The multi-band punk fests
organized by music marketing wizard Kevin Lyman may be obnoxious in terms of
their ubiquitous corporate sponsorships and countless "cross-promotional
synergies," but you can't say they don't deliver a lot of musical bang for
recent years, Lyman's annual summer Warped Tour has leaned toward pop-punk
acts -- shopping-mall-outfitted Clash wannabes Good Charlotte were a major
draw on 2004's 10th-anniversary trek -- but the promoter is going for a much
harder sound with his new Taste of Chaos tour, which he hopes to build into
a "Winter Warped."
"We have 1,200
submissions for Warped next year, and a lot of them are these new,
harder-edged bands," Lyman told MTV.com when he announced the tour last
fall. "These harder acts always seem to play on metal tours. Metal tickets
always cost more; T-shirts always cost more at metal shows. If you're a 14-
or 15-year-old kid, and you want to see an established metal act, you've got
to pay twice as much to do so."
Lyman can try to portray
his new brainchild as a service to fans being ripped-off by metal tours, but
he's really making a grab for the business generated by the money-minting
Ozzfest, whose second stage has increasingly embraced the younger, harder
bands he's talking about, while Sharon and Ozzy Osbourne have claimed their
share of those groups' T-shirt sales.
TASTE OF CHAOS
1106 W. Lawrence
The particular brand of
noise delivered by Taste of Chaos bands such as headliners the Used is
sometimes dubbed "metalcore," "nü-hardcore" or "screamo" (a derivation of "emo"),
though the musicians themselves tend to favor "hardcore," or just plain
"punk." It has been fomenting in an underground netherworld somewhere
between punk and metal for three or four years now, merging the rampaging
rhythms, guitar pyrotechnics and deep, throaty vocals of thrash- and
death-metal with the dramatic dynamic contrasts and smart, literate,
heartfelt lyrics and politically correct sensibilities of emo.
This is to say, the
music rocks, dude -- but, um, you know, righteously.
"There's definitely a
movement," Quinn Allman, guitarist for the Used, told me when the band
released its first self-titled album for Warner Bros. in 2002. "Kids call it
an 'emolution,' but it's not emo. It's a new wave, a new setting on your
amp, a new rhythm, and a new dynamic inflection with your vocal. But really
it's just music -- just a different way to say the same thing.
"I think it's punk-rock,
but I don't want to say goodbye to melody, and I don't want to say goodbye
to my voice," the guitarist added. "I just want to sing and I want to be
heard, and to do that, I don't have to write big riffs; my music doesn't
have to be big and it doesn't have to rock. When I want to write a song, the
last thing I think about is how the crowd will move to it. I just think our
music really comes from our heart."
Call it what you will,
Allman formed the Used in the late '90s in his native Utah Valley with
drummer Branden Steineckert and bassist Jeph Howard. But things didn't
really click for several years, until the three hooked up with vocalist Bert
"We were all into
hard-core music, but we were kind of just trying to keep something unique
about it, and it started coming out really cool," Allman said. Within a year
of finding McCracken, the band had signed to Warners and released its debut,
a striking mix of grinding metallic riffs and beautiful pop passages
distinguished by the singer's oh-so-emotional crooning.
Released last September,
the band's second album, "In Love & Death," is even stronger musically --
though, as is the case with the lyrics of many sensitive young pseudo-emo
souls, the morbid whining of McCracken can be a bit hard to stomach.
"I must abuse
myself/I'm against all that I've made up," he sings on the opening
track, "Take It Away." "Set in stone the sun will come/And I hate
light/You know I hate light/To me it looks so pretty burning." Ack! Then
again, you can always ignore the words and just concentrate on the
The Taste of Chaos
mainstage lineup is completed by several like-minded and similar-sounding
fellow travelers, including My Chemical Romance, a New Jersey quintet
supporting its second album, "Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge"; 2004 Ozzfest
veterans Killswitch Engage, which recently issued "The End of Heartache" on
Roadrunner Records; the New Jersey quintet Senses Fail, and the California
quintet A Static Lullaby.
To appeal to the
notorious 10-second TV-remote attention spans of its target audience, the
36-date tour also features an acoustic stage featuring sensitive souls
Opiate for the Masses, Bleed the Dream and Nicky P and a midway where
promoters promise "the latest video games, autograph signings, and a host of
additional fan interactive activities" (all of them certain to include some
measure of corporate hucksterism).
For more information,
REASONS FOR LIVING
Like many peers in my
age group, I sought this career thanks to the inspiration of two very
different strains of journalism. On the one hand, there was the
investigative reporting of Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein. On the other,
there was the gonzo journalism of Hunter S. Thompson, who committed suicide
While he rarely wrote
directly about music, Thompson's prose crackled with the energy of the best
rock 'n' roll. Hoping to make that connection, I searched for the source of
a famous quote often attributed to him and which I kept pinned to my wall
for years: "The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long
plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like
dogs. There's also a negative side."
As it turns out,
Thompson never wrote that -- it was finally debunked by the About.com Web
site -- but it seems sort of pointless to get hung up on the facts, since
Hunter rarely did. While he was prone to inventing out of whole cloth much
of his gonzo journalism, there is more "truth" in a few paragraphs from some
of his best books than other writers uncover in a lifetime. The places to
start: Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Hell's Angels and
Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail '72.