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Last updateWed, 27 Sep 2017 1pm

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

When Jackass first aired on MTV, it not only made stars out of its cast; it brought attention to the band CKY.

The music of CKY (Camp Kill Yourself) was featured on the show, and the band played the Warped Tour this summer. On the final tour date, yesterday in Pomona, members Matt Deis (bass) and Jess Margera (drums; the brother of Jackass star Bam) sat down with the Independent for a brief interview.

One subject: The release of the new album The Phoenix, which was recorded at Rancho de la Luna in Joshua Tree.

“As an East Coast boy who grew up in winters with 4 feet of snow on the ground all the time, being able to go out there where it was almost 120 degrees each day, that was pretty nice,” Deis said. “It was beautiful. There’s this energy that just seems to hang over Joshua Tree and that whole area.”

The album was engineered by Jon Russo; Rancho de la Luna owner David Catching was not on hand for the recording of the album.

“He was out on tour with Eagles of Death Metal,” Margera said. “That was a real bummer, because I’ve heard what a great cook he is.”

CKY is no stranger to the Warped Tour, having played it before. On Sunday, however, I could tell Margera was happy it was finally ending.

“It was awesome to come back, but it was really hot for a lot of it,” he said. “I’m pretty burnt out. I had a real blast, but I’m spent! It’s like a rock ’n’ roll summer camp. You just get to hang out with a ton of cool bands, barbecuing with them, and it’s a cool vibe. You hang out with bands that you might not ever get to hang out with, like American Authors, which is a band my kids love, but I’ve never heard of.”

Deis agreed about the summer-camp vibe.

“You become friends with the least likely of people; 40-something shows in, and we’ve become great friends with Save Ferris, which is a ska band,” he said. “Now we’re all friends for life, and once you’re here living it, you get it. It’s a secret club that you become a member of.”

Margera shared one downside of the Warped Tour.

“We have about 20 years of music to play in about 30 minutes. That’s challenging!” he said. “When it’s 118 in Phoenix, though, 30 minutes is a good amount of time. I probably would have died if it was 40 minutes.”

Deis said the 30 minutes per day of performing leads to challenges.

“The hardest part is the 23 1/2 other hours that happen—trying to not go crazy during that,” he said. “But the 30 minutes onstage? That’s what you look forward to each day.”

It’s been almost two decades since Jackass debuted on MTV in 2000.

“I think it was a perfect storm of events, and I’m really grateful for it,” Margera said. “We built a fan base without going through the traditional routes. We had a video on MTV through Jackass, and we didn’t even have an album in stores. That was different: You had to go find it in a surf or skate shop. Spike Jonze and Jeff Tremaine took our videos and the Big Brother videos and pitched them to MTV, and they were like, ‘Whatever you want, sir!’”

Right now, CKY is in the midst of promoting The Phoenix, which dropped in June.

“We’re coming back around with the H.I.M. Farewell Tour, and we’re going to be the support for them on the entire North American run,” Deis said. “We’re excited about it. For some reason, we never toured with them before. Sadly, they’re going away, but it’ll be a lot of fun.

“We’re going to be working on a new EP within the next month or two.”

Margera laughed as he explained why they were recording an EP.

“Our new label said (The Phoenix) is great, but it’s only eight songs,” he said. “We’re going to need more than that, so we’re going to get to work right after this. We had years off, so it’s good to be busy again.”

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.”

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

In 1995, the Warped Tour was born. There were a handful of touring festivals then—but within a decade or so, all but the Warped Tour were gone.

Now in its third decade, the punk-themed Warped Tour will visit more than 40 cities in 2017—with more traditional punk and hardcore bands on the lineup than in recent years. The Pomona date on Sunday, Aug. 6, is slated to include Adolescents, T.S.O.L., Hatebreed, Goldfinger, CKY, and Sick of It All—as well infamous metal band G.W.A.R.

Kevin Lyman, the tour’s founder, sounded excited as we talked during a recent phone interview about the tour’s history, present and future.

