Review and photos – Vans Warped Tour at Thunderbird Stadium, Vancouver, 2009
– review by Liz Stanton/photos by Jessica Bardosh
It seems hard to believe, but after 15 years, Vans Warped Tour has become something of an institution. Those of us who grew up during pop-punk’s bizarre mid-’90s emergence have each experienced a moment of angst-ridden adolescence during which the bands touring with the Warped Tour were the ultimate in rebellious cool.
In California, for some reason, that teenage moment goes on far longer than should be legal – I tend to blame bands like Green Day, Blink 182 and Sublime, all of whom could be considered “local” in broadest terms – but even while growing up in that hotbed of poppiest punk, I never managed to make it to the Warped Tour. I’m only 23 now, but I’m convinced that I finally went to Warped about 10 years too late to fully appreciate its significance. I may have felt like a mom – why didn’t anyone tell me to wear my best neon? – but that didn’t stop me from enjoying the spectacle.
As in years past, Vans Warped Tour took over UBC’s Thunderbird Stadium, setting up somewhere in the neighbourhood of seven or eight different stages – honestly, I tried to count and kept getting confused. Unlike Virgin Fest, Warped Tours’ bands are grouped around a semi-coherent theme, though it’s a bit odd when your main stage features members of the punk old guard, like Bad Religion, opening for hipster electronic duo 3OH!3. Warped Tour has had to change with the times, but they seem to have been successful in keeping their teenage fan base.
One familiar image from Warped Tour has persisted: the giant skate ramp that accompanies the tour on every stop. As bands rocked out on the main stage, skaters hit the half-pipe and showed off their moves to a crowd of varying size but unwavering enthusiasm. Is skateboarding ever going to be uncool? Somehow, I doubt it.
While main stage bands like NOFX and Bad Religion have clearly benefitted from their respective bands’ longevity – those bands have been together forever, and it shows in their relaxed stage banter and drum tight sets – the younger bands on tour did have one major advantage that the old dudes were lacking: American Apparel. Either every up-and-coming band on Warped Tour uses the same stylist, or they are all dressing themselves entirely from Urban Outfitters or the aforementioned AA catalogues. Skin-tight jeans, ironic wolf tees, aggressively straightened hair? Check, check and check. At least the audience showed a bit of willingness to mix it up; hippies, scenesters, and sorority girls all jumbled together in an oddly congruous melange.
For some reason, every band on the smaller stages elicited the same reaction from me – “My God, look at how cute they are!” They were all pretty attractive, it’s true, but their genuine enthusiasm was most endearing. I doubt that Saskatoon’s Ultimate Power Duo would appreciate me describing them as adorable, but they totally were! The same went for Florida’s VersaEmerge, fronted by a tiny powerhouse of a woman with an Amy [Evanescence] Lee-sized voice.
Video – VersaEmerge, “Toxic” (Britney Spears cover):
Despite the fact it was competing with a main stage featuring Alexisonfire, Victoria’s Theset drew a decent-sized crowd, which could either be attributed to their semi-local appeal or the fact that they were actually pretty decent. They were genuinely cute, too, and earned major props by being one of the few bands to mention guitar legend Les Paul’s recent passing. No Bragging Rights featured synchronizing head banging, and Madina Lake’s C. C. DeVille-lookalike frontman seemed pretty happy for a guy singing about being “really fucking angry.” Echo Movement sounded just like Sublime, and had their tiny crowd dancing away.
As for main stage acts, Bad Religion’s only sour note was their attempt to congratulate Vancouver on the upcoming Olympics. They seemed surprised when this was greeted by boos, but way to make the effort, I guess. NOFX did their usual merry prankster bit as the sun emerged from behind the clouds, and for all my talk of not knowing these bands, I must admit that I have always loved NOFX’s cover of Joe Dassin’s “Les Champs ElysÃ©es” and was secretly thrilled when they played it. Alexisonfire was greeted by a roar of approval that, frankly, still surprises me. I guess they have mastered their particular formula, but aren’t they pretty much Canada’s answer to Linkin Park?
Sadly, I didn’t stick around for 3Oh!3, but after a day spent surrounded by hormonal teens, I was in desperate need of a nap. Sorry, guess I’m getting old.
Editor’s note: poor tired 23-year-old Stanton’s aging bones might not have had been able to stick it out for this generation’s Bloodhound Gang, but photographer Jessica Bardosh sent us this report, courtesy of her friend, Tom McSorley.
Special – 3Oh!3 at Vans Warped Tour Vancouver 2009
– by Tom McSorely
With this being 3Oh!3’s third incarnation on the always dynamic Warped Tour, I expected big things from Boulder Colorado’s most notorious “gangstas”. Quite the eclectic mix of post NOFX fans and booty-shorts-clad 15-year-olds line the main stage in anticipation of the headliner. Cue 3Oh!3 chants and away we go. Huge screams as the new faces of electro thrash-pop emerge from the black curtains.
The undeniably good-looking Sean Foreman had the crowd in his hands as he hop skipped and moonwalked his way throughout the performance. Deaner from Fubar, I mean bandmate Nathaniel Motte, was electric though it seemed at times like he was auditioning for So You Think You Can Dance Canada. This would become a recurring theme throughout the set, which became more so focused on creating a dance party amongst the jubilant crowd. As they wrapped up their show with their massively catchy claim-to-fame “Don’t Trust Me” it became clear that 3Oh!3 is the coolest band in the world. At least according to every mid to late teen girl I asked.