We're driving around trying to find donuts in Houston before we head to Austin on our day off. For the past two days I've spent my time in parking lots, the heat, the rain, the nightlife and the morning after hauling tents, boxes and setting up a 10x10 space to sell merch, and apparently give directions to the restroom and other tents for which I didn't have a mental layout of the park - but attendees still believe I could tell them where Chelsea Grin's tent is. I don't know! Go away. Listen to "Pump Up the Valuum" or "How I Spent My Summer Vacation."What the fuck is wrong with this generation?!
That's how I remember Warped Tour when I was growing up. There were no big print t-shirts with phrases like "YOUR MOM LOVES THIS SHIT" or "CAN'T SPELL SLUT WITHOUT YOU" in big bold letters across the front. We just had t-shirts with a small design across the front end or a band name simply printed on a shirt. The majority of t-shirts I saw in the last few days were dysfunctional billboards on the even more dysfunctional youth. It was truly boggling. As I wrote an "old guy" write-up two years ago when attending Warped Tour - my first time since 2002 - this year I didn't want to just attend, and when the opportunity came up to "work" for two days, ride in a van, sleep on a bench and wake up to a sick stomach and a Wal-Mart restroom at five in the morning - I wanted the experience of seeing the rigs drive in early to set-up, drive out, and drive in immediately after the last band is through to tear down while the rest of the artists and production crew grab a bite and a few drinks at the nightly BBQ following each day - which varies dependent of bus calls due to certain lengthy drives between stops. For two days I got to see the "behind the scenes" of a 2+ month tour across North America.
Just woke up. It's raining. Phone says it's nine. Pretty sure we have to be set-up by ten. This should be fun.Turning on Unwound. Changing my boxers.
While everyone has their opinion of what Warped Tour is and what they want Warped Tour to be, for the artists to the production crew to the caterers cooking at 6 a.m. and merch guys setting up tents and tearing down - it's a job. Thankfully, it's a fun one. You get to work next to your friends every day. Sure, there are those people that you care not to see because of your personal tastes in what music should or shouldn't be, but everyone eats in the same area and you just may find yourself having conversations with people you wouldn't normally pay any attention to otherwise. The thing is, they're still human and their opinions on music differ from their opinions on everything else. That's not to say there still aren't bands calling other bands out every day of tour while on stage, but I think it comes with the territory. That territory of subjectivity is where we find our brash behavior from generation to generation. For the kids who saw Quicksand and L7 and No Doubt, they laughed at the next generation of main stage acts and so on and so on through the years.
I've been sitting in this tent for two hours. You'd think by now I would have seen at least one(!) NOFX t-shirt. Has it really been ten years since I went to Warped Tour as a kid?
Then there were the "vets" this year. The bands that I grew up with and some who played Warped Tour when I was the "target" demographic: Taking Back Sunday, New Found Glory, Senses Fail and Every Time I Die. What's funny is, those are the bands that stuck and the bands I saw both days. I missed The Used and Anti-Flag (except one song waiting for New Found Glory.) They played in 2002, and I saw both bands then, but for whatever reason those bands didn't stick with me through a decade. That doesn't mean that their music is worse or better, it's just how I currently feel about something I once loved. Then it hit me as I was impatiently waiting for Anti-Flag to end to see New Found Glory, when I was going to Warped Tour in 2002, I was at an impressionable age that every new thing was cool. At 15 and 16, you're at your height of being impressionable for new, exciting music. For that demographic, Warped Tour is perfect. It's not that I have a disconnect with Warped Tour, it's that I reached a disconnect with how new and exciting music can be because I've become older and jaded to what I once loved and what I still love and what I love new every day. I watched Polar Bear Club and Title Fight destroy crowds just as Senses Fail and Every Time I Die did - but those bands, as good as they are, will never have a connection to me that the kids attending now will have to them. I've reached the line of being a partial elitist in my own right. I can recognize good music because of how knowledgeable my palette is, but I'm no longer consuming it under naive pretenses of angst and teenage revolution. The one band that bridges that gap for me right now, and during the weekend both times I saw them, was Make Do and Mend. It sort of angered me as to how small the crowd was for the band's set both days. Criminal. Absolutely criminal.
There are Vampires. Everywhere.
