On April 23, I had the privilege of getting to attend the Rise Against/Bad Religion/Four Year Strong show at Sunset Cove Amphitheater in Boca Raton, Fla. My friends and I unfortunately got there after Four Year Strong's set had ended, something I was really upset about because I love seeing that band play live and I thought, given the fact that only three bands were performing, that 7 p.m. was an early start time. But that's aside from the point.
Bad Religion put on a set that easily showed their marked veteran nature. More than once, the band recalled stories of when Rise Against opened for them about eight years ago, saying that this tour was to celebrate "the rise of Rise Against," which is really something true - Rise Against has blossomed into one of the largest rock bands in the world. I'm not too familiar with Bad Religion's catalog, so I really can't comment on whether they played a good setlist or not. But I've been on a huge 90s pop-punk kick lately, and after hearing the band's passionate, been-there-done-that sound, I'll surely be checking out their past releases. I do know they played a few songs off their latest release, The Dissent of Man, and something that really stuck out to me was how consistent it sounded with the older songs they played.
The opposite can't be stressed enough for Rise Against. When the Chicago punkers took the stage just before darkness fell completely at Sunset Cove Amphitheater, they opened with "Chamber the Cartridge," the first track from Sufferer and the Witness. But that wasn't an accurate portrayal of what would come during the remainder of the set, as the band focused on a lot of material from their last two records, Appeal to Reason and this year's Endgame. That pattern pleased the masses but was of great disappointment to pockets of older fans. It was amazing to see how many knew the words to "Satellite" and "September's Children" from the band's latest release, but were left standing around during "Blood-Red, White & Blue," the only song we got off Revolutions Per Minute.
Probably one-third of the set came by way of Appeal to Reason, which was something of a mixed bag for me. I liked that record much more than Endgame, but the band chose to play cuts like "Re-Education (Through Labor)," "Long-Forgotten Sons" and "Entertainment." I was pleased at the inclusion of the forever-catchy "The Dirt Whispered" and "Savior," but would have traded some of those other cuts for older material. Frontman Tim McIlrath of course slowed things down during the middle of the set to perform acoustic renditions of "Swing Life Away" and "Hero Of War," and that duo will probably remain part of this band's set for its entire career.
"Ready to Fall," "Under the Knife" and "The Good Left Undone" from Sufferer were what saved the set for me, along with the title track from that record. But aside from "Swing Life Away," the only other song off of Siren Song of the Counter Culture was the last song of the night, "Give It All." In total, only three pre-Sufferer songs were performed all night, and of the four times I've seen this band, I've never been more disappointed by their setlist.
"Blood-Red, White & Blue" was easily the highlight of the night for the older fans in the crowd, and it left me to wonder why McIlrath chose not to bring out tracks like "Heaven Knows" or "Like the Angel." What about fan favorites from Siren Song like "Life Less Frightening" or "Paper Wings," "Blood to Bleed" or "Dancing for Rain?" What happened during this band's rise to super-stardom that made them abandon the early material that made them an adored staple in the punk scene? Now what we get is radio-ready heavy rock anthems that wouldn't sound out of place if Hinder and Crossfade were on the bill instead of Four Year Strong and Bad Religion. As a friend of mine put it, "The punk in me still loves Rise Against but the hipster in me wants to hate them."
I'm not saying that McIlrath & Co. should release new records then ignore them when it comes time to play a show. McIlrath has a wife and he's a father. "Re-Education (Through Labor)" and "September's Children" are probably what pay for his house and food. But, as much as artists like to please the people that buy their new, more mainstream music, it would be good to throw a few more bones to the fans that have been around for more than a few years.
I can understand the hate that some people have for Warped Tour. I've got a lot of friends who all think that they're too cool to go spend nine hours in the sun surrounded by music. It is, after all, beneath them. I mean, they're all a bunch of really cool 20 year olds who sit around and listen to a bunch of bands that you've never heard of, and they don't bother telling you about them because you wouldn't understand them. The tour isn't hardcore enough, it's not punk enough, it's not pop punk enough, blink-182 aren't there, Attack Attack! are, complaints, complaints, complaints. It's not worth their time, they'd rather sit around and watch the second season of Arrested Development.
