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Warped Tour Brings Music, Not Mayhem to Rock Fans

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Onstage, facing close to 5,000 fans, the lead singer for the band Osker captured the essence of the Vans Warped Tour’s stop at Seaside Park Wednesday:

“Hey, you--guy in the neck brace--watch out!”

More than 30 bands, most of them hammering out some eardrum-shredding incarnation of punk rock, played before a cascading crowd that soon fused into a steamy mosh pit in front of the stage.

Hilary Nichols, a 16-year-old from Thousand Oaks, said she got what she came for: a chance “to see all the bands like Green Day, the Long Beach Dub Allstars, Papa Roach and all the cool people.”

Pete Sanger, who after dark is “DJ PJ” from Nicholby’s in Ventura, echoed the sentiment as the Warped Tour, now in its sixth year, made its first local stop.

“I’m here to check out all these bands that are here. A lot of these groups I’ve never seen, plus I’d like to get some of them to play at my club.”

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For county fans of what is often called “alternative” music, the Warped Tour brought a rare critical mass of these acts to town. Police estimated the crowd at 5,000 people, for what turned out to be an event that relied on music, not mayhem, for excitement.

Ventura police added extra personnel just in case things got out of hand, but Lt. Gary McCaskill said his officers made only three arrests at the event, one for allegedly picking pockets and two for public intoxication.

Along with such nationally known acts as the Mighty Mighty Bosstones, NOFX and Weezer, several area bands were allowed to play a hometown gig. They included No Motiv, Krave, Alkaline and Ventura’s Army of Freshmen. Because the Freshmen won a contest, they got an early afternoon slot, albeit just 20 minutes long, but a gig nevertheless. Despite the brevity, their fans jumped around as if they were watching the biggest-name acts.

“Right now, we’re trying to put out a record, but it costs so much,” said front man Chris Jay. “We’re trying to weigh our best options. We have about 100 songs, but only about 20 are in the set. We hope we can get on the whole tour next year.”

Jay and company were part of a tour that is as much a rock swap meet as it is a musical event. Most of the bands, as well as several record labels such as Epitaph, Lookout and Kung Fu, had their own booths, hawking T-shirts and CDs. The Mighty Mighty Bosstones had the most stuff, perhaps befitting their status as a band for more than a decade, with more than a dozen designs in T-shirts for sale.

The Ladies Lounge, a large tent filled with information on women’s issues, did a brisk business. The Stop Racism Tent did too, selling numerous stickers and T-shirts, many with an anti-Nazi message.

“So far, so good. The response is absolutely amazing,” said Jimmy Platt of the Stop Racism Tent.

As the music played and fans bought merchandise from their favorite bands, an army of skateboarders, BMX (bicycle motocross) riders and motocross riders put on a sideshow, as they jumped in the air with high-risk stunts and mom-scaring tricks.

One such daredevil was Colin Morrison, 18, of Moorpark “I started doing this about four years ago,” he said. “I enjoy doing the big jumps and doing tricks. This is a no-brain thing when you go for the big jumps. I’ve never been hurt, just a couple of bruises here and there, but nothing serious. I’ve been lucky.”

Musically, promoters and fans found the show a model of efficiency. Two side-by-side main stages allowed bands to play almost continuously, as one band would play on one stage, stop and then be followed shortly by a band on the adjacent stage.

Early on, most of the bands played 30-minute sets, so they finished before anyone could get tired of them.

A bit later during the noisy Papa Roach set, as the front man screamed an obscenity with impunity, about 100 yards away, a middle-aged woman sat on the asphalt with her back against a chain-link fence, a finger in each ear. When asked if this was her first and last Warped Tour, Stephanie McIntyre of Northridge replied, “Yes and not necessarily. I brought four kids to the show, one of my own and three others.”

But is she going to buy a shirt? “Maybe.”


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