The Vans Warped Tour redefines "punk" again | Music Sidebar | Chicago Reader

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The Vans Warped Tour redefines "punk" again

If the kids are listening to radio pop with guitars, that's what Warped will book.


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Punk rock is in a difficult spot right now: the precocious disaffected youth who have kept it running for nearly three decades are increasingly finding their creative outlets via samplers and cracked copies of Fruity Loops, not guitars, and all sorts of kids are starting to look at rock 'n' roll as their parents' (or even grandparents') music. The Vans Warped Tour, which has been the spiritual home of mall punk for almost two decades, has always presented itself as a gathering place for outsiders (especially people who can consider themselves outsiders even while they're being directly marketed to by a large corporation), but it's never been as far outside of mainstream pop culture as it is now. This year's lineup represents at least three distinct generations of bands: those that were around when Warped Tour launched (Goldfinger, Big D & the Kids Table), the ones that reigned over the "scene" kids who grew up with the tour during its heyday in the aughts (Hawthorne Heights, Chiodos), and newcomers such as Go Radio and Tonight Alive that draw more influence from polished radio pop than from anything remotely punk. This last cohort suggests an evacuation in progress—and the potential end of the genre as we know it.

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