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For 2011, the Vans Warped Tour brought together a mixture of youngsters and veterans. In its 16th year, it felt as though the booking agents rolled the dice with the line-up because none of it really made sense. In the end though, the day had some great acts.

From the veterans team came the likes of Lucero, Simple Plan, and Unwritten Law. The question that sat in the back of our minds when these three took the stage was "did they book these guys for our generation?" 90% of the crowd that attends VWT these days is between the ages of 13 and 18. And seeing how the aforementioned bands really got their start before most of the fans were driving did make you wonder. Regardless of why Warped snagged them, it was a good idea.

Unwritten Law and Lucero took a couple of the afternoon slots. Fighting the heat, neither band backed down from the challenge to rock out the few mid-to-late twenty year olds in the crowd. Unwritten's set consisted of great '90s alternative. Mostly off Here's To The Mourning and Elva, the songs filled the already thick air with attitude and a lack of regard for society. Their sound brought us back to the time of Nine Inch Nails and Filter. And when their most recognizable hit, "Seeing Red," came on, everyone within listening distance suddenly remembered that great chorus, "So follow the leader down / and swallow you pride and drown / when there's no place left to go / maybe that's when you will know!"

Now Lucero had a different idea. Not only did their sound stick out from the entire Warped Tour, but their set was probably the only one that could have been labeled as relaxing. Their sound is the type of rock that's solid and true. With minimal frills and minimal effects, they let the music do the talking. Try the heartfelt feelings of Johnny Cash mixed with the classic twang of Bruce Springsteen. Even immersed among tons and tons of acts at least half their age, they still remained one of the best sets of the day.

Then we moved on to Simple Plan. While they're not exactly old, they're not exactly young, either. Their first introduction was officially with No Pads, No Helmets… Just Balls back in 2002. And within a year their popularity took off. They quickly followed up with a few more albums, but then around 2008 or so, we all kind of lost track of the five guys from Canada. So when their name appeared on the list, I wasn't exactly sure what to expect from their performance. A moderately-sized crowd joined me for their set and as soon as the first song started, we were all instantly transported back nine years. The energy was just as I remembered it and by the time the third song "Jump" rolled around, I couldn't help but join in the pandemonium. This is what those of my generation like to call pop-punk. While the music itself isn't too complex, that's actually the point. High-octave notes, set at a tempo that could easily be Red Bull inspired, leave way for lyrics both entertaining and infectious. The sentiments are aimed for a slightly younger crowd, but years later, they still have an imprint on my brain. The band recently released a new album and if the point of this tour was to get fans hyped and enticed to check it out, job accomplished.

Like Simple Plan, there was another conundrum in the tour. Fred Mascherino isn't exactly new to the scene, or to the Tour for that matter. But his band Terrible Things is. Previous trips, including those with Taking Back Sunday, have made Warped Tour a familiar place for Fred. But this time it's different. This time he's hoping to use the vastness of places that the Tour touches to introduce his new sound to even more people. Up until now the band hasn't really had the opportunity to hit as much of the country as they would have hoped, so the invitation couldn't have come at a better time. Even with Josh pulling double duty (performing with his band Weerd Science, as well) their set was perfect. With a single self-titled album to pull from, the half hour set seemed to work perfectly. Each member came off very comfortable on stage as they worked through the melodic-natured rock and catchy lyrics TT has come to perfect. Then when Fred pulled a song from his solo act, The Color Fred, it only made the performance feel that much more honest. I've said it before and I'll say it again: it's great to see Fred behind an electric guitar again!

Now onto the newbies...

The Ready Set has been on the scene for all of four years, but talent is not lacking with these youngsters. The first song, "Young Forever," brought with it glitter-filled drums, water guns and energy that really wasn't matched the rest of the day. Their sound may not be for everyone, but I think you'd be hard pressed to find a single person in that crowd that wasn't moving (even just a little bit). A dark club with a few laser lights and huge dubs would've been a bit better of an environment for TRS's sound, yet they definitely did their best to make the most of that 95+ degree day.

The final act worth mentioning was the one with the largest amount of buzz. Moving Mountains is no more than 5 years old (less, if you count their first album release), but recently they've been the band on many minds. Having released their second full-length album, Waves, just weeks before Warped began, one would think their reason to tour was to introduce the new album. However, I'd have to say, it's introducing them. In studio their sound consists of strings, keys, as well as a few added effects for special dramatics. Sound like that runs the risk of weak translation to the stage. Not with these fellas - they easily had the biggest stage presence and biggest sound of the day. The two stand out numbers (in my eyes) were "Lights & Shapes" and "With One's Heart In One's Mouth". The former makes chaos beautiful. The tempo is so fast among percussion and guitar that at one point you can't tell the difference between the two. Backing vocals add an eerie sentiment, but when the gut-wrenching lead vocals take center stage all attention is stolen. Now the latter, that was the song I most wanted to hear from the day. A sequence of notes near the bottom of the guitar eventually combined with heavy cymbals and a distorted second guitar, all of which created a blanket of sound and covered the audience. I became so entranced by their music that nine minutes felt like nine hours (or maybe I just wished it would). Each album (EP and LP) has floored fans and now with Waves this band may be new, but they've got a promising future.

Warped gave every fan there something to not only look forward to, but a new discovery to take home.

-Rachel Fredrickson

Warped Tour
July 6th, 2011
Sandstone Amphitheater, Bonner Springs, KS

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