Warped Tour @ Englishtown 8/5

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been attending Warped Tour in Camden, the “Philadelphia stop” of the annual tour. To mix things up this year, I ventured north to Englishtown Raceway.

The first band I intended to see was Straylight Run, but I didn’t make it to their stage in time, unfortunately, so I kicked off the day with Christian hardcore/metalcore Underoath on the main stage closest to the entrance. I’ve enjoyed Underoath since 2002’s The Changing Of Times, but a few shoddy performances live have turned me off to the band somewhat, and I was hoping their performance today would convert me back into a follower (religious pun intended).

Playing selections primarily from their brutal Define The Great Line, the Florida six-piece dominated the crowd. I’m always disappointed that the band has abandoned the best song they’ve ever written (“When The Sun Sleeps”, from their old singer’s era), but new songs such as “In Regards To Self” are absolutely stellar live. Despite existing for nearly a decade, the band doesn’t dip into any material older than 2004’s They’re Only Chasing Safety, from which they played excellent songs (with especially precious titles) “A Boy Brushed Red…Living In Black And White” and “It’s Dangerous Business Walking Out Your Front Door”. I walked away from Underoath’s set quite impressed, anxious to see them on their upcoming tour with Every Time I Die.

Somewhat like Underoath, Coheed and Cambria were once one of my favorite bands, but I’ve enjoyed them less and less in recent times. Also similar to Underoath, their Warped Tour performance changed my opinion of the band in a positive direction. With new a drummer in Chris Pennie (the founder of The Dillinger Escape Plan), the band’s live performance was immediately upgraded, and it showed on the hot afternoon. Integrating some of his math-influenced Dillinger styled playing into Coheed and Cambria’s progressive rock, the band sounded tighter than ever. The band opened with the stunning “Welcome Home”, and moved into some catchy pop-influenced songs such as “The Suffering” and “A Favor House Atlantic”. “Everything Evil”, one of the songs that hooked me onto Coheed and Cambria earlier in the decade, was improved with impressive new guitar work and double-bass drummed beats. The band closed their setlist with “In Keeping Secrets Of Silent Earth”, and helped recapture why I enjoyed the band so much just three or four years earlier.

Chicago’s best dark-rock band, Alkaline Trio, played a great set that featured one brand new song and some older essentials. Matt Skiba and Dan Andriano split vocal duties well live, feeding off the energy of one older Warped Tour crowds of the day. Following their set, I wandered Englishtown Raceway, eager to learn the differences between the familiar Tweeter Center in Camden that I’ve grown accustomed to.

Englishtown certainly manages the space well, and all the stages are ultimately closer to each other, although the two main stages are placed on opposing ends of the parking lot (in stark contrast to Camden, which places its stages directly adjacent to each other). Checking out various tents, I didn’t find too much that interested me and for the first time didn’t buy anything from any of the tents. Even the “freebies” seemed tuned down this year; my pockets are usually overloaded with free stickers, discs, and promotions, but this year they held only my wallet and keys.

A Static Lullaby, a band I slightly enjoy but seem to spend too much time defending, were next on my list. I arrived at their stage to find a less-than-enthusiastic crowd; their performance couldn’t be described as the same, but it was certainly much less entertaining that I had hoped for. I decided to rehydrate myself instead of standing around listening to their screamer attempt to scream, and walked to the Monster truck and cooled down for a moment.

Chiodos was next on the main stage, and vocalist Craig Owens held the crowd’s attention with his high-pitched vocals and gut-wrenching screams over the band’s take on modern emocore/hardcore/metalcore tinged with keyboards and effects. Opening with “The Words ‘Best Friend’ Become Redefined”, the crowd (much like Underoath, filled with young girls) exploded into a handful of different pits. Unlike traditional hardcore pits, however, these modern bands seem to draw out ignorant teenagers doing what they believe is hardcore dancing. It couldn’t be any farther from that, however, and pits generally turn into push-moshing; no surprise, though, as I’d imagine most of the crowd is only into these bands as a trend–they’d likely learned their “moshing skills” from the previous trends such as Papa Roach or Korn. Chiodos played two new songs, each one as good as songs from All’s Well That Ends Well. Favorites from that debut album were also played (although nothing prior to that–in fact, I’m pretty sure all the material prior to that has been completely abandoned), such as “There’s No Penguins In Alaska” and “Baby You Wouldn’t Last A Minute On The Creek”. The band was quite tight musically, and I’ll certainly be picking up their next album, Bone Palace Ballet.

