Written by Samuel Barker
Jul 20, 2003 at 12:00 PM
Opening Remarks: Last year the rains came and forced the entire tour inside the Reliant Center. It’s hangar-like set-up killed the sound and stretched the show on well past 10 p.m. This year, the rains had all blown past and the show was set-up how it was meant to be set-up, in the Reliant parking lot.

Booths for zines, record labels, $1 compilation albums, free YooHoo! (saved many a thirsty teen from dehydration), Easy Mac (free food all those who couldn’t afford anything before the show) and of course, a giant punk rocker waterslide for those who needed to cool down peppered the landscape and gave the kids something to take part in.

Rather than being forced into a compact area, this year’s tour was allowed to sprawl out and give everyone a chance to see all the bands and enjoy the moment with no sound spill over or interference from people migrating from area to area.

Also, who could forget the pro demos at the skate ramp? Caballero was no where to be seen, but Mike Frasier and company took the opportunity to go wild on the ramp gaining oooohs and ahhhhs from skaters and non-skaters alike.

This year definitely seemed to be looking like a killer event, but what most people came for were the band, so here is who we checked out and what we thought of them. Hope you enjoy it.

ImageThrice: It was a bit surprising these guys were chosen to be the first band of the day. Last year these guys played in the middle of the day and drew a huge audience. This year, everyone who was in at that point made it over to the Teal Stage to be blown away.

Everytime these guys come around they get better. They’ve learned to let the vocals change up so listeners aren’t constantly berrated by screams, but not bored to death by the soft vocals. Killer way to open the day.

The Ataris: These guys are veterans of the Warped Tour and they showed it. They seemed comfortable on the stage, but almost too comfortable. There was energy to the set, but nothing you haven’t seen before. Kris Roe looks like he stopped eating, so he may not have the energy he once did. Who knows?

Crowd favorites like Your Boyfriend Sucks and San Dimas High School Football Rules got the kids in an uproad, so it wasn’t drab, just not as dazzling as the Ataris have been in the past.

Vaux: Vaux will teach a few kids how to add keyboards into hardcore, but beyond that, they suffered where so many hardcore bands did before them, their set sounded all the same. Granted, they’re a newer band, but if you want to get noticed, you have to set yourself apart from everyone else, and playing 30 minutes of the same song doesn’t put you on the right path.

Poison The Well: Poison the Well is served well by being on Warped Tour. These guys are just brutal, but extended exposure to the music leaves the listener totally overloaded and beat down. Within the Warped Tour context, these guys slay and leave you full, but not overwhelmed.

ImageAndrew W.K.: Andrew W.K. screwed every other band on the tour. This guy loves what he is doing, there is no way to deny it. There is also no way you cannot enjoy seeing someone so in love with what they’re doing.

Andrew W.K. came out and put on the performance of the day. Much like Death by Stereo’s stage-breaking performance last year, Andrew W.K. had a stage full of kids for classic rockers Party Hard and I Get Wet.

His set left everyone with a smile on their face and as Andrew stated, “Something you’ll remember as long as you live.”

Face To Face: Being one of the elder statemen on the tour didn\’t slow Face to Face down. This was the first time I\’ve seen the band as a 3-piece and I was impressed by the sound these guys pulled off. Classic rockers like Disconnected and Struggle were complimented nicely by newer tracks.

ImageSuicide Machines: Well, the Suicide Machines had one of the more impressive moments of the day. As many kids lined up at the Brian Stage to watch Rancid during their set, Jason Navarro called for the people watching them to rush the other stage. As the band kicked into DDT, everyone ran to the other stage. What ensued was a bottle war, empty plastic water bottles flew through the air for the remainder of the Suicide Machines’ set.

Somehow you have to wonder how having one stage’s audience attack another stage’s audience purveys the band’s message of peace and unity, but in the end, no rioting or injuries occurred so it was all good fun.

New bassist Rich Tschirhart took up Royce Nunley’s duties very well, though the funk bass from New Girl was missed, he filled in a brought some energy that had been lacking from that side of the stage recently. The band looked like they were having more fun than they have in years and definitely kept the audience in the show, or the show in the audience seeing as Navarro spent most of the set deep in the audience.

ImageRancid: These guys are showing their age. While Tim Armstrong looks to be in better spirits than he was while on tour with the Transplants, the sound for the band was badly off. Some songs like Time Bomb were almost unrecognizable. Newer songs sounded strong, but old favorites took on some new shapes and left a few wondering what they just heard.

But after watching Matt Freeman’s extended solo during Maxwell Murder, you have a hard time questioning these guys’ ability. Thoughout the years, Rancid has been one of the shining spots in the punk “scene” so you know they’ll bounce back in due time.

ImageLess Than Jake: Six hours had been spent baking in the hot Texas sun when Less Than Jake took the stage. These guys came to play. As soon as they hit the stage, they started with Gainesville Rock City and continued playing all their old favorites like Johnny Quest and All My Friends Are Metal Heads as well as some of the better songs from their new album, Anthem.

Chris and Roger played the audience well while Buddy and JR ran around the stage with or without horns riling everyone up. These guys easily could have taken the performance of the day honor had Andrew W.K. not played, but no one was going to touch him.

With a spray of confetti, Less Than Jake blew everyone away and ended their set with Al’s War. After seeing them blow everyone away, it seemed like a good time to head home, how long can you keep baking before you have to cool?

Closing Remarks: This year the tour brought back some of it’s older staples and made the tour more enjoyable, at least for the older kids in their 20s who don’t relate to bands like New Found Glory and Good Charlotte, who were the headliners last year. It was nice to see some of the bands you grew up on and see the youth response to. Of course, if you were a little old for any of the bands, you could always hide in the Reverse Daycare tent. Either way, there was something for everyone.