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Sold-Out Warped Tour Revels in the Extremes

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

As Lollapalooza’s identity crisis has intensified over the past three years, the Vans Warped tour has quietly crept into position as the foremost celebration of all things alternative.

With its focus on “extreme lifestyles and music,” the festival is grounded in board sport culture (skate, surf and snow) and the types of music associated with it (from ska to hard-core punk, surf and hard rock).

This summer, with the granddaddy of package tours on hiatus, Warped is enjoying its most successful run yet. On Thursday, a sellout crowd of close to 20,000 (versus the 11,000 who attended last year at the Olympic Velodrome) poured into Safari Field in Irvine for some eight hours of music, skating demonstrations, food and other diversions.

On Thursday afternoon, the die-hards and the curious kicked up giant clouds of dust as they filled the two large fields set up on the Irvine Meadows grounds. The larger field was dedicated to the professional skate boarders and even some motocross cyclists plus two main stages, where most of the higher-profile groups on the bill played.

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In previous years, punk rock has dominated the music of Warped, and although this year’s lineup of more than 30 groups featured such punk stalwarts as NOFX, Rancid and Bad Religion, the music was more diverse, more interesting, but no less in keeping with the “extreme” vibe of Warped.

If there was any unifying element, it was the prevalence of various forms of roots music, from the wry rockabilly of Reverend Horton Heat to the classic ska of the Specials to the zingy swing of Cherry Poppin’ Daddies.

Of the strictly punk outfits, Rancid put in the strongest performance with a lively set of familiar material that inspired one of the dustiest mosh pits of the day--as well as a rousing sing-along version of “Ruby Soho.”

Bad Religion and NOFX were in top form, though the stylistic constraints of the former and the goofball antics of the latter have become a bit rote. The harder-rocking contingent--Warped veterans Deftones and Civ--put in their best Warped appearances to date. Civ’s set bristled with hard-core energy, yet the New York quartet never lost grips on the pop and hip-hop elements that give its music color.

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Tight and focused, Deftones quickly built up musical drama, which frontman Chino Moreno punctuated by diving off the giant speakers into the waiting arms of the pit. Ozomatli’s 30 minutes flew past with a handful of incandescent numbers that combined a dazzling array of ingredients, including bare-bones funk a la Sly Stone, hip-hop, breezy jazz and salsa.

Except for the discomforts caused by the large attendance, Warped ’98 showed that you can maintain your independent spirit even in the face of success.


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