The Matches played the Hurley.com side stage, so I rushed over to catch them. Always exciting live, at festivals the band sticks to material mostly from Decomposer but did include older songs such as “Chain Me Free”. The Matches seem to attract a more respectful crowd than any other band, and the “pits” aren’t for slamdancing but more for jumping around, and, when “Salty Eyes” is played, waltzing. The band is very appreciative for its fans, and Shawn Harris even brought a girl up on stage who had created an intricate home-made shirt of the band’s lyrics. Playing near flawlessly for twenty-five minutes, the band closed with “Papercut Skin”.

One of the biggest surprise albums of 2007 is Paramore‘s Riot!; their debut, All We Know Is Falling, was solid, but Riot! is a tremendous follow-up I wasn’t expecting. Paramore may always just be a vehicle for teenage vocalist Hayley Williams, but if that’s the case then she’s certainly riding in a luxury car. Paramore’s most distinguishing feature may be its vocals, but the music is fine-tuned and pop-perfect.

Paramore opened with their biggest single, “Misery Business”. At first, the band seemed sluggish and Hayley’s vocals were not quite as strong as I remembered from the last time seeing them. As if changing gears, however, the band exploded with their next few songs, including seamlessly flowing from one song to another without braking for even a second. “Here We Go Again” received a touch-up with the band integrating part of At The Drive-In’s essential “One Armed Scissor”. The band played others from All We Know Is Falling, as well, including “Pressure” and “Emergency”. Putting on one of the strongest performances of the day, Hayley Williams is certainly elevating herself to role-model status for a generation of confused teenage girls.

I wasn’t going to miss even a moment of Bad Religion, so I rushed across the parking lot to catch the eldest (and unquestionably most important) band on Warped Tour 2007’s lineup.  The band kicked off with the familiar “American Jesus” riff, and true punk-styled circles broke out in the crowd. The band played eleven songs, touching on nearly every essential Bad Religion song including “Social Suicide” and “Infected”. Midway through the band’s set, a man in a wheelchair made his way on top of the crowd, surfing it all the way to the stage, at which point the band announced it was the coolest thing they had ever seen. Greg Gaffin called out all the parents sitting in the distance on the raceway’s bleachers, but he quickly noted that in his old age, that’s where he would be watching bands perform. The band closed their strong set with “Sorrow”.

I did spend some time wandering around, catching parts of various bands’ setlists throughout the day, hearing pieces of The Starting Line and even All Time Low covering the essential punk-pop “Dammit”. I sat down for the first time all day and listened to Bryce Avary perform for awhile while waiting for Bayside to take the stage; the crowd of entirely teenage girls seemed to melt to every word of every The Rocket Summer song.

I had hoped to see Circa Survive, but their set conflicted with Bayside, who took the side stage as one of the last bands of the evening. The New York four-piece didn’t hold anything back, opening with “Montauk” from their self-titled album. Their setlist consisted of primarily songs from The Walking Wounded, which is certainly their strongest release to date. They played the title track from the album (with Aaron Gillepsie of Underoath), and also “They’re Not Horses, They’re Unicorns”, “Duality”, and “Carry On”. The band sounded tight as always, and the crowd didn’t show any signs of fatigue. Sirens And Condolences‘s opening track “Masterpiece” was also played, and the band closed with “Devotion And Desire”.

Before leaving Englishtown, I caught the end of Tiger Army’s set, which included “In The Orchard” at a fan’s request and the standard closer, “Never Die”. I didn’t stick around for MC Chris (the very last act of the day), and headed back to the car as the evening was beginning to get dark. Certainly a solid Warped Tour lineup, and definitely a great place to see the show. I may be at Englishtown again next year instead of Camden.

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