On the last leg of 46 dates in 56 days, Warped Tour 13 converges on a pleasantly sunny Columbia Meadows in Deer Island, OR, about 40 miles north of Portland. Today bears a noticeable break from what has been almost constant 100+ degree heat for dozens of bands and hundreds of individuals, both musicians and support.
Traffic was a bit nightmarish getting into the venue, as organizers opted to use traffic cones to create a several miles-long turning lane in the center of what was meant to be a two-lane road. This is causing massive confusion for people both trying to reach the venue and for those wishing they could have avoided it. After nearly an hour navigating the arterial corral, we eventually find ourselves at a pleasantly expansive and easily negotiated venue.
After verifying set times, we head out to catch the first gigs of the day, and en route run into Lee Barratt, drummer for Gallows. Today’s will be their final set on the tour, as they fly home for the Kerrang! Awards (which they win—as it will turn out—for Best British Newcomer) and will be playing Reading and Leeds Festivals in their homeland. Barratt admits he’s anxious to get home from this, as well as for all of that.
He comes clean with regard to the effects of the grueling tour on the five fair lads of Gallows. “It’s been a long, hard trek for us. We’re extremely proud of ourselves for coming through it. It’s the longest, hardest tour we’ll ever do.” Asked if any of the dates stood out in particular, Barratt says without hesitation, “Chicago was awesome. We played quite late, at the same time as Bad Religion, but we still got really, really big crowds.”
Things get off to a bit of a late start with regard to set times. We approach the main stage to catch Tiger Army, but find that Philadelphia’s The Starting Line is still pounding out their set. Playing heartfelt pop punk, they don’t stand out much musically, but singer/bassist Kenny Vasoli, while sounding notably reminiscent of Tom DeLonge, has a great presence. It’s a pleasant surprise to catch the tail end of their set.
L.A.’s Tiger Army pushes the envelope a bit, looking hands-down rockabilly with slicked hair and tightly rolled sleeves; but vocally driven balladeering is the dominant style. Despite their look (and musical history), Jeff Rofredo’s upright bass isn’t played in the psycho-billy slap mode one would have come to expect; and the tattooed Nick 13’s lyricism has taken on an ominous, semi-emo manner. Um, way to switch it up, boys!
Meanwhile, David McWane is munching down a waffle before he gets on stage to front the hyperactive Boston, MA outfit Big D and the Kids Table. Today’s gig will also be their final show of the tour before they head out for dates in the UK. Asked what has been the thrill of tour this year, McWane says it has been the band’s side-project of alerting folks to select social issues. “We wanted to do a summer of more than just entertain, because we’ve done Warped Tour before; so we got together with Climate Crisis and Save Darfur.” he explains. “We got some banners for the stage, we got a lot of pamphlets that we handed out; we got a bio-diesel bus. What I was most excited about was that all our pre-planning worked, and it’s been awesome.”
Echoing Gallows’ Barratt, McWane nominates Chicago as a standout show. “Chicago people are just an energetic people. In some states, they just stand there—and they’re psyched, and they buy merch—but there’s something in the culture of the city that they just don’t lash out. In places like Orlando and Chicago they always go crazy.”
True to their Bostonian roots, Big D and the Kids table go large, with a spastic horn section and a punk-ska onslaught that is clearly inspired by predecessors, The Mighty Might Bosstones. Big D… may be trying to spread the word on some important issues, but it’s still a party…
Next up we catch The Matches from Oakland, CA. These guys are undeniably East Bay pop-punk, complete with a little disjointedness in their sound, an oddball sense of humor and a complete lack of apprehension for being silly or self-deprecating. Having been around for some time now, they’ve refined a sound that some would debate the validity of being referred to as ‘punk’, but we’re not on that side of the debate. Simply being rude and wearing eyeliner? That’s Hot Topic shit; but playing ferociously with your heart (and maybe a little snot) on your sleeve? That’ll do just fine for us.
When asked for a tour highlight, Matches vocalist/guitarist Shaun Harris declared, “Today. Because the weather didn’t drive us underground and into buses; it’s beautiful outside. Today is also good, because I can’t remember any of the rest of the trip… a little too much to drink, and a little too little sleep.” Harris then shows us a photo that a fan gave him after she got her face busted up one of their raucous shows. She doesn’t look bummed in the least (see below).
We’re gearing up for Gallows’ Warped Tour finale, and find bassist Stu Gili-Ross about to get tattooed in a trailer backstage. Our first encounter with Gili-Ross was in Austin, TX this past March, where he was getting his band’s name inked into the inside of his lower lip (which we verify remains intact). This time he’s gone a bit more conventional with a piece on his forearm.
Asked for his tour highlight, he culled all the way back to day one, in Ventura. “When Keith Morris from the Circle Jerks told everybody to check out our band ‘cuz we rule,” he says. “That was about the best thing ever.”
