HOUSTON — When the Vans Warped Tour rolled into the festival grounds adjacent to Reliant Stadium on Friday to unfurl punk rock's most enduring caravan, organizers wanted the kids to thrash, mosh and have fun. What they didn't want was for tongue, belly and nipple rings to get lit up by lightning.
Friday was scheduled to be the opening date on the 10th-anniversary edition of the Warped Tour, but heavy storm forecasts persuaded tour founder Kevin Lyman to postpone the show until Monday. With a 60-plus band lineup that included current hitmakers New Found Glory, Story of the Year and Yellowcard as well as breakout new faces Coheed and Cambria and punk granddaddies the Vandals and Bad Religion, it was better to wait than subject the ticket-holding freaks, geeks and extreme music and sports junkies to possible electrocution and waterlogged toes.
Eight hours of music spread across seven stages is only half the story. The Warped Tour is Punk-Rock Utopia for anyone with a jones for the grossness of the Jim Rose Circus or the adolescent humor of Blink-182.
A walk through the compound is like having the coolest alternative record store spring to life. Tents boasting meet-and-greets with members of Taking Back Sunday stand side-by-side with kiosks offering skate wear, Flogging Molly swag, samplers from punk label Kung Fu Records and $3 lap dances from a pasty guy in a leopard thong. At one end of the grounds there are skate rats carving up a half-pipe. At the other end is the reverse daycare, an air-conditioned tent where parents sit watching "50 First Dates" with headphones on while trying to forget what lurks for their teenagers outside this fortress of solitude.
Like the Alkaline Trio. The 30-minute set by the Chicago-born punk-popsters was punctuated by purring harmonies of Matt Skiba's guitars and vocals on "Private Eye" and "Maybe I'll Catch Fire," and ignited four hours of nonstop movement on the two main stages.
The majesty of the Warped Tour is its ability to perpetuate its own momentum. When New Found Glory first appeared at the festival, they played the local music stage in Jacksonville, Florida. This year they are celebrating the success of their fourth album, Catalyst, and drew a large portion of the estimated 10,000 in attendance to their 30-minute set. The mix of guitarist Chad Gilbert's ever-building guitar dramas and the emotional warfare clotted in Jordan Pundik's vocals has not been lost on new songs "All Downhill From Here" and "Your Biggest Mistake." What keeps them just on the bright side of Dashboard Confessional-style mental torture are declarative sing-along favorites like "My Friends Over You."
Remember the name Coheed and Cambria. With a parallel-universe thought process akin to Tool or Nine Inch Nails and guitar dexterity that traverses metal and prog-rock academics, they look promising as a future Warped headliner. C&C's Claudio Sanchez joins Jon Anderson of Yes and Geddy Lee of Rush as singers whose voices sound dependent on equal parts oxygen and helium. By the end of their set, Sanchez's high-pitched pining on "Blood Red Summer" and "Three Evils" was drawing applause with as much frequency and volume as Yellowcard enjoy every time Sean Mackin resins up his violin bow.
After this emotional outpouring, the comic relief of veteran Southern California punk pranksters the Vandals couldn't have been more timely. Having reached year 23 in their career, they have been around longer than many of the other artists have been alive, but party odes like the twisted holiday carol "Oi to the World" and the mullet-tribute ditty "I've Got An Ape Drape" make them forever young.
Come to think of it, a punk-rock Peter Pan complex just might keep the Vans Warped Tour going strong for another 10 years while other rock festivals, like the just-canceled Lollapalooza, continue to falter (see "Vans Warped Tour Turns 10 — So What's Its Secret?").
For more sights and stories from concerts around the country, check out MTV News Tour Reports.