Warped Tour 2012, Camelback Ranch Baseball Stadium, 6/28/12

Vans Warped Tour Camelback Ranch Baseball Stadium Thursday, June 28

See also: Valley Bands Sweat it Out on Warped Tour Stages See also: Warped Tour 2012 at Camelback Ranch Stadium full slideshow See also: Vans Warped Tour 2012: The Good, the Bad, and the Auto-Tuned See also: Crowdsourced: Fans Beat the Heat at Vans Warped Tour 2012

Despite my trepidation about being able to handle the heat and a slew of young bands that had little to do with the Warped lineups of my youth, I survived. Another Vans Warped Tour is in the bag.

This was the first year it was held at Camelback Ranch Baseball Stadium in Glendale, and with any luck, it will be the last.

The venue is simply ill-equipped to handle the masses of scantily clad teenagers crammed in to hear their favorite bands. The divided park completely segregated the two main stages from the other five, and the tunnel that led between them was bottlenecked with people on the verge of heat exhaustion. Just how hot was it this year? Well, hot enough for me to volunteer my vital organs after I die in order to score a free T-shirt to wrap around my head.

But enough about the heat (everyone knows it's hot), let's talk about the music:

Dallas-based band Memphis May Fire was the first band I caught on the main stage. The small crowd in the early hours of Warped seemed to get into the jarring guitar chords, even if the vocals during "The Sinner" and "The Deceived" were entirely inaudible.

Making my way through the tunnel, into the converted parking lot where the other five stages were, I stumbled upon Motionless in White, a Pennsylvania metal band heavily dressed in makeup and gothic garb. As much as I wanted to dismiss them as a gimmick, I sat through a few songs, including "If It's Dead We'll Kill it" and "Creatures." It's hard to dismiss a band who's hellbent on dressing and singing like they just sprouted from the seventh circle of Hell. And, you know, actually pulling it off.

I'm told it takes a big man to admit when he's wrong. Well, I just wrote about Baltimore-based Ballyhoo earlier this week, describing them as a generic surf band that was easy to listen to. The truth is, after a morning of metal, this band was a welcome change. At one point, I actually had a smile on my face as I grooved to songs with titles like "Somewhere in the Fucking Desert." Vocalist Howie Spangler seems to embody the spirit of deceased Sublime singer Bradley Nowell. So I wolfed down some humble pie and moved back to the main stages, where I caught Pierce the Veil and New Found Glory.

As an old man, what I recall most about New Found Glory, who made their return to Warped following a five-year hiatus is Ralph Macchio and The Outsiders. When I was given a sampler of the band way back during the Clinton administration, it started with a clip of The Karate Kid talking to Pony Boy about how nothing gold can stay. During their set, they did play a few old favorites, including "Hit or Miss" and "All Downhill from Here".

I made the rounds once again, and ended up catching one of the best bands of the day, an Atlanta-based band called The Constellations. I was absolutely blown away by the perfect melding of rock, funk, and soul. This ballsy six-piece band was unfortunately robbed by the small stage, inadequate sound system, and small crowd.

As I made my way back, once again, to the main stages -- mobility during the festival was key to avoid collapsing under the desert sun -- I was shocked to find a U.K. folk band, complete with standup bass and a mandolin, playing on the main stage. Skinny Lister entertained the crowd with songs like "17 Summers" and "Merry Old Dance." I was happy to stand in the sun while resisting the urge to start river-dancing just to witness the fun.

It was almost four hours into the tour before I heard any band make mention of Arizona Senate Bill 1070. Leave it to Warped veterans Anti-Flag to come on stage and proclaim their hatred for the bill, Governor Jan Brewer, and police brutality. The statement segued nicely into "Fuck Police Brutality," but I was more on board with the message and politics than the performance.

Despite the letdown on the main stages, the others still held promise. Nothing exemplified this more than L.A. band Dead Sara. Despite their recent debut on The Jimmy Kimmel Show, I was unfamiliar with the band. But wow. Vocalist Emily Armstrong climbed atop an amplifier during the closing song, "Weatherman," possessing all the stage presence of a young Courtney Love (sans the drug habit and bizarre behavior) and the attitude of Cherie Currie, even going so far as to toy with security by attempting to remove their hats and head sets at the front of the stage. This is definitely a band I will keep my eye on and was an absolute highlight of the day.

Another standout of the day, and vastly different from the other acts on the tour was hip-hop group Champagne Champagne. The crowd gathered at their stage was small yet surprisingly energetic. There was a sense that no one quite knew what to expect from the three-piece group, especially with songs with titles like "Soda and Pop Rocks."

Back at the main stages, bands The Used and Yellowcard played to large audiences. The big surprise there was The Used singer Bert McCracken boasting about how great the band was and that they had "the greatest song ever written" shortly before jamming into the first 10 seconds of Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit," which quickly melted into "Box Full of Sharp Objects." I didn't stay around long for fear of missing something great on one of the small stages.

I couldn't have been more right when Ohio's Mah Toka was playing to nearly no one. This traditional and heavier-sounding punk band, reminiscent of early Rancid, played a few songs including "Ode to My Family" and "Say 10" as the set closer. The set suffered greatly from being too close to a nearby stage where Neo Geo, a band whose Gwen Stefani-esque singer was infecting the surrounding area with horrid music. Toka, at one point, jumped from the stage and began singing with the few loyal fans in attendance. At one point, his mouth started to bleed shortly before he took a swig of Monster Energy Drink and sprayed it into the crowd. This was yet another band that deserved better real estate on the tour lineup.

As the sun began to set and the grounds cooled off, You Me at Six, a U.K. pop-punk band took another small stage with a surprisingly large crowd whose average age probably hovered around 15. When they played "Stay With Me," a slow ode to prepubescent love, I took it as my cue to bolt, but not before cruising past another small stage, where a seven-piece ska/reggae band from New Jersey, Echo Movement, energized a few onlookers with a decent Caribbean groove, complete with horn and saxophone.

As I began the grueling pilgrimage out, trudging through piles of empty cans and crushed water bottles, I felt a sense of accomplishment. I was delightfully surprised at the few discoveries of the day. I was shocked that the majority of bands I really enjoyed were nowhere near the main stages, and that those who were popular enough to grace the two were a blur of similar-sounding metal and pop punk bands. The hidden treasures of this year's Warped Tour where to be found elsewhere and I was excited that I had stumbled upon them.

Amid it all, I also had discovered that, yes, I am now too old for The Warped Tour. But I didn't feel bad about it. I've grown wise in my old age and have little use for mosh pits and crowd surfing, but I, like everyone who came out on the tour, hungered for something great and despite it all, The Warped Tour still provides that.

See also: Valley Bands Sweat it Out on Warped Tour Stages See also: Warped Tour 2012 at Camelback Ranch Stadium full slideshow See also: Vans Warped Tour 2012: The Good, the Bad, and the Auto-Tuned See also: Crowdsourced: Fans Beat the Heat at Vans Warped Tour 2012

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