages tour we’ve ever done, and that’s very cool. If the kids want to come, that’s great, and this is one of the few opportunities they’ll get to do it.”

When he’s not fronting one of the best-known punk bands on the West Coast, Brandenburg has a day job: He’s a school teacher.

“It’s no surprise to anyone in the community that I work in, but I think that it’s been a kick for a lot of them. I’ve run into parents in the community. They have come up to me and said they were at Ink-N-Iron or at the Warped Tour or whatever, and I get a kick out of it. They’re listening to great music, so how can I not appreciate that?” he said with a laugh. “The touring, we usually do in the winter or the summer; that’s a good three months of the year when I’m able to break away and tour, so what’s when I usually do it. But we need more teachers in punk rock.”

The Adolescents are planning to keep the cycle going, Brandenburg said.

“We just recorded something for a Halloween compilation, and we always do a show at Christmas time, so we’re starting to put together the bill for our Christmas show,” he said. “We want to start work on a record for next year’s tour and head over to Europe.”

The Vans Warped Tour takes place at 11 a.m., Sunday, Aug. 6, at Fairplex Pomona, 1101 W. McKinley Ave., in Pomona. General admission tickets are $41.50. For tickets or more information, visit www.vanswarpedtour.com.

Published in Previews

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.

Published in Reviews