Music and Malice at Warped Speed

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), August 10, 2004 | Go to article overview

Music and Malice at Warped Speed


Byline: Scott Galupo, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

For the cost of a baby-sitting job and a bottle of sunscreen, the young fans of the annual Warped Tour sampled about 100 bands over the course of an all-day festival Wednesday.

Compare that $30 price tag to the boomer bands beloved by their parents, who lined various "pick-up points" on the Nissan Pavilion's parking lot. Do the math on a $300 premium ticket for 21/2 hours of Madonna or the Eagles, and you'll see the young'uns have a real bargain on their hands.

It's no wonder they swarmed to Nissan last week. In its 10th year, the Warped Tour, sponsored by the still-hip shoe company Vans, plus a bevy of other companies, knows how to deliver the goods.

Starting at around noon, a battalion of pop-punk bands - think early Beatles, but faster and louder, occasionally angry - hurried through half-hour sets on eight separate stages, which fanned out from the amphitheater's main stage deep into the venue's parking grounds.

As soon as one band was down, another was up. It didn't matter if you were a popular outfit such as Yellowcard or Taking Back Sunday or New Found Glory - groups that traded slots on the tour's two anchoring bandstands - or a Winnebago-traveling band that no one's heard of, such as the Groovie Ghoulies.

You got your half-hour, and you were gone.

Interspersed among the stages, which had names like "Brian," "Space Station" and "Uproar," was a carnival of merchandising tents, technology dens, social-conscience booths and a half-pipe skateboarding ramp.

The Warped Tour primarily sells live music, but that left plenty of room for products and causes. The atmosphere Wednesday was meticulously cultivated to make patrons feel set apart from - edgier, younger and cooler than - the world outside.

Here's my scorecard.

Cleverest marketing ploy: Faced with stiff competition, the merchants and consciousness-raisers at the Warped Tour had to think outside the box - how to achieve maximum exposure?

Truth.com, the left-wing organization, offered to take your picture free of charge to attract you into its orbit. The Ernie Ball music company set up a kiosk where aspiring rock stars played guitars. A band called the Phenomenauts sold CDs for a mere dollar, telling you, as a bonus, where to find the "Maurice" stage.

These pitches seemed to work. But the Winterfresh chewing gum company had the canniest idea. A rep handed out free sticks to passers-by, most of whom littered the wrappers.

The net effect was a veritable carpet of advertisements for hundreds of square yards.

Less successful was the Trojan condom company, which offered free samples. Presumably, the children were forced to wait before using those.

Most egregious Bush-basher: Tough call, not least because everyone was doing it. Even those pub-rocking, fun-loving lads from Ireland, Flogging Molly.

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