The finest aspects of this year’s Warped stop, situated in the middle of the horse track at the Pomona Fairplex last Friday, could be distilled into three exacting items: fabulous female vocalists, vivacious veteran punks and the absolute-best shit-storm ever. The aforementioned instantly eliminates all the cutesy twentysomething male emo/screamo/emu/Elmo groups, who all looked the same, sounded the same—and, well, bored the living hell out of us.
One of the first acts of the day was Riverside’s own Longway, who graced the Ernie Ball Battle of the Bands stage just after noon with their well-done flavors of Social Distortion-meets-Face To Face punk. Long Beach’s Revolution Mother launched a fierce set of cuts from their new album, Glory Bound, on their own stage, which was connected to a half-pipe for vocalist/skate legend Mike V. to shred in between sets (the band did two sets each day—now that’s stamina).
We booked it to the far end of the track to catch the last few numbers from Orange County’s Adolescents, whose presence and perfection made us feel like their 1981 self-titled debut just hit stores last week. The band’s hit, “Amoeba,” stirred up a large pit, that in turn created a gargantuan dust-and-weed cloud (read: absolute misery for allergy sufferers). Performing on the “13” stage, facing the racetrack’s bleachers, vocalist/educator Tony Reflex offered one of the best philosophical passages of the day: “Some people wait their whole lives to play this stage. I waited my whole life to sit over there and bet on the horses.”
The unexpected surprise of the day goes to the Vincent Black Shadow, curiously named after a motorcycle (my next band: the Honda Urban Express). The act’s keys-tinged punk was infused with a slight goth element. Donning a gray dress with plenty o’ pearls, we dug frontwoman Cassandra Ford’s legato, operatic vocals. But as rockin’ as her backing band was, she just didn’t seem to share in that energy.
’Twas time to rest the eardrums, and what better way than to be serenaded with a zero-wattage, all-acoustic acapella set in the TVT tent from another female-fronted pop-punk ensemble, Anaheim’s New Year’s Day, who went on to perform a decent electrified set later that afternoon.
Following the Adolescents’ lead were the Circle Jerks, whose spectacular old-school song-and-dance included a few bonus Black Flag numbers (for those not in the know, frontman Keith Morris was one of Flag’s many vocalists), including “Gimme Gimme Gimme,” “Depression” and “Revenge.” Totally supreme!
NorCal’s the Action Design, featuring frontman Emily Whitehurst (nee Agent M of Tsunami Bomb fame) delivered a spirited set with note-perfect lead vocals and an incredibly competent backing band to boot. We nabbed the tail end of Orange County’s White Kaps’ performance, who slammed through “Get Beer” and “Three Blind Mice” like it was 1995 all over again. While Aaron Gillespie of the Almost looked kinda like an Appetite for Destruction-era Axl Rose from our vantage point—which was about as far as one could get from the hugely attended show—his act did a fine job of translating their excellent Southern Weather songs to the stage.
Silent Envy sounded like the prodigious child of the Killers and Muse, Amber Pacific ensured the Hurley stage received a strong melodic rock lashing, and Pepper nailed a special, intimate acoustic set, with a sparkling view of the portable toilets.
The crowd lost it for Coheed and Cambria, who arrived with a new drummer, the amazing Chris Pennie (of Dillinger Escape Plan fame), who seemed a tad underutilized in this configuration. Frontman Claudio Sanchez sounded every bit Geddy Lee live as he does on record, and even musically, the Rush comparisons wouldn’t be too far off the mark. An hour later, the same stage offered pop-punks Paramore, who absolutely exploded on stage with the dynamite vocals of Hayley Williams. Sporting intense red locks and the kind of energy that could only rival SoCal Edison, Williams took full command of her brilliant show, which fittingly attracted a significant audience.
Though we could easily hear Bad Religion in the distance, playing as album-tight as usual, our eyes were actually fixed on Desperation Squad. Before the veteran Pomona punk act even finished setting up their drums, the restless audience already began a minor assault of bottles and assorted trash. (Could this stem from their dissatisfaction of having to endure “Band” on America’s Got Talent? Who knows?!) Mr. P arrived early, launching tortillas at the crowd, and as soon as the band took the stage, mass rubbish began pelting the Squad, who steamrolled right through their hits without a flinch.
Soon, bottles began to give way to chunks of grass, ketchup, mayo and other unidentifiable food waste. Quickly thereafter, several large, overflowing cardboard trash containers were hurled at them (and yours truly was the inadvertent recipient of some of that shrapnel as well). Mr. P leapt off the stage at one moment, getting cozy with the front row, who looked as if they weren’t sure what exactly he’d do to them (nothing happened). However, just a few songs into their set, the entire stage plug was pulled by those in charge, rendering Mr. P an unamplified principal in this fiasco while drummer Ian Crosspound slammed through the remainder of the tune.
The Squad exited the stage unharmed, while the crowd chanted, possibly for an encore chance to engage in its target practice. Whatever the case was, this was easily one of the most extraordinary send-offs to ever be inscribed in the Warped Tour’s annals. (And for those who attended and missed out on the action, hey, we warned you last week!)