Running down the list of the 64 bands scheduled to play at the Ashley Furniture HomeStore Pavilion as part of this year's Warped Tour, a lot of the same genre descriptors come up. Although the mega-show began as a skate-punk and ska-heavy event in the '90s, the tide has turned toward hardcore, pop punk, and screamo. Of course, names like Gym Class Heroes and The Devil Wears Prada will draw huge crowds, but if you find yourself in the West Phoenix heat on August 7 and want to mix it up a bit, here are five acts on the bill that might surprise you.
Family Force 5: Christian bands colliding with non-Christian bands have become par for the course at Warped Tour (see the great NOFX/Underoath debacle of 2006). Family Force 5 stand out from the rest of the pastor-approved bands on the bill by being more transparent with their faith (most of their songs are either about dancing or their beliefs, occasionally both) and just being really strange in the most wonderful way. FF5 make an earnest attempt to be as entertaining as they possibly can be, jumping over each other onstage and playing a hyper-mash-up of Southern rap influence, synth-y dance riffs, and a bunch of other pop sounds.
Enter Shikari: England's Enter Shikari hasn't made a splash in the States just yet, and given the awkward nature of the band's music, it's easy to see hear how listeners may struggle to make sense of the band's sound. Enter Shikari throws together political post-hardcore and electronics, topping the whole thing off with thickly accented lyrics. The band's latest single "Quelle Surprise" (don't worry: Only the title is in French) sounds almost like a manifesto, even if a not particularly clever one ("If you stand for nothing, you will fall for anything?"), but give Enter Shikari credit for trying something different.
Larry and His Flask: Tell those sad-sack bastards from Mumford and Sons to hit the road. Bend, Oregon's Larry and His Flask have the same bluegrass/Americana chops, but instead of ruminations about a cave or something, these guys thrive on working at top speed, playing music from Appalachia as though they took notes on song length from the Ramones. High-energy, for sure, and a decent bet as the band that takes off quickly after the tour ends.
Yelawolf: It's difficult to know what to make of Alabama rapper Yelawolf. He doesn't seem to have an easy parallel in popular music: a white rapper from the South who doesn't emulate the angsty violence of (pre-rehab) Eminem or aiming for the pop charts. His ability to paint a picture with his rhymes and his overall intensity would seemingly make his show an experience, if not a revelation.
Stephen Jerzak: Is 3OH3! a little too edgy for you? Jerzak, who seems awfully pretty for a rolling tour on a shoestring budget, falls somewhere between talking to fireflies with Owl City and the barely concealed misogyny of 3OH3! If you can set aside your cynicism regarding a kid styled like Justin Bieber who sings over (likely) prerecorded bubbly Radio Disney beats, his show will probably be a decent time. It's hard to understand where Jerzak fits in with the audience here, but it wouldn't be all that surprising if he becomes a relatively successful star in the near future.