Punk-rock fans got another lesson in endurance on the Warped Tour's opening weekend, landing Sunday at its usual spot at Seaside Park in Ventura, California. More than 90 bands erupted beneath an overcast sky, as new acts and established names like All-American Rejects and Andrew W.K. made for another intense sampling of hard rock, punk and hip-hop.
Making their only appearance on this year's Warped, hip-hop/rock duo 3OH!3 bounced to the main stage with a full band, igniting tough, tuneful riffs and raps to a big crowd of fans holding up the two-handed 3OH!3 salute: three fingers on each side, a big "O" in the middle. Rappers Sean Foreman and Nathaniel Motte crisscrossed the stage during "My First Kiss" (a song from the band's new Streets of Gold). And they were joined by Andrew W.K. to unleash their shared party-obsession during "House Party," as the three vocalists together shouted "Fuck the club!" and "Fuck the DJ!"
During his own set earlier in the day, Andrew W.K. delivered 30 minutes of straight-ahead hard rock & roll, opening with "It's Time to Party" while his wife, Cherie, stood center stage in a shimmery unitard, dancing and singing and punching the air like Mike Tyson. Making his third Warped trek since 2002, W.K.'s set was loud and crazed, as the singer peeled off layers of dirty white T-shirts, bouncing between his mike and keyboards during "You Will Remember Tonight." He informed the crowd, "When you're really living, you're ready to die!"
As always at Warped, many fans punching into the air were still in their teens and early 20s. "They're tender — tender skin, tender flesh," W.K. said backstage before his set. "A lot of people I meet, it's their first concert ever, the first time they've ever gone to see live bands. That's a virgin experience, and if you can be part of someone's virgin experience, that's very powerful."
On another stage, Attack Attack mutated sludgy metal riffs with sudden shifts into bright pop melody, as band members bounced to the beats. The guttural death-metal roar of singer Caleb Shomo balanced with melodic, vulnerable vocals from guitarist Johnny Franck on "Renob, Nevada," while a couple of dudes in the crowd took turns blowing into a plastic Vuvuzela horn.
Sum 41 drew one of the afternoon's biggest crowds, more raw and urgent than their studio recordings, performing "The Hell Song" and the slower "In Too Deep." Ivy League offered punked-up reggae, including a cover of Bob Marley's "Stir It Up."
Over on the "Legends Stage," a lesson in punk-rock history unfolded from the likes of the Adolescents, GBH and other loudfastrules veterans. The Dickies tackled a sped-up, ranting take on Black Sabbath's "Paranoid" and Leonard Philips sang the Who's "See Me, Feel Me" while holding a penis hand-puppet, before closing with the Dickies' signature "Gigantor."
Also fueling the mosh pit were the Angry Samoans riffing through "Hitler's Cock" and Fear delivering a brutal "I Love Livin' in the City," described by singer Lee Ving as "an old-fashioned singalong."
A different flavor of rock came from the Pretty Reckless, a new band fronted by Taylor Momsen, best-known as "Jenny Humphrey" on the CW's Gossip Girl. At age 16, and standing center stage in garters and a cream-colored corset, she carried herself like an actual rock singer, not another Hollywood dilettante. Sunday was the sixth live performance ever for the Pretty Reckless, but Momsen and her four-piece band are committed to remain with Warped for the entire summer tour, performing pop-flavored rock songs from their recent EP and upcoming album, due in August. After her set, Momsen said playing Warped would introduce her to rockers who know her only as an actress. "It's a very band-oriented tour," she said. "Feel free to judge it, but listen to it first."
All-American Rejects closed the day, stepping onstage as the sun was fading, cranking the rock hooks to an ear-shattering level. It was the band's fourth Warped in the last eight years, but 2010 already meant a new generation of young fans. "We get older, they stay the same age," guitarist Nick Wheeler joked before their set. "We just pull out the rock songs, anything over 148 bpms."
The 40-minute Rejects set was a high-energy finish, as singer Tyson Ritter shouted and paced the stage like a twitchy rock & roll revivalist. On a break from writing for their next album, the band cranked the rock hooks up high for "Swing Swing" and "Dirty Little Secret."
All-American Rejects are set to play the first three weeks of this tour, closing out with the July 18th date Warped date in Oceanport, New Jersey. At the Ventura date, Ritter wailed "You'll miss me when I'm gone" (from "The Last Song"), as fans headed back home, survivors of nine solid hours of rock.