The Warped Tour is less like a fine wine than a gummy bear stuck in a car's ashtray: The more it ages, the more unrecognizable it becomes. If you're of a certain generation and grew up with a predilection for music of the fast-and-angry variety, the day the traveling punk-rock carnival came through your town was always the peak of your summer. Going back now is like revisiting your childhood playground: It's nothing like you remember. Who are all these bands? Why are there so many dubstep DJs? Who let the Army set up a booth here? Is this really what's considered "punk" these days?
But then, maybe we're just too beholden to our memories. If we played some of these bands' music, sight unseen, would we think of them differently? To find out, we organized a panel, made up of WW music writers outside the Warped demographic (i.e., we're all old enough to drink and vote), to conduct a "blind listening test" of this year's crop of performers. To keep to the festival's bread and butter, we selected only those artists identified by some variant of "punk" or "hardcore" on the tour's website—33 of the 80-plus acts. Our top five and bottom five are presented here, as judged with a sophisticated 1-to-100 scoring system. You can find where the others ranked, along with our listener comments,below .
Plague Vendor (pictured above)
Sample song: "Black Sap Scriptures"
With mutant surf guitars, convulsive post-punk rhythms and a singer with the squirmy, live-wire presence of the Cramps' Lux Interior, these guys would've been the highlight of the tour in 1998, let alone now. This is also the band most likely to make disparaging remarks about a corporate sponsor from the stage and get docked its per diem.
Comments: "This band has too much groove for the Warped Tour." "No one will understand."
Courage My Love
Sample song: "Bridges"
Like Tegan and Sara for a crowd not yet old enough to grasp The Hunger Games, Canadian sisters Mercedes and Phoenix Arn-Horn (plus some Hot Topic stock boy on bass) play pop punk infused with a sense of melodrama that's authentically adolescent rather than a genre put-on.
Comments: "Disney Channel punk." "Why doesn't Best Coast sound like this?"
Saves the Day
Sample song: "At Your Funeral"
C'mon, this wasn't going to sneak past a room of 30-year-old lapsed emo kids unnoticed. Even if we were biased by sheer recognition, these New Jersey lifers come off like the Replacements in this lineup.
Comments: "More spiky bangs, probably a tux shirt or ironic tie." "Emo just before its balls drop."
Four Year Strong
Sample song: "It Must Really Suck to Be Four Year Strong Right Now"
Having formed in 2001, this band is officially on "Old Creeper at the High School Party" status, but its so-called "melodic hardcore" is refreshingly free of digitized polish, growled choruses and asymmetrical haircuts.
Comments: "Singer sounds like an adult, at least." "Did he just say he has a 'master pterodactyl'? Dude rules."
A Skylit Drive
Sample song: "All It Takes for Your Dreams to Come True"
A eunuch, a nu-metal rhythm section and Ogre from Revenge of the Nerds walk into a recording studio. You won't believe what happens next.
Comments: "Tangy with a bland finish." "Those drums, though."
Sample song: "Somewhere in Hiding"
Apparently, what the kids want these days is a band that's half One Direction, half malfunctioning garbage disposal, and it doesn't matter how jarringly it pivots between those two points.
Comments: "None of these dudes can hang on to a girlfriend. So he gets angry. Then sad again. :(" "This guy is def a virgin."
Sample song: "What Did You Expect?"
Leave it to a band of Welshmen posing as SoCal skate punks to overstep the thin line between emo-dude self-pity and noxious slut-shaming: "You went and fucked this up/ 'Cause you couldn't keep your legs shut." Blech.
Comments: "Sausage-fest time."
The City Shakeup
Sample song: "Silence"
A likely victim of ear fatigue more than anything else, these soft-hearted Aussie bros are too dishwater to warrant this low of a ranking. On the other hand, being generic rather than hilariously awful is its own sort of crime.
Comments: "Can't think anymore. Losing hope."
Cute Is What We Aim For
Sample song: "The Curse of Curves"
According to its Wikipedia page, the band has had trouble maintaining members, no doubt because they keep spontaneously combusting from the shame of being in a band called Cute Is What We Aim For.
