Warped Tour appeals to younger crowd at First Niagara Pavilion

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It wasn't their father's or even maybe their older sister's Warped Tour on Wednesday at First Niagara Pavilion.

The closest thing to an old-school headliner in the class of a Bad Religion, Dropkick Murphys, Rancid or Pennywise was '90s ska-punk pranksters Reel Big Fish.

For a little perspective, here's Johnny Grushecky, whose band, The Composure, played a local side stage: "I'm old," he said. "I'm 25. I started coming to Warped Tour when was I was 13. It's a new generation of bands."

The crowd, slightly older than 13, came out for bands like The Used, Story of the Year, Black Veil Brides and Bring Me the Horizon, not to mention those groups that you just stumble upon by accident -- like RDGLDGRN (RedGoldGreen).

The band watched almost the whole pavilion crowd disperse after the energetic pop-punk set by Story of the Year only see it come back with thousands more, in a hurry, when it started pouring down rain. RDGLDGRN had a huge showcase for its mix of punk and island rhythms.

Among the other finds were explosive L.A. hardcore band LetLive, led by wild frontman Jason Butler, who ended the set getting tangled in the drum kit; straight-up U.K. punk band Strawberry Blondes; and Gin Wigmore, who was somewhat out of place with her sassy rockabilly/swing style. Unfortunately, just about all the bands playing in the main pavilion, which is not the main stage for Warped, sounded lousy thanks to the tinny, echoey mix.

Down in the parking lot, where it was unbearable without clouds, The Wonder Years played a passionate set of unpretentious punk with vocals that were as earnest as they got Wednesday.

One of the more popular sets, no surprise, came from Warped vets The Used, a Utah alt-rock band with a tight connection to its fans via charismatic frontman Bert McCracken. He's a Warped star who mocks the notion of being a rock star.

"We came here today because we want to be rich and famous and we want steal all your money," he said sarcastically, adding, "I wanna talk to you about rock stars -- the whole idea of the rock star died when Kurt Cobain died."

"We started this band because we love salsa," he said, lampooning commercialism. "We're going to dedicate the rest of this set to our new salsa. ... It's called rich guys' salsa."

When he wasn't carrying on, he had the fans singing along to songs like "All That I've Got" and "The Taste of Ink" while the guards had their hands full catching crowd-surfers.

Getting back to Reel Big Fish, the band nailed down that comedy slot formerly held by NOFX and its spinoff, Me First and the Gimme Gimmes.

"Who's seeing us for the first time?" Hawaiian-shirted singer Aaron Barrett told the Warped fans that didn't leave once they heard horns. "I bet you didn't expect to us to be this handsome ... in person. Oh my god, cute band alert! Hashtag, cute band alert!"

Reel Big Fish delivered the funny, funky Warped anthem "Sell Out" and goofed around a lot, dipping into everything from square dance music to metalcore. It had to be the only band at Warped that would bother to cover A-ha's "Take on Me" and dare to cover "Call Me Maybe."

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Scott Mervis: smervis@post-gazette.com; 412-263-2576.


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