Vans Warped Tour review

written by Mike Cox

Date: July 1, 2007

Venue: Shoreline Amphitheatre, Mountain View, Ca.

From the dust it had risen, and into the dust it would fade. On July 1st 2007, Shoreline Amphitheatre in Mountain View California was home to the 13th annual Vans Warped Tour. Take time to note, that of all the music festivals conceived in the early 90’s the Warped Tour is one of only two still clinging to life’s breath, a true credit to the “underground”.

That being said, it’s important to recognize just how much the festival has evolved over the last decade.

Once a mere spotlight for the Punkers, the tour is now brand central, with representatives from every hipster clothing line and record label between here and Timbuck Two, shamelessly promoting their wares by any means possible. Not necessarily a bad thing, the consumer microcosm created offered many the chance to sample sounds ne’r heard at the local Sam Goody. Though most were no more than new school “Monk”(mock punk) bands trying to jump on the Emo/Screamo/Teeno bandwagon being paraded on the airwaves these days. Still there were a few standouts.

The So Cal based Street Drum Corps (S.D.C.) were well worth the time and effort it took to see them. An audience of well over a hundred packed into an amazingly small tent where temperatures easily reached the century mark to enjoy the sights and sounds of this so called “Punk Rock Stomp”. Founded by Bobby Alt (S.T.U.N.), Adam Alt (Circus Minor) and Frank Zummo (The Start), S.D.C. unleashed an all out auditory assault, arming themselves with anything and everything they could get their hands on. Look for the new record “We Are Machines” in stores this summer.

Conscious of the tours continued evolution (success?) the powers that be again offered another first, the combination of athlete and artist. Mike Vallely (Mike V. to the rest of us), host of Fuel TV’s “Drive”, pro Skater extraordinaire, and all out punk rock madman, on board skating and singing. On tour for the summer with his band Mother Revolution. Unfortunately as his set coincided with the Vandals I was only able to catch the last few songs. Alas the sound and accompanying vision provided by Mike and his band on stage was nothing short of refreshing. With the day and age of eyeliner and emo upon us Mother Revolutions’ hurricane like zeal for fast loud rock was certainly one of the day’s high points. Hardcore fans rejoice, this album is for you.

Added bonuses aside, I was here for the meat and potatoes of the line-up. Conveniently, every band I specifically came to see were set to perform on the Lucky stage one after another starting at 3:00 P.M.

The only scheduled exception was New Found Glory (whom I find nothing glorious about) taking the stage at 5:00 P.M. This gave me a chance to check out “The Brothers Grimm Sideshow” which amounted to nothing more than a K-Mart quality rip off of “The Jim Rose Circus Sideshow.” Don’t bother. Spend the 5 on a beer instead.

The Tiger Army set kicked things off with the brand new “Prelude: Signal Return”, stirring the crowd into a frenzy and in the process creating what was to become a day long dust storm in front of the parking lot stage. Suffering through some technical problems (Nick13’s amp lost power a few times), T.A. offered a blend of new and old, pulling out a few crowd favorites while mixing in tracks from the recently released “Tiger Army IIII, Music From Regions Beyond”. T.A. finished the set with F.T.W. – dedicating it to everyone who had been at B.F.D (where rumor was, they were told not to play it).

Next up, playing their only date on the tour, So Cal career goofballs, The Vandals. For some odd reason, the Vandals started the set several minutes early causing many to miss the first few songs. Not to fear as most of their tunes seem to clock in around 90 seconds apiece. Tardy fans were still treated to classics along the lines of “I’ve Got An Ape Drape” (if you actually have to ask, don’t) and “Happy Birthday to Me”. Closing with “And Now We Dance” a sing-along that conquering punk hordes might have used in ancient Rome. At this point in the day it was safe to say the Vandals had set the crowd standard, performing with an almost seismic energy.

Picking up where the Vandals left off, the Circle Jerks assaulted the crowd with deafening decibel levels. Keith Morris and company did not disappoint. The ‘Jerks, attracted a largely older crowd, most paying tribute to a group amounting to punk rock royalty. The kids in attendance were treated to a blistering set dating back to 1979, offering them a glimpse of what life was like for us old guys. Suffice it to say I think the ‘Jerks swayed a few new fans their way. Thanks Keith.