“We’ve built up a community,” Lyman said. “We haven’t changed the tour a whole lot, and it still feels like a backyard party for a lot of people. … We have so many three-day festivals, and we work on trying to make it economically available to people who might not be able to go to another festival. Our ticket prices are still economical. We hit the $50 mark with fees last year, and I freaked out a bit—until I saw what the average price is for festivals now: approaching $100 per day. … We’ve been able to adjust and adapt and keep it relatively true to what it was all about.”

Over the years, the Warped Tour shifted from hardcore bands such as NOFX and Pennywise to less-intense bands like Attila, Hawthorne Heights, and Silverstein. Lyman said the lineups change based on trends in music, but insisted the Warped Tour has always stayed true to its roots.

“I’m really happy to see Sick of It All coming back this year; they were there in 1995 with me,” Lyman said. “… The Adolescents are going to jump in a van and do this, this year. I’m glad to have the opportunity to showcase young bands, but (I also enjoy) that opportunity to bring some history to people. For people who have never seen an Adolescents show live, it sticks with them. I’m happy to bring that to kids. I think this lineup, for some people, it’s taken a moment for people to get their heads around it, but they are. You have to do something different and can’t keep bringing the same bands.”

Lyman discussed some of the more recent additions to the tour, such as the popular “parents’ camp,” where parents can relax while their kids go from stage to stage to watch the bands.

“The parents’ camp was added for the reasons of doing shows in Missoula, Mont., and places like that, where they don’t get a lot of shows, and seeing a lot of parents sitting along the fence lines who were nervous … back in the day,” he said. “For a while, parents gave (kids) debit cards, and then they were taken away during the recession. They came with limited money, and the teenage brain would say, ‘I’m buying a T-shirt instead of food or water.’ So we went to the promoters, dropped the price of water, added access to free water, and built meal programs that parents could buy their kids for the show. I’m looking out for the kids who come to Warped Tour, so they have fun and experience as much as possible.”

In 2015, the Warped Tour was criticized by some music publications for promoting a “rape culture”—because the tour included bands with accusations and histories of sexual assault. Lyman, however, insisted the Warped Tour has always been a safe environment.

“None of that happened … on Warped Tour. I’m taking on the problems of a whole scene,” Lyman said. “… Problems go out in the social-media realm very quickly. The way I supported it is by supporting advocacy groups such as A Voice for the Innocent and Hope for the Day.

“A lot of people get themselves into trouble because they don’t understand that certain actions cause a reaction. I was tackling things that never really happened at Warped Tour; they happened on other tours or in other environments. Warped Tour is probably the safest place to come to a show there possibly is. The whole tour is run by women, other than myself; there are more women working on Warped Tour than any other festival, and there are parents coming to the shows. There’s heavy security and a lot of nonprofits involved in keeping you safe. We know how to address it now, and we’re doing the best that we can.”

As for the advocacy groups with a presence at the Warped Tour … oftentimes, the messages being promoted are mixed, to say the least. I’ve seen anti-war groups, the U.S. Army, PETA, and groups promoting born-again Christianity—just for starters.

“We can’t just put one message out there,” Lyman said. “Last year, we had a group that challenged the pro-choice crowd, and when I start reading, ‘Kevin Lyman is a subversive for the pro-life movement,’ I’m like, ‘Are you fucking kidding me?’ I did the first pro-choice shows in Los Angeles in 1991. I’m a donor to Planned Parenthood. But (that group’s presence) challenged Planned Parenthood to step up. I tried calling them, and they weren’t calling back, but after that, they started showing up to the shows. Turns out the original group in question was promoting adoption. I’m adopted, and I’m glad people were talking about adoption in 1961, or I might not be here. People now don’t want to listen to anyone except whom they support … and get rid of people with counter views. But I would never allow a far-right hate group to come to Warped Tour, or anyone who preaches violence.”

Lyman said he probably will not allow military recruiting at the tour anymore.

