by JOEL HARTSE & r & & r & & lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & L & lt;/span & ast year, I decided it would be a good idea to interview some of the corporate sponsors of the Warped Tour instead of the bands. I thought I was being so clever. I'd expose the Warped Tour for what it really was: a big-money venture, sponsored by multinational corporations who saw teen punk fans as na & iuml;ve dollar signs.
Of course, this was a stupid, impossible idea. First of all, I got the runaround from every mid-level PR person at every sponsor's office. Then when I finally got ahold of Cingular's Lauren Garner (Cingular -- as we've all been conditioned to know -- is now the new AT & amp;T), I asked what she might have to say to a kid who thought the Warped Tour was too corporate and therefore uncool.
"I've never heard anything like that," she said. "I wouldn't really know how to respond."
I know now she was right not to know. Things are different now. When I was a kid, back when Bad Religion was only like 15 years old (as opposed to pushing 30) we believed in this thing called "selling out." Selling out doesn't exist anymore. The concept of a band trading its artistic soul in exchange for greater notoriety has been all but erased by the Internet, where no band really has more clout than another. The wild goose chase I got from publicity flacks at these companies is nothing compared to the labyrinthine maze of media, music, and marketing that kids wade through on a daily basis.
So regardless of the number of sponsors, the Warped Tour can't be called a sellout measure any more, but neither is it the rebellious middle finger it was supposed to be when it started in 1995. Let's get over it: The Warped Tour is an event where you can go to see rock bands play. That's it. Simple, no?
Still, sometimes it's hard to get excited about seeing Bad Religion (still around!) for the 500th time, so what you'll want to do is check out the bands you've never heard of. The hot tip, then, is to head for the "Kevin Says" stage, which is made up of young bands competing for a spot to play on the tour. These are the bands are playing for next to no money who have not yet been jaded -- bands like Sacramento's caustic Aroarah, Minneapolis' very un-Warped rapper P.O.S, Japanese all-girl ska group the Oreska Band and Vancouver, British Columbia's Scottish-punk band the Real McKenzies.
If we still believed in sellouts, these guys would be the untainted ones. But since we don't, know this: They had to fill out an application to get this spot. Surely that counts for something.
The Warped Tour visits the Gorge Amphitheater in George, Wash. on Saturday, Aug. 18, beginning at noon. $27. Visit www.hob.com/venues/concerts/gorge. Performers include Bad Religion, Tiger Army, Cute Is What We Aim For, Paramore, Coheed and Cambria, Killswitch Engage, Chiodos, New Found Glory, Hawthorne Heights, Pennywise, Circa Survive, Pepper, As I Lay Dying, Red Jumpsuit Apparatus, Amber Pacific, Flogging Molly, Poison the Well, the Starting Line, K-Os, Escape the Fate, Gallows, Bayside, The Unseen, Spill Canvas, Hot Rod Circuit, the Confession, A Static Lullaby, All-Time Low, So They Say, Fall of Troy, Bless the Fall, Envy on the Coast, Maylene and the Sons of Disaster, Big D and the Kids Table, the Almost, Meg & amp; Dia, the Matches, Boys Like Girls, P.O.S., the Actual, and Vincent Black Shadow.