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On the buses: Snoop jams, teased hair and SpongeBob sheets ...


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Crushin' on Punky Brewster and making 'Trouble' with Pink ...




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The TV on the MCR bus is on a VH1 countdown of former child stars, and with each "Behind the Music"-worthy tale of a silver spoon tarnished, bandmembers react with a "Dude, what happened to her?" or "I used to have the biggest crush on Punky Brewster!" Way changes into his Frankenstein T-shirt, applies base to his face and begins teasing his hair. When the rest of the band comes out, he asks for advice on how to make his tight black jacket sit down better in the back.

But what he's most concerned about at the moment, he laughs, is whether his pants are tight enough. A road manager exclaims, "Dude, I don't even know how you got those things on!" The manager is making a grocery list on a paper plate, and so far it includes Zantac 75 heartburn medicine, veggie dogs, honey and Coke Zero. Way asks a roadie to help pin the finishing touches on his costume, an MCR armband for his jacket. Kris Kross come on the TV and guitarist Frank Iero says, "Man, I totally wanted to be in Kris Kross when I was in fifth grade!"

While the MCR bus is all about rehearsal, the Transplants' ride is about chilling. Seated in the back lounge — equipped with a big-screen TV, couches and a pricey floral arrangement — singer Rob Aston and drummer Travis Barker are just hanging out, psyched to put on the chopped-and-screwed remix of their new album, Haunted Cities. Bobbing their heads, the two stare into space while listening to Aston's voice slowed down to a demonic growl on "Killafornia."

Barker and Aston travel on the "party" bus, but bandmate/Rancid singer Tim Armstrong spends most of his time on a second, sober bus. After a few minutes of listening to the remixed tracks with the pair — and learning that Aston is obsessed with vacuuming the bus — we're joined by Armstrong.

The vibe instantly changes. Armstrong has the kind of air-sucking charisma of actors like Johnny Depp, an imposing sense of purpose and an unmistakable aura of cool. Shirtless, he's sporting a black bandana tied backward across his tattooed, bald head and covered by a brown fedora, black pants with his blue boxers showing, and a dog choker held together with a safety pin. He looks like the lead in a punk remake of "The Outsiders," and, watching him shake hands and pose for pictures with fans later, the band's manager says, "He should be in movies."

He mostly wants to talk music. "I have a studio on my bus, you should see it," he says. Armstrong doesn't waste time. He says he's got about 75 new songs he's working on for various projects, and he's proud to report that two of the tracks on the new Transplants record were recorded right here on the bus.

A lot of bands have rolling studios for recording demos. Not many, though, record finished tracks in a space the size of a Holiday Inn bathroom. And Armstrong's not afraid to brag about recording a Grammy-winning song (Pink's "Trouble") there. "I'm not just makin' demos here, I'm makin' records, man," Armstrong says in his gravely voice.

Outside the bus, with a slight beach-bum waddle to his step, Lyman is calmly navigating backstage, putting out fires, ordering up more water, making sure there are enough garbage cans and seeing to it that everyone has what they need to do their jobs. That's the thing about Lyman: He's the Zen ringmaster of Warped, the Phil Jackson of punk, without the hoarse-voiced yelling (at least not that I heard).

The 44-year-old walks out onto the midway and doesn't make it 10 feet before a zit-faced kid with bushy red hair runs up and thrusts a CD into his hand, thanking Lyman profusely for letting his band (Blinded Black) set up a booth at today's show. "They're not playing, but he wanted to sell merch and I told him it was fine," Lyman says with a shrug. "It's cool to give them a chance to be in front of this many kids."

It's late afternoon and the members of Chicago's Fall Out Boy are watching VH1 as they hide from the 95-degree heat. There's a 10-minute discussion with bassist Pete Wentz about his aversion to cow's milk ("I mean, what other mammal drinks the milk of a fellow mammal?" he asks), but mostly the boys decompress from the day's early afternoon set and signing session.

While drummer Andy Hurley distractedly checks his two-way, Wentz asks for quiet during the segment on former "Family Ties" Keaton girl Tina Yothers, and he leans in intently for the bit on "Munsters" kid Butch Patrick, vowing to buy the record by Patrick's band as soon as he gets home.

The sun has finally set and fans are starting to leave. Near the catering area, a line 20 people deep has formed at the showers. It's someone on the crew's birthday, so a pair of inked-up models from SuicideGirls.com bring out a huge cake, and Left Alone fire up the grill.

His neon mohawk staying remarkably resilient in the withering heat, Left Alone singer Elvis slides a burger to his Hellcat label boss Armstrong, but he beats away others looking for a freebie (a $2 donation is forcefully suggested). Armstrong chats up half the people waiting in line before wandering off into the night.

As much fun as they have playing nearly every day, this time of night — when the bands mingle, make new friends and reminisce about their day — is the real highlight of the tour.

Bands who've never met, will be touring together later in the year, or who might have disliked each other's music before Warped get to hang out and have a few beers before shoving off for another show. On later dates there will be movie night, a fish taco fiesta and poker demonstrations from the World Series of Poker folks.

Various other barbecues spring up all over the parking lot. Some are simple burger-and-dog affairs, others feature shrimp stir-fry and more esoteric creations, with one drawing a mix of members of MCR, MxPx and the Starting Line. They're all a long way from the rusted hibachi Lagwagon set up on the first Warped Tour in '94. But each one feels like a typical backyard gathering happening anywhere ... that is, as long as your backyard looks a bit like a CBGB's show by the Exploited.

"It's like the corner bar," Lyman says. "You have the priest, the plumber, the rabbi and it equalizes everyone." And isn't that what punk's all about?


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Photo Credit: Gil Kaufman/MTV News

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My Chemical Romance
"Helena" (MTV.com LIVE)
Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge
(Reprise)



Transplants
"Gangsters and Thugs"
Haunted Cities
(Atlantic)


Fall Out Boy
"Sugar, We're Goin Down"
From Under the Cork Tree
(Island)


The All-American Rejects
"My Paper Heart"
The All-American Rejects
(Dreamworks)



Avenged Sevenfold
"Burn It Down"
City of Evil
(Warner Bros.)



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