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The Warped Tour started back in 1995 and has been a summer fixture since then, shaping music tastes and exposing fans to different genres of music and counterculture.

However, all good things must come to an end: On June 21, the Warped Tour began what is being billed as its final “full cross-country” run, in Pomona. With the Hootenanny defunct and FYF cancelled for 2018, the Warped Tour is a now almost-unheard-of festival that does not cost hundreds of dollars: For $45, you could gain admission. The Warped Tour was the Coachella for the common Joe or Jane.

One of the unique aspects of the Warped Tour is the schedule changes during each festival stop. I originally planned to see Throw the Goat, but when I messaged the lead guitarist the day before, Puke told me he did not know when the band would take the stage until they checked in; unfortunately, they were slotted for an 11 a.m. set, which made it impossible for me to get there to see them perform. I was able to catch them at their merch table after their show. In order to accommodate the flexible schedule, Warped Tour has an inflatable schedule board that fans photograph so they know the actual set times, or you can opt to pay $2 to get a paper schedule from a concession stand.

Fun fact: Ernie Ball, a leading manufacturer of musical strings and accessories, has sponsored the Warped Tour’s Battle of the Bands for more than 20 years—and has manufacturing facilities in Coachella.

The Pomona show featured veteran acts like Reel Big Fish, Shiragirl and The Used. Well-liked bands like Black Veil Brides, 3OH!3 and Tonight Alive pleased the younger fans in attendance.

I wandered over to the Mutant White Lightning stage to catch Nekrogoblikon, touring in support of new record Welcome to Bonkers. But the band’s 2:10 p.m. start time was delayed by technical difficulties, drastically cutting the goblin-loving metal band’s set—and foreshadowing many delays to band start times throughout the day.

The Shiragirl Stage was back again, featuring female artists. Shira Yevin, aka Shiragirl, was a treat, along with Turbulent Hearts, an L.A.-based band.

Doll Skin, an all-female band from Phoenix, showed why the Warped Tour is a favorite place to be for an up-and-coming band. The song “Family of Strangers” sped things up and got the crowd to mosh, pumped up with pop punk. When the band announced it was going to sing about lesbians, it got a big cheer from the crowd. Awesome song, but I missed the title.

Reel Big Fish offered the band’s usual over-the-top fun, starting the set with a cover of “Take on Me” by A-ha. Lead singer Aaron Barrett had to remind us that this would be the last one: “I am never going to go to another Warped Tour again.”

Tonight Alive followed and received an enthusiastic response for song “Crack My Heart”—but there was an apparent medical emergency in the middle of the crowd. Singer Jenna McDougall asked for healing hands and prayers, cutting the set short.

The Journeys stages right and left alternated bands—so if one band was delayed on the right, a delay occurred for the follow-up band on the left, and so on. 3OH!3 changed the tone at the Journeys Left Food stage with fun songs “My First Kiss” and “Starstrukk.” You can never go wrong with songs about kissing and Daisy Dukes.

The Maine, all dressed in red, was nostalgic, reminding everyone that this was the last Warped Tour stop in Pomona, and reaching back to charm the crowd with a cover of Blur’s “Woo Hoo.” Testing the musical knowledge of the crowd, lead singer John O’Callaghan asked, “How the heck are you? We are the Foo Fighters from Phoenix, Arizona. We are an old, band and this is an old song,” introducing “Am I Pretty?”

Waterparks was identified on the stage backdrop as “god’s favorite boy band.” I never knew The Almighty got involved in picking favorites, and God apparently had other plans, sending technical delays that resulted in a 23-minute delay and turning the set into an acoustic-only affair. Vocalist Awsten Knight went onstage with a guitar and played a few songs, including “We Need To Talk,” “Lucky People,” and “21 Questions.”

The Used headlined the Journeys Left Foot stage. The band was wearing tie-dye, and Bert McCracken was surrounded by smoke as he entered and started their set with “Take It Away.” The audience reacted positively to the short set, which also included “The Bird and the Worm” and “Listening.”

