ska music

Warped

For 7 years from age 16 to age 22, I attended the Vans Warped Tour every summer. I remember finding out about Warped Tour when I was 15 from a friend in high school. It was at the time when I first discovered alternative music. Every year Warped Tour also releases a compilation album containing one song from every artist on that year’s tour. I became super interested in a few songs on the 2003 compilation that my friend had. That’s when she explained to me what the Vans Warped Tour was. I decided to purchase the 2003 compilation for myself and I was stoked to get the 2004 album upon its release (this was in the spring of 2004). More importantly I was extremely interested in going to Warped Tour that summer. Much to my dismay though, the tour wasn’t coming to my hometown. The closest venue that hosted the tour was 1 hour and 40 minutes away. At age 15, without a driver’s license and a car, it just wasn’t happening for me that summer. When the 2005 dates were announced a few months after the 2004 tour finished, I was pumped. The Vans Warped Tour was coming to my local concert venue and there was no way I was missing it.

Warped Tour began in 1995 as a skate punk/ska festival. It was founded by Kevin Lyman. In 1996, the skate shoe manufacturer and clothing brand, Vans, became the tour’s main sponsor. The Vans Warped Tour is the longest running touring festival in North America and the largest touring festival in the United States. In the late 90’s, the tour even went overseas to play dates in Australia, Japan, New Zealand, and Europe. It returned overseas to play a date in London in 2012 and again in 2015. Through the years, Warped Tour expanded on its music genres to include pop-punk, hardcore, emo, screamo, metalcore, and even some hip-hop and pop bands and artists. Many bands like Fall Out Boy, Blink-182, and Paramore, got their start on the Warped Tour. There’s even one notable pop artist who got her start on Warped Tour, but I’ll tell you more about it as you read on. It’s been said that Warped Tour is an initiation of sorts for bands because its a non-stop, all day touring event with many other bands that goes across the country over the entire summer. It’s intense to say the least, but from what I hear, tons of fun too. From the perspective of an attendee, it’s also fun for the festival-goers.

I attended my first Warped Tour in 2005.  I went with two friends and my mom because of course at age 16 I clearly wasn’t old enough to attend a music event with a chaperone (*sarcasm*). I also didn’t have my driver’s license by then so it worked out to have her as a ride. One thing different about Warped Tour compared to other music festivals is that you never know the lineup until the day of the festival. When you arrive you have to locate the giant board of set times and make a list of when and where your favorite bands are playing. It was always the craziest part of the day because everyone goes to that board upon entry. It gets so crowded on the way to there. At least I knew about the board in advance in 2005 despite being a Warped Tour rookie. That year I saw Fall Out Boy (only some of their set because Relient K overlapped), Relient K, The Offspring, and The Starting Line. I also planned to see Something Corporate, but they cancelled all their dates. It was the year their lead singer, Andrew McMahon (now of Andrew McMahon and the Wilderness and formerly of Jack’s Mannequin too), was diagnosed with cancer and was undergoing treatment. I still had the best time and knew from then on I would be making Warped Tour an annual event in my life.

I had some amazing times throughout 7 Warped Tours. I saw tons of my favorite bands play, sang my lungs out, skanked in skanking circles (ska music), considered crowd-surfing (although I never actually did), drank overpriced water and gatorade (hydration was always important), was involved in a torrential downpour, and even saw Katy Perry play. Yeah that’s right Katy Perry played Warped Tour in 2008! Told you I’d tell you more about that pop star who got her start on Warped Tour. Well, it was Katy Perry. It was while she had the “I Kissed a Girl” single out. My friends and I were resting and talking in the amphitheater a decent length away from the stage where a performance was happening and all of sudden I heard the “I Kissed a Girl” song. We realized we were relaxing during Katy Perry’s set. We watched the rest of the song, which happened to be her last one. Thinking back on it now, it’s kind of crazy to be able to say I saw Katy Perry play Warped Tour given the level of popularity she’s reached, but I did. It happened.

I could go on about Warped Tour. My memories of the festival are countless. I could tell you about the time I skipped The Bouncing Souls set for Four Year Strong and missed the first words to “Lean On Sheena” getting screamed in my friends’ faces (it was our song), or watching Hellogoodbye and all their friends parade around in costumes during their set, or skanking to my favorite Less Than Jake song in a giant skanking circle. One year a friend who I attended with asked me if I thought we would still attend Warped Tour as we got into our 20’s and 30’s like some of the older people we would see at the festival. My response was something along the lines of, “Hell yeah! Why wouldn’t we?” At the time, I never thought I’d stop liking Warped Tour style music or wanting to attend the festival. I guess I was wrong about that though.

