Warped tour hits end of the road in Hillsboro
I am standing in line outside the Washington County Fair Complex in Hillsboro on the brutally sunny morning of Aug. 15 with three teenage girls - my daughter, Autumn, her stepsister, Anna, and Anna's friend, Max.
I have two jobs today - make sure the girls don't run off with this boy they know who has blue hair, and cover the final show of the Vans Warped Tour, which features dozens of bands on several stages, offering punk, screamo, reggae, ska, roots rock, Celtic rock and power pop.
First launched in the summer of 1995, the tour has drawn thousands of youngsters today, as well as older rockers like myself. I give the girls a 'When I was going to punk rock shows' speech warning them against knife-wielding skinheads and angry body slammers. I am prepared to smite any punks who attempt to harm them, so help me Sid Vicious.
Cobra Skulls play incredibly powerful angular punk rock, sort of a left brained version of Chuck Berry when he's had a few. They are the first band I see, and they are totally excellent.
On another stage is Fight Fair. 'We love the beach. We love to party. We love girls,' their muscular long-haired, shirtless lead singer proclaims right before he and his poppy, harmony happy group of dudes rocks the audience like a hurricane.
Overall, the Warped bands' sets are fun, but something is missing until Far From Finished, a punk band from Boston, hits the stage. Lead singer Steve Neary was born with an abbreviated arm, or stump, and he and his bandmates are not afraid to joke about it.
'Let me see your hands, you two-handed freaks!' one band member yells as Neary leads a clap-along.
Neary leaps off the stage and moshes with the crowd. For the band's last song, he invites everyone on stage. Several crowd members make it up there while a clearly angry technician screams at them to get off. It is the first real rock 'n' roll moment of the day.
After the show, Neary hides out from the stage manager.
'Nothing got broken, and it was all for fun, but he felt like he didn't have control for a moment,' Neary says.
Neary likes the crowd and compares it to the duller than dishwater audience at the Warped show in San Diego.
'Everyone looks so good, but no one wants to move,' he says of the tanned California gods and goddesses. 'I think they're afraid they'll get scars.'
The wheel world
In another section of the concert grounds, skateboarders show off their tricks on a half-pipe. Ryan Lewis, 19, and Frank Shaw, 16, both from Medford, are here to compete.
'If there's wheels on it, we just like to ride it,' Lewis says.
Frank asks if I can mention that he is sponsored by Jack's Board House and Sasquatch Skateboards. I tell him I will think about it.
Frank takes fourth place in a competition.
'I thought overall it was a good contest, lots of people skated really well,' he says. 'Pretty much I just did the tricks I like doing and tried to not fall all over the place.'
Tearin' the stuffin'
Rev. Peyton's Big Damn Band tears up the stage with its hard-drivin' country blues rock as the crowd tears apart a stuffed frog toy a stagehand threw in the air.
'A good song played by people that really know how to play it - that's the end-all and be-all,' Rev. Peyton says afterward in the VIP section.
Eugene's Medium Troy share the same philosophy and note their alternative danceable dub rock has gone over well with the crowd. JoJo, the band's lead vocalist and guitarist, says their inclusion on part of the Warped Tour was a bit of a happy accident - he met the tour's founder, Kevin Lyman, at a bat mitzvah JoJo played.
Meanwhile, waiting to go on stage is Everclear's Art Alexakis. He disagrees with my contention that punk is essentially mainstream at this point, having influenced virtually all types of pop and rock music over the last two decades. As a singer in the distance lets forth an unearthly hellish scream, Alexakis dryly notes: 'Now that's not mainstream.'
I reunite with the girls as the show ends. They look none the worse for wear, but Autumn notes she was briefly grossed out when some guy coughed up blood on her after bloodying his nose in a mosh pit.
I don't know whether to laugh or cry. I do know one thing, however. When I find this guy, I will smite him.