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June 25th, 2014 MATTHEW SINGER | Music Stories
 

Hear No Screamo

Our blind taste test of this year’s Warped Tour lineup.

music_4034(plaguevendor)PLAGUE VENDOR - Image courtesy Gary Copeland
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 .


TOP FIVE

Plague Vendor (pictured above)

Sample song: “Black Sap Scriptures”

Score: 77.8

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

Image courtesy of Jess Baumung

Sample song: “Bridges”

Score: 66.8

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 

Image courtesy of Saves The Day

Sample song: “At Your Funeral”

Score: 66.8

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 

Image courtesy of Pat Moore

Sample song: “It Must Really Suck to Be Four Year Strong Right Now”

Score: 64.5

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 

Image courtesy of Circle Talent Agency

Sample song: “All It Takes for Your Dreams to Come True”

Score: 62.8

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.”


BOTTOM FIVE

Secrets

Image courtesy of Earshot Media

Sample song: “Somewhere in Hiding”

Score: 22.5

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.”


Neck Deep 

Image courtesy of Alexgregory.Net

Sample song: “What Did You Expect?”

Score: 22.2

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 

Image courtesy of Verse Chorus Bridge

Sample song: “Silence”

Score: 20.5

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

Image courtesy of Cute Is What We Aim For

Sample song: “The Curse of Curves”

Score: 17.3

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

Image courtesy of Close Your Eyes

Sample song: “Song for the Broken”

Score: 16.2

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

State Champs

Sample song: “Elevated”

Score: 52.5

Comments: “Just BLASTING out of Hot Topic.”


Less Than Jake 

Sample song: “All My Best Friends Are Metalheads”

Score: 52.2

Comments: “Soundtrack to the next Scooby-Doo movie.” “The farty-sounding trumpet was a nice touch.”


Yellowcard 

Sample song: “Ocean Avenue”

Score: 51.3

Comments:  “This reminds me of working at Hollister and smoking weed out of apples in mall parking lots.” “These dudes have to be like 40.” 


The Story So Far 

Sample song: “Things I Can’t Change”

Score: 48.7

Comments: “The vocals just ruin every song. Pick scrape was pretty sweet though.”


Mixtapes 

Sample song: “Bad Parts”

Score: 45.7

Comments: “Man? Woman? Fraggle?” “Generic battle-of-the-bands superstars.”


Bayside 

Sample song: “Devotion and Desire”

Score: 44.7

Comments: “Musical equivalent of flat Wal-Mart brand beer.” “Promising until Ben Gibbard started singing.”


Real Friends 

Sample song: “Floorboards”

Score: 43.7

Comments: “Blink-182 will always be cool.” 


We Are the In Crowd 

Sample song: “The Best Thing (That Never Happened)”

Score: 43.7

Comments: “Bad new wave Avril Lavigne.” “On the relative scale of Warped Tour, I’ll take a Paramore ripoff.” 


Heart to Heart 

Sample song: “In Case You Haven’t Noticed”

Score: 39.2

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.”


Teenage Bottlerocket 

Sample song: “Skate or Die”

Score: 38.5

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.”


Beartooth 

Sample song: I Have a Problem

Score: 38

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”

Score: 37.7

Comments: “Nu-school west coast throwdown hardcore.” “This band would be HUGE in Spokane.”


Terror 

Sample song: “Keepers of the Faith”

Score: 34.5

Comments: “This sounds exactly like Metallica...only Christian.” “The most evil Christian metal band EVER!”


The Ghost Inside 

Sample song: “Engine 45”

Score: 34.5

Comments:  “Crabcore’s greatest hits. Too bad it’s all terrible.” “YES.”


The Color Morale 

Sample song: “Learned Behavior”

Score: 33.2

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”

Score: 33

Comments: “Casio synth = the Warped Tour version of the banjo.”


Survive This! 

Sample song: “Where I Belong”

Score: 30.8

Comments: “Sampler platter of everything the Warped Tour has to offer. God help us all.”


A Lot Like Birds 

Sample song: “Vanity’s Fair”

Score: 30.7

Comments:  “This is like getting lost in a maze with a white belt on.” “Math-rock cry-core? Could have been big in the blog-rock era.”


Cursed Sails 

Sample song: “Dead Daze”

Score: 30

Comments: “One too many screaming cooks in the kitchen.”


Attila 

Sample song: “Middle Fingers Up”

Score: 28.5

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”

Score: 25

Comments:  “Probably a UFC fighter’s walk-out song.” “This band is a Guitar Center wet dream.”


For Today 

Sample song: “Fearless”

Score: 24.7

Comments: “Hardcore breakdown = proto-dubstep drop.” “Was really hoping for some heavy electronic garbage and screaming.” “Wish it was Skrillex, and I never thought I’d say that.” 


Falling in Reverse 

Sample song: “The Drug in Me Is You”

Score: 24.6

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.

 
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