metal + hardcore
pop punk + alt-rock
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Skate And Surf Fest: Down-Home Warped Rocks Asbury Park

Twelve hours, four stages and more than 40 bands marked the end of the three-day Skate and Surf Festival on Sunday. Held at the Asbury Park Convention Hall, the second installment of the now annual event featured performances from Bouncing Souls, Face to Face and the Descendents, among many others.

While the Warped Tour travels from town to town with many of skateboarding and BMX culture’s best-known athletes and favorite artists, the stationary Skate and Surf tends to be more down-home, offering quarter-pipes and rails to anybody bold enough to show up with a bike or a board and a $10 registration pass. Booking more up-and-comers and locals than high-profile acts, S&S nonetheless did tap several Warped 2002 bands for the final day, including Allister, the Movielife and Alkaline Trio.

Topped with ska, thrash, emo, pop and hardcore, punk was the basic flavor of the day. In the Paramount Theater’s “Surf Stage,” Chicago emo-punk quartet Allister entertained with several cuts off their as-yet-unnamed upcoming release, time-filler special requests and a hopped-up rendition of the “Fraggle Rock” theme. Meanwhile, New Jersey’s misplaced Cali-ish pop-punk-styled Dodgeball provided a soundtrack to BMX launches. Fellow Garden Staters Stick Figure Suicide braved the not-so-popular “Arcade Area” stage, where the common complaint was the acoustic quality, which tended to sacrifice much of the music’s low end. “It’s even worse with bad bands,” complained 15-year-old Hillairy Brown of Morris County, New Jersey. “It resonates the horrible by at least ten times.”

At the end of a four-hour skate session, the street course was cleared from the Main Stage floor to accommodate a fuller audience. The highlighted lineup began with thrashers From Autumn to Ashes, followed by the much-beloved mystery band of the day. Any newly-won fans looking for albums or information on the energetic albeit enigmatic Lords of Semen, however, will have trouble coming up with anything.

Though melodic power-pop song structures belied the image, mullet wigs, head bands, too-short jean shorts and armless T-shirts were among the elements that transformed New Brunswick, New Jersey, emo-punk outfit Midtown (who appeared as themselves on Saturday) into the rock posturing Lords. “You can never clap enough for the Lords of Semen,” they self-solicited.

Socially conscious Orange County, California, quartet Thrice and Long Island, New York, hardcore five-piece the Movielife (both currently on tour with Midtown and Face to Face through May) followed with equally blistering half-hour sets before the aptly-named Alkaline Trio shifted the show into high gear with 40 minutes of power chords and lyrical confessionals.

Jersey’s punk Bon Jovi, the Bouncing Souls (also slotted at 40 minutes) touched on all of their albums – from Good, Bad & the Argyle’s “I Like Your Mom” to “Private Radio” on the band’s latest, How I Spent My Summer Vacation, with such favorites as the soccer sing-a-long “Ole” and “Kate Is Great” mixed in. The boys conquered Cock Sparrer’s “We’re Coming Back” (with “our friend Dave” guesting on guitar and vocals) before opening the flood gates, inviting fans to join in on “Manthem.” By the end of the finale, the band was completely lost onstage amid a sea of young, ecstatic faces, from which spilled the first “Oi! Oi! Oi!” all day (at least from what we witnessed).

In keeping with the crowd’s cravings, Face to Face (narrowed down to a three-piece from the foursome they once were) followed with a similar approach as the Souls. Catering to the veteran fans, they squeezed in only a couple of new tunes (and a couple of plugs for the new album). “Even if you don’t like us, stick around because one of the best punk bands ever is next, the legendary Descendents,” singer/guitarist Trevor Keith said during the set. “Definitely my favorite punk rock band.” Where Face to Face invited crowd participation – “Pretty good, pretty good… for a bunch of five-year-olds,” Keith taunted during “Pastel” – the ultimate act incited it.

Taking the stage five minutes after they were scheduled to be ending, the Descendents experienced some minor technical difficulties before beginning with their self-titled anthem. “Just because we’ve gone away…” sang intermittent frontman/full-time biochemist Dr. Milo Aukerman, “We’re not gonna let the music die/ Join us if you’ve got the energy.” The crowd kept up perfectly with 25 songs in 50 minutes (including a brief pause for an encore). Fans sang along to the classics – “Clean Sheets,” “Sour Grapes,” “Get the Time” – and the newer stuff from Everything Sucks. Some surely started committing to memory the two brand-new tunes, “Blast Off” and another unnamed neophyte.

When the band returned for its encore, drummer Bill Stevenson strapped on the guitar while guitarist Stephen Egerton picked up the sticks for “Coolidge.” “It’s like rotating your tires to get more mileage out of them,” Aukerman said as each returned to his more traditional position. “It’s all on tape; we faked it,” joked bassist Karl Alvarez.

The seats cleared early in the set, though an undiscouraged pack remained, raising fists in the air and dancing until the final notes of “I’m Not a Loser” subsided and Aukerman bid the crowd farewell with a quick “Thanks a lot guys. We’ll see you next decade.”

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