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Diverse lineup keeps Warped fresh.

Byline: Scott McLennan

COLUMN: MUSIC REVIEW

MANSFIELD - The Vans Warped Tour is celebrating its 13th annual running, making it a year older than Ozzfest and far more durable than any other alt-rock-oriented festival tour.

At the Warped Tour stop in Mansfield Thursday, the event was as successful as ever, selling out its debut at the Tweeter Center, and likewise turning the amphitheater inside out to accommodate the 10 stages, skateboarding ramp, wrestling ring, and endless rows of tents where bands hawked merchandise and met fans. Vendors ranging from the at-every-festival guy selling plastic pot leaves and Bob Marley banners to political-action organizations and vegan advocacy engaged the foot traffic. Much of the activity took place in the paved lots beyond the gates of where the Tweeter usually serves up its music, though the venue's regular stages were put to use for a variety of up-and-coming bands.

The Warped Tour deposited upward of 60 music acts into this setting. In one of rock music's great equalizing ideas, Warped gives every band 30 minutes on stage. So it didn't matter if you were New Found Glory on the big "Lucky" stage, or My American Heart perched a few feet above your audience on the small Ernie Ball Stage, or the funky and furious Family Force 5 tucked away on the Hurley.Com stage, all had a half-hour to make an impression.

The Warped Tour has lasted so long in part because it never really draws a formulaic line in terms of which bands it will admit and which it will exclude. Two of the more popular attractions this year were Killswitch Engage and As I Lay Dying, bands that have previously been stars of Ozzfest and the New England Metal and Hardcore Festival.

Killswitch Engage's resident lunatic, guitarist Adam D, signaled shifts in Warped's cultural wind with his jokes about kids with "silly emo haircuts." While emo heavyweights Hawthorne Heights and emo vets New Found Glory still had prominent spots in the show, such bands were surrounded by a refreshingly diverse cast of groups straying from emo's mopey underpinnings. In addition to the metal refugees playing on the big stages, Warped also presented the punk-pop of Paramore and intricately played prog-punk of Circa Survive and Coheed and Cambria.

Chiodos, one of the bands on the "13" main stage, had a breakout performance and sounded like the perfect link between the metal interlopers and more traditional pop-punk-oriented Warped band.

Searching the smaller stages, one could find the dirty outlaw rock of Revolution Mother, sort of a modern-coming of Motorhead led by pro skater Mike Vallely, who pulled double duty as he shred the mini-ramp set up amid the band stages.

The thick backwoods-metal sound of Maylene and the Sons of Disaster, a band whose Christian beliefs are wryly woven into a thuggish sound, put over a frenetic set in the way-off Smartpunk stage.

Bad Religion returned to the Warped Tour and enjoyed well-deserved hero worship as the senior punks of the day. The band earned its devotion with a crisp set culled from new songs and classics, each tune a smart, provocative invitation to agree with Bad Religion that the status quo is evil and soul-crushing. It was amazing to see the hands and cheers go up when singer Greg Graffin asked how many were seeing the 20-year-old Bad Religion for the first time that day. And that gets to another ingredient of Warped's continued success, as it not only provides a platform for the new flavors of punk but celebrates the roots of independent rock.

The other thing that seems to keep Warped going is the way it chooses acts that are all somebody's favorite band. There were as many passionately fervent Rocket Summer devotees, cheering on that band's aw-shucks piano pop, as there were spiky-haired, leather-clad street punks raising fists for The Unseen and Lower Class Brats. Gallows, from England, made a staunch stand for aggressive, feral punk, going so far as to mix it up with people acting like jerks in the mosh pit.

Then there were the likes of Celtic pub punks Flogging Molly or groove conscious party boys of Pepper that provided freewheeling sets that seemingly unified the various punk sub-camps.

Four Year Strong, a band that took shape in Worcester, had a good outing on the East Coast Indie stage set up in the grove within the Tweeter's gates. The band's mix of hard-core and melody turned a big crowd into a frothing mosh pit, a sure sign of approval for the pending arrival of the band's debut album "Rise or Die Trying" (and the band will be touring nationally in the fall with fellow Warped mates The Starting Line).

Hip-hop duo RADIx, whose origins go back to a meeting between MCs Seek and Quite Nyce at Fitchburg State College, brought a bit of positive-vibration hip-hop to the experimental Skull Candy Mix Tent, where comedians, percussionists and soundscape artists held forth.

For about 10 hours, Warped provided an overload for the senses, and once you got a good feel for the layout of the festival it was easy to see an array of amazing things, though impossible to see every amazing thing. In terms of a music festival, that is the kind of value that guarantees a long lifespan.
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Title Annotation:ENTERTAINMENT
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Aug 11, 2007
Words:882
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