Worthwhile groups such as True Majority, the Web-based advocacy group that set up educational games like "Global Ring Toss" and "The Lobbyist," distributed its brochures near vendors who peddled shirts that read "Fuck Irak" and "Fuck'n Amigo." PETA and the omnipresent antismoking crusaders the Truth appealed to intellect; Yoo-Hoo targeted the lowest common denominator with a promotion that involved biting open bulging condoms packed with its chocolate soda. On Warped's multiple stages, a different conflict took place, one that placed flaccid pop crooners such as the aptly named Something Corporate in close proximity with weathered hardcore idealists, two of which salvaged the event's integrity.
"This is the first time we've been to Kansas City," declared Bad Religion singer Greg Graffin incorrectly, though he had good reason to forget his last visit to the area. In 2000, BR, supporting the worst album of its 22-year-career (the ill-fated exercise in optimism The New America) opened for fart-scented pranksters Blink-182. Prompted by an audience member, Graffin acknowledged that embarrassing affair. "But this time, it's our show," he said, ripping seconds later into a perfectly executed ninety-second blur of perfectly toned harmonies, tight dual-guitar twists and insightful lyrics. Mixing material from this year's comeback album, The Process of Belief, with selections from its early-'90s prime, the venerable quintet proved it still deserves to be named -- in the present tense -- in any discussions about the genre's leading lights.
NOFX vocalist/bassist Fat Mike prefaced his group's set with the disclaimer, "We sound like Bad Religion, but not as good." His self-deprecating humor, which surfaced between almost every song, made for great stage banter, but the sentiments were off-base. For starters, NOFX covers much more ground than BR, fitting a beat-up accordion, a trumpet and a reggae track (featuring members of Jamaica's Morgan Heritage) into its thirty-minute set. Also, with songs such as "Monosyllabic Girl" and "Kill All the White Man" in its discography, NOFX inspires a lot more laughs than Graffin's unfailingly studious outfit. But that's not to say it doesn't have its serious side. Fat Mike, donning a shirt emblazoned with an image of George W. Bush and the words "Not My President," unveiled a new Bush-centered tune called "Idiot Son of an Asshole." (That qualifies as subtle political commentary compared with Anti-Flag, which bamboozled a large late-afternoon crowd with its faux-rebellious tactic of sticking fuck in front of a laundry list of society's woes.)
The consistent excellence of Epitaph's twin titans came as a relief after several highly praised newcomers delivered half-baked sets. Wiry Thursday vocalist Geoff Rickly doomed his group's otherwise intriguing emo-metal compositions by either oversinging or bowing out at crucial moments, making cathartic outbursts fall flat. Alkaline Trio disappointed with an uncharacteristically lackluster display, and Glassjaw poisoned its promising unreleased material with tracks from its forgettable 2000 debut.
The most encouraging second-stage showings came from local acts. Lawrence's Salt the Earth produced the day's heaviest-hitting guitar sound, drawing a sizable contingent of curious onlookers with its staggered-riff patterns and singer Marty Bush's primal screams. Wrapping up a successful three-date Warped stint that included stops in Omaha and St. Louis, Salt the Earth moved about seventy copies of its self-titled debut and distributed many more free demos while like-minded acts such as Thrice and Thursday played. KC's Jade Raven sped up its tart pop confections a bit and drew an appreciative audience to an obscure stage near the concession stand, where famished punks could sample Sheriff Blaylock's chili or cheese fries.