THE VANS WARPED TOUR makes its annual appearance in Portland this Sunday, June 29, in the parking lot of the Portland Expo Center (2060 N Marine). In case you didn't get the memo, the Warped Tour has been very shitty for a very, very long time. It's not a reflection of punk culture in any way, nor is it a relevant insight into what the "cool kids are listening to," and hasn't been for nearly a decade. Most of the bands listed below are veterans—or, in the case of Bowling for Soup, complete anachronisms—although $36 for a handful of sorta-kinda-almost-nearly great bands is still a pretty big bargain. It's kind of like dumpster diving: If you don't mind wading through garbage, you'll inevitably stumble across a few treasures here and there. So let's dive in!
SAVES THE DAY: While the Warped Tour itself may be a pallid, pitiable caricature of its former glory, Saves the Day are one of the few enduring bands to have originated during pop-punk's heyday. A recent trilogy of overly ambitious, tenuously connected concept albums—Sound the Alarm, Under the Boards, and Daybreak—are the only real missteps in the group's otherwise extremely solid canon (and each of those still has a few great songs on it). The group's latest, self-titled record is at once a return to form and an immensely mature, reflective step forward that suggests lead singer and songwriter Chris Conley might be the only pop-punk dignitary capable of growing up gracefully.
MIXTAPES: Cincinnati's Mixtapes suffer from having two lead singers, one (Maura Weaver) who's pretty great, and another (Ryan Rockwell) who, to put it lightly, sounds like a very big Mark Hoppus fan. The best tracks on their latest record, Ordinary Silence, fucking rip, though—notably, opener "Bad Parts," which sounds like a long-lost Muffs song and is infinitely gutsier than anything Lemuria's ever done, and "Cheapness," an Ergs-ish anthem that's guaranteed to activate the pit.
YELLOWCARD: Yellowcard's "classic" album Ocean Avenue was released over 10 years ago, a fact that makes even 22-year-old me feel pretty old. 2012's Southern Air—the latest record from the Kansas of pop-punk—is surprisingly tolerable, if entirely forgettable. Go for the hits.
BOWLING FOR SOUP: Bowling for Soup are, from an objective standpoint, perhaps the worst pop-punk band of all time (although I'd personally take BFS over Sum 41 any day of the week). Any shot that pop-punk ever had at becoming a critically reputable subgenre was obliterated singlehandedly by these shitheads. With song titles like "Assman," "King Bong," and "The Bitch Song," they make Weird Al look like Ian Curtis. Still, in spite of their reprehensible banality, their biggest hits are undeniably well-constructed pop morsels. "High School Never Ends" is even a surprisingly resonant piece of social commentary, and "Girl All the Bad Guys Want" would be touted as a classic if it were a Blue Album B-side... not to give them too much credit.
FINCH: Finch were one of the first bands who attempted to synthesize pop-punk and post-hardcore, and the results on their seminal record What It Is to Burn are pretty staggering even after all these years. They also kind of ruined everything, having paved the way for plenty of horrible, self-identified, mall-cultivated, post-hardcore bands to follow (several of which are non-coincidentally playing Warped Tour this year!).