For more than six years now, a very dear friend of mine has been trying to save me from what he calls ‘musical stagnation’, a chronic condition characterized by a music collection that is more than eighty percent ‘classic’. So Greg and I went to the Vans Warped Tour at Tinley Park (Chicago) this past weekend as his last-ditch effort to expose me to new music, and I was completely unimpressed.
Less than forty-eight hours after seeing Alice Cooper and Iron Maiden, 40 bands in ten hours didn’t come close to making an impact. It was, in this metal-head’s honest opinion, a music festival for the ADD generation, with too many things going on at once and music not even being the most important part.
We arrived at First Midwest Bank Amphitheater in Tinley Park around noon, and the party was already well underway. For two dollars you can BUY a copy of the schedule for the day, or you can just wander around until you see the giant Wall of Bands. This wall lists all bands according to their approximate starting times and locations. This leads to the second battle, finding which stage is which. (Maps are also $2). The Wall listed five different stages, but there were really six if you include the Ernie Ball Battle of the Bands stage. I walked in to the festival with a working knowledge of Taking Back Sunday and a profound respect for The Used (being one of my only ‘modern’ favorites). It was only 1PM, and The Used was playing at 4:15 while Taking Back Sunday was playing acoustically at 3:30 and plugged in at 4:50. This left almost three hours to kill. Trust me, there was plenty to do doing these three hours.
Every band, and almost every record label, had their own tent. The band could actually be sitting in their tent as you were walking by (as I learned when I was introduced to Yellowcard, who you should be paying more attention to, but there was no line). You learn very quickly to walk around with your hands in your pockets, otherwise someone will try to hand you something or pull you into a tent. Greg and I could have played a guitar or bass as there were twelve hanging on the wall in one tent, which I believe wanted to sell me a new game so I could play through my Xbox or Playstation. We also could have hopped up on some skateboards and taken to the half-pipe, conveniently set up near the firehose as the temperature topped out at 105 degrees. We entered to win concert tickets, a Kia Soul, a CD compilation of every band playing that day, and several other conciliation prizes available to anyone willing to give up their email address. We also got free condoms, free beef jerky, free Magic Cards (really), and several cards, stickers, and other such litter that mostly wound up all over the ground. Or we could have purchased bandanas, umbrellas, sunglasses, and every CD ever put out by the record labels represented there.
But, silly me, I actually wanted to see some bands! This is the moment when Warped Tour and I stopped getting along. We found the Taking Back Sunday acoustic set in the Kia Lounge, but as the show was acoustic and the place was packed, we actually saw nothing and heard very little. That didn’t matter as they only played for thirty minutes anyway. We then had ten minutes to get to the other Kia Stage (really, they could have just said ‘main stage’, but Kia needs a dime, I guess). I did make it to The Used, but it is a good thing I didn’t blink because they played less than one hour. Nothing off the new album, no bells and whistles, just The Used, crammed onto the stage with their own gear, as well as the gear of everyone before them and after them. Granted, they were good, and their music and craftsmanship is solid, but I walked away completely unsatisfied. And less than half of the crowd was standing, let alone singing or cheering.
I had to walk quickly, because I had to get to the THIRD KIA STAGE where Taking Back Sunday was already playing. By the time they were done, so was I. I have been told that this is a fairly typical Warped Tour experience, with each band doing whatever it takes so you will pay attention. But no one is paying attention to the music. If you want me to buy these albums, let the bands play for longer. If I want to be inundated with advertisements, I will watch television. If I want to buy cheap crap, I’ll go to the flea market. And I feel sorry for those people who wanted to see bands playing at the same time at opposite ends of the grounds. I love you, Greg, but I’m going to see KISS and Motley Crue. They may be trying to sell themselves, but they put on a show while they do it.
Is that too much to ask?
Check out our interview with Miss May I at Warped Tour, Ventura (CA) stop.