Pennywise took the stage at six o’clock to a mind-blowing crowd. Seemingly everyone in attendance made a concerted push upon hearing front man Jim Lindberg’s classic call, “Hi we’re Pennywise, from Hermosa Beach California.” The ensuing set was a fans’ dream come true. PW stormed out of the gates with high-energy classics that moved the crowd so forcibly the dust had reduced vision to a blur. At one point Jim gave up the mic to Fat Mike (who was backstage with wife and child), treating everyone to an impromptu NoFX tune. Pure electricity! It must be said that although true punk zealots Bad Religion followed them, Pennywise stole the show. Never was it more evident than during “Bro-Hym” an emotional ode to Jason Matthew Thirsk, the bands original bassist lost to suicide in 1996. Watching my son worked over by the energy was moving. Instantly I remembered my introduction to PW. Not much different than today’s high schooler, riding in the back of a minivan en route to Ocean City, New Jersey. Cranking the newly released self- titled album “Pennywise.” I love the bond music has offered my son and I. We owe it to people like Jim Lindberg, Fletcher Dragge and our brother Jason Matthew Thirsk. Jason may you rest in peace with the eternal comforts of brotherhood and music.

Finally the act scores had patiently waited for, Bad Religion. Following Pennywise would prove a difficult task, Greg Graffin and company played a set heavy with tunes released on 1994’s “Stranger Than Fiction” and few too many from 2004’s disappointing release “The Empire Strike First” much to the dismay of older fans chanting “No Control.” Though the set list was less than ideal the Band made up for it with a razor sharp performance including tastes’ of the soon to be released (July, 10th) “New Maps Of Hell” which seems to stray from the concept of the last few releases and is more reminiscent of 1993’s “Recipe For Hate”, a direction longtime fans will be pleased with. Having closed the set with “Sorrow” the band exited the stage to chants of “One More Song”, which proved futile due to the powers that be. Just like the man to fuck up a good thing.

Call it corporate. Call it a sell-out. Hell call it whatever you want, but The Vans Warped Tour is still the best opportunity to see the best of the best do what they do.

Tiger Army IIII – Music From Regions Beyond review

Tiger Army
Tiger Army
written by Mike Cox

“Music From The Regions Beyond” may be Tiger Army’s fourth full length offering, but it’s their first attempt at a radio friendly album. Oblivious only seconds into “Prelude: Signal Return” (track one) “Music From Regions Beyond” is just that, music from regions far beyond what has become the trademark Tiger Army style.

Prelude: Signal Return is IIII’s version of the recurring intro fans have become accustomed to. Gone is the black streaked Psycho-Billy style, replaced with a dark neo-disco pop sound that seems to be all the rage these days. Suffice it to say the track is saved by the dark thumping of Jeff Roffredo’s bass and the omnipresent group shout out: “Tiger Army Never Die!” followed by a bass laden track just oozing punk ferocity. The second cut “Hotprowl” starts full bore and never backs down. Highlighted by Nick13 showcasing his vocal talent, these two are the closest anyone is getting to vintage T.A. on IIII.

At this point things change. Now the catalyst for change could and should be attributed to several things. The slick “put me in rotation” sound comes as no surprise to anyone familiar with Producer Jerry Finn’s work. That’s right, the same Jerry Finn credited for
thrusting AFI into the national spotlight and jacking up Alkaline Trio’s Sound Scan. Finn really exerts his influence on tracks like “Afterworld” and “Forever Fades Away” the former even featuring AFI front man Davey Havok. Loyal fans may reject both tracks, but expect them to get some heavy airtime. And speaking of rejection, one has to question Nick13’s departure from the normal T.A. lyrical content. Gone are the days of evil anthems and b-grade blood and guts. Bye, bye Bram Stoker hello Anne Rice. When did Psycho-Billy become “emo” sensitive?

