OAHU, Hawaii -- Standing in the crowd at the Warped Tour here, professional skateboarder Pancho Moler couldn't say which he liked more: the extreme music filling his ears or the extreme atmosphere overloading his senses.
One seemed to complement the other in ways that made them inseparable, at least for that day. Whether it was Blink 182 summoning skateboarders with the first strums of their guitars, seminal punkers the Vandals inspiring the crowd to cut loose or 311 causing a near stampede of surfers and the like, the festival turned this island into a tropical rock 'n' roll paradise.
"I give props to anyone that's out here having a good time," Moler said. "Whether they're skating or enjoying the music, the two go hand in hand."
With the green cliffs of the Ko'olau mountain range as a backdrop, 8,000 people came to the Waimanolo Polo Field on Saturday to witness the final day of the Vans Warped Tour, an event that has become synonymous with all things extreme.
In addition to the 17 bands that were playing, there were also two skateboard ramps and a number of vendors selling everything from bongs to Internet service. The crowd was composed of skaters, surfers, punk-rockers and college students, as well as young children and their moms and dads. The hot, tropical sun beat down on leather jackets decorated with safety pins and spikes, shirtless torsos covered with tattoos, spiked mohawks, skateboard helmets and girls in bikini tops.
The Warped Tour, with its rock and skateboard theme, represents a lifestyle to which many island residents adhere. The music and sports complement each other because they are both recreational and forms of self-expression. In fact, the highlight of the set -- and perhaps the whole day for many -- was when veteran pro-skateboarder Steve Caballero joined Blink 182 on bass for their current single, "Dammit" (RealAudio excerpt).
The crowd went wild, momentarily trading their skateboards in for a section of the mosh pit, where many practiced their hand at riding a wave of arms rather than ocean.
As the most isolated island chain in the world -- almost equal distance from Japan or California -- Hawaii boasts a surfer scene that is second to none. It is home to what are arguably the best waves in the world. And with the surfers who flock has come a new appreciation for bands such as 311 and the Vandals. "A better match could not be made," said Fil Slash, a DJ with KPOI, the radio station co-sponsoring the event. "Most of these bands have really worked hard to develop fan bases here. And you can see in the local bands that are here a lot of the same influences."
With two stages, the music went on continuously throughout the day. While
one stage featured the bands touring with Warped, the other gave some
Hawaiian bands a chance to play before a festival crowd. Local bands
such as the Bosscats, a straight-ahead ska outfit, and BYK, a hip-hop group,
got to showcase their skills in front of a large audience. Meanwhile, the main stage had an international flavor with bands such as the Japanese ska group Kemuri and the German punk band Die Toten Hosen, whose spandex-clad singer scaled the scaffolding during their rendition of "Love Me Tender."
The bill also featured the swing-like ska of Reel Big Fish, who rocked the crowd with their anthem "Sell Out" (RealAudio excerpt), and the seminal punk band the Vandals, who got the crowd bouncing with songs including "Ladykiller" and "Oi to the World." Dressed in business suits, the Mighty Mighty Bosstones turned in an excellent set of rock-ska. But it was Blink 182 who drew the bulk of the skateboarders off the ramps and down to the stage. Between songs, the bass player asked the teenage girls in the audience if they had boyfriends and then casually discussed masturbation and vaginas with the pubescent crowd. They played songs off their new Dude Ranch album such as "Voyeur" and "Josie."
As the sun began to set behind the mountains, 311 took the stage to the
scent of an overturned Porta-potty. Fans charged the stage, but not to get away from stench. Rather, their favorite act was in the house. Within minutes, 311 had launched into its short set, which included old songs such as "Freak Out" and "Unity" as well as new songs such as "Beautiful Disaster," but they elicited the biggest reaction from the crowd when they played their first big radio hit, "Down."
Fans turned the field into a sea of pumping fists broken only by the whirling vortex of a ferocious mosh pit. Fittingly, the festival ended as the sun set on the islands.
For many such as 18-year-old Hawaiian native Keoni Pontz, the concert was their first opportunity to try out a real mosh pit or to attempt surfing on a crowd. "It was the first time I ever got to crowd-surf," Pontz said. "I never had the chance before." [Wed., Feb. 4, 1998, 9 a.m. PST]