Warped Tour 2006: Camden, NJ

August 8, 2006

Like clockwork, every August the Vans Warped Tour rolls into southern New Jersey. Billed as a “Philadelphia date” due to Camden’s proximity to The City of Brotherly Love, the Camden Warped Tour takes place at the Tweeter Center At The Waterfront and its surrounding parking lots. This year’s event showcased some of my favorite bands, such as Thursday, Motion City Soundtrack, The Academy Is…, and Billy Talent.

Warped Tour is great because it offers a chance to see many bands over the course of about ten hours for only $30. Upon arriving, I checked the time board to see when my favorite bands were playing; oddly enough, a few bands (such as Cartel) were absent from the main list, but I later learned they were playing some of the smaller stages. I would have guessed that Cartel could have been on a main stage, but that wasn’t the case. In fact, they were in direct conflict with a few other bands, namely Halifax and Thursday.

I decided I would see Thursday instead (since they are far superior to both Cartel and Halifax), wrote down the set times, and then walked around to locate each of the stages so that I could find them when the time came. The main stages are quite obvious, but some of the side stages are almost hidden in corners of the parking lot. The first band I saw was Chicago’s The Academy Is…, located at the Hurley Stage, far away from any other stages and merch booths.

Much to my surprise, the crowd for Fueled By Ramen’s five-piece punk-pop band was fairly small as I waited for the set to begin. The age-group, however, was not surprising–the crowd was filled primarily with younger girls. The Academy Is…’s setlist was absolutely stellar; seven songs from Almost Here and “The Fever” off of From The Carpet EP. The band’s performance was on the money, and vocalist William Beckett sounded spot on.

At the conclusion of their set, I made my way to the front barrier to wait for Ontario punks Billy Talent. During the wait, I luckily grabbed a setlist from The Academy Is…; my brother ended up with a guitar pick.

Billy Talent opened with their newest single, “Devil In A Midnight Mass” and continued to play three more from Billy Talent II and four from Billy Talent, “Line And Sinker” and “River Below”. The crowd was slightly larger than I expected, but most of the people in attendance didn’t really know the band. I did run into a few girls and guys who absolutely loved Billy Talent, which was definitely cool. The band performed with the energy I expected and hopefully won over a large amount of new fans through their excellent performance. I managed to score Billy Talent’s setlist, too, and then ventured across the parking lot to see Thursday. I passed through some side stages on the way and caught parts of a few sets, most notably Moneen, another Canadian band that I highly recommend.

The waiting crowd for Thursday was indeed small, too–this was beginning to seem very strange, as last year’s Warped Tour was completely packed all day and all night. I soon realized that last year’s Warped Tour had huge draws from MTV-break out stars My Chemical Romance and Fall Out Boy; this year’s biggest draws were veteran punks NOFX and underground favorites Thursday.

I managed to reach the barrier for Thursday, and the band exploded with “For The Workforce, Drowning”. Incredible as always, Thursday’s set was easily the best of the day, filled primarily with songs from A City By The Light Divided such as “Other Side Of The Crash/Over And Out (Of Control)”, though they did throw in its prequel, “Understanding In A Car Crash”, from Full Collapse.

Vocalist Geoff Rickley prefaced “At This Velocity” with the story behind the song’s meaning, but cut the explanation short and used it as an intro to jump straight into the song’s brutal opening. As explained many times, the song is about the band’s flight to Australia, with Poison The Well and The Mars Volta, that nearly crashed into the ground.

The band performed “Signals Over The Air”, a song Rickley dedicated to the women of the crowd and a sexual revolution. As winner’s of the Energizer contest, the band performed a little longer than normal, throwing in “Into The Blinding Light”, a song I had never had the oppurtunity to hear live. Though not one of my favorite Thursday songs, it’s apparent the band absolutely loves playing this one.

“Counting 5-4-3-2-1” was dedicated to bands like Rise Against and Every Time I Die, bands Rickley proclaimed help keep us all free from generic MTV music. Rickley also went on to say that even if you don’t have the money to purchase Thursday’s albums today, please go download them from the Internet, as music shouldn’t be just for those with money but should be a part of everyone’s life, like the air that you breathe.

