Live - Warped Tour @ First Midwest Bank Amphitheatre | Chicago

Warped Tour - Chicago - July 28th, 2007

The first Warped Tour was a stage and a couple of skate ramps in a parking lot, now, a dozen years later, it's its own cottage industry, comprising ten stages, a village of tents, scores of vendors, thousands of fans and more sideshow attractions than Coney Island. The Chicago stop of the annual punk-o-rama was no different, with over 20,000 fans, both young and old, converging in the summer heat to see their heroes and, in some cases, crown new ones.

Unlike say Lollapalooza or Siren Festival, there's no way of planning who you are going to see in advance, because, as has become tradition, the day's lineup is not decided upon until that very morning. Thanks to this random set time format, we missed two of the group we were most keen on seeing; Circa Survive and Poison the Well. We heard snippets of each while waiting to park and sign in to get our passes/credentials, but it's not really the same. The rotating set time idea Is a cool concept in theory, but when it bites you in the ass in situations like this, it's also easy to bitch about. Having seen them both multiple times before, we'll assume, for all practical purposes, that they were great.

After being given 14 different sets of directions to the press check-in tent, we finally made it inside and hoofed it at light speed to catch the second half of Biffy Clyro's set on the stage. The Scottish firebrand were in top form, blasting out a clutch of numbers from the fantastic, though not yet domestically released, Puzzle. Though the crowd was a bit sparse (to be fair, tons of punters were still filing in), everyone who was there seemed extremely impressed, walking away with a new favourite band of Scots to call their own.

We wanted to see Tonight The Prom just because we liked the name and hoped they would perform in powder blue tuxedos, but they played too early and attempts to find them in the press area and barrage them with questions about '80s John Hughes movies were unsuccessful.

Special thanks to the security guard at the press entrance for giving me his copy of the day's schedule; we would have been hopelessly lost without it.

Now that we had at least a small semblance of where to head, we walked to the Lucky stage to catch SoCal ghoul punks Tiger Army, who, predictably, drew a huge crowd to witness their AFI-meets-rockabilly stage spectacular. Not being the world's biggest fan, I tolerated their set, which, while solid, made very little impact on me personally. However, the crowd lapped it up, going especially bonkers during "Fuck the World" and a smattering of newer material, and to be fair, even though I was thoroughly nonplussed by the music, the band did have lovely corpse paint and fishnets.

Affable Boston ska-punks Big D and the Kids Table were next, but not before we had to sit through most of Kaddisfly's intensely grating hippie-hardcore. We were really only half listening, but when their singer announced they had two "jams" left, we quit paying attention entirely.

Big D and his band of merry ska misfits stormed the stage with energy to burn and horns-a-plenty, but the completely atrocious house mix meant all we heard were trombones, snare hits and a growling bass rumble. After three songs of nearly inaudible vocals and phantom guitars we'd had enough, so we headed for greener,(and hopefully better sounding) pastures.

Local piano-punks Dr. Manhattan are those (purportedly) greener pastures, and while their energetic piano-inflected pop-punk conjures memories of both Something Corporate and Koufax, they're just really not doing it for us today. They're recent Vagrant signees, so expect to see their smiling faces peering back at you from every outlet imaginable in the next 6 months or so. The bass player's wicked 'stache was the definite highlight of their set.

While downing a $6.00 Mountain Dew, we are reminded how stung we are that we missed Circa Survive when two kids in line begin talking about how amazing they sounded. Maybe if our moms had dropped us off, we too could have seen Anthony Green and his troops in action.

For a blast from the past we went to the Hurley stage to catch Hot Rod Circuit do their thing. They're one of those bands we always loved growing up and had seen 100 times opening for bands like Piebald and the Get Up Kids, so it was all rather nostalgic seeing them still stalking stages 5 years later. They were running super-behind on that stage, and HRC didn't even begin until they were supposed to end, so after a few songs of jubilant pop-punk delivered by Andy Jackson and company, we had to depart to fight our way through the sea of people waiting to see Chiodos.

Arguably the biggest draw of the day, Michigan-bred prog-screamo powerhouse Chiodos were greeted with massive and rapturous applause, a swell of kids stampeding to the front of the stage as they began. We loved All's Well That Ends Well and are eagerly anticipating the forthcoming Bone Palace Ballet, but not enough to fight 5,000 screaming kids to get to the front of the stage. A whirl of hair and manic energy meets crushing riffs and majestic keyboard lines, all the while Craig Owens wailing like a banshee one minute and crooning like a wounded lounge singer the next. It's all quite grandiose, and after they play "There's No Penguins In Alaska" and a handful of new tracks, we are satisfied and set across the field to catch Alkaline Trio.

This is the first date on Alkaline's Warped run, and as they know they're playing for the hometown crowd, they give us a set that spans their decade-long history, with a few well-placed gems tossed in for good measure. Opening with "Burn" and hurtling straight through a set that includes "Old School Reasons", "Private Eye" and "We've Had Enough", they're in top form, Danny and Matt trading verses like the old pro's they are, and looking dapper to boot. They could pretty much come out and sing Christmas carols and nobody would mind. Tuneful, macabre and bursting with boozy and blurry lyrical couplets, Alkaline Trio are here to prove that, even after ten years, nobody does it better. Skiba also gets the best dressed of the day nod for his chic black-and-turquoise shirt and tie/sunglasses combo.

