Summer Festival Report
Warped Tour Round-Up
By David Gao
Enlarged ear lobes, spiky mohawks and the prototypical, angst-filled, rebellious teenagers listening to the proverbial devil’s music were out in full force at the 14th annual Vans Warped Tour stop in Chula Vista, a punk rock-rooted music festival featuring more than 100 bands of varying style.
All of the stages were set up in the parking lot of the amphitheater, with two main stages that featured all the well-known bands and multiple smaller stages in the back for lesser-known acts, allowing fans to move between different stages.
Due to poor planning and unfavorable parking, the group I went with only got to bask in Relient K’s presence for about a minute. Instead, Anberlin, a harder sounding Christian rock band started off the day with a friendly stage presence and body-pulsing guitar riffs. The crowd got into the show as well as it could, considering it was just past noon. Still there was a fair share of crowd surfing and clamoring over lead singer Stephen Christian when he went into the crowd to sing his last few songs.
After the Anberlin set, my friends and I didn’t recognize any of the bands for the next few hours, so we took some time to visit the numerous booths and tents. Record labels, bands and even random companies such as Kia offered free stickers and trinkets, band merchandise for sale and even had a random slip-n-slide.
For die-hard fans, Warped Tour represented a chance to meet their favorite bands and get autographs. Despite time limits and photo restrictions, the excitement of meeting your favorite bands was a star-studded bonus element unique to Warped Tour over other concerts.
Say Anything came on at 2:45 p.m., with a large crowd accumulating for the up-and-coming band. While it certainly had a very unique sound, the band seemed to concentrate on belting out raw energy over musicianship and thoughtful lyrics, even at one point shouting, “I have a girlfriend now” five or six times in a row with no discernible musical accompaniment.
After missing The Academy Is… for some five-dollar water and six-dollar shaved ice, we got back to the main stage to find a massive crowd for Rise Against. True to its name, front man Tim McIlrath provided anti-government and anti-war statements, drawing cheers from the crowd. Its hard-driven punk rock sound got the crowd into a frenzy with several mosh pits, crowd surfers and shoes flying up high in the air. The highlight was the hit song “Prayer Of The Refugee,” when the entire crowd transformed into a giant mosh pit, with some fans literally running around in circles while everyone else raised their fists in the air in conjunction with the beat.
Motion City Soundtrack followed with a drastically different crowd. Gone were the rough moshers, replaced by teenage girls ready to mouth every word of vocalist Justin Pierre’s catchy pop-rock hits. The band did a surprisingly dead-on job of playing its hits, while keyboardist Jesse Johnson went as crazy as physically possible with his keyboard/synth, tilting it back and forth, whipping his long hair over the keys.
With the event in its stretch run, we hurried over to the Against Me! set to find the band dressed exactly like it did in the music video of “Thrash Unreal,” unquestionably the biggest hit of its set. The band did not offer anything in terms of talking with the crowd, not even introducing themselves, which would have been acceptable if its music sounded as dynamic live as it does in studio, but something seemed amiss in how the band meshed together. Drummer Warren Oakes did offer the most impressive drumming of the night, regardless of his rather old school glasses.
Exhausted, but unwilling to spend ridiculous amounts of money for bad food, we staggered to the set of Reel Big Fish, the cult favorite ska band. Unlike Against Me!, the band chatted up the crowd, telling everyone it wanted “you guys inside of us.” Its showmanship was truly one of a kind, performing a song made up on the spot, and another one featuring “Fuck you” as the only lyrics.
However, as none of us were huge Reel Big Fish fans, and the ever present marijuana smoke gradually increased to unbearable amounts, we trudged off early to get good positions for the hip-hop group Shwayze, a relatively new artist that had swept the nation with its hit song “Buzzin.” However, the set was marred by frequent references to doing nothing, but drinking and getting high all day, to the point where it was annoying, with lyrics that also proved to be mind-numbingly repetitious with a lack of decent content.
We ended the night by catching Angels and Airwaves, mostly for the sake of seeing Tom Delonge. However, the electronic music did not translate well live, and Delonge’s whiny voice dominated the songs too much.
As a whole, Warped Tour was a one-of-a-kind experience. It was a greatest hits type concert extravaganza that featured music for just about everyone, or at least, your average eccentrically dressed, defiant teenager.
