On a warm October day in San Bernardino, California thousands of people in their mid-twenties to early thirties gathered from all over Southern California, and beyond, to reminisce about the music which got them through the “hard times” at the beginning of the 21st century. These music-loving fans were not gathering for just any festival; however, they were gathering to celebrate the return of the “Winter Warped Tour” – the Taste of Chaos festival!
The festival kicked off around 12:30 p.m. on Saturday, October 3, 2015, and continued until shortly after 11:00 p.m. The festival utilized a single turntable stage, which allowed for seamless transitions between performances.Adair and Greek Fire were the first two acts to perform; however, the festival really kicked-off once Finch took the stage. Finch opened with their hit “Letters to You” off their debut album What It Is to Burn. After only strumming the first few chords, fans from all over the venue came running to the stage. The few hundred people who had gathered to watch Greek Fire suddenly found themselves surrounded by hundreds of other fans. Playing hit after hit, Finch energized the crowd and had them singing (and screaming) along to favorites such as “Back to Oblivion”, “Letters to You”, and “What It Is to Burn”.
As the stage began to rotate, at the conclusion of Finch’s performance, the Star Wars theme song began playing over the speakers. A few seconds later, a human pyramid formed by the members of Story of the Year, with lead singer Dan Marsala at the top, was revealed.
For the next 40 minutes, fans sang along with Story of the Year to their favorite tunes, growing louder with every song. The set included staples “Until the Day I Die”, “Anthem of Our Dying Day” and “And the Hero Will Drown” from the album Page Avenue. Story of the Year’s set was winding down, when all of a sudden a white thong shot out of the crowd and onto to the stage. Not one to pass up an opportunity, Marsala promptly picked up the thong, put it on over his skinny jeans, and finished the set.
The Movielife disbanded in 2003, but reunited at the end of 2014, and have played close to a dozen shows this year. Lead singer Vinnie Caruana acknowledged that it’s been a while since the band played together, but said they plan to do more shows in the near future. Fans of The Movielife were thrilled to be able to hear “Hand Grenade”, “Walking on Glass” and “Kelly Song” live once again.
Saves the Day released their latest self-titled album, Saves the Day, in 2013 which was completely funded by fans on PledgeMusic. Oddly enough, their set did not include any songs from that album. Saves the Day’s set list instead embraced the theme of the event, reliving the hits of the early 2000s. The crowd joyously sang along with Chris Conley to “Cars and Calories”, ”Freakish”, ”Firefly” and more.
Fans rejoiced once again when glassjaw took the stage. Notably, the heaviest act of the day by this point, fans screamed along to their favorite tunes with lead singer Daryl Palumbo. This was my first time seeing glassjaw live; I must admit that I was quite impressed by their performance and the dedication of their loyal fans! It has been a long four years since the release of their last EP, Coloring Book. This live performance left fans praying for new music once again from glassjaw.
Next up was a DJ set by Mark Hoppus of Blink 182. Hoppus wasted no time in telling the crowd that for the next 30 minutes we were all going to listen to him play with his computer. I, like most people in the crowd presumably, had not attended his performance at the Echoplex during Taking Back Tuesday: Emo Night LA in February so I was not quite sure what to expect. The set began with “Family Reunion” & “Happy Holidays You Bastard”, followed by hits from My Chemical Romance and Panic! At the Disco. A bluegrass rendition of Blink-182’s “Rock Show”, Rick Astley’s “Never Gonna Give You Up”, and “Do You Want to Build a Snowman” from Disney’s Frozen were also included.
While Hoppus did a great job of playing songs the fans knew and loved, including a ton of Blink‑182, his set felt awkwardly out of place. I couldn’t help but wonder if Taste of Chaos had originally intended for Blink-182 to perform; but in light of the departure of Tom DeLonge, instead opted for Hoppus and his computer which would still serve the purpose of reliving the nostalgia of the early 2000s. The problem with Hoppus’ DJ set was not the material, so much as the delivery. Referring to yourself as a DJ, and then playing clip after clip of hit songs for half an hour, with little to no mixing or effects, is a bit of a slap in the face to actual DJs. At the conclusion of his set, Mark walked off the stage and let his computer finish playing its last song. I hate to say it, because I love Blink-182’s music, but I was happy when this train wreck was finally over.
