By D.D. Rocker
I admit my initial reluctance to escort my son, Angus, and his friend, Michelle (both visiting from Newfoundland and Labrador) to the Vans Warped Tour in Barrie, Ontario, on August 11. Still, I managed to enjoy myself again this year, despite the usual trivial annoyances – queuing for hours in the blistering heat at the single entrance to the park; inflated concession stand prices; and deciding whether to wear a respiratory mask or risk dust-clogged nostrils, throat and lungs. (We toughed it out, as did most of the Warpees.)
This was the tour’s 13th anniversary, and although it’s billed as “the greatest punk-rock roadshow in history” (also featuring skateboard demos), there is a wide fusion of musical styles, including reggae, funk, ska, rap, Celtic, thrash-metal and, of course, straight-ahead rock and roll. In fact, last year, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio, put together an exhibit entitled Warped: 12 Years of Music, Mayhem and More, alongside an exhibit of original U.K. punks The Clash. Punk is dead; long live punk and all that.
This year we decided to rent a hotel the night before and after the festival, which worked out great except for cuts and bruises scored from climbing over a six-foot fence to access the Holiday Inn that overlooks the highway on/off-ramps. Once we got into the park and checked the schedule board, the kids went their way and I went mine, as pre-arranged.
The only returning band I remembered from last year’s tour was The Vincent Black Shadow, whose performance I regrettably missed this time around. The notably well-preserved old-school punk rocker Joan Jett, whom I’d also enjoyed then, wasn’t among the 50 or more bands who appeared this year (but she still loves rock’n’roll).
I had good intentions of interviewing some of the players, but the day’s intense heat brought on my vampiric tendencies. The only adequately shaded niche provided a full-throttle sonic assault by almost every overlapping performance from the circle of stages, which gave new meaning to Phil Spector’s acclaimed “wall of sound”.
The bands I did brave the sun to hear were Chiodos, The Unseen, The Rocket Summer, Cute Is What We Aim For, Tiger Army, The Almost, Staylefish, The Fabulous Rudies, The Flatliners (an old-school punk band, for sure), Flogging Molly and K-OS. Protest the Hero, one of the more popular groups, inspired at least one bloody injury and a Blair Witch Project-like video by my son. I missed the set by repeat Warped Tour performers Animo (“Songwriting for Dummies”), but while speaking to one of the band members at their merchandise booth, I did score a T-shirt and three CDs (two of them recorded under their former name of Dork). Angus spent a small fortune on T-shirts and CDs, so here’s a note to Warped Tour organizers – get thee to The Rock, as his precious swag will no doubt result in Envy on the Coast!