Echosmith killed it with “Cool Kids” from Talking Dreams—perhaps an anthem of the Warped Tour generation: “I wish that I could be like the cool kids, ’cause all the cool kids, they seem to fit in. I wish that I could be like the cool kids, like the cool kids.”

Black Veil Brides closed out the Journeys Left Foot stage with a set including “Rebel Love Song.”

Only time will tell if the Warped Tour organizers change their minds and decide not leave this iconic festival behind. Rumors are floating already that a 25-year tour is planned … but who knows?

Published in Reviews

In the 1990s, when the ska-revival movement was in full swing, you probably heard of a band called Reel Big Fish.

Reel Big Fish made its way into the hearts of MTV viewers and rock-radio listeners with the 1997 hit single “Sell Out.” That ska-revival movement of the 1990s soon faded away, as did much of Reel Big Fish’s popularity. However, the band is still performing—and remains one hilarious good time.

See for yourself when Reel Big Fish performs on Sunday, Oct. 8, as part of the Desert Oasis Music Festival at the Empire Polo Fields.

Frontman Aaron Barrett is the only original member remaining in the band. However, Billy Kottage, the band’s trombonist since 2013, said during a recent phone interview that the band remains in high demand.

“The Warped Tour is a huge reason for that,” said Barrett. “That’s been a staple throughout the band’s career. Certain bands find success because they have a hit on the radio or they get that one song like ‘Sell Out,’ but most bands have an original following that falls off eventually. Because we’ve done the Warped Tour every two or three years, we always keep getting new fans. People who are in their early teenage years want to go to the Warped Tour and see bands, and we have parents bringing their kids now; 1997 was 20 years ago. We’ve never gotten off the road. Certain bands will take years off, but Reel Big Fish has not taken a year off. … We’ll play over 200 shows a year, or more. That’s what you have to do these days. If you stop touring, they’ll forget about you.”

Kottage said Reel Big Fish is also a hit internationally.

“We play all over the world,” he said. “We played in Indonesia last year. We played in Thailand and Japan, and we play just about all of the continents, except for Antarctica. It might be from some commercial success or Internet success—I don’t really have an explanation for it—but we’re bigger internationally than we are here. We’re about to go do a tour in October in England. We’re about to go do 14 dates in 2,000-capacity venues in a country that’s the size of California. It’s kind of crazy.”

The last recording Reel Big Fish released was a Christmas EP in 2014. The band has not released a full-length album since 2012’s Candy Coated Fury, and Kottage said it’s hard to say when Reel Big Fish will next record a new album.

“We just recorded a month ago for a Halloween compilation that’s 0 percent ska and actually 100 percent metal. But we had a great time recording that,” he said. “I think in the next few months, it might happen, but maybe it might not happen. Who knows?”

Ska music’s popularity waxes and wanes—and it might be making yet another resurgence. Kottage said he can’t explain ska’s up-and-down popularity.

“It’s hard for me to say, because ska has never really gone away for me, because I’m playing it in more than 200 shows a year,” he said. “As far as a resurgence goes, I think that comes with the bands people have latched onto. Streetlight Manifesto was like that, but now The Interrupters are the band that’s like that, and they have a big following. It’s having the right music at the right time.”

Kottage said he and his bandmates are looking forward to the Desert Oasis Music Festival.

“We’re going to get there the night before, and Steel Pulse is playing that night, and I know we’re all huge Steel Pulse fans, and that’s exciting,” he said. “The lineup in general is exciting. We won’t get to see a lot of bands the first day, but we’re going to try hard to see Steel Pulse. We all like reggae a lot. We play a lot more punk shows than reggae shows, but I think we all wish we played more reggae festivals. We played that 311 cruise this year, and we all had a great time playing that. It’s cool to hook up with bands that you don’t get to see a lot, especially when you tour in the same circles and see a lot of the same faces.”

Reel Big Fish will perform at the Desert Oasis Music Festival on Sunday, Oct. 8, at the Empire Polo Fields, located at 81800 Avenue 51, in Indio. Passes start at $99. For tickets or more information, visit www.desertoasismusicfestival.com

Published in Previews

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.

Published in Reviews