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Music: Freaks & Geeks

Warped Tour continues to bring together great music and assorted weirdoes

By John Stoehr · July 12th, 2001 · Music
  Wrastler El Pollo Diablo, on the sights and sounds of the Warped Tour:
Wrastler El Pollo Diablo, on the sights and sounds of the Warped Tour: "Cluck, cluck."

The Vans Warped Tour pitches its circus tent in Greater Cincinnati next week to the tune of Ripley's Believe or Not, featuring all things strange, bizarre and unexpected.

Complete with paint ball competitions, daredevil motorcross, death-defying skateboarding, insane BMX gravity-haters, Satan girls, Bubba boys, leather-clad and fishnet-loving overweight dominatrixes and a monstrous lineup of Incredibly Strange Wrestlers (ISW), the Warped Tour promises to be a few exceedingly odd and tasteless things to a whole lot of geek-hungry hooligans in their Old Kentucky Home in Sparta.

ISW sports such anti-Greco-Roman ringers as El Homo Loco, Chupe Suave, Macho Sasquatcho and ­ the crème de la crème of old-school stylee wrestling ­ El Pollo Diablo. Masked and costumed, these homo-bestial thugs can't wait to squawk, grunt and cluck in the ring for your voyeuristic pleasure.

For a little audience participation, there will be flatulent Mexican food vendors waiting to supply you with as many tacos and burritos as you can hurl at the freaks. As ISW impresario Audra Morse points out, that's all part of the mayhem.

"People just need to throw things at the wrestlers," Morse says. "And tortillas sure hurt less than bottles."

That's what the promoter says, but what about the wrestlers' feelings? Doesn't it hurt their feelings when you peg them with Beano-needy condiments? You'd be hard-pressed to find out, because many of these wrestlers don't talk -- they just make some kind of animal noise.

In the Devil Chicken's case, he only clucks. When I asked for an interview, I was told I'd need someone who could "easily interpret El Pollo Diablo's 'cluckings.' "

As for Macho Sasquatcho, he just does Big Foot imitations. Seems the chicks really dig it: They've brought "getting your freak on" to a whole new level.

Accompanied by the sounds of Hardcore Punk Rawk, pimpin' and hoin' spank-master Hip Hop and teen-age white-boy Juggalo Rap Metal, ISW pits together the cosmic forces of good and evil all in one place -- homosexual against feathered/furry beast, door-knocking Scientologist against pig-tailed Viking Lord, animal rights activist against Ku Klux Klan wizard.

With all the swirling, bone-crunching, splatting and disgusting deviant behavior going on in our own backyard, even P.T. Barnum, Aleister Crowley and Kid Rock themselves would be impressed by this Bacchanalian Theater of the Absurd.

But bombast is hardly the only thing going on at the Warped Tour. There's music, too. And a lot of it is simply kick-ass: Kool Keith, 311, Me First & the Gimme Gimmes, Less Than Jake, the Misfits and the Distillers, among others.

You'd think with all the Bakhtinian grotesque in the air, members of the lineup would have Rush Limbaugh-sized egos. With that many juvenile heshers and Eminem-bashers screaming for more, the Iggy Stardust Rock star personas are sure to come out of their closets. But Josh Freese, virtuoso drummer for So-Cal Punk posse The Vandals, also on the Warped docket, thinks otherwise.

"I feel so fortunate about making a living doing something I like that if I'm not working really, really hard at it, I feel I'm taking it for granted," Freese says from Bozeman, Mont., one of the tour's more rural stops. "I might bitch and moan about a crappy hotel room, but it takes a lot to put me in that headspace.

"For the most part, not a day goes by where I'm not thankful for the position I'm in. I try to be cool with the other people I work with. I've watched plenty of people take (their notoriety) for granted, being kind of cocky about a situation and self-righteous. But it's not good."

Freese's modesty is so genuine and deep that he has to remind himself to play the role of famous Rock musician.

"Sometimes I think why would anyone want to come talk to me," he asks, "or be that excited about meeting me? But when you're 14 and you live in the middle of nowhere, it is a big deal."

Humble words from a heavyweight studio drummer who's played with The Vandals since he was 16 and, since then, with the likes of Devo, Dweezil Zappa, Guns n' Roses, Suicidal Tendencies, Perry Farrell, Chris Cornell, Juliana Hatfield, the Indigo Girls, Mike Ness and 311. His most recent side project, Perfect Circle, is with Tool frontman and Ur-metalhead, Maynard James Keenan.

The list goes on like a veritable Who's Who of Punk, Rock and Pop -- so much so that Freese has nearly 100 album credits to his name. With that many notables calling him up to kick out the jams, it's not surprising that he's been tagged the "Bruce Lee of Drums."

Add to that another honor: According to the Josh Freese Web site (www.joshfreese.com), Freese was given the key to Los Angeles, a Kodak moment in which the mayor of L.A. declared July 24 "Josh Freese Day." Not bad for a 29-year-old who played in a Disneyland Top 40 band at the age of 12.

But Freese won't rest on his gargantuan laurels. In fact, he thinks he doesn't work hard enough.

"It could kind of sound fucked up," he says, "but in my eyes, I still don't have enough time to do music even though all I do is music. There are so many other things I want to do musically, but I just don't have the time right now. I think it's a matter of slowly and truly becoming more self-disciplined and focused about what you want to do."

Freese says he woke up one day and realized he was a full-blown Rock musician. But in the early years of studying the drumming craft, he developed some pretty sizable Jazz chops. He sees himself branching out in the future from the tight-knit Rock circles within which he operates from day to day.

"My little brother is just an amazing Jazz pianist and sax player," Freese says. "I called him a couple of months ago and said, 'You've got to know some great Jazz bass players.' He said he did. I said, 'We've got to get together and do something. Do some recording or go out and play some gigs.'

"That's the great thing about music: As much as I've been into eclectic, Punk and Hardcore music in the last 10 years, I started recently getting into second line, New Orleans Jazz and Cajun music. I'm really into their rhythms and their grooves."

Freese says he considers his future to be wide open.

"Who knows? Maybe one day I'll really get into Haitian music and want to play it," he says. "That's what's so great about what I do: Maybe in the next 10 years I'll be playing logs instead of drums. Maybe I'll still be doing what I'm doing for a living, but do that as a pet project or a hobby."

Along with the rest of The Vandals -- Warren Fitzgerald (guitar), Joe Escalante (bass) and Dave Quackenbush (vocals) -- Freese plows through the Warped Tour until Aug. 12. It might seem like a long stint, but considering the density of his schedule, Freese says the tour is something like a vacation where he gets to travel with his friends and play for his fans. Compared to the stress of L.A. life, the tour is "definitely like summer camp."

But unlike the usual summer camps of swimming, building fires and telling ghost stories, Freese's camp has a carnival freak like El Pollo Diablo who, instead of biting the heads off poultry, wears a fuzzy chicken helmet.

When asked if he'd seen El Pollo Diablo yet, Freese says, "You know what? Yesterday was the first day I saw them. I saw about 10 seconds of it. I didn't even stop walking. I watched as I walked and, uh, you know, kept walking."

VANS WARPED TOUR sets up its three rings at the Kentucky Speedway in Sparta, Ky., on Tuesday.


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