One of the best things I was able to see this year was the Acoustic Basement put on by ex-Therefore I Am's Brian Marquis. Slightly weird since it was set-up next to the Silent Disco (which for a few hours on Saturday was not-so-silent), but the larger tent was still intimate enough to experience something special among the circus of the tour. Sets by Marquis, Into It. Over It., Koji and A Loss For Words packed in crowds for shade and sing-a-longs. Marquis was there every day setting up, figuring out schedules and adding last minute additions as he saw the day fit. There was no production crew - just a man, a plan and an acoustic guitar. It was something special to see executed both days. Hearing about his special guests throughout the summer, I don't see why Ol' Lyman shouldn't ask him back next year - well, if Marquis isn't beyond exhausted by the end of the run.
So in 2002, Trust Company played. 2001, there was 311. Somewhere in there Limp Bizkit played. Every year there seems to be a few "one of these is not like the other" bands. Excuse me? The bathrooms? Over there. No probelm.
Dead Sara. This is the "band's band" of Warped Tour. Every band talked about them, and after seeing them close out Saturday, I can see why. Dead Sara put on a set that's part Big Brother and the Holding Company and part '90s grunge. The band doesn't fit into the spectrum of most bands on the tour. It's strange to even take a gig like Warped Tour when this band should be opening for Queens of the Stone Age or Jack White. When I looked around the crowd, artists from completely different bands were in there watching something far apart from the look and feel of everything else going on most of the day. No matter what a band plays, it doesn't necessarily connect on the surface with what they listen to on their off(-stage) time. Dead Sara is the band of Warped Tour which trumps that stereotype for every other band on Warped Tour. It's different, but there aren't many people disagreeing the staying power Dead Sara can have past the summer festival and onto supporting larger venue and even arena acts in the years to come.
What is that on the radio? Is that "What to Do When You're Dead" right now? Are we almost to Austin? I'm definitely beginning to smell.Is the weekend already over?
Every year that we post Warped Tour announcements, threads will inevitably blow up with opinions of who should be playing and who shouldn't. When it gets down to it, there are still a few bad seeds here and there. Overall, bands are just looking to play. Some bands will gain new fans with the general crowds that Warped Tour caters to, and some of us older fuckers will come out and see a few bands we haven't seen in a while but still mean the world to us. What most of the public fails to see is the insane amount of work that goes into setting up and tearing down and getting to the next stop every day to do it again. You may have played last the day before, but you may end up playing first when you get to the next city. Some artists can afford the comfort of a bus while others take to Bandwagons and the benches of Green Vans. Hell, Green Vans is not only a sponsor of Warped Tour, they're also there to haul the crew around, as well as being the transportation in cutting gas for some vendors and bands alike. Warped Tour doesn't just breed new bands for the next generation, it also breeds new ideas for future tours both small and big in this industry to survive what's failing at some levels day to day.
Okay, Matthew Lillard just introduced himself to me. I've had one too many drinks.
I think Dr. Keith Buckley put it best last week, "We are all out here trying to get by. Some of us are better at it than others. Motionless In White gets up and puts on makeup at 10am if they have to play first. That dedication is admirable. The DJ for Mod Sun talked to me about the book I was reading. Champagne Champagne has been seen in our mosh pits!" There are a lot of preconceived notions as to what Warped Tour is supposed to be, but after spending a weekend behind the scenes and observing the wildlife of attendees and the dedication to make every set count, no matter the city or the crowd; no matter the side stage band or the main stage veteran; no matter the sponsored vendor or the D.I.Y. clothing company - Warped Tour is not so much a way to get your band heard, it's a lot of people just trying to enjoy the summer and hopefully radiate the fun they're having to everyone else in the parking lot that day trying to have the same feeling. It's a college of unlike-minded folks when it comes to music, all rooting for the same school, all trying to graduate and make the next big step. The unfortunate part is that not everyone will come out of it graduating to bigger tours, some may stay on the mid-level tour route and others may just disappear in years to come to "normal life" and the such. It's hard to tell who and when all that will occur. So, you just need to enjoy the days and the summer as it goes and maybe one day you'll be one of the ones to come back to the school as a special guest talking about how it was in your day. You'll grin and be happy to be in the moment you once lost your shit over (even with your own convictions towards how the "school" has changed.)
I bought a Thou shirt during Chaos in Tejas that I forgot to bring for the weekend. It says, "Punk rock ruined my life." Vans Warped Tour is a notch in that statement for some attendees and bands and production crew and merch guys and all the other outcasts that have embraced their own lifestyle of what they believe punk is. To some, Warped Tour isn't exactly the definition of "punk rock" on the surface. To that I say this - there are a lot of people who bust their ass for something they believe in to be a good time and want to be a part of. Whether that's not "VFW Hall" or "D.I.Y." enough for you, I watched a lot of people put their all into two days out of 2+ months worth of a nation wide touring festival. If that's not even a slight definition of hard work that goes into "D.I.T.," then I don't know what to say. Keep being your true punk self I guess? I mean, get fucked.
