Live Review: Warped Tour 2008 - Home Depot Center, Carson
Mon, 18 Aug 2008 12:29:17
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"Let's break out the shotguns, we're going to town," screamed Corey Brandan, Norma Jean's brutally ballistic frontman, during "A Grand Scene for A Color Film." There's probably nothing more punk rock than that statement, especially since it came from a metal singer. Norma Jean gave one of the most raw, violent and utterly alive performances of the day. They represent the metallization of Warped Tour. From rockin' old school Metallica t-shirts to brandishing Meshuggah-style psycho-syncopated riffs, Norma Jean know how decimate a crowd. During "Robots 3, Humans 0," from the band's phenomenal new offering The Anti Mother, the band ignited one of the biggest mosh pits of the day. In some ways, they updated KoRn's cathartic intensity with a modern hardcore sheen. "Pit Network" proved that by combining neo-thrash fire and double bass bombing. When Brandan exclaimed, "Buy our new record, it'll make you want to punch a dolphin in the blowhole," you couldn't help but believe him.
Then there was Mariachi El Bronx, which gave even Warped Tour veterans something completely new to chomp on. L.A. punk-metal quintet The Bronx donned Mariachi garb and played an entrancing, soothing set of original mariachi tunes from their forthcoming album. It looked like a scene out of Desperado. With a beer clenched in hand, vocalist Matt Caughthran's soothing Mexico-by-way-of-Long-Beach singing resounded through the MySpace tent. Matt joked, "This song was inspired by Chris Hanson of To Catch a Predator. It's easy for us white folks to dance to." Firing off fiery Spanish guitar, Mariachi El Bronx was a festival standout. Matt was all smiles the whole set, and his delivery was simply impenetrable. Axeman Joby Ford imbued a tangible energy into the set's closing song. His Spanish-style fretwork was nothing short of dazzling, especially when peppered with the live trumpet. It was authentic, tasty and engaging. The band's set was a brilliant combination of witty, poignant lyrics and incredible Mariachi chops. It would only be matched by their punk set later in the day, but more on that in a few paragraphs.
Against Me! played poignant, calculated old school punk with a purpose. Cuts from their stellar 2007 album, New Wave, were both catchy and confrontational. The band proved another of the day's standouts, paying homage to old school stalwarts while injecting their own sense of individuality into their songs.
During Every Time I Die's late afternoon set, singer Keith Buckley provoked a riotous explosion in the mosh pit—but it was all in good fun. Encouraging one of the largest circle pits of the day, Keith sported an ear-to-ear smile. He exclaimed, "This is the beginning of the end, motherfuckers," prior to launching into a fiery "Werewolf." Then "Bored Stiff" broke a violent rhythm with neck-snapping stop-and-starts that resembled a high-speed car crash. Buckley demanded the crowd's attention, and the band simply ripped it up. A Southern fried groove dominated "No Son of Mine," and it showed Every Time I Die's skilled diversity. The cracked-out surf guitar-style lead made "The New Black" a new school hardcore gem.
Gym Class Heroes were the perfect main stage headliners, blending punk, hip hop, alt rock and good ole fashion summer fun. They closed everything off with an energetic set that got the crowd dancing and kept people moving even long after the doors opened at 11am. Other acts like Shwayze and Cobra Starship also played up the fun angle, but no one quite nailed it the way Gym Class Heroes did with their seamless mixing of so many influences.
The Bronx's punk performance was just as powerful as their Mariachi set, but in a much different way. The band's show was more like a prizefight with one pummeling punchy track after another. Crazy riffs and nutty energy made them the rawest band of the day, and they were a reminder of why Warped Tour is so great. It's honest punk bands like The Bronx that have given the tour longevity. The Bronx immediately began their onslaught with the frenetic train-wreck riffage of "Heart Attack American." During "Shitty Future," Matt screamed, "Slit wrists are the latest fashion," and the crowd ate up his tongue-in-cheek jabs. The music oozed a pronounced San Fernando scum, but that's part of its undeniable charm. It's like punk Pulp Fiction, thriving on jagged stories and kinetic delivery. "Killy My Friends" was a hellish rocker with a quick lead line.
The Bronx excel when they step outside the box. That happened on the phenomenal "White Guilt." Matt dedicated the smooth rocker to the, "Women of the night—ladies who love cocaine." Its catchy cadence saw Joby break down the Southern groove. Right before the closing track, "History's Stranglers," Matt ventured into the crowd, and he advised, "Either come in, or run for your lives because something bad is about to happen." Nothing bad happened. It was just a raw explosion of energy that few bands could muster, and it's something characteristic of another great Warped Tour.