Hey, kiddies … it’s time to nick a coupla Ben Franks from Pop’s billfold, slip on yer official, tour-sponsoring, Atticus duds (ditch the camo, please), and closely guard your belly, nip and tongue rings, ’cause it’s Vans Warped Tour time again. That’s right, the Lollapalooza-squashing punk rock tour of the summer is here. What’s weird is this is the tour’s 10th year running. (What, 10 already?) It’s weird because the tour (50-plus bands) is flying high thus far amid a record biz climate that’s rife with soft concert ticket sales, flopping albums and split-second, career-ending record company firings.
Anyway, what you need to know is this: There is a slew of Detroit acts manning the local stage, some of whom are worthy (see hooky, apocalyptic dirge-merchants Forge or bravado beer-enthusiast Man). On the national front, we see on various stages the usual blend of stellar (Sugarcult, Fall Out Boy, Brazil), turgid (the Kinison, Guttermouth, Good Charlotte) and geezer (Bad Religion, Lars Frederickson and the Bastards).
Here we’ve selected a few laudable local and international combos that have at least something interesting to say above and beyond the usual media-coached pap and corporate glad-handing, and we talked to ’em about whatever-the-fuck. Plus, for chuckles, we’ve tossed in a practical multipurpose match game.
(International) Noise Conspiracy
Swedish agitprop rockers the (I)NC play rumbling, horn-fueled gee-rage amped on swing and political reasoning. “That’s what I love about playing in a band, you can say stuff a little bit tougher, harder and more spectacular than if I would be talking to someone at an auditorium,” singer/guitarist Dennis Lyxzen tells us. “If you play in a band, you want to provoke a reaction. Maybe that’s what we need in politics, more of that kind of aesthetic.”
(International) Noise Conspiracy is on the Warped Tour’s South Stage.
The O.C.’s most enduring, Peter Pan Syndrome punks sport a throttling guitar attack that’s punk hall-of-fame worthy, with Minor Threat’s Brian Baker, the Circle Jerks’ Greg Hetson, and founding member Greg Graffin. “There wouldn’t be any of what we classify as pop-punk today, if these guys hadn’t been prescient enough in 1980 not to just scream into a microphone, ‘Fuck Reagan, fuck Reagan, fuck Reagan,’” says the cerebral Baker. “[Punk] is the new American folk music – and I’m talking Carter Family, Jimmie Rodgers. The songs are by and large interpersonal — issue-oriented or story-of-my-life type of things, and that’s echoed every time you listen to the Louvin Brothers. It’s the same thing, just with creepers on and a chain belt.”
Bad Religion slams the North Stage.
Born in New Brunswick, N.J., the Souls’ members grew up together, racing BMX bikes and learning their instruments in each other’s basements. They came of age before Green Day broke, and have matured from a frolicsome, party-punk band to a spunky, hard-charging outfit. “When we started you were underground and you were going to be for life. That’s the very vital difference. It was, ‘We’re not concerned about success. We need to express this thing. We love this kind of music,’ or ‘We need to say this,’” guitarist Bryan Kienlen remembers. “Now that’s gone forever. You can’t say that anymore about almost anything, certainly not a punk band. Even a thrash band, you can start with the concept that it’s possible. You could be the next big thing.”
Bouncing Souls are on the North Stage.
Lead singer Dave King got his start as a wide-eyed 18-year-old in hard rock outfit Fastway, plucked from the slums of Dublin. Years later he’s founded a Pogue-ish, punk-rocking Irish band — complete with fiddle and mandolin — that’s as heady as a Guinness binge. “I remember sitting down with my kid’s guitar one day and going, ‘I’m not going to please anyone else but myself.’ It sounds kind of selfish, and it may be very selfish, but the point is you have to put yourself first. If you don’t do that, you cannot be successful whether it be in marriage or music or whatever,” King says.
Flogging Molly takes the North Stage.