“I don’t think it’s a good time for it,” he said. “I understand the reasons people go into the military, but be truthful about your options. We have become a warrior nation again, and it was during that transitional time we went from a peaceful country to a warrior nation when I noticed they were using video games to show what war was. I believe they need to be honest: ‘If you sign up, you could die.’ I’ve never had a problem with our troops. … I have a problem with our leaders and what they do with our troops.”

If you’ve ever been to a Warped Tour stop, you’ve heard bands frequently thank and compliment Lyman.

“I’m glad I’ve been a small part of their careers and allowing them to do what they love,” he said about appreciative performers. “A band like Less Than Jake, who comes back every other year—(the tour) was a big part of their career. That’s been a big part of how they’ve been able to continue doing what they do. If you take The Interrupters, who played last year, they’re a punk band, and they were nervous about playing Warped Tour, and I convinced them that they’d win fans. They went out on a fall tour, and it was all kids they met on Warped Tour.”

Lyman is a constant presence at Warped Tour stops; he’s often seen at the gates, walking around and shaking hands with attendees, and introducing the occasional band.

“I’m always first up in the morning with my drivers, checking how their day went and making sure everyone gets there safe,” he said. “I love the silence in the morning, given it gets loud pretty quick. I check in with everyone; I write the schedule and have a few meetings. I’ll talk to the kids if they’re there early, but my big thing is being there when the doors open to get all the kids in. I know if we don’t get the kids in the way that we write the schedule, I’m going to hear about it on my social media that night.

“Nowadays, I’m burnt out by the end of the day. Your brain turns to mush in the heat, and it’s starting to catch up with me physically. There are a lot (fewer) barbecues for me now. I’ll pick and choose, but I try to go to bed at 10:30 every night.”

For more information, visit vanswarpedtour.com.

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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One performer that received a lot of attention at the kickoff of the Vans Warped Tour in Pomona was Kosha Dillz.

The New Jersey Israeli-American rapper has been the talk of the rap world. During an interview after his performance on Friday, June 19, he discussed where his name came from.

“It came from the pickle jar. It’s basically the combination of being Jewish, business, being a hustler, sex and food—all my favorite things!” said Kosha Dillz.

While some have accused Kosha Dillz of being a gimmick, he said his recent success—including being included on the entire Warped Tour—proves he’s legitimate. He conceded his name does bring him a lot of attention.

“I’m on Warped Tour, and they could have picked anybody. I think that says a lot,” he said. “Whatever people say, we know what we’re doing, and we’ve been doing it long enough that we love to keep people surprised. What I want is to connect to all different kinds of people, and I end up engaging in the most amazing conversations as an artist just because of my name, before they even hear my music.”

I mentioned another atypical Jewish musician: Matisyahu. Dillz shared an interesting perspective on Matisyahu, who started off in the ultra-conservative Hasidic Judaism sect as a Hasidic reggae star before transitioned out of Hasidic Judaism. He is now making pop music.

“I never had a beard, and I was never ultra-religious, and it’s always been a fun-loving experience,” Kosha Dillz said. “Matisyahu is such an amazing artist, and he’s put me on in front of stuff with Macklemore and A$AP Rocky. People ask me about that a lot, but I think his artistry gets deeper and deeper. He’s a human being, so he’s allowed to go through whatever he has to go through. He’s been through a lot in his life. He was the icon for very religious Jews, and people feel like he let them down. The reality is they are looking for something that he was the image of, like Santa Claus or something.”

Kosha Dillz has also worked with many people in the rap game—and even performed on the Yo Gabba Gabba! live tour. Another opportunity he had was performing with RZA at the BET Awards.

“I come from the hip-hop world, so it’s like a goal to open for another rapper, just like it is for a pop-punk band to get on the Warped Tour. Our goal is, ‘We gotta open for Wu-Tang, or this guy, or this guy,’” he said. “That’s a continuance of trying to get to the next level: playing with another MC, and getting respect for your artistry. I ended up working with RZA after years and years of trying to open up for him, and he put me on the BET Awards.”