I'll be 24 in a month. It's an age that's a middle ground for Warped Tour with both attendees and performers. Honestly, the last Warped Tour I attended was in 2002. Boy, was it a portrait of my youth. One giant bill filled just about every CD in my collection. (That's right kids, those shiny plastic things that were played on ancient brick machines with giant headphones.)
This year (and the line-ups for the past few years) make me feel old and out of the loop. Catching some glimpses of some artists' (can we call them that?) sets was bewildering enough, but it was the young crowd's reaction - bright neon and high pitch screams fit for teeny-bopper showcases - that made me want to raise my cane and scream "Get off my lawn!"
One of the things that has always attracted me to punk - or whatever the thing is - is its ability to be creative and off the track. It's not the sound, it's the substance and the passion. There's a performance fit for a stage and then there's a staged performance. It's cookie cutter, predictable, and as an avid music fan constantly looking for a fix, not worth the time and space when so many others are having to claw at it with music of greater value.
How much of an elitist prick do I sound like at this point?
It just boggles my mind. Then again, I was young once. Like generations before me who shunned the "next" thing that was "ripping off the old thing," I guess I'm that bitter old fan at this point in my life. So to cut this rant short and get on to the day, I'll end on this: Whether you're a music listener or a creator, just don't be in it for a market. Be in it for the music and your love and true devotion for it. We already have a major label industry we've all had enough of that's a process of American mediocrity. We don't want to instill that on the next generation.
So, how was the day?
Well, the rain held up (for the most part) and starting off the day was Every Time I Die who just came out blazing and heavy. It was the pregame everyone needed for the day. As the band launched into "Ebolarama," the crowd went absolutely insane. "Bored Stiff" opened up the biggest circle pit I had seen all day. During "Floater," Keith Buckley asked the crowd to (which they did) perform the "crawl of death."
Missing Motion City Soundtrack for my interview with Andrew WK, I could hear Ace Enders belting out a great set for I Can Make a Mess Like Nobody's Business outside the press area. Talk about a guy's voice that carries. Pretty bummed I missed the gig, but glad I got to hear most it. Word is he ended with "Ever So Sweet," so another reason to catch Enders out there this summer.
I was able to catch a bit of Face to Face's set before my interview with Alkaline Trio, and they were spot on. After my interview with Matt Skiba, I walked around the booths. A lot of organizations out there this year, including Keep a Breast, Take Action, To Write Love on Her Arms, Truth and Shirts For a Cure.
Truth has a full ride set up including games and giveaways happening all day. I was able to speak with Jason over at To Write Love on Her Arms. He says the response this year has been great. He's also informed me of a new program the organization is working on called I'm Alive. The program will set-up online relay networks (much like the 1-800-Suicide Hotline). The organization is still in the process of working out funding for the program to train their relay workers and get things off the ground.
Shirts For a Cure was selling a swank new tee (which I picked up) in regards to the BP crisis in the gulf. Four Year Strong was selling a similar one. The best shirt of the tour goes to Top Shelf Records though, with the tag line "Stop Listening to Awful Fucking Music," being a big seller for the tour so far. The record company was teamed with No Sleep Records for a tent this year. Go by and check out some great music from both labels.
After a walk around the tents, I ended up at the Kevin Says stage where The Mighty Regis was playing a set Ireland would be proud of. Absolutely fun, and for the 100 or so people that were there, they were all having a blast. Definitely the "stumble upon" winner of this year's visit.
Whether you think Andrew WK's music is best spread upon crackers with a glass of wine, there's no denying the energy and positivity the man brings to the table. In an interesting interview, it seems like Andrew WK is the definition of the reverse mullet. He's a smart businessman who puts his music and fans first. Everyday he opens the "Party Tent" to hours of signings and photos to his fans. His music is infectiously outgoing, and when the set ended with "Party Hard," the crowd went absolutely ape shit with a positive rage. Great set. Great guy. Good times.
I split sets with Alkaline Trio and Set Your Goals. Both artists put on great shows. While Alkaline's soaked up the newly arrived sun with a punk ease, Set Your Goals got the younger crowd going, even pulling out one from their old EP. Unfortunately I missed Four Year Strong right after to catch Dillinger Escape Plan (sorry Dan). Be sure to support both bands. They certainly give me hope in the pop punk genre and make me feel just a bit like it's 2002 all over again.
