* Between torrential downpours Thursday, I caught two distinctly different live music events. The day started early at Westfair Amphitheater in Council Bluffs for the 2011 Vans Warped Tour. The sprawling summer road show is amazingly organized. It crams a bucketload of bands into one day’s worth of shows and then pops up a day later in a different city. What originally was billed as a punk and pop-punk event has increasingly become a showcase for mealy-mouthed metal screamers. Christian emo-metal acts August Burns Red and The Devil Wears Prada brought hordes of kids to the main stage, while secularist screamers like The Acacia Strain and Winds of Plague gathered their devoted followers. Then there were the bands that didn’t seem to quite fit the rest of the Warped Tour mold. I zeroed in on those. Americana rockers Lucero played to a small, but loyal audience; a portion of which shouted requests, which frontman Ben Nicholls happily attempted to play, even if he wasn’t sure of quite how it went. A two-piece horn section added soul to the Memphis band’s sorrow-soaked whiskey rock. The Menzingers kicked off the day with a scorching set, one that conjured an image of Against Me! with an added dose of punk venom, or a version of The Hot Snakes that focuses on anthems inside of searing guitar. English band Sharks are an exciting, young bunch of Clash acolytes, playing wiry punk rock with working class vigor. The Aggrolites brought soul and early rock ‘n roll sounds to a reggae beat. As I was preparing to see Against Me! the rains started. I got soaked as Big D & the Kids’ Table danced through their fun-loving set of jokey ska tunes. After that I took cover until it was time to trek across Council Bluffs to Stir Cove at Harrah’s for The Flaming Lips. As I arrived Cloudland Canyon was wrapping up its swirling, psychedelic instrumental odes to Animal Collective. The Flaming Lips took the stage much the way they did when they played Stir Cove in 2006. Frontman Wayne Coyne ventured out on top of the crowd in his inflatable space ball, then the band’s stage show filled the air with floating balloons and confetti. Meanwhile, the set itself seemed to run short on songs, omitting quantity for long-form noise jams.

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