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Punk rock roadshow the Warped Tour hits Vegas one last time

The traffic lights continued to work at the corner of Third Street and Bridger Avenue, though they did little to alleviate the gridlock of bodies.

There was a human traffic jam at the downtown intersection Friday afternoon where a pair of stages faced each other a block apart on the closed-off streets, erected atop griddle-hot asphalt for a sold-out crowd to sizzle upon like black-clad bacon strips.

The audience of 12,000-plus weathered the punishing weather at the Downtown Las Vegas Events Center for the last Vegas stop of the Warped Tour, the traveling punk rock summer camp launched in 1995, long before much of Friday’s teen-heavy crowd was born.

What made Warped last longer than any other annual package tour was its unique ability to resonate with younger generations, continually redefining itself so that it was as much a draw for teenagers in 2008 as it was in 1998.

Though Warped turned 23 this year, its core audience never aged — with the exception of an increasing amount of parents escorting their kids to a show they most likely attended themselves years earlier. That enabled Warped to outlive scads of other package tours, once-popular summer draws such as Ozzfest, Lollapalooza, H.O.R.D.E., Lilith Fair and the Mayhem Fest, none of which survived even half as long as Warped.

How did Warped do it?

The tour never shied away from the next generation of acts — even if plenty of disgruntled old-schoolers checked out along the way. Warped went from seminal, second- and third-wave punk headliners such as NOFX, Bad Religion and Pennywise in the mid- to late ’90s to emo favorites such as Simple Plan, Fall Out Boy and Yellowcard in the aughts to more metallic acts such as Falling in Reverse, Black Veil Brides and Motionless in White, the latter three among the more popular draws on this year’s tour.

Though Warped has always been punk-based, it’s been defined by diversity as much as a singular sound, serving as an early platform for future stars ranging from Beck to Katy Perry, Eminem to Black Eyed Peas, G-Eazy to Kid Rock, Limp Bizkit to, err, Sugar Ray.

So to see it all come to an end Friday was a bittersweet experience, even if Warped has left the door open for future events of some sort (this year’s outing is being billed as Warped’s “final full cross-country tour,” meaning it will probably continue as a destination festival in one or more markets.)

The past meets the heavy present

A number of Warped vets dotted this year’s bill, such as ska stalwarts Reel Big Fish, who first played the tour in 1997, returning for their eighth go-round, 12-timers Simple Plan and newer staple Falling in Reverse, which has been in the lineup for six of the past eight incarnations.

“This song is so old that MTV was still playing music videos when it came out,” quipped guitarist Chris Lewis from pop punks Fenix TX as he introduced a set-closing “All My Fault,” a hit back in 2000.

With the passing of time, Warped has gotten heavier.

“This one goes out to the metalheads” announced Matthew Hasting, frontman for Alabama metalcore troupe MyChildren MyBride, introing a concussive “God of Nothing.”

Those metalheads were everywhere, there to take in the hardcore pummel of Harms Way, whose sound was as burly as its barrel-chested singer; the Justin Timberlake-meets-Meshuggah Djent pop of Issues; the red-faced howl of Every Time I Die, whose set ended with guitarist Jordan Buckley crowd-surfing all the way back to the soundboard, dousing himself in Bud Light along the way.

One thing that has remained constant for Warped is a strong female presence, embodied Friday by the excellent, grunge-indebted Vanessa Silberman, the ceaselessly effervescent, socially conscious pop punk of Doll Skin and the feel-good bounce of Aussies Tonight Alive.

“We stand for personal power and emotional freedom,” the latter band’s singer, Jenna McDougall, declared from the stage.

Lasting memories

Aside from the music, what we’ll miss most about Warped are all the burning questions that only this tour can answer.

How does porcelain-skinned Black Veil Brides frontman/metalcore heartthrob Andy Black sweat when he clearly lacks pores? Where else can one score marijuana-leaf-adorned booty shorts and register to vote in the same vendor area? Is it possible to catch a buzz in 100-degree heat without sweating out your Miller Lite before it has the time to produce its desired effect?

Guess that’s all for now.

“It’s a sad, sad thing to see,” Hasting said of the Warped Tour’s final road trip. “But we’re glad you’re here making memories with us today.”

Plenty of those memories will last.

And so, the same can be said of the Warped Tour, after all.

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Contact Jason Bracelin at jbracelin@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0476. Follow @JasonBracelin on Twitter.

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