If there is anything stranger than attending the Warped Tour in Calgary after five years, four of those being spent out of Alberta and the entire rural-punk connection, I’d like to hear it (narcotics excluded). If you keep up with this column, you know I’ve been waiting for Warped for weeks now, so I’ve got to address whether or not it was worth the wait. Strangely, this is a tough question to answer.
For the first time in my Warped Tour attendance history, I showed up very late and almost completely ignored the smaller and poppier of the bands on the lineup. Most of this was due to my late arrival but I have to say that when I got there, I knew that all I really wanted to do was chill out, enjoy the atmosphere, and spend my energy on Pennywise and Bad Religion. I remember this being the attitude of my older friends back in the day, while I wanted to be in the middle of every pit for every single song and every single set. I guess this tells me I really am getting older.
After a rather lengthy stay in the beer gardens (first time of age!), the first band I had the pleasure of listening in on was Paramore–a band featuring a feisty Hayley Williams on vocals, Josh Farro on lead guitar, Jeremy Davis on bass, and Zac Farro on drums. They drew a pretty decent crowd, especially for the early evening time slot, but toward the end a steadily growing crowd at the vacant adjacent stage vocally demanded an end to the set and the onslaught of ?Pen-ny-wise!? Williams did her best to tell the persistent detractors to fuck off without using so many words, but in the end Paramore finished amidst calls for Pennywise that didn’t let up until the first chords were heard from the second stage.
I can’t blame the crowd, really, because even though Paramore, and arguably many of the earlier bands, played an excellent set, there is just no beating the big names at the Warped Tour. I’d taken my place in the Pennywise crowd a good ten minutes before they were due to start (and you have got to hand it to the Warped crews, they always have everything running on time), and when they started to play I forgot my sympathy for Williams and her crew. Hell, I’ll bet She’s done the same once or twice.
So what of the heavily anticipated set? Two things come to mind: sublime and far too short! By the time Lindberg had me pumped for the show (and he always manages to do this, being one of the great front men of his profession) it was already time for the ?Bro Hymn Tribute,? the classic Pennywise end tune. I guess I’ve gotten too used to full-length concerts. I felt like I’d missed out; like I just couldn’t peak as quickly as the rest of the crowd!
The end of Pennywise saw me to another stint in the beer gardens until Bad Religion showed up on stage just after 7 o?clock. The heat was intense; dozens of us were crowded up against the bottom of merchandise tents, random flag poles, and the walls of porta-potties for the several inches of shade they provided. The beer gardens being fully without shade, there were far too many of us drinking and unfortunately sweating away our precious moisture reserves, and this (plus another important and unnamed factor) left me incredibly light-headed when I heard the guitar grumble to life on the distant stage and the massive crowd, overflowing the grounds in front of the stage, let out a roar.
Stumbling frantically toward the stage in my plaid long-shorts, Vans sneakers, and bleached blond hair (if you can’t dress up for a punk show, when can you?), I made it into the crowd as Greg Graffin finished unnecessarily introducing the band and pushed my way as far into the pit as I could. Now, when I was a teenager, getting into the centre pit scared the shit out of me. It’s not as if I didn’t do it for my favourite bands regardless of the fear, but I worked under the assumption that getting into the front centre crowd of moshers meant that I was going to come out bruised, possibly bloody, and gasping for air. I don’t know if I have become infinitely more capable than my teenage self of dealing with this stress or if the energy simply wasn’t there, but I am disappointed to relate that only one guy came out with blood on his face and I received no injuries to speak of. What’s the fun in that?
I think that all in all, this was one of the least energetic Warped crowds I’ve seen. Even where I was standing for both Bad Religion and Pennywise, there were so few insane moshers that for the most part we had to be content to simply dance to the music. Dance?! This isn’t right. I wonder if It’s a problem with my generation; I mean, when I was younger I took it for granted that the older, stronger, wiser punk fans would get into the front and start the pit for us. I didn’t do that; have I neglected my unwritten duty? Maybe it was up to me to make the event better, since the older crowd has thinned out considerably as they favour full-length concerts over the mishmash of 30-minute shows and legions of kids you see at the Warped Tour. Maybe I’ll abandon it next, who knows.
All in all, the atmosphere of the Warped Tour is something I am glad not to have missed, but at best it whet my appetite for the bigger shows I’ll be seeing in the next few weeks.