Gig/Concert: Van’s Warped Tour 2008
Venue: The Flats at Arrow Hall, Mississauga, ON, Canada
Date: 19 July 2008
Headliners: Angels & Airwaves, The Bronx, Pennywise, Protest The Hero, Norma Jean, Katy Perry
In one word: Bronx!
The Warped Tour location for this year’s Toronto date was once again in a less than convenient location – The Flats (fields) at Arrow Hall in Mississauga. Mississauga is an area west of Toronto, and the home of Toronto Pearson international airport. In recent years the Warped locale for the Toronto market has been in Barrie, which is 100k’s north of the city, so at least Mississauga was closer. But still this wasn’t the Toronto city centre location that fans had wanted: Warped had originally been slated to be at Downsview Park this year, which would have meant a less arduous journey for those traveling by public transport, like myself. Maybe next year Warped will actually be in Toronto city proper.
I arrived at just before noon and was greeted by the familiar sight of a huge snake of people lining-up. Thankfully though, I was one of the lucky gits with a press pass, so I was able to smugly walk past the line and get in through the side entrance. I noticed that the vast majority of fans attending Warped this year were teenagers – ok, not a surprise but there was a bigger mix of ages two years ago when I was last at Warped, which perhaps had something to do with the line-up this year. My first stop was to go inside one of the halls on the grounds to find my way to the press area. This building was also the setting of the beer garden, and a rest area that provides refuge for revelers to hide from the elements: first the scorching sun, then the late afternoon two hour downpour of rain.
I made a note of set times and stages for the bands I was most interested in seeing, then made an exit back out into the hot midday sun for a quick charge around the grounds to catch some bands. I had 40 minutes to kill before I’d have to go back indoors to speak with The Bronx who were scheduled for interviews at 1pm. This time passed before I knew it and then I was back inside for over an hour. I waited my turn to speak to Matt Caugthtran the lead singer of The Bronx, then I waited again for Protest The Hero who had a 2pm interview slot. Thankfully I snagged the first interview with Protest frontman Rody Walker, then 10 minutes later I was heading outside and ready to see some bands. I made a beeline for the left-side Main stage where The Bronx were on at 2.30.
The Bronx were immense. It was an intense display from the L.A. hardcore band, spearheaded by the singer Matt whose energy went ripping through the crowd, attacking senses and raising pulses. Yeah, you better not stand still and tap your foot. This is The motherfucking Bronx, so you better throw yourself into it: head first, feet first, whatever. Most the crowd let go of themselves enough to be a part it…. like they even had a choice anyway.
Matt indulged in a little crowd surfing early on, and by the end of their set he was over the barrier again, demanding the crowd circle him and mosh like mothers. Matt was engulfed by the pit that he created, then spat out with volcanic venom, rising up and over his audience. Every song sounded great. “Knifemen”, “Shitty Future”, “Heart Attack American”… all these Bronx ace’s hit home. They were the best band of the day.
“It had been a hot and humid day in Mississauga, but now dark clouds filled the skies and the gods let loose with their giant watering cans. From a distance I saw The Devils Wears Prada lure many kids out of the rain to defy the gods and enjoy their set.”
The next band I saw were TAT, who were playing on the small skate ramp stage. This trio from London, England are fronted by singer and guitarist Tatiana. They got their break on Warped Tour ’06 and have been building a name for themselves by making America their touring home. This was info that I found out afterwards, because before I walked over to see them play I knew nothing about them. It was music that drew me close, then when I saw the hot girl singing and playing guitar I naturally got closer.
TAT are unashamedly named after, and built around, their singer and guitarist Tatiana DeMaria. They played to a very small crowd, perhaps 40 at its peak and that’s probably even being generous. The band reacted to the small crowd with good humour and played a set worthy of a much bigger audience. Songs like Pessimist and I Don’t Want To Love You charge along with a feisty melodic punk bliss, while Road To Paradise has an anthemic quality to it with its slower build-up. Tatiana is more than adept at delivering some decent guitar riffs to accompany her vocals, whilst Nick Kent on bass and drummer Jake Reed complete a line-up that seem destined for bigger things.
After seeing TAT I had to go grab something to eat, because hunger was kicking in. I’d skipped breakfast and not eaten since the day before. I stood in a line for half an hour to get a slice of pizza and a bottle of cola, and shortly after this the weather changed. It had been a hot and humid day in Mississauga, but now dark clouds filled the skies and the gods let loose with their giant watering cans. I ran for cover and stood under the shelter of a doorway entrance, many others did the same, and even more people were inside the main hall. From a distance I saw The Devils Wears Prada lure many kids out of the rain to defy the gods and enjoy their set.
Eventually the rain ceased and I headed out of cover to see and hear some more bands. I caught a few songs from Black Lungs who were on the Union stage. Black Lungs is a side project created by Alexisonfire guitarist Wade MacNeil, and the music is a step away from Alexis’ screamo stylings. The songs are sung clean but with a gritty honesty. “Hold Fast (Sink or Swim) ” is one of Black Lungs strongest songs.
