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A sea full of middle fingers during Every Time I Die's set at Warped Tour at the Gorge on Saturday, August 14th, 2010.

The 2010

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Punks, Skaters, and Everyone In Between Get Warped at The Gorge

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A sea full of middle fingers during Every Time I Die's set at Warped Tour at the Gorge on Saturday, August 14th, 2010.

The 2010 Vans Warped Tour

The Gorge (George, WA)

Friday, August 14

The minute I walked into the Gorge on Saturday, something in me changed. Up until the moment the polite-enough lady with the ticket zapper scanned my ticket and I crossed the admission threshold, I was feeling pretty all right with myself; level-headed, balanced, even-keel. Great relationship with my parents? Check. Bills paid? Check. Steady job? Check. However, the second I crossed that barrier into the Gorge, this existential sense of unevenness and suburban angst crept into me. One that I hadn't had since living above Mom and Dad's garage, working at Camelot Music at Oak Park Mall (why exactly did I have to wear a tie to sell Eric Clapton CDs at the mall again?), spending weekend nights in friends' basements and random parking lots drinking Slurpees, bored out of my mind and no real specific direction to push that ennui into. Then again, maybe it was just all the damn heat that had my brain a-muddlin'.

12:30 PM: Teggart/Main Stage

I missed the first (11a.m.-ish) round of bands, but got there in time to see party monger Andrew W.K. (Warped schedules change daily, and the biggest band on the tour may end up playing at 11 a.m. or at 8:30 pm, so getting there early is key.) If you haven't ever seen Andrew W.K., it's a hard spectacle to describe. The man is a supernova of high kicks and air punches and ducks and dives in between totally ironic '80s stadium-rock tribute act and completely sincere motivational speaker. Musically, it's something like Slayer meets Meat Loaf, which is much weirder and more fun than it may sound.

He's backed by three (sometimes four) guitarists, producing a massive wall of sound atop non-stop pounding beats (it's probably great exercise music) and W.K.'s poetic scribblings about living on the edge, never giving up, and more importantly, PARTYING. A solid chunk of W.K.'s catalog is a battle cry, a call to arms to party; party hard, party 'til you puke, and don't ever stop partying. Again, it's seemingly meat-headed, but in this age of the endless well of irony, it's nice to see someone deliver even a simple message with such positive passion and dedication. I've seen Andrew W.K. something like five times prior to the Warped Tour, and after years of watching him get otherwise jaded, arms-folded audiences to do the most ridiculous shit, it hasn't lost any steam. Joined by his spandex-clad aerobics instructor wife (Cherie Lily, who only added to the on-stage energy and chaos by constantly punching the air and hyping the audience up), Andrew W.K. has an unparalleled positive power to him, and has a strange power over audiences that is unparalleled. Getting a circle pit together or a sea full of middle fingers in the air isn't a challenge at Warped, but getting hundreds of people to get on each other's shoulders to form a "double decker crowd" during "Party Hard" is the kind of ridiculousness that only Andrew W.K. can provide.

1:30 PM: Skullcandy Stage

I wandered over to the Skullcandy stage and took in Chicago's Breathe Electric, who were by far the most pop-oriented band of the day. After seeing the overwhelming energy and contagious electricity of Andrew W.K., it was pretty rough to switch gears into totally pitch-perfect, sing-along electro-mall pop that's more concerned with Photoshopping out all the sweat stains and auto-tuning out the warts. Auto-tuning vocals in the studio is one thing, but when everything is pitch-corrected during a live performance, it kills the need for Breathe Electric to even show up and play. They could just have an iPod set up to play over the PA and accomplish the same saccharine-laced effect, without having to lug a bunch of heavy gear all over the Gorge's grassy knolls. Think about it, fellas.

2:00 PM: AP/Advent Stage

I made my way over to the Alternative Press stage, which is normally the Gorge's main stage, to see the Reverend Peyton's Big Damn Band. While it was strange to see an area so accustomed to throngs of people attended somewhat sparsely, it also made the show seem that much more intimate. The trio from Indiana play a dirty, gloriously sloppy blend of Delta blues and front porch pick-n-grin country (complete with washboard as percussion, and a plastic work bucket on the drum kit in lieu of a floor tom), and managed to clear out the backwash of artificial flavors left in my mouth from Breathe Electric. Wearing an eye patch and sporting a shaggy beard that billowed back and forth, the band is fronted by the barrel-chested Rev. Peyton, who looks about two backroom brawls short of being a semi-pro wrestler, and is cut from the same "honest about having a good time" cloth as Andrew W.K. The band finished their raucous set with an all-star jam (featuring Andrew W.K., Angelo Moore from Fishbone, and members of Reel Big Fish, The Casualties, and others) on the ramshackle "Two Bottles of Wine".

