For more than a decade, the Vans Warped Tour has brought punk rock and a mish-mash of other musical outcasts to the masses, showcasing old standbys and new up-and-comers from coast to coast. And, in the finest fuck-you tradition of its punk forefathers, pretty much anything goes, from guys who routinely strip down on stage to girls who convince the dudes in the audience to do the same. You'll find a diversity of music on the tour hard to come by anywhere else, more ink than you can shake a stick at, and plenty of pretty boys and girls of all ages.
And did we mention the bad-ass bands? There are more than 200 groups playing 40-plus dates nationwide this summer. Whether you're a dyed-in-the-wool pro at punk festivals or are ready to get your Warped cherry popped, Out has done the dirty work and picked out the must-see shows.
(Once you're properly motivated by the music, be sure to check out our survival guide and stay tuned next week for Out's list of queer bands we think should be on the Warped roster.)
MXPX: Stalwarts of the scene, Bremerton, Washington's most famous export has been a fixture of the tour. These skater punks have been around the block a time or two, but don't let a gray hair or two fool you -- they know how to work a crowd.
Pennywise: How can you not love a band that takes its name from the Big Bad at the center of Stephen King's It?! We promise, though, no scary clowns here, just a band going two decades strong that still knows how to make you move.
The Vandals: The elder statesmen of the tour, the Vandals may not sing about political woes or social injustice, but they do prove that punk isn't just the soundtrack for disenchanted teenagers. This is music that guarantees a good time.
Bands on the Rebound:
The Action Design (Agent M and Matt McKinney of Tsunami Bomb): After six grueling years of constant touring and lineup changes that eventually left the band without any of its founding members, cult favorites Tsunami Bomb broke up in 2005, citing personality and creative conflicts and trouble with the business end of the industry. In 2006, lead vocalist Emily Whitehurst (a.k.a the iconic Agent M) and bassist Matt McKinney went on to form The Action Design. While similarities exist between the two bands, tAD incorporates pop and dance elements into its new vision.
Angels and Airwaves (Tom Delonge of blink-182): Delonge may have left behind the often outrageous and always amusing stage antics of his former band, blink-182 -- we most miss his constant flirting with bassist Mark Hoppus, who formed the band +44 after winning blink drummer Travis Barker in the divorce -- but he still knows how to have a good time. AVA's music is some of the most radio-friendly on the tour, and Delonge's years of experience equates to an always-entertaining show. Plus, he's got legs that go for miles.
The Color Fred (Fred Mascherino, Taking Back Sunday): Formerly TBS' lead guitarist, Fred Mascherino left in 2007, citing the infamous artistic differences. And like his disgruntled cohorts Jesse Lacey of Brand New and John Nolan of Straylight Run, Fred's solo project is full of infectious hooks and catchy lyrics, proving that pop doesn't have to be a four letter word.
The Bouncing Souls: If you're lucky enough to catch these guys on tour, make sure you're Red Bulled-up in preparation. These Jersey boys brought pogo back. For those following along at home, make sure to check out Candy and their cover of I Know What Boys Like.
HorrorPops: Pop punk meets psychobilly, and a good time is had by all. Lead singer Patricia Day's sultry voice pulls you in, and the catchy tunes and rocking beat don't let go. A fantastic live band and a great addition to the tour.
Reel Big Fish: Ska punk in the best of the SoCal tradition, these third-wavers are a multi-generational guilty pleasure. Admitting to a familiarity with their discography may not win you any street cred, but it does show you know how to have a good time.
Against Me!: Florida anarcho-punk at its hard-rocking finest. Tom Gabel and his merry band of brothers uphold the finest in punk tradition, marrying relevant and biting lyrics with a driving beat that resonates from your head to your heart to your toes. Side bonus: They're cute, too.
Anberlin: Hauntingly gorgeous harmonies, meet compelling and thoughtful lyrics. Anberlin's third full-length release, Cities, has impeccable guitar work and along with lead singer Stephen Christian's clear voice and clearer vision, this band is well-poised for the success their talent merits.
