William Beckett of The Academy Is...
CONCERT REVIEW: Warped Tour 2008
July 29, 2008
Post-Gazette Pavilion, Pittsburgh
I never would've thought that the best band at this year's Warped Tour would be an act I didn't even realize was on the bill.
This morning, I turned on MTV and saw a video by some rapper, with Weird Al as his sidekick. I thought, how odd! Then it finished, and I found out it wasn't Weird Al - it was the rapper known as Shwayze. I'd seen Shwayze's name on the charts, but I had no idea what he looked or sounded like.
Two hours later, we walk into the Warped Tour, and on the big schedule board is Shwayze! I didn't realize he was a part of this tour. And he kicked ass. In a year that boasted Warped's most diverse lineup yet, with everything from the standard emo/punk to synthpop, hip hop, and flat-out mainstream top 40 music, it's fitting that a hip hop act stole the show.
Shwayze, performing along with Cisco Adler, his Weird Al-lookalike sidekick, pumped up the crowd with his rhymes about weed and women. His act was so hilariously stupid that it was brilliant. Just went it appeared he couldn't get any more ridiculous, he sang "All Night," a track with the refrain, "If you got the weed, I got the pipe/ We can get high together all night." It was a decidedly fun way to kick off the afternoon.
One of the big stories of Warped is the presence of pop sensation Katy Perry, she of the #1 hit "I Kissed a Girl," and she was greeted with one of the day's largest crowds. Unfortunately, she looked like the newbie she is. Her banter consisted of various questions she asked the audience, which typically were so strange they elicited blank stares instead of any sort of cheering. Sample question: "So, are you guys all MySpace friends with each other?"
Perry tried her hardest but was unable to create any enthusiasm as the crowd waited impatiently for her chart-topping hit. Finally, after an embarrassing "telephone call" roleplay skit, she played the song and everyone went nuts. But it was too little, too late.
Emo-pop's superstars were all here - Cobra Starship, The Academy Is..., Gym Class Heroes, Motion City Soundtrack. Cobra was the best of the bunch, their sassy pop songs especially winning over the teenage girls in attendance. From the opener, "The City is at War," to their well-known movie theme "Snakes on a Plane," to the sing-along closer "Guilty Pleasure," frontman Gabe Saporta danced his way around the stage and proved that pop music can have a home at Warped.
The other three acts weren't at their best. The Academy Is... didn't hit their stride until their final ten minutes, with the rocking "We've Got a Big Mess on Our Hands" and "Checkmarks." Motion City Soundtrack was solid as usual, but it's disturbing how their keyboards always get lost in the mix when they perform - the synths are what make them unique in this genre, but you wouldn't know it to see them live. And Gym Class Heroes just didn't excite me - Travis McCoy did too much talking and not enough performing. Plus, when the hooks from your two biggest hits have to be played on tape because the guy who sang them isn't even in your band ("Cupid's Chokehold" and "Clothes Off!" both feature choruses sung by Fall Out Boy's Patrick Stump), that tends to make your show seem lame.
Gym Class Heroes
The day's other standout act was Say Anything, the L.A. rock band featuring emo's poet laureate, Max Bemis. The band released an acclaimed double-album last year, ambitiously titled In Defense of the Genre, which is required listening for any would-be emo bashers. Today they tore through the the best tracks from it, including the standout "Shiksa (Girlfriend)."
Even though not all of Warped's featured acts brought their A-game, the tour deserves credit for the variety of its lineup, and hopefully the fans' positive reaction is a sign that diversity will continue into next year.
Motion City Soundtrack