2:45 PM: Glamour Kills Stage

Raleigh, N.C. quintet Alesana follow up the jamboree of Rev. Peyton's Big Damn Band. Full of energy, they bound around like the stage is too hot to touch, and have giant prop boxes toward the front of the stage (thoughtfully stenciled with the band's name) to do giant megarawk jumps off of. Frontman Dennis Lee is hilarious in his stage banter and an overall blast to watch, easily gliding from screaming like a banshee to deep guttural bellows while darting around frantically. As exciting as the band is to watch, however, it's painful to listen to. Mashing up the chugga-chugga breakdowns of hardcore with the time changes of technical metal and the snot-nosed whine of emo, Alesana are schizophrenic, and not in a good way. While technically great at all of their instruments, the band are a cringe-worthy mash-up of tough guy hardcore and limp-wristed sensitive dude poetry, with a bunch of arena-rock posturing, black hair dye, and guyliner thrown in for good measure. The crowd has tripled in size from the Rev. Peyton's crowd. I'm standing on a giant, steaming patch of black asphalt with no shade to be found, and my ears tell the rest of my body that it's time to go.

3:15 PM: Teggart/Main Stage

Longtime California punks Face to Face (part of the original Warped Tour back in 1995) play the main stage to a loyal (but thinner than I expected) crowd. Running fairly steadily since 1991, they are one of those bands who I forever associate with this tour, who helped make it what it is today, and benefited fairly well from it. Nearly twenty years into their career, they aren't reinventing the pop-punk wheel by any means, but they serve as a grounding force in this lineup; they are not just founding fathers of the tour, but they've made a career out of doing what they do and being consistent in that, without the benefit of major exposure by radio/video play. Their audience skews toward an older demographic, but the energetic loyalty of these people who have been with the band for 15+ years is palpable. In contrast to stage upon stage of flavor-of-the-month bands needing to jump around to impress, Face to Face knows exactly who they are and what their audience wants, and puts in a humble, economical set of classic tunes with a few new ones sprinkled in to bait the hook for their new record's release this coming fall. After their set is done, a group of three dwarves comes up on stage, painted like Oompa Loompas. They dance to a mash-up of the Oompa Loompa song and a couple Michael Jackson songs. I'm sure that this is all just evidence that I am going crazy from the heat.

3:45 PM: Midway Tents

I walked around the giant midway full of vendors, taking in the insane amount of brightly-colored schwag being sold for ridiculously high prices or given away for nothing. Although there are more than enough places to spend money, there were quite a few opportunities for free stuff to tide you over. If free buffalo wings were your thing, you could park yourself outside the 7-11 truck. I watched a Tommy Lee doppelganger playing drums atop painfully treble-y techno beats inside a giant purple tent giving away Willy Wonka gummy candy (walked by a couple more times and that guy was in there, still doing that, EVERY TIME; someone's taking the term "drum machine" to heart). If you wanted to get your body painted with day-glo colors, you could do that for free at one of the tents. There were lots of free magazines and sampler CDs/DVDs/T-shirts/stickers/fans/keychains/etc. by various labels and groups that you could stuff your free promotional bag with, as well.

If $8 (seriously?) shaved ice was your thing, you could find that, too. For a dollar more, you could get a PBR tall-boy, or a BBQ sandwich. Or, if you had 20 bucks burning a hole in your pocket, you could choose from one of hundreds of different T-shirts, most of which were designed to really stick it to mom and dad; the sheer amount of teenage girls plastering themselves in "D.T.F" ("down to fuck", for the uninformed) made me never want to have kids EVER. GIGANTIC WORDS typeset in such crazy fonts as Impact and Arial dominated the day, and I'm relatively sure I saw every possible way of telling someone to fuck off/get fucked/let's fuck/I don't fucking care on a T-shirt. We get it, Warped Nation; y'all are crazy and can't be contained, and you have lots of disposable income to spend on crappy T-shirts.

3:55 PM: Legends Stage

I wander past the LEGENDS stage; 20 people are on stage screaming the lyrics to Green Jelly's 1993 hit "Three Little Pigs" as singer Bill Manspeaker (aka Moronic Dicktator) is hoisted upon someone's shoulders and wades through the crowd. I find myself swept into a strange nostalgia and am surprisingly impressed by a band who I never really cared for 15 years ago, and who formed under the premise of being the "world's worst band." I'm halfway through the day and I've seen a few bands that are, unbeknownst to them, quickly stealing that title from Green Jelly.