Bouncing to a boozy strut, Atmosphere’s MC Slug dismisses his fame, drops dimes on the game and makes light of the strife he calls life. He’s the anti-Eminem, bypassing ego-rich self-aggrandizement for a very “real” dose of self-doubt, evident in the title track of his album God Loves Ugly. “If I was a kid it’d be all about coke and strippers and stupid shit like that, but here I am receiving this attention at an age where I have more rationalizing going on,” Slug says. “So when I’m in a hotel room with some 24-year-old who’s had a little too much vodka for her own good, I find myself talking about the evils of going back to the hotel room with the band. It’s as if I’m this anti-hero that’s fucking it up for the rest of my peers.”
Atmosphere graces the South Stage.
When this quintet of twentysomethings burst onto the Motor City scene, it gave those who once revered live hardcore some Peter North-worthy wood. For the first time in what seems like ages, Detroit has spawned a new appendage in said genre, and, get this, they have huge hooks! See, Bang! Bang! is a breath of rarefied air rooted in the genuine (and necessary) desire to fuck shit up.
And what’s not to adore about a band that is, as it should be, pissed off? “Our number one enemy is the Bush/Cheney organization,” scoffs guitarist Scott Stimack. “I am really disappointed with the way the United States is now viewed. Instead of having diplomacy with the world, we just shit on their face.” Hear, hear!
Bang! Bang! appears on the Local Stage.
Bear Vs. Shark
Combining hardcore’s uncooked passion, D.C.’s post-punk skronk and melodic schemes of college rock, this Michigan quartet swerves from one extreme to another like a rapid-cycling manic-depressive, threatening musical whiplash, but instead delivering the breathless exhilaration of a state-of-the-art rollercoaster. Opines guitarist/keyboardist Derek Kiesgen: “It’s not like we avoid [writing verse-chorus-verse], but why would you try to do something that’s already been done?”
Bear Vs. Shark plays the Uproar Stage.
South Bay Bessie
Michigan had its own screw-the-man behavior before meat-headed corporate grinders adopted it. Can the image of Iggy cutting himself ever be erased? In keeping with traditional rock ’n’ roll behavior, Jack White beat up Jason Stollsteimer (insert weary sigh here). Good or bad, funny or not, this is one of the reasons Jason Kotarski, 25, singer and guitarist in Flint’s get-toasted-and-gyrate-naked punk band, South Bay Bessie, focuses on the music. “You never know what the crowds want,” he says of playing Warped. “We’re playing with a bunch of metal bands.” Pause. “There wouldn’t be punk rock without groups like Alice Cooper and MC5 anyway.”
South Bay Bessie appears on the Local Stage.
Mix & Match
Like anything, the Warped good is, of course, backed with Warped bad, a backwash of rote-chording punk-pop/emo/post-core bands whose bland repetition of the familiar makes them utterly indistinguishable, focusing on self-perpetuating racket and imagery that doesn’t actually add up to anything beyond the puerile and, often, the penile. In other words, if there is no forward musical movement, there is only white noise.
For a racket rooted in the idea of Doing It Yourself, apparently one’s “own thing” ain’t so original anymore; as even a reedy-voiced dolt can see, it’s herd mentality and marketing — a bought-to-be-cool aesthetic that has generated millions for chain stores and made Hot Topic iconic. Bah!
So in the interest of keeping the din fun and “interesting,” we’ve assembled a list of handy epithets. See if you can tell which band is which by matching phrase with moniker.
(1) As tuneless as thrash and insipid as chain-store pop-punk. It’s gonna be huuuuuge, duuude.
(2) Think a sonic McDonald’s; hint: a strangely antediluvian Charlie Daniels influence.
(3) You don’t need love, you need Paxil. Band’s sophomore release is currently huddled in Billboard’s top ten.
(4) Too pussy for punks, too punk for pussies.
(5) Punks who burped up anti-Arab sentiments from the stage.
(6) “You kicked them out for being the Quakers they are,” Bad Religion bassist Jay Bentley to the audience at a show in Charlotte.
(7) An evil genius’ curious plan to turn brainy sci-fi geeks into punk rockers fails and creates Rush instead.
A. Matchbox Romance
B. Good Charlotte
D. Coheed & Cambria
F. Taking Back Sunday
G. Story of The Year
Answers: 1-G, 2-E, 3-F, 4-A, 5-C, 6-B, 7-D