The Dillinger Escape Plan are crazy. Ben Weinman is fucking nuts. During the second song, he knocks over his amp. Drums are destroyed during the final moments, members climb to the pit, and through all the insanity, the band still tore it up. There's no gimmick, only a raw show. It's like watching The Descedants play the main stage around watered down pop punk, or Black Flag open for uninspired hardcore. It was eye opening to sit there and watch a veteran run circles around the young ones' choreographed sets.
After my interview with Keith Buckley following Dillinger Escape Plan's set, something fierce finally fell from the sky. Kids scrambled. Pressed scrambled. We waited. It let up. We moved on. I caught a bit of VersaEmerge's set. The band really isn't my thing, but front(wo)man Sierra Kusterbeck's pipes are excellent and the band is tight. VersaEmerge is something worth giving a chance after sifting through the rest of the muck.
Dear Tyson Ritter: You are either a brilliant frontman or absolutely insane. This is all that was going through my head during The All American Rejects' set. The songs were spot on, but it was Ritter's showmanship that took the set to a whole other level. What level that is - whether it was taunting a girl who eventually flashed him or heckling the crowd for more energy - I still haven't the slightest clue as to what the hell was coming off that stage.
After catching half of that spectacle, I decided to end my day with Sum 41. People were coming in droves to catch these guys. We all wanted a bit of that tasty nostalgia on our tongues and in our ears. The band did a pretty good job of bringing me back full circle to 2001 - the first time I saw them and my first Warped Tour. The crowd was "pogo-ing" and "fist pumping" with the back catalog hits, one after the other.
I then ended my day. I snagged some Taco Cabana in honor of the 4th and headed back to my little hipster home of Austin with a lot of thoughts running through my head. Maybe it was the literal cloud that hung over said head all weekend, or maybe it's that bitter taste in my mouth to see bands that have carried depth for years struggle with the new class of uninspiring, salted processed meat.
For all the negativity I have brought to the table in this review, Warped Tour is still about the positive things: music, a day off and great causes. I'm not here to put the blame on Warped Tour for bringing on who they bring on. If you look back to the '90s, some of those bands who came to the summer camp were crap as well. The crap will always exist, and in our lowbrow ways, many of us will stick out our tongues for a taste of the lackluster meal. Just like the dollar menu, these things are only a quick fix. Eventually some of us will bite into something that transcends what we constantly intake. When that happens, maybe you'll understand my point.
Until then, the most punk rock thing to do here is listen to what you want. Who am I to say, I'm just the old fucker with a cane and an older generation iPod. "Nice flat cover art grandpa. What is that, a 30GB? Where's your touch screen? What the fuck is a CD again?"
Every Time I Die
Circle Pit during "Bored Stiff"
The Mighty Regis
Set Your Goals
Dillinger Escape Plan
On the back of Every Time I Die's Andy Williams
Tents and Good Causes
To wake the crowd up, I got them to scream "Fuck AP.net" HA!
It was a venture to Houston from Louisiana that year. New Orleans landed a taste of the Van's Warped Tour in 2001, but alas it was run short. If there was one concert I have fond memories of in the past ten years, it would be the Van's Warped Tour stop in Houston, Tx. in 2002. It was a revolution in both where punk rock would end up, passing of the torches and a complete split mirror of what was and what would be.
Prior to the trip, I was obsessed with Thursday's Full Collapse, listening to the album every night before I went to bed. While I was gradually moving into albums like Thrice's The Illusion of Safety and Poison the Well's Tear From the Red, there was still an anticipation to see the bands like NOFX, Bad Religion, The Mighty Mighty Bosstones and of course - The Drive-Thru Records Stage!
Upon arrival, it began storming outside, so the festival moved the one outside Main Stage inside and all the small stages were shut down for the day - including Drive Thru's!
The day worked out for the best though, as the set times were shorter, but there was an ability to catch everyone from Hot Water Music to New Found Glory to Something Corporate to...man, the fucking list goes on. Take a look at who was on that bill. After Reel Big Fish was MxPx and after them Bad Religion, and after them Thursday and so on.
It seemed like the year that launched many careers, and solidified old favorites. It's a bill and a day that ended with about 500 of us left inside watching the Bosstones end the long, but glorious day.
Hands down, Warped Tour 2002 was not only the best concert experience of the past decade for me, it was also a definitive moment where I witnessed my old influences and watched what would influence me to come.
I became punk rock in mind, body and spirit that day in Houston...no matter how you define the sound.