Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

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, 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

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/

Published in Reviews

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