Much has been made of the backseat that traditional punk rock took for quite a while at the annual Vans Warped Tour. Over the last handful of years, however, those old-school punk rock vibes have been slowly returning, albeit on a bit of a smaller scale. While bands like Attila and I Prevail and Beartooth seem to represent the lion’s share of the sounds emanating from most of the 2017 edition of the Warped Tour’s seven stages, there is a distinct presence of bands from what I guess we’d call an older school of more straight-forward street punk and hardcore and rock and roll bands. Hatebreed, Sick Of It All, Valient Thorr, Municipal Waste, Anti-Flag and GWAR have all been drawing fairly sizable crowds night-in and night out in recent days. Dying Scene took in the Hartford stop on the Vans Warped Tour last weekend, and caught a couple of our favorite throwback heavyweights.
Boston working-class heroes Street Dogs played a late-afternoon set on the Skullcandy stage, set on one of the outdoor parking lot areas at Hartford’s Xfinity Theater. If you’re a veteran of Warped Tours in the late 90s – early 00s, you’re no doubt familiar the concept at the outdoor stages; bands alternate playing on what are basically oversized trailers placed side by side, resulting in a constant barrage of roughly twenty-five minute sets. That means you’re not going to hear an awful lot deep cuts, although Street Dogs, themselves veterans of three prior Warped Tours, do an admirable job of keeping things interesting. The set on this particular day kicked off with personal favorite of mine “In Defense Of Dorchester” and threw fan favorites like “Back To The World,” “Punk Rock And Roll,” and “Not Without A Purpose” into the mix. Frontman Mike McColgan spent at least half the set on the barricade, interacting personally with a lot of the band’s notoriously die-hard, blue collar fans. The “new lineup” consisting of longtime bassist Johnny Rioux and more recent adds Lenny Lashley and Matt Pruitt on guitar and Pete Sosa on drums) have actually been plugging away for four years now, and have finally got some new music due out before long. That’s a good thing, as the band’s trademark rallying cries are much needed in times like these.
LA punk veterans Strung Out played an early afternoon set on one of the two side-by-side stages inside the venue’s amphitheater. I will say that when the Warped Tour venues started to change a bunch of years ago and started to center, at least in this part of the country, around amphitheater settings, I and others were more than a little skeptical. But I’ll tell you what – it’s actually pretty cool having the stage split in half and allowing large crowds to stay out of the heat and/or other imposing weather elements. Like with Street Dogs, it’s tough for a band like Strung Out to adequately represent their catalog in a twenty-five minute set, but songs like “Too Close To See” from 1998’s seminal album Twisted By Design and “The Animal and the Machine” from their latest album, 2015’s Transmission.Alpha.Delta do a pretty adequate job. Frontman Jason Cruz remains one of the defining voices in the genre, and guitarists Jake Kiley and Rob Ramos continue to shred blistering, metal-infused riffs over lock-tight rhythm section Jordan Burns (drums) and Chris Aiken (bass), and no member off the quintet stays in one place for very long, making for a tightly packed, high energy set.
Representing the even older school on one of the amphitheater stages for back-to-back sets were The Alarm and the legendary Adolescents. The former, if you’re not familiar, are a seminal early-80s new wave band from Wales who have been plugging away in some form of another ever since. The brainchild of Mike Peters (also co-founder of the Love Hope Strength Foundation, which you should be familiar with), The Alarm played to a modest crowd that consisted, as you might imagine, of older fans who were very well aware of the band’s legacy, singing along with every word to tracks like “Sixty Eight Guns.” The Adolescents, who themselves are veterans of their fair share of Warped Tours since reforming fifteen-or-so years ago, played one of those sets that the other bands took notice of. Unarguably one of the coolest parts of Warped Tour is watching the camaraderie amongst the bands on the bill, and members of Street Dogs, Strung Out and Bad Cop/Bad Cop were among those present around the stage as living legends Tony Reflex and Steve Soto and the gang (Dan Root and Ian Taylor on guitar, Dave Cambra on drums) went to work. Again a case where members have changed but the core have remained just as steady as ever. Let’s face it: Tony Reflex/Cadena/Adolescent and Steve Soto are legends for a reason (and not only because their self-titled debut has been a desert island album since before most of our readers were born!).
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