Motion City Soundtrack: Unabashedly intelligent, nakedly confessional, and quirkily adorable -- that goes for both the music and the band. The members of Motion City Soundtrack wear their hearts on their sleeves and they work it like nobody's business.
Katy Perry: Exploding onto the scene with her delightfully naughty UR So Gay, and 2008's smash follow-up I Kissed A Girl -- both months before her debut album was even released -- Ms. Perry's warm bright voice is the only thing about her that's still gospel-pure. And guess what? We like it. [Read Out.com's interview with Perry here.]
Charlotte Sometimes: While the stage name comes from a children's book, her rich smooth vocals are anything but childish. The combination of artless vulnerability and sophisticated melody makes Charlotte Sometimes a pleasure without a hint of guilt.
Paige Wood: Brigitte Bardot by way of Joan Jett, this glossy blonde crooner knows when edge is more satisfying than polish. The breathy insinuating purr and eccentric jazzy orchestration of Repetition will leave you hungry to experience it all over again.
Be Your Own Pet: Delivering cheerfully snotty lyrics with a classic '70s punk flavor, Jemima Pearl's vocals are reminiscent of Sleater-Kinney or Cadallaca. If you're looking for candy-bright melody with an twist of crude to cut the sweetness, look no further.
Cobra Starship: Okay, okay, we all know that Gabe Saporta's a hottie, and the rest of the band isn't so hard to look at either. But if they grab you with their looks, they'll keep you moving on your feet with their particular flavor of indie dance-rock. [Read Out.com's interview with Saporta here.]
The Academy Is: Another Chicago export and Fueled By Ramen labelmate of Cobra, William Beckett and his crew rock their skinny, skinny jeans and the crowd in tandem.
Paramore: Riding on the success of their second album, Riot!, Hayley Williams and her boys bring the power-pop punk effect. With infectious, catchy hits like Crushcrushcrush and Misery Business, these kids have brought a fresh burst of energy to the scene.
Gym Class Heroes: If you like a side of hip hop with your punk, Gym Class Heroes offer a genre-melting blend of catchy hooks and screaming guitar riffs.
Jack's Mannequin: A side project of Something Corporate's Andrew McMahon, Jack's Mannequin has carved out a niche of their own. McMahon's piano playing gives this outfit a unique sound on the tour, and his live shows offer a sense of intimacy and connection you may be hard pressed to find anywhere else.
Ones to Watch:
The Gaslight Anthem: Expect instant classic working-class anthems. You can hear these Jersey boys' debt to Bruce Springsteen in the bluesy storytelling vibe of their lyrics, but they bring a distinctly punk sensibility to the tales of everyday losses and triumphs. And now, a moment of shallowness: they're not hard to look at either.
Jeffree Star: We can't in good conscience actually recommend Jeffree's techno-lite music, but as the only out queer performer we know of to not only survive a Warped Tour but come back for more, we have to acknowledge he's got balls of (pink) steel. He's also likely to make out with any boy in a band he shares a stage with. [Read Popnography's review of his Bamboozle performance here.]
Anarbor: Cheerful and bouncy pop-punk-indie act hailing from Phoeniz. With the lovely and talented Slade Echeverri and Jessica Myers sharing vocal duties, Anarbor offers both smooth and catchy melodies and equal-opportunity eye candy. Fans of Cobra Starship and The Hush Sound will definitely find something to like here.
Say Anything: The brainchild of Max Bemis, Say Anything's self-titled debut was a wickedly funny concept album with unexpected depths, and his sophomore work In Defense of the Genre is no less ambitious in scope. Full of biting satire on fame, the music industry and human frailty, you can still bang your head to it -- no small achievement.
Beat Union: Hailing from the UK, this Birmingham quartet brings the neo-New Wave in a big way, forcibly reminding a nostalgic listener of The Police, and possibly also Tears for Fears. They make for an interesting change of pace in amongst the more traditional hardcore acts of Warped, and the other retro vibe of the MTV darlings. Recommended.