Thirteen is typically considered an unlucky number. But not if it's the number of years that a very cool event, such as the Warped Tour, has been taking place.
Started in 1994 by Kevin Lyman, the Warped Tour initially appealed mainly to the young skateboarding set, but over the years has gained wider appeal. What sets the Warped Tour apart from (or above) other summer festivals in the fight for discretionary income, is its consistently low ticket price of around $30, its extensive lineup and the fact that it's not just a one-time event. The Tour travels across the country and though not every band will play all of the scheduled 45 dates, the shows that people in Maryland or Montreal attend are much like what the people on the West Coast will see and hear as well, with a fairly diverse lineup.
"In booking the tour this year I felt that a diverse line-up was in order. The tour has always been a place to explore and discover new music," Lyman said in a statement. "This year's line-up has old school, emo, punk, screamo, hip-hop, more ska than you have seen in a long time and everything in between. If you're open minded, this will be a great show."
One band making the Boise stop is Red Jumpsuit Apparatus. Relatively new on the music scene, this band is seeing their star rapidly rise with the success of their debut release, Don't You Fake It, (the video for the single "Face Down" enjoyed heavy rotation on MTV). The Florida natives are a perfect choice for the tour. They're young, energetic and very current. Bass player Joey Westwood called from his band's tour bus as they were leaving Canada, headed to Chicago for a little downtime. All of the members of the band are from Jacksonville, Fla., but after nearly two straight years on the road, they call the bus home, where, of course, they have a terrific gaming system.
"The Warped Tour hooked us up with an Xbox and Guitar Hero," Westwood said. Who's the best player? "We take it way too far for anyone to be the winner," he said.
When they're not on the Xbox, they're working on new music.
"We're constantly writing new stuff for no other reason than because we love music," Westwood says. "The way we wrote the first record was we all quit school and our jobs and we would just meet at Ronnie's [Winter, lead vocals] trailer five or six days a week. When it comes time to write the next record, we want to do it the same way. We want to stop everything we're doing and hang out with each other every day and make it happen the same way."
He says from the touring to the recording, they just try to take everything step by step.
"It's cool because it keeps us levelheaded. We take it day by day. We're slowly taking the steps to be happy with our band and ourselves."
But it has to be hard to keep it all in check. They went from rehearsing in a trailer to an appearance on the Tonight Show.
"It was crazy," Westwood said. "I remember standing on that stage before they opened the curtain, and the people who worked on the Tonight Show screaming, '60 seconds! 50 seconds!' We were all looking at each other thinking, 'This is about to happen. It's not a dream any more. In five seconds, Jay Leno is going to introduce my band.' We were nervous, but we knew it would be fun."
Another band on this leg of the tour is Poison the Well. Though they've only played the tour once before, in 2003, PTW are old-school veterans of the music scene who've been slinging their hardcore/punk/rock for almost a decade. With their latest release, Versions, PTW has plenty to offer both new and old fans alike. When PTW's 29-year-old guitarist Ryan Primack called Boise Weekly from the band's tour bus as they were readying to cross the border from Montreal back into the States, he said it had been better than he'd hoped for. But when asked how the album is being received, he said it's exactly what he expected.
"It's funny," Primack said. "It's been the same thing for every record we've ever released. The first couple of months it tends to be all the negative feedback [that] comes first but now it's starting to become much more positive."
He says the complaints usually claim that PTW has changed, or the band has aged too much, or the music isn't "mean" enough, but he doesn't really care.
"I don't pay much attention to negative comments that are like, 'I'm mad at you because this doesn't sound like your last record.' I just let that fall to the wayside." He says he understands why people might feel that way, but adds, "If I listened to what people say I should do with songwriting, I'd be the biggest sellout ever because I'd be lying to myself. And if I'm lying to myself, I'm lying to you ... but, I'm so used to the process now, [Versions] being our fourth full-length. It takes people a month or two to get their heads around it. You expect one thing and get a totally different thing. And, on the whole, the record's not the easiest thing [to take in] right away. There's a lot of stuff going on."
When asked if he had any great advice to give some of the other young bands on the tour, Primack said, "I'd encourage people to do whatever it is they want to do and ignore what anybody or any label tells you. We're supposed to be making art. I think that's a lost part of music. Have you noticed the trend lately that records exist because of songs?" He says that an album with 12 tracks may have a few good sons, but most of it is filler. "[Musicians] spend so much less time making a record and so much more time on that one song that's going to hook people."
The Warped Tour has always been a showcase for lesser known bands as well, especially on the Ernie Ball stage. Hailing from Tokyo, Japan, is the teen-girl ska group Oreskaband. With a self-titled debut album released in the United States earlier this month, these girls just want to have fun. Their songs "Monkey Man (Monkey, Monkey Man), "Yeah! Ska Dance" and "Knife and Folk" show they understand that music is a universal language and sometimes how you say something really is more important than what you say.
It's also on the Ernie Ball stage that local bands get a chance to play for crowds the size they probably haven't been in front of before. The band Ambient stopped by Boise Weekly to let us know they'd be joining the lineup, and according to ErnieBall.com, locals Kryterium, Love You Long Time, Saturday Morning Heroes and Mortal Enemy get to add their names to the list of bands who've played this great festival over the years.
The lineup for Warped Tour is always scheduled to change, but it's a pretty safe bet that if you're standing in the Idaho Center Amphitheater on Friday, soaking up the sun and sounds, you'll hear Bad Religion, Tiger Army, Cute Is What We Aim For, Paramore, Coheed and Cambria, Killswitch Engage, Chiodos, New Found Glory, Hawthorne Heights, Pennywise, Circa Survive, Pepper, As I Lay Dying, Red Jumpsuit Apparatus, Amber Pacific, Flogging Molly and so many more. All of this for around $30? We may just have to change how we look at the number 13.
August 17, noon, $29.50 advance, $33 at the gates, Idaho Center, 16200 Idaho Center Blvd., Nampa, 208-468-1000, IdahoCenter.com.