The Vans Warped tour touched down once again at the Sleep Train Amphitheater in Marysville CA. While the tour's main attractions are the extreme sports and national music acts, more than 10,000 unsigned bands from all over the country entered the Ernie Ball Battle of the Bands competition this year, with more than 200 of them selected to perform on the Ernie Ball Stage -- about four local acts on each of the 47 stops on the tour. For an unsigned local band, getting a chance to perform on one of the Vans Warped Tour stages is something of a dream gig. Several local bands will get their shot also.
There's also an additional stage that will feature local bands all day. At the half-pipe, the youngest amateur skateboarders easily showed up older athletes. For 10 years, the traveling punk-and-sports fest has held fast to its spot in the stream as the rest of popular culture has swirled and morphed around it. Each summer, a new batch of teens -- most of them male, many too young to get into nightclubs -- pester and persuade their parents to allow a day of cutting-edge rock and even edgier extreme sports. But despite their success in getting to the show, helping turn it into one of the touring industry's most dependable moneymakers, Warped has continued to fly under the mainstream radar.
When tattoos were still for bikers and the word "mosh" wasn't part of the wider vocabulary, Warped has stuck to its mission of tapping rock's fringes. The most devoted iPodder would be hard-pressed to identify every band on this year's bill; even the day's headliners -- Motion City Soundtrack, Fall Out Boy, the Starting Line -- would flummox most fans. What the tour has consistently promised, and largely delivered, is a show that caters to a savvy young audience, a crowd that defines it self by pitting its tastes against the establishment. While more than 60 sponsor names adorn the Warped masthead, most are offbeat: Kung Fu Records, Transworld Skateboarding, Vestal jewelry and, of course, shoemaker Vans, title sponsor all 10 years. From the get-go, Warped has positioned itself as an across-the-board lifestyle event, deftly tapping into a subculture where music is just one cog in a wheel that includes skateboarding, snowboarding, video games and cyber tech.
Since its inception in 1995, The Vans Warped tour began with 15 bands, two stages and a single skateboard ramp. About 1,800 fans turned up. Now the festival has grown into an event that will showcase more than 80 bands on 11 stages -- including an all-local performance deck -- along with a minibike stunt exhibition, skateboarding ramps and pro wrestling matches. An audience once dominated by guys has made room for a female contingent. Organizers have taken things a step further this year with an all-girls stage, which will feature female bands all day. This is a way for them to finally see the bands they can otherwise only listen to at home. The Warped Tour once again flexed its muscle as a proving and training ground for young bands playing solid sets on the smaller stages in hopes of attracting new listeners. Others, like the All-American Rejects, showed off increasingly polished live concert skills after a few years on the tour. The All-American Rejects also proved again that it's one of the punk genre's biggest draws for screaming, swooning teenage girls.
Even some of Warp's most familiar bands, like the Dropkick Murphy's and the Offspring, mixed things up with the crowd's old favorites and material from new or more recent albums. And this year's sweethearts, My Chemical Romance, proved their worthiness as the latest up-and-coming band to see, with a creative, high-energy set that drew plenty of listeners. Fans put up well with the oppressive heat and humidity early in the day. In true Warped spirit, these kids were out to have fun.