Musically the band has switched things up as well. Take for example track eight, “As The Cold Rain Falls” a confusing rant on some love lost supported by an eighties soundtrack that just reeks new wave revival. It’s almost contradictory. Listening to numbers like “Lunatone” and the Spanish take “Hechizo de Amor” (Spell of Love) will make loyal fans grimace with pain, yearn to grab T.A. II and play F.T.W. at full volume. Alas we are saved, “Where the Moss Slowly Grows” the albums eleventh and final song is a thought provoking Rock-a-Billy classic. The perfect medium for Nicks newer writing and softer vocal styles. Stirring chilling visions of a graveside outpouring with a lover no longer of this world.

Complaints and criticism aside, Tiger Army IIII amounts to a mediocre album from an excellent group. Even so fans should still be thankful. Nick13 is the sole reason T.A. exists. Having released four albums, the band has seen four different drummers and three count em three bass players. Nicks vision and dedication have never been more evident. So werecatyouth give thanks and send the evil shout out to Nick. Remember critical acclaim comes and goes with the moonlight, but loyal fans remain…like zombies in the night.

Original Article

Tim Armstrong – A Poet’s Life

Tim Armstrong - A Poets Life
Tim Armstrong - A Poets Life
Punks’ not dead! It’s just aging. No matter how you look at it, whether a roots revival or the evolution of style, Tim Armstrong’s new solo venture “A Poets Life” reeks with that disillusioned inner-city seediness that has for so long defined punk rock.

Straying from the true to form definition of punk, Armstrong seems to have revisited some of the more important roots. Mixing true ska and classic Jamaican dancehall with a little DIY punk attitude, gives “A Poets Life” that truly gritty heart wrenching sound. Backed by the L.A. based Aggrolites (one of the few true American dancehall bands), who seem to lay down the perfect beats. Be it party anthem or political banter, these cats are right on.

Now punk purists and pre-teen posers are gonna bitch, the former simply because it’s different, the latter due to the fact that they know what punk looks like. They can save it. Punk always has been and always will be about being different. If you’re too scared to try new things, (obliviously
Armstrong’s not) then leave this one alone.

Keep in mind no-one’s saying every track is great, that’s just not the case. Take for example “Oh No” an ode to Armstrong’s love for Los Angeles. It just doesn’t show the lyrical prowess he’s graced us with over the years. ” Lady Demeter” is another tired example. A rambling roost revolving around some wannabe gangsta club girl that just comes up empty.

On the flipside, we’re still treated to the rebellious party anthems we’ve come to know and love. “Into Action” showcases Armstrong’s undying love for the East Bay and the entire Golden State. Regardless as to my locale, every time I listen to it, I’m prime for Saturday night, rollin’ across the Bay Bridge, top down and spliff burning. “Take This City” is another anthem venturing back to the old days. Rolling around aimlessly in the Caddie, nowhere to go, nothing to do and lovin’ every minute of it.

Fun and games aside, we do have the obligatory political banter. What’s respectable here is that Tim’s not trying to come off as a martyr. He’s just trying to pen everyday life. “Inner City Violence” though full of modern propaganda directed at conflicts in the Middle East and Africa, could just as easily describe daily life in many American cities. Metaphorically describing the sense of hopelessness and oppression so many inner-city residents are forced to live with. Growing up impoverished and under privileged has been a constant theme in Armstrong’s music over the years. Gutter Punks from San Francisco to Seattle and out to N.Y.C. will no doubt connect with the tragic tone that “Among The Dead” sets. Waxing sentimental, Armstrong spotlights the blight of young homelessness in the East Bay, having been one of the many whose only roots stem from the once blossoming Berkeley scene. The final verse resolute: “Lets’ give a try, Give it one more run”.

– Mike Cox

The Bravery – The Sun and The Moon

The Bravery - The Sun and The Moon
The Bravery - The Sun and The Moon
You can see it in their faces on the album cover, that “what went wrong” kind of look. The Bravery were supposed to be New York’s next big thing, the new face riding the neo-new wave. Sadly in a sea of bands throwing in synthesizers and electronic drums not even a feud with The Killers could help them live up to the hype that hit most people long before the first single did. That’s not to say their first record wasn’t a modest success or solid from start to finish, it just wasn’t quite the splash everyone who heard the singles thought it was going to be. So with that out of the way let me say it was probably for the best and get on with this review.

