Kevin Lyman is the Man
Kevin Lyman is clearly the hardest working man in punk rock. The man who runs the Warped Tour should be sitting somewhere air conditioned, calling the shots, but when we arrive at the press area on this hot, hot, HOT, humid, humid HUMID morning, he is right there in the trenches, hauling out chairs, awnings and coolers full of drinks for the press.
He does it all with a smile on his face, and takes a few minutes to explain that the press area, which consists of a few awnings and chairs on a side street next to Comerica Park, had been moved from its original location, somewhere in the bowels of the stadium. The new location provides easy access in and out of the festival, and for being so impromptu is amazingly well organized.
Probably the hardest part of the Warped Tour is planning your day. There are so many bands playing all over the festival, you need to keep track of sat times and stage locations, and even if you do your best, you'll never catch everyone you want to see. Our first stop for the day was to see the Casualties.
The Casualties were heralded in with an air raid siren, and the tore right into their set with "Tomorrow Belongs to Us", an anthem that quickly had the entire crowd chanting along. It was like listening to very talented motivational speakers - with mohawks and guitars.
As emo and pop punk music has started to take over the Warped Tour, these guys are one of the last of a handful of true hardcore punk bands still on the tour. The band even acknowledged this with the announcement that the crowd was currently at "the troublemaker stage; stay here if you want to hear real punk - if you want to hear emo, go over there." Nobody walked away.
They busted out classics and new songs, including "Sounds From The Streets", and a frenzied cover of "Blitzkrieg Bop", and despite the fact that they had a circle pit going that reached around the sound booth, the crowd was relatively subdued and well-behaved. Whether this was the heat or the fact that many of the people watching the Casualties were old-school fans, it was nice to see.
The Living End
After our initial dose of punk from the Casualties, we wandered a bit, stopping to catch a fast set of power punk from Eight Fingers Down on the Hot Topic Stage. That's a great thing about the Warped Tour; you know who you're there to see, but you'll always be surprised as well. Check these guys out when you get the chance.
The next stop for the day was the Living End, the upbeat rockabilly punks from Australia. I saw them at a Warped Tour several years ago, and they have changed a bit. They are better as a band, solid and tighter, but I think they've lost some of the frantic energy they used to have.
Still, I was there singing along with "What's On Your Radio" and "We Want More", and of course their classic snotty punk tune "Prisoner Of Society", another one that really got the crowd going. And watching Scott Owen hammer on his giant red upright bass was watching a master at work.
I knew Anti-Flag's set was going to be as politically-charged. What I didn't expect was how much energy they would display in the heat, or how much they could get the crowd going.
They opened with a few riffs from "The Star-Spangled Banner", asked the crowd to raise a middle digit in the air, and launched into a "F**k Police Brutality", while the band opening up with a barrage of jumping and high kicks that put many hair bands to shame.
The crowd was really into Anti-Flag, slamming and crowd surfing, but I was able to see the difference between Anti-Flag's younger fans and the more experienced fans of the Casualties and Living End. I mean, come on, who surfs the crowd wearing flip flops? That's not smart; I saw a lot of people end up barefoot on the hot asphalt by the end of the set. Hopefully they'll know better next year.
Anti-Flag closed with "One People, One Struggle", and had the crowd chanting "the people, united, will never be defeated," while flashing the peace sign in support of ending the war. Anti-Flag is one of the closest things that the punk scene has to the great protest singers of the Vietnam era, and if anyone can get the kids politically active, it will be these guys, high kicks and all.