Dillz said he had his crew faced some challenges going into the tour, but that everything worked out well on Friday. “We were like, ‘How do we construct a 30-minute set?’ By the time that it was over today, it was packed. People were like, ‘What’s he doing? Who is this guy?’”

There are other exciting aspects of playing the festival, according to Dillz.

“It’s meeting with artists you never thought you would meet,” he said. “I met with the guy from Pierce the Veil today, so I’m excited on that level to connect with these guys and have them see my art. A lot of people have heard my name but have never seen me perform.”

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.

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It’s hard for me to believe that the Vans Warped Tour is celebrating 20 years. It has outlasted Ozzy Osbourne’s OzzFest, the Lilith Fair tour, and the touring version of Lollapalooza.

On Friday, June 20, the 2014 Warped Tour came to Pomona, at the Fairplex, 80 miles or so from the Coachella Valley.

In its first decade, the Warped Tour focused on punk—but today, it has a completely different vibe. While some punk-rock veterans occasionally pop up, the tour now includes Christian metalcore bands, “emo” groups, and pop-punk acts. However, not everything is different: Warped Tour founder Kevin Lyman is still involved, and the tour still offers low ticket prices and a DIY ethic.

One big complaint: It was nearly impossible to find a simple schedule of the bands spread out over 11 stages inside the Fairplex. When I saw a merchandise booth selling schedules for $2, I broke down and bought one, simply so I could navigate through the 100 bands playing throughout the day.

Close to 1 p.m., Beartooth took the Monster Energy Stage. The hardcore punk band from Columbus, Ohio, led by frontman Caleb Shomo, unleashed a brutal assault of heavy riffs and screaming vocals on the small crowd that had gathered. One of the first things I noticed was a sign hung on the top of the stage: “You mosh or you crowd surf, you get hurt, we get sued, no more Warped Tour.” This sign was displayed on all the stages; did it stop crowd surfing and mosh pits? Hell no. Beartooth, for example, encouraged the crowd to get closer and break out into mosh pits; Shomo himself even went crowd-surfing. During the last song, the crowd was amped up, and empty Powerade bottles and various objects went flying in the air.

Around 1:30 p.m., The Story So Far took the Electric Soul Stage. The pop-punk band drew a large crowd that was fairly typical of the Warped Tour in its current iteration; in fact, this particular stage seemed to have the largest crowds throughout the day. Fun fact: During the set, the band encouraged a man wearing a banana costume to go crowd-surfing.

On the Kia Soul Stage, the reunited Temecula band Finch (right) played around 2 p.m. About three songs in, rhythm guitarist Randy Strohmeyer attempted to talk to the crowd, asking how many people attended a 2013 show in Pomona. Drummer Alex Pappas sighed in frustration and cut him off by counting off the next song. The post-hardcore sound of Finch got the crowd going, but one has to wonder how long this third reunion of the band is going to last.

On the Warheads stage at 2:45 p.m., a band called Bad Rabbits treated the crowd to soul and funk, played with some heavy rock-guitar riffs, similar to the sound of Fishbone. No specific genre can be applied to Bad Rabbits; the band put on a fascinating show that was unlike anything else at the Warped Tour.

The Beatport stage, meanwhile, featured EDM artists. Photographer Guillermo Prieto and I caught a DJ who called himself NiT GriT. He opened his set by saying, “I’m NiT GrIT, and I make electronic music,” before dropping heavy bass and dubstep sounds. Unfortunately, he didn’t make much of an impression, as largely uninterested people walked by. While EDM has exploded in popularity, the Warped Tour crowd generally couldn’t have cared less.

At the Shiragirl stage, a small crowd gathered around 3:30 p.m. to catch a glimpse of Shiragirl herself (below). Shiragirl has been a Warped Tour personality since the mid-2000s and now runs the stage, named after her, that features female artists. Her performance offered some punk-rock appeal with a bit of Madonna style pop and backing female dancers.

