Locals Only: : A warped perspective

Up Punk creek without a paddle

Aug 25, 2004 at 2:06 pm
Dale M. Johnson


The Vans Warped Tour (aka "Punk Rock Summer Camp") made its Cincinnati stop at Riverbend Music Center Aug. 16. It's the largest national tour to feature several local acts, offering wider exposure for local bands to a (mostly) younger audience — an estimated 12,000 of a younger audience, in fact.

That would be if one could find the local bands playing last week at the Riverbend date.

The local Warped date was set to feature such area acts such as The Scrubs, Alone at 3 A.M., Suffocate Faster, Lightweight Holiday, When Sparks Fly (Dayton), Bottom Line and Death in Graceland on the "Punk" stages and Abiyah with Paperback, NSPCrew, Animal Crackers and glue (featuring local djdq of Animal Crackers) on the Code of Tha Cutz Hip Hop stage. The date also featured such national acts as Good Charlotte, Flogging Molly, International Noise Conspiracy, Taking Back Sunday, Coheed & Cambria, Atmosphere and Bad Religion, among others.

I spent a lot of time trying to figure out who was playing on what stage and when — thus missing a lot of local acts. The other difficulty was that outside of Abiyah and DiG advertising their Warped shows, none of the other bands really went out of their way to advertise their shows on the Web or elsewhere and certainly didn't advertise at Warped.

Some bands complain that the media needs to go out and "discover" them. That becomes a pretty tall order to fill when you don't tell the media where you're playing.

To be fair, I've been given to understand that the bands didn't know what time they'd go on until the day of the show and didn't know where their assigned stage would be located.

It was also a day of a somewhat mixed message — there were strong anti-Bush and anti-war sentiments expressed from the stages and on T-shirts, but the U.S. Army had a recruitment tent right inside the main entrance that offered push-up contests. It seems the revolution will be televised ... and be brought to you by the Army. Be all you can be.

Despite all of that, the Ernie Ball stage served as home base for local Punk heroes Death in Graceland, who gave the crowd plenty of attitude.

"Seeing people leave our set after I grabbed (guitarist Kane Kitchen's) member and buried my head in his lap and after I made fun of Taking Back Sunday was tight," said DiG lead singer Matt Ayers of his Warped experience.

Their set also contained some good, new-fashioned sloppy Punk.

The Code of Tha Cutz Hip Hop stage offered some local Hip Hop pros. First up was the Rap group NSPCrew, who I found to be less vital on the Warped date than on their most recent CD Too Many SUVs. A couple of their songs are very Cincinnati-specific, like their "More Dead in Ohio" ("Yo/ I gets Nasty on the mic like Nastradamus/ I dedicate this one to my man Timothy Thomas/ Who got shot by Officer Roach..."), which decries the racism and injustice in the city.

But such a message, while not entirely lost on the Warped crowd, probably didn't resonate as intended due to the fact that the Code stage had to be much louder than the surrounding stages in order to even approach being distinct. Their messages weren't lost in translation, but they were lost in volume.

Next up, the four-man (out of a possible seven-man) DJ group known as Animal Crackers packed the Cutz tent. The group, including djdq (who also performed with Abiyah in her set and as part of glue) made seamless beats and grooves, never dropping a scratch (unless called for) like a crack Olympic relay team.

Glue was next, featuring the nimble-tongued Adeem on the raps and dq on the turntables. Maker, their beatmaker, didn't appear to be in attendance. The group's skill was apparent when Adeem turned the act of an inflated condom making its way onto the stage into an entire part of his rap without missing a single syllable. His freestyling skills were formidable.

Abiyah took the stage next with her newest collaborators, the local Rock group Paperback. The band, along with backing vocalist Amy Constantine and the ubiquitous turntablist dq, gave a metallic (and funky) shine to such older songs such as "Too Much Noise" and injected a powerful punch into newer material like "Hail Mary."

Abiyah is a chameleon in reverse, changing her surroundings to blend in with her rather than the other way around.

The entire experience was a tiring but pleasant one and provided a great opportunity for those under (and over) 18 to see some of their favorite bands and discover new ones — if they could find them. ©