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Byline: Fred Shuster

Music Writer

This summer's edition of the Vans Warped Tour kicks off today with another coast-to-coast lineup of well-known, little-known and infamous bands for discerning crowds that appreciate some of the finer things in punk.

The tour, which often features around 100 bands on eight to 10 stages, started in 1995 as a skate-punk and third-wave ska tour, but in recent years has featured mostly post-hardcore, pop punk, punk-rockabilly and metalcore acts. It's become one of the most successful annual concert tours ever, selling more than half a million tickets during the two hottest months of the year.

"The conditions can be pretty difficult," mused Nick 13 (the stage name of Kearney Nick Jones), guitarist, singer and primary songwriter of Warped Tour headliners, the high-

energy punk-rockabilly trio Tiger Army.

"There's a lot of comaraderie backstage, and you play every day in some brutal heat. But it's so much fun to cross paths with people you might not ordinarily hang out with. And you're all in this together."

Every year, the industry sees genuine success stories resulting from the Warped Tour, which opens today at the the Fairplex at Pomona and Saturday moves to Seaside Park in Ventura before heading around the country. Headliners also include long-running Valley-

bred punk veterans Bad Religion, the always entertaining Pennywise and pop-punk outfit New Found Glory.

Since 2001, such now-familiar names as Flogging Molly, My Chemical Romance, AFI, Sum 41, Simple Plan, the Used, Dropkick Murphys and Good Charlotte all benefitted greatly from the exposure.

Tiger tale

This summer, observers are pointing to, among others, the hard-working Tiger Army (currently on rotation at influential Los Angeles rock radio station KROQ and elsewhere) and the Almost, the project of thoughtful singer-composer Aaron Gillespie, who is also the drummer-singer for screamo act Underoath.

"These are bands whose time has definitely come," says Warped founder-producer Kevin Lyman, who says his job description includes camp counselor and babysitter. "Tiger Army has been playing what they believe in and not following trends for years. They haven't changed in any way to get airplay or to be accepted, and the rest of the world has finally caught up.

"The thing that I like about the Almost is, this is original music with real heart and soul. I back Aaron for what he's doing."

For his part, Gillespie nods toward the Foo Fighters as an inspiration, not just because its frontman, Dave Grohl, is also first and foremost a drummer.

"The thing I love about them is, they don't disappoint anybody," Gillespie said. "They are all about the music. You don't hear stupid stuff about them in the press or on MTV. They're musicians and they have solid lives at home off stage. That's exactly how I want to live my life."

Almost, not quite famous

On the Almost's tuneful, engaging debut album, "Southern Weather" (Tooth & Nail/Virgin), Gillespie plays nearly every instrument and has written a set of songs that touch on his inner, spiritual life. Gospel choruses mingle with pungent rock riffs, putting Gillespie's non-secular message across with style.

"They've called it Christian metal, and I think that's really overstating things," Gillespie, 23, said. "I am a spiritual person. I have strong beliefs. That doesn't mean I can't go out for beers with my friends or play music really loud and have a really good time on this tour."

Meanwhile, Tiger Army isn't trying to suggest anything other than the visceral joys of rock 'n' roll. Sticking to its guns for the past 10 years, the trio has in recent times played a handful of shows in the U.S. and U.K. at the invitation of Morrissey, rocked a capacity crowd at the Long Beach Arena with pals AFI, and barnstormed with the great Social Distortion to rabid fans.

The trio's rip-roaring new album, "Music From Regions Beyond" (Epitaph/Hellcat), has spawned the track "Forever Fades Away," among the season's most requested songs on KROQ and other new-rock radio stations across the country.

"We always hoped people would listen to our music," Nick 13 said. "And this is the result of a long, gradual process of doing what we do -- touring all the time at a grassroots level, depending on word of mouth."

Warped and Tiger Army have longevity in common. Few annual tours -- and few indie bands, for that matter -- can lay claim to having been in business for 13 years.

"The reason Warped continues to be popular is, it really is a very diverse bill," the Tiger Army guitarist said. "So different people come for different reasons. Within the underground rock genre, no matter what your taste is, you'll find something you'll like.

"It's not about the flavor of the moment."

Fred Shuster, (818) 713-3676


What: Tiger Army, Bad Religion, New Found Glory, Pennywise, the Used and many more. The Almost appear in Pomona but not Ventura.

Where: Fairplex at Pomona; Seaside Park, Ventura.

When: 11 a.m. today in Pomona; 11 a.m. Saturday in Ventura.

Tickets: $29.75. (213) 480-3232.


2 photos


(1 -- 2) The Almost, above, and Tiger Army, below, are spending the summer under the hot sun in front of sweaty, punk-loving crows on the Vans Warped Tour.
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Jun 29, 2007
Previous Article:SOUND CHECK.

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