How Vans Warped Tour kicked this reporter’s ass, but provided great music in return

I can’t really say I ever fully grasped the notion behind the whole Build it and they will come theory, until I showed up at this year’s Vans Warped Tour stop in Montreal.

It may have been about 400 degrees outside (okay, maybe it was closer to 40, but who’s keeping track?) and Parc Jean-Drapeau isn’t exactly the shadiest of places, but that didn’t stop a flood of fans from continuously piling into the festival site throughout the day to catch a sliver, if not all, of the 69 bands on the bill.

The punk/rock/pop/hip hop extravaganza was set to start at noon, but showing up at five minutes to the hour, I was met with the disappointing news that Grieves and Budo had already gone on stage at 11:30. After that mix-up, there was no more room for error and it was full steam ahead with stellar standout performances from 3OH!3, Larry And His Flask and The Exposed.

What many may know about Colorado’s 3OH!3 is that they’ve collaborated with the likes of Katy Perry and Ke$ha and have had great success on the airwaves with their it-won’t-get-out-of-your-head-no-matter-how-hard-you-try singles, but what most don’t know is just how powerful this duo is on stage. (Which isn’t to say that their touring band isn’t beyond talented.) 3OH!3 just has that something which commands attention; an undeniable stage presence that can’t be turned away from or disregarded. The lyrics are sometimes over the top, sometimes smartass, but always attention worthy, and the music is hot – they’re the perfect band to keep your summer rockin’. Okay, and your winter too.

Wandering around the festival site, I came across Oregon’s Larry And His Flask by complete fluke, stumbling onto the six-piece while they were playing one of their many sets of the day in between a couple of merch tents. Yes, possibly the biggest band on the tour, and definitely the one with the most interesting set of instruments (banjo, mandolin, double bass…), and they were the ones playing in different locations across Parc Jean-Drapeau throughout the day. Frankly, I thought they were a bit out of their minds – who dresses to a T and jumps up and down while slapping a double bass and throwing it around like a feather in the middle of festival grounds at midday under the scorching sun? Surely, you have to be mad, but in the most delightful way. It’s been a few days since VWT and I still can’t stop thinking about the unbelievable performance this hillbilly masterpiece put on. Here’s a toast to Larry And His Flask *clink*

Over the years, it seems that VWT has been stepping away from its punk-only roots and becoming more open and welcoming to more and more genres, but my last personal highlight of the day plays right into VWT’s history. The UK’s The Exposed brought a load of ass-kicking punk rock to the tour and stopped me in my tracks as I was strolling by them while they were on stage. The band was slightly reminiscent of The Clash, but I suppose any really good punk band that was legitimately from the UK would draw that comparison in my mind so, it’s a compliment. Yes, it’s definitely time to get a little more Exposed in your life.

Coming to the end of the night, I have to admit that VWT, once again, kicked my ass. No matter how hard you try to train before the event, thinking you’ll be able to make it from the first band all the way to the last, there is just no way to do it. Admitting my defeat and on the verge of a miniature heat stroke, I packed up my camera and headed home, missing the last several bands on the bill. I suppose that’s the only real downside to VWT – you can’t catch everyone, no matter how hard you try. But complaining about that is like whining about getting too much champagne or more filet mignon than you ordered and I’m not crazy, so I’ll stop writing now and say that if you have the chance to check out this music extravaganza, do it!

Build it – fill it with great live music – and they will come.