Big hair and even bigger riffs were the order of the day for prog-punk figureheads Coheed And Cambria who, though they have a new album out in the fall, played a familiar and hit-laden midday set to a huge crowd on the 13 Stage. Opening with a titanic version of "Welcome Home", the band's technical zeal was in full bloom, with blazing guitar solos and a huge crest of swooping strings pounding home the song's "Kashmir"-esque drive. "The Suffering" and "A Favor House Atlantic" both won rapturous applause, but it was "In Keeping Secrets Of Silent Earth: 3" and a new song ("Your Free, Run Home") that were the real standouts. After a half hour they were just getting warmed up, but alas, their time was up and they left the stage, retreating back into their world of Claudio's creation.

After decamping to the pavilion to seek refuge and seats, we found ourselves in the midst of Bless The Fall's blazing set of twin guitar and double-bass rumbling metalcore. The kids up front were going apeshit, pointing, screaming and dare we say, testifying? We were heartily enjoying their battering noise when their lead singer dedicated the next song to "his best friend, Jesus Christ" and we were instantly knocked for a loop; we didn't think Ferret had any Christian metalcore bands. I guess you do learn something new everyday. Could Ferret become the new Solid State? Discuss.

Nobody playing the festival sold more shirts than Boys Like Girls, because we saw no less than 300 kids wearing their brightly hued and cartoon-festooned apparel throughout the day. We were inexplicably in the pavilion as they began their set and the sea of shrieking teenage girls were positively Beatle-esque in their fervor and decibel level. After two songs of their enamel-destroying pop-punk we decided that we don't get it, are jaded bastards, and move on to the next stop on our tour.

Undoubtedly, show of the day honors go to new UK hardcore gods Gallows, who, despite coming on over 40 minutes late, played not only as if it were their last show ever, but as if it were their final moments on Earth. Lead singer Frank Carter is Johnny Rotten, Henry Rollins and Ian Svenonius all wrapped up into one diminutive, flame-haired and heavily tattooed package. His feral energy ignited the stage from the moment he stepped foot onto it, never letting up until he crashed headlong into the ground during the final seconds of set closer "Orchestra Of Wolves". His glib stage banter also was the most enjoyable of the day, spouting lines like, 'our album is better than most of the shit you spit out over here' and 'if you don't start a circle pit I'll come down there and start one for you" (which he did) as well as several other gems we shan't repeat here. Next time they're within 100 miles of where you live go see them, otherwise, prepare to live the rest of your days knowing you missed out on one of the most important hardcore bands of the past ten years.

We stopped very briefly to watch hotly-tipped pop-punkers Scenes From A Movie on the Ernie Ball stage, and while we only heard about five minutes of their set, we can safely say that they should be tearing up the airwaves sooner rather than later. Their brand of roiling pop-punk moves fast and furious, teaming chugga-chugga guitars and tag-team vocals into mindlessly enthralling pop firebombs. Fans of New Found Glory and Motion City Soundtrack, say hello to your new favorite obsession.

As the sun was setting, we went to check out frantic L.A. art-punks The Matches, who were the last band of the day on the stage. While we weren't quite sure how they were going to pull off the heady and schizophrenic Decomposer material live, they did it with both panache and aplomb, revving up the jaunty "Shoot Me In The Smile" and "What Katie Said" into full-blown rock 'n' roll destroyers. Even the normally wistful "Salty Eyes" received a punk enema, with an army of distortion-ravaged guitars and frenetic drumming crashing in at the end to bring the whole thing tumbling down. Suffice to say, we were all duly impressed and kicking ourselves for having missed the band the several times they had already come through town.

Escape The Fate are the last band of the day we see, and sometime in the last 6 months they're become one of the biggest bands around, with mountains of kids crawling over one another to get a glimpse of the band as they close out the Hurley stage. They're the new AFI, or so we hear, perhaps they're just the old Aiden, we're not sure, but at any rate, eyeliner and gallows punk are in high supply here, and after nearly being kicked in the face by a trio of doc marten wearing goths, we decide that our day is done and we head into the sunset to find bottled water that doesn't cost $4 and a burger that we don't need to swipe our debit card to purchase.

Underoath and Killswitch Engage are the two remaining bands on the Lucky/13 stages, but as we're not interested in getting our asses handed to us by the KSE meathead brigade, or swarmed by the Underoath crazies, we decide to pack it in and leave the coverage of those bands to folks more qualified than us; those who actually stuck around to see them.

As always, a good time is had by all, and we arrive at the car, feet hurting, ears ringing, dirty, stinking, sunburned and just slightly bruised - the only way to do it in our book. Another successful Warped Tour on the books for us, and we can't wait to do it again next year.


Live - Warped Tour @ First Midwest Bank Amphitheatre | Chicago