Rickley also announced that bassist Tim Payne was absent from the lineup so that he could be with his family–his wife was having a baby. At one point, Rickley also encouraged the crowd to stop doing the typical Warped Tour punk circle pits and open up an old-school New Jersey “kickboxing style” pit.

Thursday finished their set with “Jet Black New Year”, a “party song” according Rickley. A crowd favorite, everyone hung onto every word and savored each moment as the slowed, climatic New Year’s countdown near the song’s close just beckoned a followup blast of energy. As tradition continued, the band ended the song with lines from Prince, echoing “and we’ll party like its 1999”.

Despite being nearly dehydrated and completely exhausted, I remained at the barrier hoping to get another setlist. I called to one of the stage crew workers who handed me a setlist, but, to my displeasure, it was a setlist from Anti-Flag who had played earlier and not from Thursday.

HORSE The Band was next on the list; I walked over to their set (which began slightly early, apparently) in the middle of their first song, The Mechanical Hand‘s “Birdo”. HORSE The Band, as many people don’t know, is a Nintendo-influenced hardcore band. Many songs and themes come from video games; their synthesizer is practically lifted from the 8-bit and 16-bit days of gaming. HORSE The Band kept their fans laughing with their outrageous comments between songs, such as yelling at a girl on a nearby acoustic stage, joking about taking song requests, and telling everyone checking out their merch booth to stop looking and come watch.

HORSE The Band’s set included a new song from their upcoming EP, and also “House Of Boo”, a song inspired by the Super Mario World Ghost Houses. The familiar haunting theme runs through the song. About to play their final song, HORSE The Band announced “this is a new one”, but actually played my favorite HORSE The Band song: “Cutsman”, a breakdown-filled hardcore song inspired by Mega Man I’s Cut Man. Their most known and respected song, the crowd even took to mounting fake scissors on their heads with their hands, mimicking the super villain upon which the song is based. I was glad to catch HORSE The Band, because I got to see my favorite songs live; I don’t anticipate getting another chance to see them anytime soon.

The Sleeping were going to be playing soon, but I had wanted to see Motion City Soundtrack and so went to wait for them; Rise Against was playing their stage first, so I made my way to front for their set–a comment that deserves a short aside:

Normally, I spend most of my Warped Tour time running from band to band, but this year’s lineup didn’t really force me to run from set to set, as there weren’t as many bands I had wanted to see. Also, due to the usual volume of people, I’m often stuck in the middle of crowds, nowhere near front, for most of the day. Today’s Warped Tour was completely the opposite; I spent most of the day as close as possible to each of the band’s. This was somewhat of a different experience than spending the day dancing in the pits that fill the middle of the crowds.

But I digress.

I’ve always proclaimed Rise Against as one of the loudest bands I’ve ever experienced, and this was no exception. With a set filled with old songs and new songs, Rise Against was as potent as ever. Absent from the set was their biggest radio hit, “Swing Life Away”; but it was apparent that they weren’t trying to showcase their softer side. Some favorites from the set included “Ready To Fall” and “Dancing For Rain”. At the end of the set, vocalist Tim McIlrath climbed into the crowd and passed the mic around. We clenched hands and shared the mic many times, certainly one of the more memorable experiences of the day.

Motion City Soundtrack came on next to play a stellar set that even included Back To The Beat EP‘s “Throwdown”. Despite a few problems with Jesse Johnson’s Moog synthesizer, Motion City Soundtrack ruled the crowd for a solid thirty minutes, inspiring a non-stop flood of crowd surfing. Vocalist Justin Pierre’s quirky comments and mannerisms set the mood for the band’s especially strange and quirky songs; the set included songs from Commit This To Memory such as “Attractive Today”, “Everything Is Alright”, “LG Fuad”, and “Better Open The Door” and songs from I Am The Movie such as fan-favorites “Capital H” and “The Future Freaks Me Out”.

Every Time I Die was next on my list, but their set was nearly over when I made it across the parking lot to the isolated corner that had The Academy Is… and Billy Talent about six hours earlier. I did manage to catch a few songs, though, and it was obvious that the band wasn’t settling for anything less than giant hardcore pits for their songs.

