"Pleaaaase mosh to my song," Katy Perry cooed shortly after taking the stage at Los Angeles' Club Nokia on Sunday night. The pop princess was one of a dozen acts appearing as part of the Vans Warped Tour's 15th anniversary celebration, which gathered several trek veterans, including NOFX, Bad Religion, Rise Against, All-American Rejects and Underoath, along with newcomers 3OH!3, Aggrolites and two all-star bands created just for the occasion (read: thrown together) for a one-off show and a one-time event hitting 460 movie theaters on September 17th.
"You send your best to the Olympics, this is the dream team," joked Pete Wentz, who joined Panic! at the Disco's Brendon Urie and Spencer Smith (both of whom couldn't have been older than five the year Warped launched) for a two-song set of covers. The so-called Decaydence All-Stars confidently tore through Blink-182's "Dammit," but struggled a bit with Journey's "Donâ€™t Stop Believin'," perhaps because their rehearsal only consisted of a 90-minute living room jam. "You could call it a practice," said Urie beforehand. "But even if I mess up, we're at the Warped tour — it's punk!" Added Wentz: "Once the solo kicks in, it doesn't matter how you play at all. It's the biggest karaoke track of all time!"
Other bands stuck to their own, tried-and-true catalog. The All-American Rejects offered hits like "Swing Swing" and "Move Along," Rise Against pummeled through fan favorites "The Good Left Undone" and "Savior" and Bad Religion (with Brett Gurewitz) kicked out "Do What You Want" and "Fuck Armageddon." Making a rare stage appearance was Ice T with Body Count, now consisting of entirely new members, and later with Pennywise, which recently parted ways with its singer Jim Lindbergh, and recruited NOFX's Fat Mike, Rise Against's Tim McIlrath and Bad Religion's Jay Bentley and Brooks Wackerman for a show-stopping finale of "Bro Hymn."
Indeed, the confluence of punk and pop notables past and present (Ashlee Simpson-Wentz, Rancid's Tim Armstrong and Mighty Mighty Bosstones' frontman Dickie Barrett were also spotted), all of whom shared dressing rooms and a revolving stage, was emblematic of Warped's long history of eclectic, some would even say risky bookings. You can credit — or blame — one man: founder Kevin Lyman. "There's a few haters and a lot of Warped Tour lovers," explained Pennywise guitarist Fletcher Dragge. "But Kevin must be doing something right because he gets the crowds, keeps them entertained and has always had a way of diversifying the tour. Even back in the day when punk was blowing up, Kevin had Eminem on the bill."
And on Sunday night, it was Warped '08 alum Perry who carried that torch while prancing around in a polka dot dress to the delight of a teen-heavy crowd. Sure, songs like "Ur So Gay" and "Hot N Cold" stood out lodged between a taped performance by Blink-182 and Rise Against's 20-minute slot, but at the same time, Perry seemed as if she was right at home. "[Katy] didnâ€™t have to be here," said Lyman. "She went out of her way to come and support what we do. Like we took a risk on her."
One thing all the acts had in common: a sincere appreciation for Warped as a driving force in their chosen careers — both as fans and participants. "To me, it's like a rite of passage for bands and the fans," said Wentz. "I went to it, I played it, so now I'm here to celebrate it." Offered Bad Religion's Bentley: "The biggest difference between festivals in Europe and the Warped Tour was that this was a crowd specifically designed for us. These were all punk bands, alt kids, motocross guys and kids on a half pipe — it was a community. It was also filthy, hot and disgusting, but hilarious."
To that end, there was no shortage of diarrhea stories to go around, from Ice T's admission that he played one hour-long set "holding my butt cheeks together," to Bad Religion's recollection of "The Sick," an airborne illness that spread far and wide in the summer of 2007. ("If you got it, you went down for days," Bentley fondly reminisced.) But in looking back, it was about working hard and partying harder. "You only play for 30 minutes so you're getting away with murder." the Rejects' Tyson Ritter explained. "And every night you're waiting for this crazy bohemian bus-parking-nose-to-nose party. That's why everybody says it's punk rock summer camp."