Taste of Chaos 10/3/15 San Manuel Amphitheater
If you went to Warped Tour in the first few years of the 21st century, you can imagine exactly what the return of Taste of Chaos was like. Picture the best Warped Tour from 2000-2004. Virtually every name on the bill is worth seeing. Most bands get to play 40-70 minutes instead of being relegated to 30. There are reunions of bands that haven't been around for a decade. Every band is on the same stage but there's no delay between sets, and they all want to put on the best show possible because the other bands (likely their friends) are watching them. Oh, and you're old enough to legally drink this time around.
That's exactly what it was like at Taste of Chaos on Saturday, and it all took place on one amazing "turntable" stage that rotated to allow one band to set up while another performed. Up until the sun went down around 6 p.m., the Warped feel was unmistakeable. The 2 p.m. set from SoCal post-hardcore outfit Finch was one of the best of the afternoon, although seeing bands like Glassjaw and the Movielife play spectacular 40-minute sets in 2015 was pretty phenomenal. It was obvious that the two Long Island early-2000s groups didn't have the same following of some of the other acts at the festival, but their performances were so far beyond what's expected of bands playing while the sun is still out that they no doubt won over some new fans. (Seriously, if you're a young pop punk or post-hardcore band, look at the Movielife and Glassjaw respectively to see what you should be doing. Start with "Jonestown" and "Ape Dos Mil" if you're totally unfamiliar.)
Story of the Year played the two songs people know by them (and some other stuff), Saves the Day proved that they're still one of the world's premier emo bands, and Mark Hoppus DJed a set that featured everything from Taking Back Sunday and Brand New (probably the two bands that were most missed at the show) to Taylor Swift ("Shake It Off") and Frozen ("Do You Want to Build a Snowman"). Although the growing crowd didn't appreciate the poppier tunes mixed into their favorite jams, everyone enjoyed seeing Hoppus play his own songs (and those of bands influenced by him) from his computer.
Following Hoppus' DJ set, the vibe of the show switched from what would be one the best versions of Warped Tour ever to the concert that so many of today's twentysomethings would've given anything to see back in high school.
The All-American Rejects kicked off the evening segment with their poppy brand of rock. The set was a tad self-indulgent, with Tyson Ritter spending a few different breaks talking about how the hardcore kids who pretend to hate them are the reason the band is still around and making fun of how old everyone in the crowd is now. Other than that, the group played through all of the songs that made them famous (see: "Swing Swing," "Dirty Little Secret," "Gives You Hell," etc.) and brought everyone back in time by roughly a decade, which served as the perfect opener for the rest of the night.
In a near-flawless transition, Dashboard Confessional was the next group to take the stage and bring everyone back to their high school days. For the next hour, ladies from 15 to 35(ish) swooned as Chris Carrabba serenaded the crowd with Dashboard tunes new and old. As the crowd sang along to "Screaming Infidelities," "Vindicated," and an extended version of "Hands Down," the increasingly lonely-feeling women of the crowd were joined by a significant amount of hardcore bros waiting for the first SoCal Thrice show in years.
Thrice played nearly the same set they did last weekend in Phoenix (not that there's anything wrong with it), which no doubt made the guy wearing the shirt reading "Play Deadbolt" exceedingly happy. Although (like Glassjaw) Thrice was a little too fast and loud for some of the Dashboard/Jimmy Eat World fans, they still received one of the biggest ovations of the night and sounded absolutely as clean and invigorating as they ever have before.
The final two performances of the night were Jimmy Eat World and the Used, which on paper seems like a great combination. In practice, the two are very different bands with relatively separate fan bases.
Sure, they were both popular a decade ago and play somewhat similar styles of music, but there's a major difference between Jimmy Eat World and the Used. For over an hour, Jimmy Eat World played virtually every song they've ever had on the radio (from 2001's "The Middle" and "Sweetness" to 2004's "Pain" and 2007's "Big Casino). The Arizona-based band sounded as good as their albums, but lacked the kind of improvisational surprises and emotional connection with the fans that can really make for an exquisite set.
That's where the Used come in.
Despite the wind messing up the band's plan for a backdrop, the Utah natives had the crowd completely engaged from the moment they walked on to the stage following Jimmy Eat World's performance. Lead singer Bert McCracken came out dressed in a perfect A Clockwork Orange outfit (complete with hat, makeup, and cane), which was a perfect representation of what makes the Used so important to the current "emo revival."
The Used are never considered the most popular band of the 2000s pop punk/emo/whatever you want to call it movement. They never had the commercial success of Taking Back Sunday or Fall Out Boy (or even Jimmy Eat World) or the strong cult following of Brand New, but the Used have always carried an element of raw youth, energy and enjoyment over just about all of their contemporaries. The band's self-titled debut album and follow-up (In Love and Death) were as good as any albums to come out of that 2000s movement, but McCracken and the band have always been looking to evolve their look and sound from year to year, all while putting on the most electric of crowd-pleasing shows.
For the last hour of Taste of Chaos, the Used broke out top-notch versions of almost all of their classics from the first two albums ("The Taste of Ink," "All That I've Got," "I Caught Fire," etc.). The crowd (which lost a few hundred folks after Jimmy Eat World) ate up every minute of it, but perhaps the best moment came shortly before the set "ended" when McCracken admitted that he was telling everyone they were about to play their last song so the audience would be excited for them to come back and play some more.
Instead of leaving the stage before the encore, the 33-year-old singer led the chant of "two more songs" while counting on his fingers up to "six more songs" before signaling for the band's new guitarist, Justin Shekoski, to come back on stage for an extremely touching acoustic rendition of "On My Own."
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Once the rest of the band joined the two on stage, Shekoski got to show off some of his skills with one of the most incredible finishers I've ever seen. The night ended with a medley of Rage Against the Machine into Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit" which transitioned to "A Box Full of Sharp Objects." Yeah, it was pretty awesome for a crowd that made it through high school on the sound of McCracken's voice.
Overheard Terrible Quote of the Day "I think that's the guy from Head Automatica." - The bro behind me during Glassjaw's set