Gili-Ross also confirmed rumors that the boys made quite a spectacle of themselves when a Warped date was canceled due to rain in Houston, Texas. “Yeah, we did. It was fantastic. Craig (Jennings) who manages us and Funeral for a Friend took us out to a chick bar and spent about ten grand, I think.” Asked if that will come out of the band’s pocket later, Gili-Ross laughed, “Probably, probably.” The stocky, olive-skinned bassist, who has presumably faired better than his emaciated bandmates, doesn’t share drummer Barrat’s enthusiasm about getting back home. He smiles sarcastically, “I think we could do this for another six weeks.”
Gallows begins to assemble for their set, and their entourage—as well as a quickly gathering press posse—are swarming. Everyone knows this is going to be quite a send-off. After a thorough list of ‘thanks’ to the members of Warped crew and Gallows’ team that have supported them on the tour, the band cranks out their now familiar set with an energy and a level of acrobatics that exceeds any of their American shows thus far.
Singer Frank Carter spends almost the entire show in the pit, inciting his own mosh circles and ensnaring his audience and dragging them to the ground with his mic cord. During their cover of Black Flag’s “Nervous Breakdown,” Carter immerges with blood trickling on his forehead.
Three songs later, while performing the band’s anthem “Orchestra of Wolves,’ the bit of blood becomes long forgotten as a hulking man covered from in tattoos walks across the stage and pulls Carter’s leg out from under him. Frank loses his mic and falls flat onto his back. The crazed assailant pounces on the wiry frontman and starts wailing with haymakers by the dozen in the face and kidneys of tiny, helpless Frank.
The remaining Carters on stage (Frank’s brothers—guitarist Steph, and Johnny, who is on tour shooting video and assisting management) try to intervene, but there’s no use. The lunatic pulls Frank off the five foot stage by his foot, and he falls onto his back on the gravel below.
Frank manages to stand up a bit at this point, and dirt and blood are visible on his back. The struggle continues for some time, and Frank eventually manages to get over on the attacker, delivering a swift return of face-wailing before the mess breaks up.
Frank regains his microphone and says with an ear to ear grin, “I’ve wanted that all fuckin’ summer. Thank you.” They go back into “Orchestra…” right where it left off, and after a long, audience-participation ending, the two scrappers exit stage left, arms around each other’s shoulders, clearly proud of their antics.
Sidestage, Frank describes the set, chest heaving, still panting and sweaty, “An absolute nightmare from start to finish: that’s a Gallows show.” We spoke with tour manager Mike Bobroff, who confirmed that the brute who had stormed the stage was Oliver Peck from Dallas. He and Frank are fellow tattoo artists, and have been friends for some time.
Shortly the whole Gallows entourage is bidding tender farewells as they board their Warped bus for the last time. Bobroff, trying to get the gushing goodbyes to a speedy end, shouts, “Jesus Christ, people; they aren’t going to fucking Iraq! They’ll be back in a month!” Finally he instructs the bus driver to intervene. The driver says calmly “Um, you guys just paid me another $200.” Upon hearing this, Frank commands, “Let’s get the fuck out of here!” and the band files aboard the bus.
This might seem like the climax for the day—and for many it is—but another three hours of music remains, so we saunter on to check out adjacent stages.
Clearly, Boys Like Girls are not worried about toughness; cute is what they aim for. They’re having a great time, and it shows; but after the mayhem we just witnessed, they’re striking a bit pansy. So we head over to the mainstage, where Bad Religion is playing.
Having caught them three times this tour, there’s just not a whole lot more to say about them than, ‘they are Bad Religion.’ If you don’t know now, you might just never. One thing is certain about these old-timers: staying power. It’s amazing to see kids in their early teens at their shows, singing along with every lyric.
Killswitch Engage follows immediately, and we hope to be thoroughly entertained by them, as their antics were intriguing from a distance on Warped dates previous. We’re momentarily thrilled by guitarist Adam Dutkiewicz’s Viking helmet and ubiquitous Warped Tour short-shorts (after this many dates in the hot sun, many members of the tour have made a contest out of just how much ball they’re willing to bare.) But the best part of this band is just the shit you hear them scream from half way across the venue. But beyond that—and it may not be their fault—the sum of their actions are just a bit un-engaging for the low blood sugar ‘Oprah hour’ of the day.
After all the mayhem and carnage, both physical and aural, it is Flogging Molly that pulls together the ingredients within our Warped tour wrap-up, which is a perfect ending to the day and the season. Their stage-full of endlessly energetic musicians holds the attention of the weariest of concert-goers, and the accessibility of their music—whether it’s just a jig or a political anthem—envelopes the audience every time. We come together for all of this one more time, and, again, disband exhausted, sunburned; starving, yet totally satiated.
As we trudge back through the field of grass known as the parking lot, there’s no sense of longing for an encore. It’s been satisfying, but it’s been long. Having six stages of constant music, one is hard-pressed to not find an act they want to see at virtually every moment; and in the off-chance that this occurs, there are a million other activities to check out.
It’s hard to imagine being a musician on this trek for two solid months; but for the fan, Warped Tour, after 13 years, has proved itself to still be well worth its ticket price.