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It ain’t just about great music, it’s who delivers show, particularly on this year’s Warped Tour. Here’s our firsthand look at bands big and small you’ll want to see.


Valient Thorr — Self-styled Venusians whose crash landing has made possible their absolutely electric performances. Combining the over-the-top self-conscious metal theatrics of with a decidedly offbeat outlook. Clad in matching denim jackets and hair long enough to make them Marshall Tucker kin, there’s a Southern edge to their rumbling metal, and a decidedly punk sense of devil-may-care spirit.

MxPx — They leap about, bouncing through infectious hook-driven pop-punk melodies with such boiling-point enthusiasm that it’s hard not to be won over. It’s classic Cali-punk with a debt to the Adolescents and Descendants, even before you get to the Green Day comparisons. Sometimes it is more about delivery than origin.

Avenged Sevenfold — This Huntington Beach (the Offspring’s home) quintet brings real theatricalism (not to mention leather) to the Warped stage. And by theatricalism we mean the whole smoke-machine-dual-guitarists-on-risers-soloing-axes-held-aloft-are-you-ready-to-rock- Deeee-troit metal flash. Sprinkle in piquant touches of old-fashioned thrash where the punk rockers stay in tune. It’s a little cheesy, but more fun than cheap speed and beer bongs.

The Offspring — One of the acts that made all this possible, the Offspring’s success turned Epitaph into what it is today, and established punk’s commercial viability. While they’re not amazing talents, nor are they handsome, but they are hit-makers, and there’s a certain joy in shouting along with thousands other folks.

Dropkick Murphys — Their albums do no justice to the tumbledown energy of their shows. Frontman Al Barr likes to jump into the crowd, and the band is tighter than Kirstie Ally’s pantyhose. The Boston septet combine punk-rock swagger with old-fashioned Irish stagger, producing a rollicking, anthemic good time.

Dillinger Escape Plan — Picture King Crimson only hardcore. Loud splashes of cacophony quickly ooze into junky churning riffage that slithers into jazzy skronk, with melody peeking out.

The Bled — This is hardcore the way it used to be played — not alternating between bitter and sweet, but balls-in-vice bluster and face-blasting guitar that threatens to flatten you like a semi. A sonic cousin of Converge.

Bedouin Soundclash — They hail from Kingston, only not Jamaica, but Canada. Still, they’re deeply influenced by reggae. This Canadian trio are easily the slowest-paced of the Warped bands, sidling to a cautious dub lope that’s unusually spare and economical, with few frills besides crisp infectious hooks.

Thrice — This OC emo-core outfit is a bit like Jimmy Eat World in that they stand head, shoulders and chest above their peers when it comes to melding a smooth, melodic line to their crashing ‘core breakdowns and vocal wail.

Suicide Machines — Detroit’s finest, best riff merchants, still criminally below the radar. Not to be missed.

Chris Parker is a freelance writer. Send comments to

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October 14, 2020

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