Live Report: Warped Tour

Randall's Island, New York City, August 1, 1998

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It's a hot and dry Saturday afternoon on the grungy New York City satelliteknown as Randall's Island. The Vans' Warped Tour has come to roost, bringingwith it the attendant self-mutilations and skatewear booths, and the arid moshpits are spitting up billowing clouds of dust. It's a brutal, filthy, joyous,high-energy affair. And there was music.

Here are the high 'n' low lights:

BEST BAND: "This is obviously the cool f---ing part of the show," said AmazingRoyal Crowns lead singer King Kendall, a super-smooth greasebag in pompadourand silver-studded belt who sang and rollicked like he was on fire. His voiceboomed from the far reaches of hipster hell, completely unintelligible overthe blare of his hard-rocking fellow Crowns, who nearly combusted by theirlast song, the sizzling "Do The Devil." Not just punkabilly, the Amazing RoyalCrowns make killer rock & roll, as incendiary and honest as any music you'relikely to find.

WORST BAND: Cherry Poppin' Daddies lead singer Steve Perry held court with anannoying swagger and a styrene smile rubber cemented to his face, smirking hisway through anemic attempts at jump blues. This band embodies everythingthat's wrong with the swing revival: They're phony, boring, sloppy and theythink they're a punk band. Worst of all, they've fooled their fans intobelieving it.

BEST PARTY: Picture Devo meets Loony Tunes with the production values ofMexican pro wrestling, and you'll get a good idea of what the Aquabats are allabout. Their frantic brand of novelty rock was solidly skanking, and thecostumed antics -- dancing with a guy in a chicken suit, inviting "the kids"to hunker down for story time -- were somehow very endearing. The crowdquickly got into the spirit, hissing and booing at "the insane clown" whoappeared on stage, berating the fans for not being as cool as the kids atOzzfest.

SECOND BEST PARTY: For about forty-five minutes, a makeshift band, includingmembers of Bad Religion and NOFX, invited fans to join them on stage for around of "punk rock karaoke." A brutish looking fellow barked his way throughFear's "I Love Living In the City," while a timid young woman gave a modest,almost inaudible rendition of the Ramones' "Sheena Is a Punk Rocker."Beautiful musical democracy.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT: As the best-selling act on the tour, expectations werehigh for Rancid. Unfortunately, the sloping ground in front of the main stageand dust emanating from the pit made it nearly impossible to see the band.Worse, what could be heard was less then spectacular, as they limped throughthirty half-hearted minutes of new material peppered by some predictable oldfavorites. Maybe they're just burnt out by the rigors of Warped, but Rancid'sgot some work to do if they're to maintain their reputation as one of rock'smost boisterous and fiery acts.

SECOND BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT: It must be great to be the Specials. You're alegend in a style of music enjoying a popular resurgence, and you've earned aheadlining spot on one of the summer's biggest package tours. But you leantowards your newer, blander material in an effort to lure the kids to yourlatest album, while virtually ignoring your classics. There were flashes ofbrilliance -- dedicating "A Message to You Rudy" to New York's favorite rudeboy, Mayor Rudy Giuliani -- but the shameless product plugging seemed sort ofhypocritical. Now who's working for the rat race?

HONORABLE MENTIONS: Bad Religion and NOFX, both of whom seemed to be having ablast on stage, and spreading the fever to the fans. Not that they neededfurther encouragement to get in a partying mood; just the fact that it waspunk rock in the summertime is all the reason anyone could need.