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Vans Warped Tour

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More than any other annual festival, the Vans Warped Tour is becoming a place to see tomorrow's big acts play a relatively small stage before graduating to arenas. Blink-182, Eminem, Kid Rock, Deftones, Sugar Ray and Limp Bizkit all have toiled in front of handfuls of angsty teens during early-afternoon sets on makeshift second and third stages.

However, a good portion of this concert's core audience could care less about the MTV rotation-hogs of tomorrow. These harder-edged purists applaud the tour for bringing reclusive veteran punk outfits to town for frenzied thirty-minute sets. And a few of these bands figure to devote a fair amount of that time to heckling their fans. Count on The Vandals to dedicate "Ape Drape" to any mullethead in the crowd; Guttermouth once ridiculed a youngster at a local VFW hall show for pairing a mohawk with a Green Day shirt.

Meanwhile, Rancid should be able to pack more songs into its tiny window than it has in years past; its latest self-titled album contained plenty of minute-long eruptions. The Living End, whose Roll On ranks among 2001's best so far, peps up its live shows by tossing in smoldering rockabilly versions of standards from The Cure and Soft Cell. On the tour's opening date, otherworldly rapper Kool Keith, always an enigmatic presence, repeatedly addressed the Phoenix faithful as "the people of San Diego" -- more wackiness promises to ensue. The Distillers reign as the leading female-fronted hardcore group, a title the band would probably hold even if it encountered some competition in that sparsely populated category. AFI offers fans of gloomy yet anthemic goth punk more than the current Danzig-less Misfits can muster, but the latter group will try to narrow the gap through the use of creepy costumes.

Shock-hopper Esham, cover boys Me First and the Gimme Gimmes, country-on-album/punk-as-fuck-in-person bad seed Hank Williams III and the well-worn Bouncing Souls round up the notables. But the "next big thing" will probably slither forth from the pile of dung topped by Fenix TX, Good Charlotte and Sum 41.

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