I've only been to Warped Tour three times, but I've seen all that I need to see and I have a final judgment on it. I honestly can't foresee a time before I turn 25 or so that I won't be able to set aside one day of my summer vacation to attend the annual summer festival. A day with your friends, listening to a few bands you like, getting some awesome tan lines, meeting some cool people, and coming home dehydrated. I love Warped Tour. This year in West Palm Beach was no different.
My friends and I woke up at about 7 AM to meet up and make the hour-long drive out to Cruzan Amphitheatre. The past two years, I've been to Warped at the Central Florida Fairgrounds, so I was somewhat worried as to what it was going to be like with an actual stage and pavilion seating. We got there around 10 AM because we never do anything in a timely fashion and we had to stop to get breakfast and paper crowns at Burger King. After getting my press passes and giving one to my friend Sami so she could take pictures, we walked inside and bought a $2 schedule. Nothing was happening until AM Taxi played at 12:20, so I went to the press area and signed up for a couple of interviews. We walked around the entire merch/nonprofit area to kill some time, and unfortunately passed by Breathe Carolina on the Altec Lansing Stage. After bandaging my ears and buying a Set Your Goals tank and New Found Glory banner to make myself feel better, we meandered toward the SkullCandy Stage for AM Taxi.
Before they played, a band called The Upwelling were jamming out. They're a three-piece from Queens, New York, and they were playing a few melodic punk songs that were good enough to catch my attention and encourage me to check them out the next day on their Myspace. AM Taxi came out at 12:20 and opened with "Dead Street", the first song on their debut We Don't Stand A Chance. Adam and the rest of the band have an awesome stage presence and a good live sound; it's as raw and passionate as the record. They definitely played one of my favorite sets of the day, playing about six songs from their record including "The Mistake" and "Fed Up" back-to-back, and closing with a cover of "Paint It Black". The cover was really well executed and their lead guitarist John Schmitt showed off for the 40-odd people in the crowd with a lengthy solo. These guys are playing rock and roll the way it should be played - check out their new record if you don't already have it.
After that, we had a huge lull in the day where we didn't want to see anyone until 3:40. It was only 1 o'clock, so we headed to the amphitheater to sit in the shade and drink really expensive Powerade. In the way there, we passed by the Truth truck. There were tons of volunteers there entertaining a huge crowd of kids while handing out information and talking about the dangers of tobacco. They're definitely out there supporting a good cause as tobacco industry illuminators. At the amphitheater, the Glamour Kills and AP/Advent Stages were set up, and from 1 to 2:30 we all watched a succession of terrible bands. The best of these, The Word Alive, were a screamo-ish band with brutal breakdowns that got kids excited. But honestly, it was like being the best smelling turd in a dog park. The absolute worst band over that time were Dirty Little Rabbits, whose lead singer sported a pair of crutches onstage while wearing a formal white dress. Her bandmates were dressed in tuxedos, and all together they played some really bad heavier rock. The choruses to most of the songs went something like "La la la la / La la la / La". It was just horrifying. I left the shade once to go get an overpriced lemonade and was able to see the first two songs of Andrew WK's set. I don't listen to him much, but he gives off awesome vibes and had an extremely large crowd in a frenzy.
My friend Sami came with me to interview AM Taxi, but when we arrived at the press area, the band weren't there. The very nice press coordinator, Bethany, informed me that Four Year Strong were there though, and if I wasn't busy, I could interview them in the meantime. At this juncture I felt something moving in my pants, reached down, grabbed my tape recorder and went into the next room for the interview. All five members of FYS were there, and I had never met the guys so it was really awesome to get to talk to them. Especially since they were all much taller than you might expect, and their beards are way more manly up close. My friend Sami was so excited that she forgot to ask them for a picture. They're her favorite band and she's a n00b. Anyway, you can read the interview here, it's a good read considering that I didn't have any questions planned and they still made a very exciting announcement in it.
