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Playing with the boys

The Vans Warped Tour, laden with testosterone, gets a dose of estrogen.

June 28, 2007|Kevin Bronson | Times Staff Writer

AS they slogged through the Vans Warped Tour last summer as the MySpace House Band, Meg and Dia Frampton -- the sisters who front the Utah quintet Meg and Dia -- had to feel as if they were crashing a boys' club.

Sure, they were delighted their MySpace fans helped them earn a tour slot, even if it meant living hand-to-mouth for two months and doing two sets a day in a steamy tent. But aside from the crowd -- which Warped promoter Kevin Lyman says runs about 50-50 male-female -- where were the girls?

"I think the performers were about 10% female," Meg says. "It was hard not to notice. We got a bit tired of it; we're trying to make that not be the focus. But we're trying to open doors too."

When the 13th edition of Warped -- with its multiple stages, multitudinous sponsors and mosh-worthy music -- decamps on Friday at the Fairplex in Pomona, the testosterone will again be raging. The 45-date tour, which has come to be known as "punk-rock summer camp," again reflects what skimming through the likes of Alternative Press magazine suggests: that the punk, emo and hard-core music aimed at the 13- to 19-year-old demographic is a decidedly male domain.

Of 18 headliners on Warped's two main stages at Pomona, two are fronted by women -- up-and-coming teenage pop-punkers Paramore and Save Ferris-channeling Canadians the Vincent Black Shadow.

"I don't think so much about the fact I'm a girl fronting the band; it's just there's not a lot of girls fronting bands in our genre," says Paramore's 18-year-old sprite, Hayley Williams, whose coltish vocals propel "Riot!," the sophomore album by the Franklin, Tenn., quartet for Atlantic. "It's just how it is. It's really motivating to me."

Indeed, Williams, who cites influences such as the Cure and Dostoevsky for her lyrics, aspires to be noticed only for her band's music. She has told Kerrang! magazine: "People tend not to believe bands who have young girl singers because there are so many out there who are singing songs written for them by 42-year-old record producers."

"It's really important for an artist to believe in what they're talking about," she says in a phone interview. "I've gone through everything I wrote about, and I hope that gives people an emotional connection to the music."

Not that the distinction of having a girl out front hurts. Paramore, with bassist Jeremy Davis and brothers Josh (guitar) and Zac (drums) Farro, graduates to the main stage in its third Warped go-round, after having spent the first year in "the pink truck" (a corporate-sponsored side stage devoted to girl bands) and last year on one of the larger side stages. "Kevin has given us a cool opportunity," Williams says.

The Frampton sisters, whose soaring harmonies are backed by bassist Jonathan Snyder, guitarist Carlo Gimenez and drummer Nick Price, seem to be on the same track. After last year's success -- sparked by their heady album "Something Real" on independent Doghouse Records -- Meg and Dia were picked up by Warner Bros., for whom they are scheduled to record an album in early 2008.

"This is going to affect everything we do," Dia says, "because we were given a chance to prove ourselves. It all snowballed."

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