Kevin Lyman, the master-mind behind the Warped Tour, has complained about slow ticket sales for this year's outing, but part of the problem has more to do with the lineup than the slumping concert industry. This year's tour features plenty of the usual suspects (Alkaline Trio, Bouncing Souls, Riverboat Gamblers), but there's no hot band on the level of, say, Paramore (who were surprise guests at last year's Cleveland stop). Still, with close to 80 groups playing Tower City Amphitheater on Thursday, we found a few worth checking out.
Alkaline Trio have always made light from the dark. Pioneers of the guyliner pop-punk movement, they've intertwined melancholy lyrics with bright ringing melodies for more than 15 years now. It's their signature move, one that's taken them from obscure Chicago trio to the brink of stardom. On this year's This Addiction, they let even more light in. Hopeful resolve runs throughout the album — from the excited sobriety underscoring the title track's heroin/love metaphor to greeting a death sentence by embracing (rather than fearing) the final breaths. — Chris Parker
His first album was called I Get Wet. Songs included "It's Time to Party," "Party Hard," and "Party 'Til You Puke." But somehow Andrew W.K. became a popular motivational speaker over the years, lecturing at places like Yale and Carnegie Mellon University. Andrew's talks aren't the usual "I've been there, and you don't wanna go there" reflective rocker-in-rehab stuff; he's more like the most positive dude on the planet. Andrew unmistakably makes music you can party to, but he's evolved into a wide-ranging artist with piano instrumentals and a J-Pop cover album on his résumé.
— Nick Baker
Some Warped bands may have a rep for maintaining perfectly stylized coifs in 90-degree weather. But no band is more committed to hairdos, or the culture associated with them, than N.Y.C.'s U.K.-revival punks the Casualties. They were waving the old-school flag way back during the late '90s/early '00s street-punk revival. And even though they outgrew songs about "spikey-haired drunk punx," they still sound like they're straight outta 1982. The Casualties are one of Warped's last links to true punk rock. — Nick Baker
Every Time I Die
This metalcore group from Buffalo was one of the first to use a now-ubiquitous sentence fragment as its name. Their latest album, New Junk Aesthetic, features more brutal sounds and a little sonic evolution (singer Keith Buckley says this was their most difficult album since 2003's Hot Damn!
). Known for throwing some mathcore and southern rock into their mix, these Warped vets put on a purely engaging live show. — Nick Baker
Motion City Soundtrack
Minnesota's Motion City Soundtrack have released records since 2002, and their popularity has ballooned along the way. Known for injecting their pop-punk with the sweet sounds of a Moog synthesizer, MCS have toured with kings of the genre Fall Out Boy, the All-American Rejects, and Blink-182 over the years. And their onstage energy isn't lost in translation: They continually rock crowds in Japan and Australia.
— Jordan Zirm
Never Shout Never
Christofer Drew was a mere 16 years old when he came up with the Never Shout Never moniker and self-released his debut EP, The Yippee. Now 19, Drew has amassed tons of fans via a massive online presence. He's toured with Dashboard Confessional and Gym Class Heroes, released more EPs, and last year signed a deal with Warner Bros. No matter what you call him, the dude's future is way bright.
— Brian Baker
Fresh from his Duke University graduation, Mike Posner has become one of 2010's breakout stars. With a raspy voice that teeters over electronic, hip-hop beats, Posner has girls screaming his name whenever he performs his chart-topping single "Cooler Than Me." Big Sean, Wale, and Bun B are all fans of his work, which includes two mixtapes that Posner made available on iTunes for free. His debut album is due at the end of summer. Check him out now, before he explodes all over the place. — Zirm
Warped Tour mainstays since the release of 2001's All Killer No Filler, Sum 41 have constantly tinkered with their sound. They delved progressively deeper into heavier musical elements and more obvious political focus on 2002's Does This Look Infected? and 2004's Chuck, before returning to their pop-punk roots on 2007's Underclass Hero. A hair-raising incident in the Democratic Republic of Congo several years ago contributed to the band's political stance, but sheer consistency has kept these former snot-nosed punks on the Warped stage.
— Nick Baker
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