I attended yearly through 2011. I almost went in 2012 as well but decided against it because I didn’t feel like getting rained on again in the festival like I did in 2008 (plus I would have been going alone). That ended my 7 year Warped Tour run and I haven’t been back since. The reason being is that I stopped listening to the type of bands that play Warped Tour. I grew and so did my music interests. The last year I attended I could tell it was already happening. There were less and less bands I was interested in seeing. My focus instead became attending festivals like Coachella, Lollapalooza, or Bonnaroo, ones that played the kind of music I was listening to. Warped Tour was my first festival though (“you never forget your first”). It was also my second, third, fourth, and so on. It prepped me for future festivals and gave me plenty of amazing music experiences a long the way. It also gave me many memories with friends who I attended with and met up with at the festival throughout my years of attending. It was the summer event to attend while I was in high school and college. For all those reasons, it will always hold a special place in my heart.

If you’re interested in attending Warped Tour this year or checking out some bands playing the festival, head to the Vans Warped Tour website. Since this isn’t one specific band that plays the Warped Tour and therefore I can’t leave you a list of songs to check out, here’s a few links to some of my favorite Warped Tour performances and some pictures I took during my years attending the event.

“Rooftops” by Mest, Warped Tour 2003 (Also one of my all-time favorite songs.)

“The Words ‘Best Friend’ Becomes Redefined” by Chiodos, Warped Tour 2009

“I Kissed a Girl” by Katy Perry, Warped Tour 2008

“Sugar We’re Going Down” by Fall Out Boy, Warped Tour 2005

“Bada Bing! Wit’ a Pipe!” by Four Year Strong, Warped Tour 2010

“Devotion and Desire” by Bayside, Warped Tour 2009

 

 

 

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Streetlight Manifesto

Within the last two years since I started this blog I’ve written about many bands, specifically ones that I find appealing. If you’ve been following for a while, you know my music tastes have changed over the years and you also know the bands that brought about those changes. More often than not though, I write about bands that I currently like with a few old band interests thrown in every once in a while. However I’m surprised I’ve never once written about any ska bands (unless you count Rancid since they have a few ska songs).

Although I had heard ska songs before, I became more interested in that style of music as a junior in high school. A friend of mine made me a mix tape that included several ska songs because he loved ska music. We ended up becoming best friends throughout our senior year (even forming a band) and my love of ska music grew. One of the first ska bands I was ever interested in, dating back to that junior year mix tape, was Streetlight Manifesto.

Streetlight Manifesto out of New Brunswick, New Jersey was formed in 2002. The band came together when Tom Kalnoky of the band Catch 22 decided to recruit other members of Catch 22 and members from the band One Cool Guy to make music together. The band initially recorded an EP under the name Bandits of the Acoustic Revolution before they began releasing music as Streetlight Manifesto. Streetlight’s first album Everything Goes Numb was released on August 26, 2003. The group’s second album was a re-recorded re-release of the Catch 22 album Keasbey Nights. The new Keasbey Nights featured a few musical and lyrical changes from the Catch 22 version. It was released in 2006.

In November 2007, Streetlight Manifesto’s third album Somewhere in the Between was released. The album featured all original tracks by the band much like their first album. The band then released a collaborative project album with Bandits of the Acoustic Revolution (BOTAR had many of the same members as the original Streetlight Manifesto lineup) that included an album consisting entirely of covering songs in 2010. The project was called 99 Songs of Revolution. The band’s most recent album, The Hands That Thieve, came out in 2013. Throughout the years Streetlight Manifesto’s lineup has changed multiple times with founder Tomas Kalnoky being the only original member. Recently the band experienced legal issues with their label Victory Records after a few years of bad relations. In October 2015 it was reported that Victory Records filed a lawsuit against Kalnoky for not fulfilling their record deal of releasing four albums under the label.

Streetlight Manifesto plays a ska punk style of ska music. Ska music originated in Jamaica in the 1950’s. Reggae, which is typically associated with Jamaica, was derived from ska music. The style combines elements of Jamaican folk music, known as mento, and Afro-Caribbean calypso with American jazz and R&B. A distinguishing factor of ska is a walking bass line with accented rhythms on the upbeat. Another distinguishable trait of ska is the use of horns like trumpets, trombones, and saxophones. Streetlight’s style combines ska with fast-paced punk rock similar to the style of bands like Rancid, Goldfinger, The Suicide Machines, Less Than Jake, and Reel Big Fish.

