|Vans Warped Tour '03|
|Written by Dan Macintosh|
|Tuesday, 22 June 2004|
One of the first images you see when you watch this musical documentary of “Van’s Warped Tour ‘03” is a fan diving off of a stage. It’s a more than appropriate symbol for this festival, which is the mother of all multi-artist punk rock tours. Let’s face facts: nobody ever expected punk rock to last quite this long. But with Warped about to celebrate its tenth anniversary in 2004, this “little festival that could” continues to keep the traditions of punk rock alive and well.
With the advent of successful pop-punk acts like Sum 41 and Good Charlotte, it’s easy to become cynical and skeptical about the current day crop of punk rock outfits. One has to wonder sometimes where all the world-changing Clashes and Sex Pistols of our culture have gone. And although this documentary includes a healthy sampling of these aforementioned pop-punkish clone bands, it also throws in just enough wild cards to keep your worthy (and critical) attention.
The clear highlights include Andrew W.K., who plays cheerleader on the MC5-inspired “We Want Fun.” On the much more serious side, S.T.U.N. comes off like a much less funky yet no less politically inspired Rage Against the Machine, with its performance of “Darko.” Glassjaw is a little on the emo side, but still winning with “Ape Dos Mil,” and Ataris are nearly Replacement-esquely sincere during “So Long Astoria.” Perhaps best of all is Thrice with its acoustic, late (cold) night version of “All That’s Left,” which is granted even more emotional weight because the filmmakers wisely captured its performance in stark black and white.
The B-list entries on this DVD include Avenged Sevenfold’s metal-ish “Second Heartbeat,” Pennywise’s simplistically political “God Save the USA” and The Used’s “Say Days Ago,” which begins with the visual bang of vocalist Bert McCracken leaping dangerously off a speaker stack and into the audience. Face To Face’s “You’ve Done Nothing” is derivative but still fun, and Rancid – speaking of derivative – is still likeable, though not at all unique. Few of these second grade moments would make you want go out and immediately purchase full-length concert videos by these artists, but they aren’t half bad either.
Van’s Warped Tour ‘03 offers a lot more variety than you might have expected from such a punk-associated touring package. Still, it would have been even more fun to actually see Ice-T’s rocking Body Count play a song, for instance, instead of just hearing him bragging onscreen about the size (large he says, not surprisingly) of his balls. But other musical alternatives include the ska-ish sounds of Mad Caddies and Less Than Jake, Dropkick Murphys’ Celtic-punk of “Black Velvet Band,” Something Corporate’s piano-backed “Woke Up In A Car,” and the female-led Tsunami Bomb, which also represents the only discernible mite of estrogen of this whole DVD. Heck, with all the tattooed and pierced girls in the various audience shots throughout this presentation, it is abundantly clear that girls just want to have punk fun, too. So why wasn’t there a higher chick quotient involved in this festival? Talk about warped!
The rest of the bands caught live here hardly leave much of a lasting impression, either positive or negative. This laundry list includes Poison the Well, Vaux, Rufio, Slick Shoes, Simple Plan (simple pop, too), Suicide Machines, The Unseen, MEST and Sum 41 (once again, too pop). Nevertheless, the memorable bands at least outweigh these unmemorable ones overall. And that’s a good thing.
Although the interview segments include far too many potty references, these snippets of dialogue also help shed extra light on the overall flavor of this concert touring package. For instance, it’s hard not to chuckle when Adam Carson and Hunter (of AFI) describe the visual look of your typical Warped tour dude. Last year, for instance, a mesh hat covering a bandana was the “in” look, whereas this year sideways baseball caps are all the rage. In fact, Carson and Hunter suggest that if you ever want to sneak into a Warped show for free, just dress the aforementioned part and carry a box of something or other through the gate. Security will take one glance at you and just assume you’re a part of the whole deal. During another featurette, robotic voices are dubbed into Face To Face’s interview segment, which makes for a few brief moments of silly fun.
But it’s not just the bands that do the talking here, oh no. Directors Joe Escalante and Kris Martinez also grab everyone from tour honchos like Kevin Lyman to the event’s caterers in order to present their unique festival perspectives. Lyman, for instance, describes with great glee how he mixes up the set times and band stages for each stop, so that when fans first enter the site, they have no idea when or where their favorite acts will be appearing. Lyman calls this little procedure “stirring the pot,” which he says forces attendees to communicate with one another throughout the day, just to get around. This also prevents fans from arriving late just to hear and see well-established headliners, and helps to introduce everyone to more new music. And he’s probably right about this tactic.
Another sweet interview moment is when one of the caterers (just called Maureen here) explains how she picks a few volunteers from each pre-show audience to help her feed the various bands. In exchange for helping her out, these worker bees are treated to backstage passes for the rest of the day. No doubt, this is the chance of a lifetime, and sure beats slaving behind the grill at McDonalds.
This DVD includes a few special features, but none of these extras come anywhere close to rivaling the actual performance footage. However, Lisa Johnson’s still photos offer a close second, as they beautifully capture visually arresting moments, including shots of some groups not also shown performing during the main film. Some of these pictures are in color, and some are in black and white. Some include captions, but most just speak for themselves.
The press release for this DVD states that Warped is the longest-running touring festival, which is actually quite amazing. How did this angry and ugly little thing we call punk rock turn into such a consistent concert cash cow? Nobody really knows for sure. Even though its success is a little tough to explain, “Van’s Warped Tour ‘03” has clearly succeeded in capturing the state of the punk rock nation on film.