Outside Lands Recap
By Ara Demirjian
A blanket of fog descended upon a city by the bay as hordes of counterculture era wannabe youths slowly swarmed the hilly, forested area of the city’s west end. This was the scene of the inaugural Outside Lands music festival at San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park, boasting a diverse lineup of critically acclaimed acts including Radiohead, Beck, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Wilco and Jack Johnson over the course of three days. San Francisco’s notorious, frigid air might not have been ideal for the occasion, but that did not stop 60,000 fans from witnessing some of the best live acts in such a beautiful, green setting.
Although I was only present for the first day of the festival, it was a night not to be missed for alternative rock junkies. Once veteran reggae act Steel Pulse came onto the stage and college-aged kids began lighting up their joints, there was no question that this festival would be a special treat.
Unlike most reggae bands that stick to traditional 4/4 rhythms with repetitive guitar strokes, Steel Pulse showed off its musical range and complexity. Fusing classic rock solos, as demonstrated by the lead guitarist’s rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner,” as well as rich, textured melodies from its two keyboardists, the band had an eclectic style and spontaneity that helped the festival off to a booming start.
With several stages set up around Golden Gate Park, there was a large variety of bands that offered something for everyone, ranging from the experimental, psychedelic space rock of Canada’s Black Mountain to the minimalist, Hendrix-influenced blues-rock of The Black Keys.
Despite the multitude of non-musical festivities associated with environmental awareness, everyone’s undivided attention was on the bands once they came on stage. After a 10-minute delay, Beck finally arrived, relieving the audience’s impatience with a one-two knockout of “E-Pro” and “Girl.” Whereas “E-Pro” got the crowd grooving with its catchy, distorted guitar riff, “Girl” reveled in its pop melodies while having rough, chunky guitars to keep the energy level high.
Incorporating work from all of his albums, Beck played classics including the superb “Devil’s Haircut” and the funky “Hell Yes,” during which Beck and his band mates huddled together and played with electronic boxes and voice manipulators to create squeaky, robotic sounds. Although these songs came across very well, it was Beck’s slacker anthem in the form of “Loser” that truly engaged the crowd as the 21st century hippies sang in a drawl, “I’m a loser baby, so why don’t you kill me?”
Yet, before Beck finished his set, swarms of people started to migrate toward the main stage for the night’s highly anticipated headliner, Radiohead, trampling over fences, hopping over occupied blankets and bumping each other and as they tried to squeeze and inch their way through the grass to get as close to the stage as possible, where a sea of bodies flooded the field.
Once Radiohead came on stage, though, thousands of people exalted in unison with cheers after the anxious wait as the band went straight into the electronic 5/4 beats of “15 Step,” reaffirming that Thom Yorke and company were certainly worth the coveted headlining slot. Despite some audio cutting out during “Airbag” and “All I Need,” the rest of the show remained flawless, as Radiohead’s impeccable musicianship and instrumental creativity left the audience in awe and craving more.
This was clearly apparent in the percussion extravaganza from drummer Phil Selway on “There There” and in the ethereal nature of “Weird Fishes/Arpeggi,” created by Yorke’s dreamy, echo – manipulated voice and guitarist Ed O’Brien’s tinkering with effect pedals, as well as the drifty atmospherics of the ondes martenot, a Theremin-esque French keyboard instrument that Johnny Greenwood played with emotional precision.
To complement their songs and in some cases, make them significantly better, Radiohead brought along a massive light show that would flash bright, fluorescent lights, making the night glow vibrantly, especially during up-tempo cuts such as “Paranoid Android,” where the lights beamed out into the eyes of thousands as rapidly and frenetically as the song’s ending guitar solo breakdown, creating a stunning visual experience that heightened the sense of amazement and elation in the crowd.
While known for his soft-spoken and quiet nature, Yorke’s vocals had a depth and emotion that carried well into the crowd, undaunted by the park’s long length. “Karma Police” struck a special chord as the whole audience sang, “This is what you’ll get when you mess with us,” while “Fake Plastic Trees” showed Yorke at his most poignant and vulnerable, crooning alone with acoustic guitar before the entire band came in and built up to the song’s cathartic climax.
Ending with the adventurous and experimentally electronic “Everything In It’s Right Place” from “Kid A,” Radiohead provided assurance that everyone was undoubtedly in the right place, watching the band close the first night of the festival in extraordinary fashion.