crowd surfer for Pennywise

Scorching heat… packed beaches once filled with only local winter surfers… ice cream trucks… open public pools… the signs of summer are everywhere. The biggest indication? The Vans Warped Tour is in full swing! After 13 years of bringing music to kids all around the US, the Warped Tour is continuing with road trip #14. With gas prices soaring, you’d think that bands and fans alike would be forced to stay home. Such was not the case in Ventura. Huge crowds of people and equipment moved every which way in Seaside Park. It seems that the love of music is too powerful for anyone to just sit at home and Myspace it all day.

The game plan for Ventura has been the same ever since the first time I showed up here with my friends: We’d leave early from Carson and get to Ventura a few hours before doors opened in an effort to catch any opening bands. If you’ve never been to Warped Tour, the schedule is not decided until the morning of each tour stop. Bands have no clue what time they’re playing each day so this forces you to come early or risk missing a band you wanted to see. Although we arrived early, I listened with disappointment from the Port-o-potty (I was drinking water for 2 hours in line!) as August Burns Red was just finishing their set. Unfortunately these guys won’t be playing the Carson stop so I had to accept the fact that I missed them this time around.

VWT 005

VWT 003

There wasn’t anyone we really wanted to see for another hour so we made our rounds of the vendor/ merch areas. The great thing about Warped Tour is the limited “backstage” areas. This means you’ll never know who you’ll see walking around. Merch tents are set up away from all stages and so you may just catch someone you know walking to their tent for a signing session (we were unlucky this year with such events).

The first group we actually stopped to watch was Gym Class Heroes. I’m a fan of their older work, but they can still put on a great show. They played a medley of older songs in an effort to fit in some brand new songs from their upcoming album “The Quilt” which should be released soon.

These guys really got the crowd going. The most surprising (and highly entertaining) part of their set was the cover of Lamb of God’s “Laid to Rest”. I laughed really hard but I was very impressed because they did a great job covering it.

Immediately after on the next main stage was one of my favorites: Every Time I Die. The last time I saw these crazy cats was back in May at the Paul Frank Warehouse Dodgeball Tournament. If you missed it, you missed BIG TIME! The show was so rowdy that the police showed up (With a helicopter) to pull the plug. They let the boys finish the show and all went well. ETID brought the same energy from that small 2-foot-high stage to the big stage at Warped Tour. Body surfers were in the air, circle pits were spinning out of control, and for the first time that I’ve seen at an ETID show: the wall of death was called!

I was really looking forward to their set and I was far from disappointed. Aside from the insane actions in the crowd, the band is really entertaining to watch. They crack a lot of physical and verbal jokes which makes their set even more enjoyable. Be sure to catch them on this tour because it’s totally worth it!

On the next main stage, As I Lay Dying took over. Since they’re not playing the Carson date, the crew and I decided to watch them instead of making the trek to see Oreskaband (I’ll be sure to check these ladies out in Carson and you should, too). I forgot how hard these guys perform. I caught them last year at the Carson tour stop and it was amazing.

This time around, it was the same story. Faces were melting, hair was swinging… it was incredible. “So Metal!” They played a very good mix of old and new songs making sure that every fan that was there got what they were looking for.

My friends and I decided to take a break before walking around some more. We caught some of Maylene and the Sons of Disaster over on one of the support stages. I last saw them at the Cornerstone festival last year. I have to admit, I enjoyed that performance more than this one. I guess I attribute that to seeing about half the band comprised of new faces. They all played really well but the performance aspect had changed.

Just like the last time I saw them, frontman Dallas Taylor made his presence known and was definitely one to watch through the entire set. Dallas was still roaming all over the place and even left the stage for a few seconds to pick up flyers at a merch tent to throw out. He even jumped in the crowd and got into a couple of wrestling matches with fellow crowd surfers. The lineup change occurred just a few months ago so I’m hoping things get better as the new lineup gets more accustomed to performing together.

After their set, the crew and I headed over to the main stages again for Story of the Year. When we arrived, the stage was already surrounded by a great number of fans.

Everyone sang along and let the music force them into movement. It was an amazing sight to see from the back end of the crowd with a performance that was on par with their previous showing at the Bamboozle Left festival.

On the next main stage was Anberlin. These guys really paid their dues starting off on the smaller stages of Warped Tour to finally jumping onto the main stage.

They put on an awesome performance playing songs that everyone could sing along to or move to. It was great to see all of their hard work for Warped Tour pay off with the fully energized crowd that came out to watch them perform on the main stage.

We wandered around some more trying to kill time. We caught a little bit of Norma Jean on the main stage as well as one of my other favorites Set Your Goals performing on the support stage.

With that came the last two bands that we wanted to see that day. First up was Reel Big Fish. I caught these guys over at Bamboozle Left and I had such a good time watching them that I couldn’t pass up another opportunity. Everyone was dancing or singing along to all of the old RBF hits. They also played new songs off their latest release “Monkeys for Nothin’ and the Chimps for Free”.

It’s great to see that even though the land of big music labels screwed them over they’re still out there playing and making people smile. Of course they closed with their “Take On Me” cover, but one of the coolest songs they performed was still Metallica’s “Enter Sandman”. They’ll be hitting up Carson at the end of the summer so be sure to watch their set!

Finishing our day was our local South Bay heroes Pennywise. With beer on stage instead of water bottles, security knew they were going to see some stuff go down. Extra security (including Warped Tour staff) lined the crowd barrier in preparation for the crowd’s explosive reaction. The preparation paid off as Pennywise hit the stage. They knew what to do playing older and newer songs so that everyone could join in at one point or another. The crowd was on fire with bodies constantly moving on the ground and above heads.

I’m sorry to say they won’t be at Carson (odd seeing as how it would be the hometown show) so if you didn’t get to catch them on Warped Tour, just keep checking on them to see where you can catch them live. Their performance energy never fades no matter how long these guys have been playing. Continually fueling the crowd, Pennywise was a great way to end our day. After their set, the audience continued to chant and scream for more! Due to the tight schedules, however, everyone knew they just couldn’t keep going.

There were still 3 other bands to close the day out officially but we decided that Pennywise was our high-note and we jumped back into the car and headed home. Warped Tour returns to Southern California across the street from my house in Carson on August 17th. Pick up your tickets NOW and if you see me, be sure to stop me and say hello.

Drop me a line on myspace or e-mail me if you’d like to meet up. Hope you’re all enjoying your summer so far!

For the entire set of pictures from this day, please check out my flickr account.