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October 2, 2004

At the Warped Tour this summer, group pus on Sunday best

Warped Tour: the place where suburban teenage girls' dreams come true. On Saturday, July 24, I headed down to the Tweeter Center in Tinley Park to check out the 10th annual Warped Tour and interview one the biggest bands on the tour—Taking Back Sunday. The monstrous venue was sold out and crawling with scenesters and suburban kids wearing their favorite bands' T-shirts (although the smart ones only wore shirts of their favorite bands not on the Warped Tour). The tour featured over 80 bands on eight stages (with names ranging from Teal Stage to the Kevin Says Stage, named for Warped founder Kevin Lyman), satisfying tastes at many points of the music continuum, from hip-hop (Atmosphere) to radio-friendly pop-punk (New Found Glory) to hardcore (Avenged Sevenfold).

The doors opened at noon and bands started playing a little before 1 p.m. My interview was scheduled for 1:30, so I unfortunately missed Story of the Year, one of the big breakouts from last year's tour. Warped 2003 was also the scene for the comeback of Taking Back Sunday after the departure of two members, one of whom wrote half their songs. So many rumors have circulated about the departure that it is now the stuff of emo legend. After adding Fred Mascherino (guitar, vocals) from Breaking Pangaea and Matt Rubano (bass), the band played three Warped Tour shows and subsequently found new life touring with bands such as Saves the Day, blink-182 and The Used, and recording a new album which was released on July 27.

I sat down in the press room at the Tweeter Center with founding member Eddie Reyes (guitar) and Matt Rubano (bass) to discuss the Warped Tour and their new album.

Voices: I'll get straight to the point. Why is this album [Where You Want To Be] better than your last one [Tell All Your Friends]? What do you guys like about it that makes it better than the last one?

Eddie Reyes: I don't look at it as being better, I look at it as being more mature—the next album, you know? It's definitely a lot more progressed than the first album because [on] the first album, the songs were already kind of old when they came out. The same goes for some of these songs. Some are new and some are some pretty old stuff that we re-worked on. But I mean, it's just a progression, more mature I guess.

Voices: OK. It [Where You Want To Be] seems a little bit different obviously. It seems to lack some of the frenzy from Tell All Your Friends, that pure, hits-you-in-the-face intensity. Is that more because of the lineup change or more because of the growth of the band?

ER: It's just the way we wrote the album. The first album—it was written in [drummer] Mark [O'Connell]'s basement, and it was just—we didn't care, we did what we wanted to. And the same goes with this album. We didn't care. We sat in the basement and in the studio and just wrote an album. [There are] actually a couple of songs on the new album that are old riffs; they're old songs.

Matt Rubano: Yeah, and we've been playing them for a year already too. We've been playing "Bonus Mosh [Pt. 2]" since last Warped Tour.

ER: It's almost like when our new album comes out, to us it's already been out two years. But, you know, it's just like you paint this giant painting, and your next one's not going to be the same—it's going to be different. We obviously knew it was going to be different, but it's still the same to me in intensity.

Voices: Is there a reason you guys chose to break up the album right in the middle by putting a slow acoustic song there? Was it on purpose, or did you just like the way it fit?

MR: We wanted it to have the A-side, B-side feel of a record, of an old LP, like an old vinyl. And I think we intentionally juxtaposed probably the most frenetic or crazy-sounding track on the record, "The Union," and "New American Classic" as being the most mellow or heart-felt or whatever kind of Hallmark-ish word you want to use for that kind of a song. And that sort of song, "New American Classic," is something that the band hadn't done before, or at least hadn't recorded—you know, something with a string section and acoustic guitars. It's still Taking Back Sunday, but we wanted it to have a Side A, Side B sort of feeling to it, and then starting out on side B with "I am Fred Astaire," which I think is a good Side 2 first track. You know, if a CD could flip over, we'd have it go that way, but yeah, that was quite intentional.

ER: A lot of people ask me [why] that song is different, but I think we've always had slow songs, even on demos. We've always had that one song like "[Your Own] Disaster" and stuff like that.

After the interview, I saw far too many other bands to write about in this article, but My Chemical Romance and Sugarcult both put on excellent shows. Security had its hands full with the massive numbers of kids crowd-surfing over the railing for pretty much the entire day. One of the high points of the day was Alkaline Trio's set during which they covered Billy Idol's classic "White Wedding" before they departed the Warped Tour.

Although the new album may not have all of the frantic desperation of their first, Taking Back Sunday's live show is definitely worth seeing. The band tore through its 30-minute set on the Teal Stage, instantly driving the massive crowd into a frenzy with "You Know How I Do." They followed with "Timberwolves at New Jersey"—again from their first album—as vocalist Adam Lazzara swung his mic around the stage like a madman and traded screams with Mascherino. The rest of the set followed the pattern set by the first two songs, with Lazzara and Mascherino each taking turns attempting to sound more desperate than the other with their slightly indulgent lyrics like "Well it's love/Make it hurt/I deserve it" from "Bonus Mosh Pt. 2," just released on Where You Want To Be. (In case you're wondering, as far as I know there is no "Bonus Mosh Pt. 1.")

Taking Back Sunday put on an energetic and entertaining set. As Rubano mentioned in the interview, even though their new album is a bit more subtle than the my-girlfriend-left-me-and-I-want-to-kill-myself intensity that fills Tell All Your Friends, Taking Back Sunday played its new material with the same frantic pace their old songs possess. Nevertheless, they don't have much variety to their set. Lazzara screams and throws his mic around, and Mascherino adds more screaming. While the songs certainly aren't generic, they all feel the same. This isn't necessarily the worst thing in the world, and perhaps Warped Tour is a place where one doesn't bring out the slow acoustic songs (although it has been done), but it would have been nice to hear more variation during the set. Still, of all the bands playing on Saturday, Taking Back Sunday rank at the top of the list with Alkaline Trio as playing the best sets on this year's Warped Tour.