Over on Route 66, one of the main stages, I saw Pennywise. Pennywise have recently released a new album called Reason To Believe on MySpace Records, which I thought was a little ironic given that even just 3 years ago they released an album with a song attacking Fox TV. MySpace is owned by Fox Interactive Media, which is owned by News Corporation, which, you guessed it, owns Fox television. Did anyone say sell-outs?
Pennywise played a mix of old and new material, but unsurprisingly did not play “Fox TV”. I found their new stuff to be boring. Of the older stuff Fuck Authority stood out, which had the crowd singing along and throwing up the middle finger. But again, I found this to be just a little ironic and couldn’t take it seriously. To me it has always been a challenge to listen to Pennywise for any length of time, and soon I found myself walking away to find another band to listen to.
“It was a farce that Katy Perry had a big stage while genuinely talented bands like Protest The Hero and TAT were stuck on the two smallest stages.”
It was at this point that I realised I’d somehow missed Protest The Hero’s set. Their singer Rody had expressed his anger that the Warped organisers had put them on the tiny Ernie Ball stage in Mississauga. Protest were guaranteed a big following for what would be their local date on Warped Tour, as the band come from Whitby which is a suburb town just the other side of Toronto. They are also one of the most talented bands in Canada right now, already firmly established as a major act and on the rise. Sometime during the rainstorm I missed Protest, who had been put on a on a ridiculously small stage round the corner. I consider it an injustice that they were put on such a small stage. These thoughts were amplified when I had the misfortune to catch some of Katy Perry’s set.
Katy Perry had a big stage and a big crowd, and she did not deserve either of them. Perry gave a painful performance, wrought with nervousness, insecurity and a complete lack of any stage presence. She strummed basic chord patterns on an electro-acoustic, while a guy sat to her right did all the monkey work on his guitar. Perry had little control over her instrument, and at times bad feedback rang out, which could have probably been stopped by simply muting the strings with her hand or by lowering the volume controls. However, she seemed oblivious of how to do this herself. Her right-hand man fixed the controls on the guitar for her at one point in-between songs.
Perry has built a following for herself by releasing pop songs that are ‘risque’ in the tackiest way. Her hits like I Kissed A GIrl, and Ur So Gay are about as bad as the Cheeky Girls’ Cheeky Song. Admittedly without the cheesy Europop synth but still, yeah, awful. If you’ve never heard of the Cheeky Girls then count yourself lucky. Perry could be heard at one point saying to the guy at stage side, “What do I do? Do I keep playing?”, and then to the crowd, “I don’t know how bad this sounds to you guys but I’ll keep it up”. It was a farce that that Katy Perry had a big stage while genuinely talented bands like Protest The Hero and TAT were stuck on the two smallest stages. Katy Perry was exposed as being nothing more than the hyped-up prima donna that she is, and on the evidence of this gig she cannot perform live to save herself. Though maybe she was just caught off-guard and ill prepared…
During Pennywise’s set the levels had got screwed up with the drums suddenly becoming too loud and the vocals too low, or something like that. At that moment the two guys in the sound booth had looked embarrassed and confused, as they frantically tried to fix the problem. Pennywise responded by turning the stage monitors around to face the audience and the sound mixing booth. It’s likely things had gone wrong because of the all the rain water, so this was also probably the reason as to why Katy Perry played an acoustic gig, and the same went for Angels & Airwaves.
“But credit where credit is due; Angels & Airwaves gave a very strong acoustic performance which had teenage girls in the crowd gushing and swooning, and grown men like myself quietly, if a little reluctantly, enjoying their show. “
Angels & Airwaves, otherwise known as the Tom DeLonge show, played a set that gave a mellow and chilled-out end to Warped in Mississauga. With three of the band sat playing acoustic guitars and drummer Adam Willard tapping a percussion box, it was a strong stripped-down display of A&A’s brand of melodic alt rock. Secret Crowds was their best tune and got a big response.
There was the odd lame moment, like when DeLonge got a cheap laugh by telling the sound guy to turn down the mic on his band mate David Kennedy. This kind of thing reinforced the view of those who label A&A as a band that massages the ego of the former Blink 182 member. But credit where credit is due: Angels & Airwaves gave a very strong acoustic performance which had teenage girls in the crowd gushing and swooning, and grown men like myself quietly, if a little reluctantly, enjoying their show. Well, at least it wasn’t Katy Perry.
The last band I saw as I made my exit were Broadway Calls, a three-piece on the Hurley stage who played out while the sun set. I liked these guys and made a note to check out more of their stuff later. They play punk rock, in the straight-edge pop style, but with a refreshing twist. A bit like Coke with Lemon, with a shot of vodka added to give it just enough kick. Broadway Calls have some catchy tunes, and with Back To Oregon the band do the unusual thing of singing in praise of their roots and the place they come from. Which is part of that refreshing twist.
© Brian Banks
Warped Tour Toronto Photos – all photos by Brian Banks, © Music Vice