On the drive in, we got stuck in one of the worst traffic jams I've ever seen. It added an extra hour onto our drive to the Woodlands, which made me way later than I wanted to be. Besides being late, it wasn't fun to be stuck in a car with no air conditioning on a hot Texas interstate.
Upon pulling up the parking lot, I heard everyone saying that The Vandals had already played. This had me a little bummed, but I had no time to mope, it was showtime.
As I walked in the gates, I heard to beginning of "Sloop John B." and knew it had to be Me First And The Gimmie Gimmies starting their set. I ran over to the stage, snapped a few pictures, and sang along on quite a few songs. They were a lot of fun. This was the first time I had seen them since they toured with the Voodoo Glow Skulls way back in 1997. Spike did a great job of singing "Nobody Does It Better." It was really the highlight of the set. Their stage setup was just as zany. They were all in hawaiian shirts and even had a mini bar on stage. No luxury expended on this trip! As they said, "We're the best cover band on the tour!....We're the ONLY cover band on the tour!"
Next I ran over to see The Ataris. Me First... hadn't finished yet, but I wanted to see The Ataris and get to the press area. The bad thing about this show was that the 2 main stages overlapped each other, so you had to sacrifice a little of each set in order to see everybody.
The Ataris played a strong set as usual, despite the 100 degree heat. I really had fun with their set. The best song was when they played "Teenage Riot." Everyone sang along and got wild. I don't think I've ever seen so many people packed into the pavilion area of the Woodlands before. It was wild.
Now it was time to make my way to the press room. This was a welcome sight because downstairs from it was catering and all the water you could drink. Dehydration was a very serious factor of the day. Quite a few young people had an early day because they passed out or were sick due to the heat. Hopefully they'll plan better next year and be sure to bring some water to drink. If you haven't attended one of the shows yet, they allow you to bring in your own water in a SEALED bottle.
In the press room, I conducted an interview with Mike Davenport of The Ataris. Found out all kinds of good information on the band and about them switching record labels. Good stuff!
Finally, it was time to head back into the heat and head over to see AFI. I never really planned on seeing them, but I was by the stage so I figured I might as well check them out. I didn't really get into their set, it wasn't really anything dazzling. The crowd enjoyed them, but I was ready to head to another stage after a few minutes.
I never really escaped AFI's music, because I went over to watch some skateboarding. I tell you this, there is nothing more beautiful to see than some great live skateboarding. It's really a graceful sport. I enjoyed the pros who made it out on the tour this year, I'd really love to talk to one of them next year about their experiences on the tour.
Next up was Less Than Jake. I've never really been a big LTJ fan, but I can say that they put on an amazing show. They came out with an explosion and tore the place up. I recognized a few of their songs from comps and some albums I had previously owned, which made the set more fun because I could sing along at times. I was impressed with their live show to no ends. This is a band I will definitely be sure to watch again in the future!
After running into Greg and Bryan from The Bouncing Souls I was able to set up an interview and meet them back at the Press Room. The interview was amazing. They were really nice guys.
Next I ran out to see 311. I used to listen to them back in the day, so it was a good nostalgia trip. I was disappointed when I saw them though. Nick Hexum wasn't playing guitar during the part of the set I saw, and that killed the sound. It was hollow. They had a lot of energy and rocked the place for the most part. I heard some old school treats, but I would have liked to have seen more from the band.
Well, now I had a lull in my day. I was walking around with nothing to do, so I began the search for free merch. I found one booth with the weirdest assortment of free stuff: batteries, pens, CD-Rs, and Guitar Player magazine. Strange.
After making my way out of "merch row" I heard some familiar sound, Bickley was playing a side stage. On my schedule it said 30footFALL, but it was none other than Bickley. As I made it to the stage they were just starting to play "Best Friend's Girlfriend," I was bummed because I knew that meant they'd play that and "That 70's Song" and be done. I had missed all the classics and caught the covers section of the set. I a little bummed, but I know I'll see them a lot more.
Now it was time for the first full set I got to watch all day, Rancid. They opened with "Radio" and never looked back. The only bad part of the set for me was watching Matt Freeman pull of the best basslines ever and knowing I couldn't play them. He's a true talent and goes to show that punk isn't just for people with limited musical knowledge. Rancid is as much punk rock as they are talented musicians. The set was wild. It was funny to see them play their new songs, they took those 30-45 second thrashers and played them in about 20 seconds. The definitely played the most songs in their set. They ended with the crowd favorite, "Ruby Soho," which had everyone singing along. It was a great image to see.
The final band of the night for me was The Bouncing Souls. There are few bands I love as much as The Bouncing Souls, so I was in heaven for this set. Bryan and Greg invited us up on stage, and it was amazing. I couldn't do much but be in awe and be envious that they were in front of this sea of people who were singing along from the very opening chant of "Here We Go," which opened up the set.
The set raged on with other classics such as "I Like Your Mom," "Kate Is Great," and "Quotes For Our Favorite 80's Movies." As well as new songs such as "This Song," and "Private Radio." The highlight of the set was when the played my all-time favorite Bouncing Souls song, "Argyle." The crowd was wild the entire set.
It was hard to believe I almost skipped this show. It was an amazing day as it always is. People can say what they want to about the Vans Warped Tour, but it's a fun time for all who attend. See you there next year!
Samuel Barker is Senior Editor. Contact him at email@example.com.