The Sun and the Moon is a very subtle and mature departure from the sounds Bravery fans might be used to. It’s an indulgent record, but not selfish. The songs retain a comfortable structure and the album as a whole is polished and well rounded, The production is first-rate, but the mixing is where the post work really shines with all the little nuances popping out at just the right time perfectly accenting the feel of the songs. Vocally front man Sam Endicott works himself as just another instrument, going for the compliment rather than the hook (but still providing hooks-aplenty). Lyrically he pushes the abstract but with a little biased reading between the lines a theme of missed chances and perseverance appears from time to time. “Waiting for our ship to come, but our ships not coming back”.

The album starts with “believe” and “this is not the end” straight ahead rock tracks with bluesy heavy leads that drive the song. Ambient tones and harmonies with large passionate choruses and synth riffs there strictly for mood instead of movement. Both tracks follow a similar formula pulling the listener into the record. The tracks that follow, “Every Word Is a Knife in My Ear” and “Bad Sun” sound more like classic Bravery. Great dance songs, synth heavy, electronic drum, dangly earring, bob hair cut kind of stuff. Then the stand out song on the album ,“Time Won’t Let Me Go” , the kind of song that will show up on the sad uplifting part of Grey’s Anatomy or House. With the sing along bridge and outro this might be the sleeper summer song of 2007. Next up an acoustic bluesy song that doesn’t feel as out of place as it could. It does it job as a wind down track before the album takes a
different turn. If this were more of a cruising record this would be the song where you’re driving through the desert.

It is refreshing to hear a record the gets stronger in the second half. With obligations out of the way the songwriting really starts pushing itself. The structures loosen slightly and the songs start to have a more of the organic written with feeling more than formula touch. The backing vocals branch out with more creative risky melodies and it works. It is in this last half that fair-weather fans of the bravery will glaze over but music fans will really start to tune in. You can hear in the composition of the
last 5 tracks that The Bravery are taking chances and focusing on the sum of the parts being greater than the whole.

The album ends with a melancholy piece that crescendos into an ideal wrap up of The Sun and the Moon, a record that is quite impressive from start to finish. Major success on a grand scale might never be in the cards for these guys but integrity, substance and sold out shows in the “in vogue” venues is firmly in their grasp.

7.5/10 – JKE Dean

Zero 7 @ The Commodore Ballroom, Vancouver

Zero 7
Zero 7
Zero 7 @ The Commodore Ballroom, Vancouver It’s a humid Saturday night in downtown Vancouver and hundreds are packed in the Commodore Ballroom awaiting the onstage arrival of UK electronica outfit, Henry Binns and Sam Hardaker — otherwise known collectively as Zero 7. Opening act Jose Gonzalez, vocalist on multiple tracks off Zero 7’s current and third album “The Garden”, treats us to his acoustic prowess and sombre singing style.

Badly Drawn Boy ends tour with dreary eyes, cigarettes and rye

Badly Drawn Boy “I need a break,” he says as he stops playing piano and lights up a cigarette. “You’ve seen me; I’ve been up here for fucking two hours.”

It was understandable that Damon Gough of Badly Drawn Boy was tired, as his band got stuck on the stateside border for four hours earlier in the day. Nevertheless, the fading enthusiasm just summed up what was little more than a mediocre live show.

Michael Franti & Spearhead @ The Commodore

Michael Franti Spearhead
Michael Franti Spearhead
Michael Franti & Spearhead @ The Commodore As the familiar concert smoke flooded the ceiling region of Vancouver’s beautiful “Commodore Ballroom,” Xavier Rudd delved deeper into his amazing set. The Darwin born Australian one-man band stunned all in attendance, serving as the opening act. Rudd performed one of the best truly solo sets I’ve seen, utilizing three digereedos, several guitars of different variations, a harmonica suspended around his throat, a kick drum by his left foot and a microphone for his voice. Rudd affirmed the meaning of the word “independent.”

Citizen Cope @ Richards on Richards

Citizen Cope
Citizen Cope
Citizen Cope @ Richards on Richards The last time Citizen Cope came through Vancouver, he performed at a small club. He was dubbed the “headliner” but there weren’t any other acts for him to reign over. Before he took the stage simply spun a Bob Marley compilation, which kept the eager crowd at bay. This time was different though. Cope performed for an audience with a couple hundred more members atop larger stage.