We talked to AM Taxi after that (interview should be up soon) then met back up with the rest of our friends to go watch Set Your Goals. On the way, we caught the last two songs from We Are the In Crowd on the SkullCandy stage. They had the crowd really into it and I still think they're on the verge of making it big. Set Your Goals commanded one of the biggest crowds of the day to that point and played a lot of songs off Mutiny! They came out and started with "Gaia Bleeds", which instigated a ridiculously fast-paced circle pit despite the heat and humidity. Kids really threw down for Set Your Goals, and they in turn gave a lot of energy off for their entire set. People really seemed to like "Summer Jam" and the back-to-back of Mutiny!'s "To Be Continued" and "Goonies Never Say Die!" from their Reset EP. However, the best part of their set was the end, where we got "Echoes" and "Dead Men Tell No Tales" into "Mutiny!". I still stand by my statement that "Mutiny!" is one of the top five pop punk songs ever written, and watching them play it live was incredible, even if I barely had enough breath to yell the words at that point.
After that blistering forty or so minutes, I felt super tired and had to buy a couple Powerades to recover. We walked over to the main stage and I sat down in a convenient section to the side that was sort of fenced off by a large drink stand. I drank my Powerades and jammed out to Streetlight Manifesto, who are a hell of a good live band. Those guys are extremely talented, and they play everything way faster live, which gets the crowd skanking like no tomorrow. They pulled an even bigger crowd than Set Your Goals and closed with "Somewhere In the Between". Contrary to the rest of the day, we headed back to the Altec Lansing stage to wait for Four Year Strong. Leave it to random scheduling to give us nothing to do for the first three hours, then put Set Your Goals, Streetlight, Four Year Strong, and Sum 41 all in a row.
Four Year Strong were the band I was most excited to see the whole day and played what had to be my favorite set of the afternoon. They treated us to a lot of new songs, including" It Must Really Suck to Be Four Year Strong Right Now", which I can see being their opener for the next few tours, "Wasting Time (Eternal Summer)", which is the best song ever to gang-shout with your best friends, "On A Saturday", "What the Hell Is A Gigawatt", and "One Step At A Time". They still gave us "Maniac (R.O.D.)" and "Bada Bing! Wit' A Pipe!" and closed with "Heroes Get Remembered, Legends Never Die". That was the fifth time I've seen these guys live and they've gotten better every time. I can't wait to see them on their headlining tour this fall where they'll be able to play even more old songs mixed in with the stuff off of Enemy of the World. They also commanded the most....interesting....mosh pits; during one song, I saw a kid crowdsurfing on an inflatable killer whale, a kid hardcore dancing with fairy wings on his back, a person in a Luigi costume leading a circle pit, and a guy dressed in a Batman costume falling to the floor.
We all guzzled down a four-dollar bottle of water then went to relax and watch Sum 41. They filled up the entire amphitheater by themselves, and had the entire place singing during "In Too Deep" and their one-two closing punch of "Still Waiting" and "Fat Lip". It was really cool seeing a band that could have played that venue by themselves play it as a part of Warped Tour instead. They sounded great and their set got me really pumped to hear their upcoming album, Screaming Bloody Murder.
While we walked out, we were able to pass by We the Kings and Attack Attack!, and we were confident in our decision to leave early. Overall, I had a great time at Warped. I was able to spend a bunch of quality time with my friends, and that four hour power block of bands was a ton of fun. The interviews with Four Year Strong and AM Taxi really made my day, and just made me really appreciate being a part of this website and the things we do here. I hope everyone at least considers going out to Warped this year, and if not, then I guess it's just not for everyone. For me, though, I'm hoping to get a chance to be a part of this tour one day and follow it around in its entirety.
If you're planning on going out to one of the remaining dates this summer, be safe and remember to bring closed containers of water! Also make sure you put extra sunscreen on your tattoos! Peace y'all.
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Today I got my Four Year Strong - Rise or Die Trying 12" in the mail. It's the yellow/nuke color of the first press and there are only 100 that were made. This was the last vinyl to come in out of all the ones that I wanted to buy this summer, so with Set Your Goals' Mutiny! and New Found Glory's Sticks and Stones, I have three of my favorite pop punk records. And with The Wonder Years' The Upsides, I have what might be my four favorite pop punk albums ever, which I'm really excited about. So this episode of It's Mailtime is....the perfect storm, pop punk edition.