It's baaaack! This summer sees the Vans-sponsored Warped Tour reaching its 10th summer of rocking young people in baggy shorts silly with a motley crew of relatively diverse bands from across the spectrum of "aggressive music" -- however you choose to define it. As always, there's wheat, and then there's chaff.
Topping the wheat department is Bad Religion, still sane after all these years; the SoCal punk vets are ostensibly touring in support of a strong new album, The Empire Strikes First, but really they're just doing it 'cause that's what they do. Coheed and Cambria, a peculiar band from upstate New York, is worth seeing for the unbridled glee with which it injects complicated prog-metal instrumentation with teenaged power-pop kicks. New Jersey's My Chemical Romance has a great new record called Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge (its major-label debut), on which it manages to make howling-heart emo-rock sound even more melodramatic than it usually does. The Alkaline Trio plays bad-seed pop-punk, like Blink-182 after a week with the Donnie Darko DVD. And Atmosphere, a thoughtful hip-hop duo from Minneapolis, gives a different voice to all this overflowing male angst. (Speaking of different voices, I'm not sure whose idea it was to book zippy Swedish garage-popsters the Sounds or Los Angeles art-school synth-rockers Ima Robot, but more power to him or her.)
As for the chaff, I've never been partial to Thursday's At the Drive-In-inspired crash-rock, though I suppose there's something to be said for the contained fury on display throughout War All the Time, the New Jersey band's album from last year. The same goes for the self-titled debut by Hazen Street, Good Charlotte buddies who sound very enthusiastic without sounding very exciting. Yellowcard has a violin player and the band isn't afraid to use him; unfortunately, it's less willing to write songs that break from pop-punk boilerplate. Similarly, Taking Back Sunday makes up better song titles ("Cute Without the E") than songs. And New Found Glory continues to get more annoying, if no less capable of writing catchy melodies.
The Vans Warped Tour
Peoria Sports Complex
Comes Wednesday, June 30
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All that said, there are still roughly 843 other bands playing Warped on Wednesday. Think of the discoveries!