The evening was coming to a close, so I walked around the merch booths. Moneen was at their booth, and I got to speak with vocalist Kenny Bridges for quite some time. I asked him about The Red Tree‘s hidden track, and he said he put the track on there at the last minute and that the band didn’t even know it was there until a few months after it was pressed. This quite a contract to Armor For Sleep’s What To Do When You Are Dead, which featured a bonus track that the band really didn’t have any say about. Bridges and the rest of the band signed my oversized Warped Tour pre-sale ticket and mentioned an upcoming tour with Alexisonfire this fall.

I ventured around some more, checking out merch from other bands; my brother purchased a Billy Talent hat that was actually pretty cool. Most of the bands didn’t have any merch that impressed me, but I’ll note a few cool designs that stuck in my head:

HORSE The Band’s Cutsman t-shirt, with a picture of Cut Man himself. If it wasn’t baby-blue, I probably would have got it. Moneen had a few cool shirts, but they were sold out of L and XL sizes. There was a Philadelphia hardcore SSE shirts pack with bands like The Loved Ones, but it was all sized S. Motion City Soundtrack’s merch was weak as always; Armor For Sleep had the same designs I’ve seen for the last two or three years–none of them any good.

As I said before, all this “free time to wander” is a new experience for me at Warped Tour, as I’m usually running from stages to stage to catch the different bands. Less bands I want to see, coupled with a few scheduling issues, lead me to a much more relaxed day, however. I ran into a broken cardboard box filled with Thursday posters, so I grabbed those. Despite a few people thinking I was distributing them, I managed to walk away with what looks like over one hundred thick Thursday posters. Maybe I’ll wallpaper my apartment.

Armor For Sleep was the last band of the evening; my brother isn’t a huge fan of them, so he stood in the back with the posters and I made my way to the front. Again, this is quite a difference from past Warped Tours: the last band of the night is almost certainly packed with people; making your way to the front is a near impossible feat at any point during the day, but it’s especially impossible near the end!

New Jersey’s Armor For Sleep played nearly all the songs I had expected/wanted them to, including “Dream To Make Believe” and “The Truth About Heaven”, though their live sound isn’t as tight as some of the other bands I saw earlier. During “Stay On The Ground” the band encouraged everyone to crowd surf, daring them to “break the record of nine people in the crowd at once”. We lifted every girl we could into the air, easily shattering the weak “record of nine”.

As Armor For Sleep finished the day, I met up with my friends, grabbed my posters, and walked back to my car. It’s worth noting some other bands I caught parts of during the day:

Joan Jett And The Blackhearts: I caught a few songs from this Philadelphia native, notably “Bad Reputation” and The Arrows’s cover “I Love Rock ‘N Roll”.

NOFX: Fat mike was complaining about different things as always. The band didn’t sound that bad, though, surprisingly.

The Bouncing Souls: I was on my way to catch another band at the time, but The Bouncing Souls sounded fabulous.

Vaux: Denver’s hardrockers sounded pretty good, I caught part of their set walking through the ampitheatre.

I had wanted to see Silverstein, Emanuel, Halifax, and Cartel, but scheduling conflicts prevented it. I also wouldn’t have minded seeing Alexisonfire, Gatsby’s American Dream, and Saves The Day.

A few other odds and ends:

I’m glad that From First To Last dropped off the tour, because they were unfortunately winning the Energizer contest for ten extra minutes. With them gone, Thursday narrowly edged out Saves The Day. I was hoping to see Underoath, but they dropped off the Warped Tour only a few days earlier. Chiodos was on a few dates around Camden, but were not at Camden’s date, sadly. AFI was on only a handful of Warped Tour dates, but not Camden anyway.

I learned a few neat facts about Moneen; I confirmed my belief that Thursday is my favorite band and also the best live band I’ve ever seen, and that Geoff Rickley and Thursday are some of the most honest, passionate musicians in the industry; I got a few setlists; I experienced my first Warped Tour that didn’t involve most of the day in pits, but actually in the front row; I noticed that this year’s event didn’t draw a big crowd at all compared to last year’s.

An obvious comparison comes up; Warped Tour 2006 versus Bamboozle 2006, the latter wins without question–either day of Bamboozle simply had more bands that I wanted to see, and Bamboozle as a whole is a much better festival.

I usually hate writing so informally, but I think it was the best way to describe the day’s events. Any comments and questions, please leave them below. You do not need to be registered to post; anonymous posting IS allowed!