Date: Sunday, June 30th, 2003
Venue: The Tweeter Center, Tinley Park IL
I arrived at the venue, South of Chicago, to the sound of bagpipes. Unfortunately, besides hearing Dropkick Murphys play from afar as I approached the ticket booth, I completely missed their set. The Tweeter Center, which normally holds concerts in a large seated outdoor pavilion, had set up several makeshift stages in the parking lot instead. Tents and booths were placed in the pathways that led from one stage to the next, making standstill traffic a problem when one tried to move about.
While some might have enjoyed how the show was severely crowded, to some concertgoers, like myself, it was greatly annoying. It was difficult to move about the venue, not to mention that many of the audience members were not your typical “punks” or “rockers”. By that, I mean that many of them were the kind of people who go to the concerts because they had heard one song on the radio, or so that they could seem cool. Also in a high abundance were parents, who had come along with their young children to supervise. It was as if there were hundreds of preteens there, who had brought along their entire families along.
From Warped Tours of the past, it seems to me as if the atmosphere of the show has changed. The ages of audience members seem to be lower than before. The lineups have also turned towards the mainstream, and fewer of the acts are as underground and indie as they have been in earlier years. Attracted by the mainstream bands, ticket buyers seem now to be less into the music and more into wearing the right Abercrombie attire.
As for the actual performances, some bands ended up being more impressive than others were. The first group I got to see was the Mad Caddies. In their music, this band demonstrated both the classic reggae ska sound, as well as the more punk rock ska sound that is becoming ever more popular. Being less well known than some of the other bands on the tour turned out to be an advantage for the Mad Caddies, because without a gigantic crowd there was enough space for the fans to skank and mosh. The Mad Caddies delivered a well-performed set to their fans, proving that you do not need a giant audience to play a great show, just good music and the ability to balance a beer on your belly (a talent which was demonstrated by the Mad Caddies’ lead vocalist).
Though I only stayed for a few songs, not wanting to be late for Rancid, I caught a bit of the Suicide Machine’s set. Having never heard their music before, I was impressed by their sound as well as their fan following. While some bands try hard to get their audiences to start a circle pit, the Suicide Machines actually had one going, a very big one at that.
Next for the day was Rancid. Probably one of the biggest bands signed to the Vans Warped Tour this year, I could not understand why their set was placed right in the middle of the day instead of more towards the end of the show. Regardless, every inch of space in front of the stage that they played at was packed with people, and most of them were the true fans that knew every word. Mosh pits were a rarity due to the fact that everybody was being pushed into each other with the great pressure resulting in a mad rush for the stage. So tightly packed was the crowd that it was almost hard to breathe, let alone move. It was a struggle to raise your arms in order to support passing crowd surfers, or even to just protect your own head from being hit by them. The audience swayed in unison because it was impossible not to. At one point the sway was so much that some people were not able to even stand up anymore. With this, several fans fell to the ground, followed by the people who had been leaning on them, creating a domino chain which resulted in a human pileup, which I myself was trapped in. It was fun. Luckily, Rancid is not the kind of band that would just allow their fans to get hurt, and they told the audience to help each other up so that nobody would get severely injured. I say kudos to a band that cares for their fans like Rancid does. There was a great intensity throughout Rancid’s set, which included the song “Destination Unknown”.
Following Rancid I made a break for another stage so that I could see Less Than Jake. Man, was I disappointed with them. Less Than Jake encouraged their fans to “jump up and down”, which in my opinion is a really dumb way to get your fans to rock out. There was no mosh pit whatsoever, and people were barely even moving beyond their stupid hopping around dance. Less Than Jake attracted a crowd of lame radio kids that gave other people dirty looks when they passed by. Way to be friendly and open minded. I got the hell out of there right away, because I could not stand the negativity and lethargy that was being emitted by fellow audience members. In my opinion, Less Than Jake should try to get out of the mainstream as quickly and swiftly as possible, because it seems that otherwise they will continue to be plagued by lameness.
To end my night right, the last set I saw played was South California hardcore band Thrice. This band was the main reason why I came to Warped Tour this year in the first place, because I am so devoted to their music and have been dying to see them live for a long time. Thrice failed to leave me dissatisfied, for they played a great show. It was not too crowded, and for the first time all day I think there were far more guy fans present than girls. Some girl fans really get on my nerves, and I really should not talk considering I myself am a girl, but there are definitely two types of girl fans that you will find at concerts. Unfortunately, most of the girls at the Warped Tour this year were the annoying kind. While on a rant about these girls, I’ll share a tale about how after surfing to the front I went around to try and get back into the pit. On my way in, this chick pushed me. But it was not the rock out mosh kind of push, oh no, not at all. It was more like the I’m a bitch and I’m here specifically to ruin your concert experience kind of push. I got back at her, too, but that is beside the point. The Thrice pit was great and the guys there had come for the music and were totally cool. For the first time all day I saw crowd surfers get thrown high into the air, head first, so that they were almost standing straight up before they came back down to be caught. In their set, Thrice played two songs that will be found on their new album. Thrice also played some older songs, including “Identity Crisis” as well as one of my personal favorites, “See You in the Shallows”. The band ended the show by promising to come back to Chicago in the fall, and you can bet that I will be there too.