Live: Pop-Punk Rises (And Crowdsurfs) Again At The Warped Tour


Warped Tour: Taking Back Sunday, New Found Glory, Every time I Die, Polar Bear Club, Fireworks, and others.
Nassau Coliseum
Saturday, July 21

Better than: Last year.

A few images:

• The weather was beautiful; this year there was wind. Sunlight gently cascaded onto the grounds and sometimes retreated behind the clouds, where it burned invisibly. Every Time I Die singer Keith Buckley paced swiftly across the Monster Energy stage. “There’s no roof on this stage,” he said. “There was a roof, but the truck hit an overpass and knocked it the fuck off. We are exposed to the elements and it’s beautiful.”
• The more introspective bands get audiences with sensitive tattoos. “At least we’re still alive” was engraved along the length of one Polar Bear Club fan’s collarbone.
• There was at least one tent in which a sponsored and mildly attended dubstep party transpired.
• One man dedicated a full minute to peeling a promotional sticker from his shoe.
• By 5 p.m., half of everyone carried a misshapen sunburn, pain in generous pink blossoms.
• The curious quantity of Magic: The Gathering cards littering the pavement, then the heavy and cynical shadow of the Magic truck just beyond the Kia Soul Stage.

• • •

The Warped Tour 2012 lineup is neatly anchored in pop-punk and emo, a pleasant, nostalgically-oriented shift from last year, which favored deathcore and digressions of hair. That element was still present, but so was a group of seven or so pop-punk bands that had toured together over the years. “We have this kind of new niche that’s starting to take its place in stuff like this, and I couldn’t be happier about that,” said Chris Browne of Polar Bear Club. “I think it’s great and shows that our whole genre or whatever you want to call it is all growing together. We know each other and we have a different take on things than a lot of other bands on the tour can offer, and now there’s a whole group of bands that do offer that.”

Polar Bear Club attracted a modest crowd that still managed to fluctuate profoundly, pits forming, people lifting themselves into the hands of the crowd, gliding toward the barricade. Fireworks, a pop-punk band from Detroit who are also friends with Polar Bear Club, play an even smaller stage and yet draw people toward them in a kind of buoyancy. They all sing and inch forward and, at crucial point—a resumed melody or a deeply understood breakdown—they dramatically leap.

Around 3 p.m. I noticed a high volume of kids had deposited themselves on grass and on cement, exhausted, sun creasing their vision. Like last year, a moderate quantity wore swimsuits and dayglo body paint, but where in 2011 this was how one identified 3!OH3 fans, this time they were invariably here to see the pop-punk band All Time Low, the intent written on their bodies, a rainbowed flock stretching indelicately in the sun.

• • •

The backdrop for New Found Glory declared, amid a riot of color and cartoonish depictions of fans and monsters, “pop-punk’s not dead.” In the middle of their set the band invited a man with a t-shirt gun onto the stage and urged the crowd to lift each other up so as to lightly catch New Found Glory shirts as they were shot into the air. “Pick up girls,” instructed singer Jordan Pundik. “Pick up boys.” They were lifted and they grabbed at the airborne fabric and looked as if they felt delight.

During Polar Bear Club’s set I felt an edginess graze my head. I looked down to discover a swarm of business cards, advertising an alt rock radio station in a deluxe purple. Later, in the condensing hive attending Taking Back Sunday, I was rained on by half-destroyed Warped Tour promotional magazines. A page landed in the crook of my arm and I found myself being stared up at by the members of some recent deathcore band, the band name all verbs and articles, the hair a luminous threat, while Taking Back Sunday ambled capably through a song from 2002. It felt almost as if the moment had been organized, as if I were as living in a really transparent metaphor, that I could be bludgeoned by advertisements and also experience a deep sense of elapsed time, of the touring economy gazing ineluctably backward, to Warped Tours containing Taking Back Sunday and New Found Glory, to the mesmerizing security of the past. Old giving way to new giving way to old again.

• • •

“I want this pit opened up,” insisted Buckley during Every Time I Die’s set, and it did, people swarming and colliding and high-kicking in the mild air. Once exhausted a member of the pit would leap onto the peopled edge of the circle and crowdsurf blindly toward the barricade. They became thoughtless bodies, feet grazing heads and iPhones held aloft. “This is Warped Tour,” Buckley confirmed. “I want you to leap over this barricade. Get the fuck up here.” What more achievable dream than to launch yourself over a metal divider and be herded by security.

If you were in any degree of nearness to the Taking Back Sunday performance, you mostly conveyed bodies. My experience of crowdsurfing is usually as heavy, irregular slopes of shorts and flesh, which are quickly sailed away. This was more like a parade, a low and drifting human ceiling. Minor, unspoken societies were derived from mutual annoyance and fear. Small motions became significant, as when the eyes of people nearby fluttered upward, alluding to an oncoming body. In order to focus wholly on delivering people to the front of the crowd, some turned away from the stage, at least as much as one could turn, pretzeled in the turbulent mass. When a body lowered unaccountably, the entire crowd undulated, acquiring watery aspects. Nick Minichino, a fellow Voice contributor, quit his position in the audience after three songs. Later, as we left the coliseum, he mused on the unstable and abortive qualities of the crowdsurfing at Warped Tour. “This is why we need scenes,” he said. “So kids learn how to crowdsurf.”

Critical bias: Fireworks’ Gospel was my favorite record last year so I too leapt dramatically and felt light.

Overheard: The cab driver, before driving us to the Coliseum: “blink-182 isn’t there? What kind of Warped Tour is this?”

Random notebook dump: Imagine free Slurpees. Imagine the line for free Slurpees. Imagine the unspooling faces of people who had finally reached the end of the line to discover the Slurpees are sample size.