4:00 PM: Teggart/Main Stage

Dillinger Escape Plan is going absolutely bonkers on the main stage. I've heard legendary things about the New Jersey quintet (broken guitars, flaming bass cabinets, and lawsuits are among the lore surrounding the band), and they were all spot-on. The band never stops moving, lurching around like caged animals who can't wait to be released, with guitarists Ben Weinman and Jeff Tuttle climbing atop giant speaker stacks, slashing their guitars in the air as if they were fighting off demons that only they could see. How a band can be so frightfully technical and yet so hyperactive and physical is beyond me. I'm fairly sure one of the Dillinger roadies existed solely to hold the side monitor stage right so Weinman could do crazy spin kicks off of it. Dillinger stopped mid-set and invited L.A. blues/punk duo The Bots up on stage. During their set time. The Bots (a pair of Los Angeles-based brothers, age 17 and 13) made the most of an awesome opportunity, breaking up Dillinger's set with a pretty mind-melting, energetic double shot of hollering, filthy blues. The members of Dillinger Escape Plan waited on the side of the stage, watching with giant smiles and obvious looks of admiration on their faces in what was a pretty special moment. After The Bots hugged all of Dillinger, the band came back even more ferociously, with Weinman and Tuttle jumping off of 6+ foot tall stacks, and ending their set with Tuttle solo'ing while being carried through the crowd on someone's shoulders, then running through the middle of the crowd, still playing guitar while knocking into hundreds of surprised audience members. Exhausting, cathartic, visceral and brutal to the point of being a little scary, Dillinger Escape Plan is the perfect combination of what so many of the bands on this tour aspire to be.

4:45 PM: Kia/Kevin Says Stage

The unexpected surprise award of the day goes to scrappy Minneapolis/Alaska garage punkers The Scurvies. My interest was piqued by their merch booth, which was decorated with an American flag, a lacquered photo of Jesus, and the promise that they were for "fans of the Ramones, MC5, Motorhead, etc". The quartet richocheted off each other, blew loogies into the air, with singer Chris Meurlott jumping on the front stage barricade and screaming straight into the audiences faces, all while blowing through a quick set of loud, fast, and out-of-control punk rock and roll that touched most on dearly departed local darlings the Murder City Devils; they're the kind of band that would be perfect in The Comet or Funhouse with a few Rainier tallboys in you. Seeing The Scurvies was one of the most authentically "punk" things of the day; they were a perfect blend of classic (but still vital) influences, that rare blend of a somewhat young band full of confidence and jitters, with just enough sheen to make them seem slightly bigger than life and more raw, ragged edges to put some danger in the mix. I was sold two songs into the set, but then they shredded through a blown out rave-up of Cheap Trick's "Surrender" and I was completely on board the Scurvies train.

5:10 PM: Teggart/Main Stage

Buffalo, NY's Every Time I Die is playing to the largest and most enthusiastic crowd I've seen all day on the main stage. They come off as a bit technical (i.e. Dillinger Escape Plan), but a little bit looser, goofier and and more fluid/riff-driven. Kids around me are losing their shit left and right, smiling widely as the band thrashes. I stare hard at guitarist Andy Williams and I'm convinced he is the love child of Will Ferrell and Will Oldham. At one point in time, singer Keith Buckley gets the crowd to part straight down the middle for the hardcore classic "wall of death"; divide the crowd down the middle, then have them run straight into each other and explode into crazy pit goodness. However, he makes everyone get down on their knees and promise to crawl slowly, instituting the "crawl of death." I'm not close enough to the action to see if anyone actually does crawl, but the place explodes less than 20 seconds into the song, so I'm assuming the crawling didn't really work. Regardless, it's the most active the crowd has been since Andrew W.K.'s show here 5 hours ago, and it's obvious the band is having a blast.

6:00 PM: Aimless Wandering/Contemplating

I wander through the water bottle and Willy Wonka wrapper-strewn streets of Warped Town, USA, debating if I'll stay to watch anyone else. I totally space on seeing Agent Orange, never truly gave a shit about Reel Big Fish or Everclear when they were popular/relevant, don't find the ridiculously promising mock-factor of "crab core" shitstorm Attack Attack! compelling enough to stay for, and after six shadeless hours in the brutal sun of Eastern Washington, my sunburnt body and my musicburnt ears retreat back to an air-conditioned car and a few hours' worth of absolutely silent driving back to Seattle. Maybe I'll stop somewhere along the way and call my parents, just to tell them I love them.

 
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