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Concert Reviews:
Warped Tour Brings "The Good Life" To Comerica Park
 

By GARY GRAFF and KELLI BENDER
Of the Oakland Press

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DETROIT -- As Matt Thiessen of the Ohio-based band Relient K introduced "a song about living the good life" on Friday, he asked the swarm of fans in front of him "are you guys living the good life?"

And if you were a modern rock devotee at the Vans Warped Tour at Comerica Park, the answer was a resounding yes.

The 14th edition of the traveling music festival hit town Friday for its annual marathon of enjoyable endurance -- nine and a half hours of music on more than 10 stages plus an assortment of sideshow attractions such as skateboard exhibitions, WWE-style wrestling and video game demonstrations. About 22,600 people were through the gates by late afternoon and more still arriving.

Fortunately, clouds and a fairly steady breeze helped mitigate the stifling 90-plus degree heat as well as the intense humidity of the nearly constant mosh pits in front of the stages.

While Relient K played on one of the festival's main stages, three mothers from Canton stood in the back of the stadium's west parking lot and gazed somewhat apprehensively towards the front, where they last saw their children headed. "My older son has been (to the Warped Tour) before," said Sue Emens, 52, of Canton. "He sort of warned me what to expect. It's cool -- for the kids, at least."

But, added Sandy Kubisak, 49, "The farther away we are, the better it sounds."

That wasn't the case for Dean Offringer of Plainwell, Mich., a DJ and music fan who came with his wife, Linda, and their two teenage sons and wanted to hear the Pink Spiders, Story of the Year and the Color Fred, among other bands. Linda, however, felt differently.

"(Dean) came because he likes the music, I came to be the chaperone," she said as the Pink Spiders performed. "I'd like to be in an air-conditioned bar right now."

Tiffany Chritt, 20, of Midland, only wanted to be at the front of the stage when The Academy Is... performed. She sported a yellow T-shirt on which she'd scrawled William Beckett Is Love in tribute to the suburban Chicago band's frontman. "I'm going to marry him one day," declared Chritt, who met Beckett at last year's Warped Tour stop in Detroit. "I was so nervous I couldn't talk," she remembered.

Beckett emerged unbetrothed after his group's energetic 30-minute set, one of more than 100 performances during the day. Though Warped is generally considered a punk festival -- and there were plenty of Mohawk haircuts and pierced body parts there to prove it on Friday (as well as a few young men with faces painted like Heath Ledger's Joker from the just-opened film "The Dark Night") -- the program's stylistic span is actually broad, and in a given hour fans could check out the slamming metallics of Norman Jean, the self-described "dirty reggae" of the Aggrolites -- who had fans dancing in furious circles while it played songs by the Clash, the Selecter, Toots & the Maytalls and Paul McCartney -- and the anthemic, melodic punk of Against Me!

Some groups, such as Boston's Street Dogs, were celebrating new album releases. Others, such as Gym Class Heroes and The Academy Is..., were using Warped to drum up some hype for upcoming releases.

So there was plenty for fans of all tastes -- and ages. Gary Pace, whose sound company, Dynacord, provided an emergency amplifier for the Pink Spiders, watched the group's set with his son Gavin, 8, and Delaney, 6. "It's their very first concert," Pace explained as his children paid half-hearted attention to the band. "They're a little bit shocked; it's loud. But they love seeing the different people, the different hair...

"They recognize this is a different spectrum of the culture, I think."

It was the third consecutive year for the Warped Tour at Comerica Park after a spending most of its previous visits at the Pontiac Silverdome and in downtown Pontiac.



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