The sun began to set on the now empty stage, and a cool breeze blew over the crowd as they eagerly awaited the next act. Before the stage rotated, John Reese and his business partner, Warped Tour & Taste of Chaos founder, Kevin Lyman, walked onto the stage to say a few words. Kevin Lyman began by thanking everyone for attending, and allowing him to do what he loves (concert production) for so long. Next, we were reminded that the It’s Not Dead festival would be taking place, at the same location the following Saturday. The It’s Not Dead festival will utilize the same turntable stage which was used for Taste of Chaos, but will also have two additional stages and skate ramps. The lineup includes NOFX, Bad Religion, Descendents and over 30 other bands spread out across the three stages.
Prior to the All-American Rejects set, all of the performances were only allotted 30 – 40 minutes. From this point on; however, each artist was allotted an hour – nearly twice as much playing time. Between hits such as “Swing, Swing”, “Dirty Little Secret”, and “Move Along” lead singer Tyson Ritter poked fun at the crowd for being much older now than when the All-American Rejects were just starting out. A memorable quote from Ritter, who happens to be close in age to much of the crowd, was: “I remember all of you on Warped Tour in 2002…now you’re all mixing vodka with Ensure!”
By the time the All-American Rejects had finished their set, the sun had completely set which was the perfect backdrop for the next band, Dashboard Confessional. Lead singer Chris Carrabba took the stage with a yellow guitar which had seen better days, but was at the same time perfect for the performance. As Carrabba led the crowd in singing “Vindicated”, “Hands Down” and “Screaming Infidelities” it felt more like a sing-along with thousands of others who also needed this opportunity to vent the frustrations of relationships long past. Carrabba also reminisced about touring with Jimmy Eat World, who would be playing in just a few hours, a feeling shared among most of the bands who had toured together at one time or another in their careers.
The now familiar group of photographers and I made our way down the path, which was formed by the steel barricades and the stage, in hopes of securing the ideal spot for the next performance. The stage left video camera operator peered into the crowd, which was illuminated by the stage lighting, as we passed behind her, when suddenly she exclaimed “HOLY S***!”. This was her response to seeing a crowd enthusiastically awaiting Thrice’s return to a California stage after going on hiatus in June of 2012.
The calm, relaxed crowd jolted awake as soon as Thrice began to play. Their set included fan favorites “All That’s Left”, “The Artist in the Ambulance” and “Silhoutte” from The Artist in the Ambulance, and of course “Deadbolt” from The Illusion of Safety. It seemed that the more Thrice played, the larger the mosh pits became. Needless to say, this may have been quite a shocking experience for the Dashboard Confessional fans, especially those in the front that crowd surfed their way to safety or were hoisted over the barricades by security guards. At one point Dustin Kensrue, lead singer of Thrice intervened, and asked that the crowd be nice to one another, a sentiment that would later be echoed by Bert McCracken of the Used during his set.
After being shoved, squished, and inadvertently thrown into a mosh pit or two during Thrice’s performance, we were given a chance to catch our breath once Jimmy Eat World took the stage, assuming you were not singing along at the top of your lungs. The band played one hit single after another, most of which came from 2001’s Bleed American (later renamed to Jimmy Eat World). Although Jimmy Eat World’s music is not nearly as heavy as Thrice’s, the crowd was just as energetic, if not more. We all screamed along with the band as they played “Get It Faster”, “Sweetness”, “The Middle”, “Pain”, “Big Casino”, and more! The music was fast and energetic, yet relaxing. Jimmy Eat World has been together for more than 20 years, yet they sound as good as ever and are still going strong.
The headliner for the event was The Used, and aside for some minor issues with their backdrop and the wind, their performance went off without a hitch. Lead singer Bert McCracken came out dressed as Alex, the protagonist from “A Clockwork Orange” – makeup, bowler hat and cane. The Used primarily stuck to their early catalogue, playing hits “The Taste of Ink”, “All That I’ve Got” and “Buried Myself Alive”. McCracken announced that the band would be playing their last song before coming back for an encore, and led the crowd in a chant for 2, then 3, 4, 5 and 6 more songs. The Used closed out the festival by starting to play “Killing in the Name” by Rage Against the Machine, then transitioning to “Smells Like Teen Spirit” by Nirvana and finally settling on “A Box Full of Sharp Objects”. The crowd loved every minute of the performance, and it was the perfect way to close out the evening. For those of you that were not able to attend the Taste of Chaos tour, and those of you who cannot get enough of The Used, the band announced that they will be performing a one-off unplugged performance October 11, 2015 in Los Angeles, California.
Taste of Chaos was a long, but wonderfully nostalgic-filled day. Every detail of the festival was meticulously planned out and the lineup was perfect. Taste of Chaos has come and gone for 2015, but now all we can do is cross our fingers, and see what 2016 brings!
– Martin Shook
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All photos by: Martin Shook