However, that chorus of dismay was nothing compared with the confused wails that greeted The Misfits or, more accurately, the Misfit. Bassist Jerry Only still looked the part, and years of practice have refined his Danzig-style whoa-ohs, but the other members of the original group have since abandoned the charade, leaving only Only, ex-Black Flag guitarist Dez Cadena and former Black Flag drummer Robo, who also banged the kit for the Misfits for a lone year in 1983, to wave one of music's most recognizable banners. Robo sounded as if he hadn't picked up his sticks since 1983, mauling transitions and staggering beats during a few Black Flag covers, so it was promising when he was relieved by Marky Ramone, who kept the steady pace for the Ramones on two tours of duty. Promising, at least, until the trio started slaughtering Ramones classics, with Only bleating out "I Wanna Be Sedated" and "Pet Semetary" in a morbidly tone-deaf fashion.
"Let's hear it for The Misfits, a punk-rock all-star team!" yelled Rancid's Lars Frederiksen as his band took the stage immediately after Only and company. In addition to confusing the concept of an all-star game with that of a legends game -- that silly pregame ritual in which once-great, now-arthritic players play with tee-ball intensity -- Frederiksen also made a goofy proclamation about how none of the bands on the Vans Warped Tour, sponsored by Target, could be persuaded to "suck corporate cock." Misinformed banter aside, Rancid did rock harder and more authentically than any other Warped act, churning out its tunes at a rapid, Ramones-style pace with only a few seconds of lingering feedback serving as a segue.
Like The Misfits, The Vandals feature only one original member, bassist Joe Escalante ("Suburban Struggle," July 5). But fortunately, the Vandals' set didn't devolve into harrowing punk-rock karaoke. Instead, the group complemented its smart, catchy new material with quick-witted crowd interaction. In its grand finale, which was, admittedly, a cover, guitarist Warren Fitzgerald bloodied his leg while climbing the speaker stack, flashed his can "for Can-sas" and belly-flopped back onto the stage, all while conducting the rhythm section to stop and start as the soundtrack for his buffoonery.
Fitzgerald's efforts were noble -- give him a purple heart -- but for sheer comic value, no one unseated Kool Keith. It was a painful moment for punk several years ago when Blink-182 asked its teen-heavy fanbase to "show us your tits," yet, somehow, it was hilarious when Keith commanded, "Remove your clothes," and his DJ Evil E reinforced his request with a bootylicious beat straight out of the Sir Mix-a-Lot back catalog.
There were other scattered highlights -- area groups Explosion 9 and Ruskabank impressing crowds that might now be inspired to support live local music, second-stage headliner Sum 41 living up to its hype with a set that offered nearly enough hooks to back up its rock-star bravado, Guttermouth's deliciously sarcastic catch phrase "Whoop-di-fuckin'-do" -- but thanks to The Misfits' disgraceful desecration of sacred groups' graves and the alarming trend of creatively bankrupt covers, this Warped Tour might have done more harm than good to modern punk's reputation.