Aside from the legal dealings, Streetlight Manifesto has been non-existent in the music scene for the past few years. They’ve also been sort of non-existent from my life for the last 5 years or so. By the end of high school and through college, I listened to Streetlight Manifesto and plenty of ska bands. Then indie music happened and my ska punk days faded away. Even though I don’t listen to Streetlight Manifesto regularly anymore, I still appreciate them and the fact that they are a part of my music history. As I wrote this post, I listened to several of my favorite old Streetlight songs. I sang along like I used to 6-9 years ago and almost had the desire to get up and skank (a style of dance used when dancing to ska music). Here’s a few of the songs I listened to and some you need to check out because Streetlight Manifesto is one of the best ska bands around:

  1. Keasbey Nights
  2. Point/Counterpoint
  3. On & On & On
  4. We Are the Few
  5. The Big Sleep
  6. The Three of Us
  7. Dear Sergio
  8. We Will Fall Together
  9. Somewhere in the Between
  10. Everything Went Numb

 

Coachella Band Preview: Rancid

It’s April 1st and Coachella is no joke 2 weeks away! I feel like there’s a bunch more bands to preview but I may only do 1 or 2 more after today. Bummer! I know! But it’s okay cause Coachella is soooo soon! Last year at Coachella there were a couple bands playing the festival that I would consider “old school” as far as my music taste goes. I guess by my definition that means I used to listen to them in high school. Brand New and Bad Religion fit that spectrum last year. Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness and Desaparecidos even gave off that “old school” feel too, especially with Andrew McMahon playing a Jack’s Mannequin and Something Corporate song during his set and Connor Oberst shredding guitar on stage with his new band. This year the band that falls into the “old school” category is a punk rock band who has been in existence since the early 90’s. They’re called Rancid and I’m sure you may have heard of them before.

Formed in 1991, Rancid hails from Berkeley, California. The group is composed of Tim Armstrong (guitar and vocals), Matt Freeman (bass and vocals), Lars Frederiksen (guitar and vocals), and Brandon Steineckert (drums). Steineckert replaced original member Brett Reed in 2006. In the 90’s, Rancid was part of the revival of mainstream punk rock along with bands like Green Day and The Offspring. Since their inception the band has released 8 studio albums, splits, compilations, extended plays, and online-only live albums. Their self-titled first album was released all the way back in 1993 under Epitaph Records. Their breakthrough came from their third album, …And Out Come the Wolves, which was released in 1995. The singles “Time Bomb” and “Ruby Soho” became synonymous with the band. In 2003, after the band released their sixth studio album, Indestructible, they even received a bit of backlash from fans. It was the first time that the independent band released an album that was distributed by a major label (Warner Bros.) and fans believed the group became sell-outs. The album was met with mixed reactions from fans who believed the album sounded more “poppy” than normal. After that the band went on hiatus for 2 years and didn’t release another studio album until 2009. Their latest album, …Honor Is All We Know, was released in September 2014.

Rancid is about as punk rock as you can get. They do have some roots in ska though since both Tim Armstrong and Matt Freeman were part of influential ska band Operation Ivy. You can actually hear that ska sound in several of their songs including one of their most well known  and one of my personal favorite songs “Time Bomb”. Their sound in general is pretty distinct as well. Despite that more “poppy” album even the songs on their latest album have that same punk rock sound we’ve heard over the years.

I first heard of Rancid while I was in high school. According to my iTunes, I downloaded my first Rancid song a little over 9 years ago. I was never a huge Rancid fan during that time, but with my love for punk rock, pop-punk, and ska, I always enjoyed an occasional song. “Time Bomb” and “Fall Back Down” were and still are my two favorite songs. Despite not listening to punk rock music that often anymore, I’ll always appreciate Rancid because they influenced plenty of bands that I listened to in high school and college.

Unless I missed something in my research, 2016 will be Rancid’s first ever appearance at Coachella, which I find hard to believe given the band’s 25 year existence (you can correct me if I’m wrong). Guns N’ Roses may be a headliner but Rancid is just as legendary in their scene. If you’re into that sort of legendary band thing, liked punk rock in high school like me, or still like punk rock, Rancid is a band to see at the festival. They play Sunday. It’s tough to give you some prep recommendations because of the countless songs the band has, but here’s a few of my faves:

  1. Time Bomb
  2. Fall Back Down
  3. Maxwell Murder
  4. Ruby Soho
  5. California Sun
  6. You Don’t Care Nothin’
  7. As Wicked