Saturday: Vans Warped Tour At Sam Houston Race Park

Vans Warped Tour The Showgrounds at Sam Houston Race Park June 25, 2011

Mosh pits and girls in bikinis: they're all in our slideshow of the Vans Warped Tour 2011.

As we made our way into the barren, asphalt-covered desert that was Warped Tour 2011, Aftermath was stopped by a young woman standing just outside the gates.

"If I give you my number, will you text me and let me know when Reliant K is playing?" she asked with an "I know this is an awkward request" kind of smile. "I really only want to see them, and I don't know if I can leave once I go in."

We thought it was something of a strange request, but we agreed, took down her number and made our way inside. For those previously unfamiliar with the tour (such as ourselves), Warped's day-to-day lineup is decided the morning of the event, and changes from city to city. Set times are, more or less, pulled from a hat at random.

For this analogy to work, we should specify that there are two hats: One for the bigger acts and one for the lesser-known acts, so certain bands that got a good slot one day might get a terrible one the next. A bummer, we suppose, but also fair.

True to our word, we texted the young woman Reliant K's set time and took a picture of the gigantic board on which the bands' names and their respective set times were posted, beginning our nine-hour trek around the race park, hoping and praying that our gargantuan breakfast and the gallon or so of water we drank with it would keep us satiated through the festival.

August Burns Red were the first group whose entire set we heard, and it wasn't long before the shenanigans started. During the band's second song, a very young concertgoer began vomiting in the middle of the crowd, we assume from being jostled around in the mosh pit while also (at least nearly) dehydrated. The 5-Star employees on-site promptly and safely removed him, quickly providing him with water and shade as ABR screamed, shredded and drew the crowd into the first real frenzy of the day.

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While Aftermath enjoyed ABR's set - as we did A Day to Remember's, for that matter - we don't quite understand the whole metalcore genre. For the time being, the most we can surmise is that their breakdowns are heavy, their riffs are strangely metered, and their vocals are as heavy, if not heavier than the aforementioned breakdowns. All this makes for quite a show, but we haven't gotten past that much.

Yet. We're trying, we promise.

Against Me! drew the largest crowd of the day thus far a few hours later, pulling together a diverse crowd youngsters who discovered the band through 2010's White Crosses, side by side with the old-schoolers who remember when Tom Gabel sang of spineless liberals and (kind of) likened pints of Guinness to energy drinks. Personally, we'll take Gabel's crew however they come.

The Florida-based band is continuing to write quality music and put on good shows, even though Gabel's lyrics aren't as angsty as they once were. Really, they're just growing up, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. In fact, we applaud them. They're getting new fans as they make their transition into adulthood, and Aftermath's all for celebrating maturity.

The sleeper hits of the day were Boston's Bad Rabbits, who blended bass-driven punkish rock music with slick guitar riffs and rhythm-and-blues-inspired vocals, creating something we don't think we've ever heard before. On the way out, we bought a copy of their album and have been listening to it ever since.

Travis McCoy of Gym Class Heroes makes an appearance on the album and, while the band's Facebook page says that they are not currently signed to a label, that kind of cameo can do wonders. We see bright days ahead for the Boston natives, who also brought a few friends onstage to dance with them during their set.

Meanwhile, the self-declared outcasts of Warped Tour 2011, Lucero, didn't let their crowd's less-than-impressive size stop them from putting on one hell of a show, with as much energy and charisma as any headlining act we've ever seen. Their brand of music didn't blend too well with the rest of the festival's acts, but they played hard, sang harder and reminded a few of us Houston natives that we reside in the South.

If you don't know what a steel guitar is, educate yourself, kiddos. There's history in these parts, and we reckon you should familiarize yourself.

It wasn't long before it was back to the punkier, poppier music, though. As 3OH!3 began to set up on the main stage, Aftermath wondered what their set might be like, as the group's albums are laden with the kind of synthetic beats that can't be recreated live. But they made up for this fact with the help of a live backing band and layering their vocal tracks underneath what they were playing.

It may not be our cup of tea, the whole pop/punk/rap thing, but the crowd loved every minute of it. The Denver natives even drew a lot of people away from other stages as they danced, chanted and got the crowd screaming every time they name-dropped Houston. Their showing love for H-Town is the only reason we didn't walk away sooner, really.

Later, The Wonder Years played right next to and right before Simple Plan, a band that is most definitely on their list of influential artists, giving '90s lovers something of a reminder to support pop-punk. The genre isn't exactly alive and well, but it still has its enthusiasts, plenty of whom packed together tightly in front of the two stages to see the two bands. The crowds were surprisingly large for both groups, and we, along with at least a thousand others, enjoyed the reminder of what this festival used to represent.

Just before the festival ended, the Sharks, who were said to have played to a good-sized crowd in Dallas a few days ago, had a barely two dozen people standing around listening to their set. If those in attendance were listening, though, all of them are more than likely now fans of the Britain-based rockers, who didn't let their poor showing (or the subpar quality of sound blasting through their PAs) get in the way of having quite the good old time... Or whatever the cool kids overseas call having fun these days.

It may have helped that three members of Against Me! were standing in the crowd, though it may have upped the ante a bit, too.

By the time we left, our only real gripe with Warped Tour was the fact that there was little shade provided. So little, in fact, that a horde of those in attendance took turns sitting outside of the porta-potties, behind which the sun was setting. Nasty though it may seem, we almost did the same.

We didn't though. We swear. OK, maybe for five minutes. Give or take.

Personal Bias: Had it not been for unforgiving Houston heat, we might have been looking forward to the festival. Instead, we gritted our teeth as we walked in and are looking back fondly, already.

The Crowd: Plenty of young and energetic metalcore and pop punk enthusiasts, interspersed with a few older, seasoned Warped Tour veterans.

Overheard In the Crowd: A woman outside the Trojan Condoms tent teased a few young women passing by, asking, "Y'all don't want babies before you're married, do you?"

Random Notebook Dump: Against Me!'s Andrew Seward has family in the Houston area, and for this reason, he told us, he'll always have a soft spot for H-Town. He's also a Titans fan, apparently. When the Oilers relocated to Tennessee, his family was furious. Seward, however, was living in Florida, and since he was already keeping up with the team from a distance, he continued following them, without any of the resentment we Houstonians have for Bud Adams.

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