Comments: "Mind: blown."
Close Your Eyes
Sample song: "Song for the Broken"
When Warped completes its transition into an aggro Christian sleep-away camp, all that will be left are groups like this.
Comments: "Linkin Park but with growling instead of rapping."
EVERYTHING IN BETWEEN
Sample song: "Elevated"
Comments: "Just BLASTING out of Hot Topic."
Less Than Jake
Sample song: "All My Best Friends Are Metalheads"
Comments: "Soundtrack to the next Scooby-Doo movie." "The farty-sounding trumpet was a nice touch."
Sample song: "Ocean Avenue"
Comments: âThis reminds me of working at Hollister and smoking weed out of apples in mall parking lots.â âThese dudes have to be like 40.â
The Story So Far
Sample song: "Things I Can't Change"
Comments: "The vocals just ruin every song. Pick scrape was pretty sweet though."
Sample song: "Bad Parts"
Comments: "Man? Woman? Fraggle?" "Generic battle-of-the-bands superstars."
Sample song: "Devotion and Desire"
Comments: "Musical equivalent of flat Wal-Mart brand beer." "Promising until Ben Gibbard started singing."
Sample song: "Floorboards"
Comments: âBlink-182 will always be cool.â
We Are the In Crowd
Sample song: "The Best Thing (That Never Happened)"
Comments: âBad new wave Avril Lavigne.â âOn the relative scale of Warped Tour, Iâll take a Paramore ripoff.â
Heart to Heart
Sample song: "In Case You Haven't Noticed"
Comments: "The video probably involves a female lead with running mascara who's in a parking lot for no reason that's known to the viewer."
Sample song: "Skate or Die"
Comments: "Is this real? Andy Samberg has to be on the other side of that mic." "Sounds like a dad made a song about skateboarding for his kid's birthday."
Sample song: I Have a Problem
Comments: "Probably about Jesus." "Powerful stuff, if you're in high school in rural Oregon."
Stray From the Path
Sample song: "Badge and a Bullet"
Comments: "Nu-school west coast throwdown hardcore." "This band would be HUGE in Spokane."
Sample song: "Keepers of the Faith"
Comments: "This sounds exactly like Metallica...only Christian." "The most evil Christian metal band EVER!"
The Ghost Inside
Sample song: "Engine 45"
Comments: âCrabcoreâs greatest hits. Too bad itâs all terrible.â âYES.â
The Color Morale
Sample song: "Learned Behavior"
Comments: "I hated it, then I got a boner, then I hated it again. Kinda like my ex-girlfriend. Or Evanescence." "Extra points for synth-pop angel vocals on the chorus."
Chunk! No, Captain Chunk
Sample song: "In Friends We Trust"
Comments: "Casio synth = the Warped Tour version of the banjo."
Sample song: "Where I Belong"
Comments: "Sampler platter of everything the Warped Tour has to offer. God help us all."
A Lot Like Birds
Sample song: "Vanity's Fair"
Comments: âThis is like getting lost in a maze with a white belt on.â âMath-rock cry-core? Could have been big in the blog-rock era.â
Sample song: "Dead Daze"
Comments: "One too many screaming cooks in the kitchen."
Sample song: "Middle Fingers Up"
Comments: "This is what school violence is made of." "Cookie Monster don't suffer no haters."
Every Time I Die
Sample song: "Underwater Bimbos From Outer Space"
Comments: âProbably a UFC fighterâs walk-out song.â âThis band is a Guitar Center wet dream.â
Sample song: "Fearless"
Comments: "Hardcore breakdown = proto-dubstep drop." "Was really hoping for some heavy electronic garbage and screaming." "Wish it was Skrillex, and I never thought Iâd say that.â
Falling in Reverse
Sample song: "The Drug in Me Is You"
Comments: "Sonic nasal drip." "Up until the chorus, this sounded less stupid than the others."
SEE IT: The Vans Warped Tour is at the Portland Expo Center parking lot, 2060 N Marine Drive, on Sunday, June 29. 10 am. $36. All ages. See vanswarpedtour.com for complete lineup.