“It’s been really awesome to see the Warped Tour reach 20 years,” Shiragirl told the Independent during a brief interview before her performance. “I’m honored to still be part of the family. I think this festival is amazing, and it’s the longest-running rock festival in America, and it’s for a reason: Kevin (Lyman) knows what he’s doing. I’m honored to provide a platform for female artists and bring more women to the Warped Tour as well.”

On the Hard Rock Kevin Says stage, Shot in the Dark—a band from Corona consisting of four teenagers plus 12-year-old lead singer Jacob Chabot—was quite a sight to see. Jacob had a stage presence that Pennywise would be proud of—and he even went crowd-surfing toward the end of the set. I was floored by how such a small kid could have such a huge stage presence.

Orange County band Well Hung Heart, which has played gigs at The Hood Bar and Pizza and Pappy and Harriet’s, followed Shot in the Dark. The hard-rocking blues band, led by Greta Valenti, put on a fantastic show. The trio knows how to turn it up and rock a crowd; Valenti also slowed things down to sing the chorus of Tina Turner’s “What’s Love Got to Do With It?” and Nine Inch Nails’ “Closer.” Guitarist Robin Davey had some incredible blues riffs as well as some fantastic heavy rock riffs.

After the band’s performance, Valenti spoke to the Independent.

“It’s kind of a hometown crowd, but we don’t play the L.A. area that much,” Valenti said. “It was cool, but a weird experience, too, because even though a lot of these other bands are from all over, they have huge followings; we’re starting from scratch. … It was kind of a challenge to sort of tempt people over, but it was a lot of fun.”

Valenti also talked about how the band’s sound fits into the modern-day the Warped Tour.

“Some people just go, ‘It’s not that sound that I’m used to hearing on every other stage,’ so they don’t know what it is, and it’s not familiar to some people. There are also other people who say, ‘Wow, something different!’ and they’re really attracted to it,” she said. “So, I think it’s good to be different, because we’ll get truer fans that way, who have really gravitated toward us, because they like our sound, not just because they like a particular sound.”

I found myself back at the Kevin Says stage for a band called Plague Vendor around 5:20 p.m.—and I thoroughly enjoyed the bizarre yet entertaining performance. The band recently signed with Epitaph Records and has had write-ups in various punk publications. Frontman Brandon Blaine announced to the crowd he would throw out a CD—and warned that the person who caught it had better be moving and going crazy, or else he’d send his “parents” out to get the CD back. The band’s sound mixed heavy psychedelic rock with surf-rock; Blaine’s humorous stage antics included taking people’s iPhones and photographing himself; taking people’s sunglasses and putting them on; and demands of intense crowd participation.

While I don’t want to apply the term “emo” to any band, it was hard not to apply it to some of the bands playing on the Journeys, Warhead and Electric Soul stages. In the early evening, the reunited Cute Is What We Aim For took the Warhead stage. Frontman Shaant Hacikyan commented: “You’re probably thinking, ‘What the fuck? They’re still a band?’” The band’s songs were all overly sentimental and annoyingly poppy, and they left me wondering: How could this band be part of the Warped Tour?

There was at least one promising sign that the Warped Tour is embracing its history: The performance by tour veterans Less Than Jake. The punk/ska band has a sound that reminds of the late-’90s Warped Tour atmosphere. While the band didn’t draw a large crowd, there were some punk-rock faithful there to catch the show. The incorporation of humor into the stage show and the banter between songs is genuinely hilarious. They pointed out a man in the crowd holding up a sign that said he’d been waiting for seven years to see Less Than Jake; the band seemed genuinely flattered.

As the longest-running touring rock festival in America, the Vans Warped Tour has obviously succeeded in keeping itself relevant—despite the fact that people like me yearn for the Warped Tours of old with bands like Bad Religion and Pennywise.

Photos by Guillermo Prieto/Irockphotos.net.

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