- By Nate Hennon
Attending the Warped Tour was a staple during most of my teenage and early college years. Yet, the excitement I had for the Warped Tour in my younger years waned as I got older. Life happens and a day in the Southern California heat does not have the same appeal it once did. However, the ‘I’m too old for this shit’ attitude begins to change when you hit a certain age. The idea of recapturing your youth becomes a hobby. Therefore, when I had the opportunity to revisit the festival that I enjoyed so much as a kid last weekend, I jumped on it.
Beer Garden Shame
Since the festival is structured to be a continuous barrage of music, one has to make concessions about which performance to see and at which point use the bathroom. Either the thinking behind this type of structure is to provide the festival attendee with so much choice that they will be running between stages to catch every performance or to cause an anxiety attack when they see the performance schedules. Warped Tour is particular prickly because the schedules are not posted until the morning of on a giant inflatable sign. In the past, this sign has been centrally located on the festival grounds for a quick reference as you sprint to the next performance. However, this year it was found by the main stages, which created a small bottleneck for those too dumb to take a picture of it with their smart phone (remember I am an old geezer trying to hang with the cool kids).
Furthermore, by releasing the performance schedule the morning of the festival, the attendees are in the dark about when their favorite performers go on. This action forces attendees to get to Warped as soon as the grounds open. I know that Warped Tour released a smart phone app that allows you to get updates and possibly see the set times without being at the festival, but I could not figure it out. I digress.
Although I wanted to reconnect with this youthful idealism, Warped creates a feeling of disconnect with the populace. I did not recognize two-thirds of the bands on the over packed lineup nor was I ready to find the beer garden caged off from the rest of the festival. Now I understand the need for segregation between the people buying $8 Bud Lights and those buying $4 waters, but it is no fun to drink your mediocre beer in shame. It also is not fun to spill said overpriced beer on yourself while trying to rest your old and decrepit body on the grass.
The Magical Smaller Stage
My favorite aspect about Warped Tour are the medium and smaller stages. These stages generally house veteran working bands or baby bands full of raw talent. In the past, I never paid these stages too much attention because I believed the main stages had all of the action. Nevertheless, as I reflect on my Warped past, I had the opportunity to see some iconic bands on smaller intimate stages during their infant years. With this perspective in mind, I decided this was the best use of my time.
The first full set I saw this day was on the medium sized stage, Poseidon, tucked away in a corner. Its seclusion reduced the amount of music bleed over and created a club dynamic. These factors, and they fact that they are awesome, contributed to Masked Intruder being the favorite of the day. For the uninitiated, Masked Intruder is a Pop Punk from Madison, Wisconsin whose members wear colored ski masks on stage and never reveal their faces or identities. Although these aspects of the band could be enough to set them apart from the vast field of bands, they take it further with their hype-man and on-stage banter. Despite being from the Midwest, MI’s lead singer talked with a stereotypical New York accent and kept telling the crowd to prepare to be mugged by the band after their set. Their gimmicks got the crowd interested, but their catchy songs and audience participation turned everyone into a fan.
The closet stage to Poseidon was the Cyclops stage. This stage was centrally located on the festival grounds and had a lot of main Stage bleed over. This stage acted as a proving ground for bands, because they had the task of pulling people in that were waiting for future main stage acts. Despite the negative elements of its location, I feel the Cyclops stage had the most exciting bands of the day.
My personal favorite band on this stage was Teenage Bottlerocket. This was not the first time I saw them, but it seemed like a different band. After a tragic and traumatic 2015, Teenage Bottlerocket played like a band with an agenda. They opened their set by dedicating their first song, “Skate or Die”, to their late drummer Brandon Carlisle. After this touching tribute, they were merciless. They cranked out song after song, only stopping when guitarist’s, Kody Templeman, son came on stage to perform an awesome rap about Santa and tell a brutal Muppet joke (“What did the Muppets say after Jim Henson died? Nothing”). They were a slight to behold.
Bring on the Nostalgia
Another odd aspect Warped Tour are the main stages. During my previous experiences, there were two main stages and they were normally set-up next to each other. If you wanted to maximum your concert going laziness, you can find a spot between these stages and only turn your head to watch a new band every thirty minutes. This set-up was still the case this year, yet I found myself either ‘late to the party’ or physically late to the show, I did not see many of these sets.
I did manage to my catch my favorite musical joke, the Reel Big Fish “Suburban Rhythm” medley. Not to spoil anything for those who have not seen RBF live, but this is the point in their set that they play “Suburban Rhythm” multiple times, but change the style of music each time. On this day, they played the regular song, and then played a punk followed by both a disco and metal version. They teased a fifth version, but instead of playing “Suburban Rhythm”, they played crowd favorite, “Beer”. Because I have seen RBF many times over the years, I was not too surprised with their set. Yet, they ended with a cover song, Aha’s “Take on Me”, which was a first for me. Despite being twenty-plus years into their career, RBF can still energize a crowd and own a festival audience.
Another band I thought I lost my enjoyment for was New Found Glory. In 2000, their Self-titled album never left the giant CD book in my car (again old-timer alert) and has somehow made it into heavy rotation again. Nostalgia is a hell of a drug. Nevertheless, NFG was great to see again. These twenty-year pop punk veterans played with heart, integrity, and other elements used to create Captain Planet. Despite not having seen them live in over a decade, they never lost a beat in their live show. They played as if they still have something to prove and did not take their large crowd for granted. In addition, it was nice to see that they still do not take themselves too seriously. The fact that each member of the band wore t-shirts with their names on the chest and the new NFG logo on the back made me appreciate their playfulness even more.
The final act of my eight-hour day in the sun was the rapper for Atlanta, Georgia, Waka Flocka Flame. By jumping up and down, standing on the barricade, and being vegan, Waka Flocka Flame reminded me of a New Jersey Screamo singer in the late 2000’s. His performance and his DJ playing snippets of ‘Warped Tour’ songs, e.g. “Fat Lip” by Sum 41 and “Enter Sandman” by Metallica, Mr. Flocka Flame won over the exhausted crowd.
After seeing his performance and making terrible Fozzy the Bear references to myself during his set, I knew my time-traveling event had to end. I packed my personal effects and made the journey out of the festival grounds with the air of accomplishment and a small sunburn. They say you cannot go back home, but you can spend a day in it and not feel too bad the next morning.
Note: do not bring your ten-year-old Toyota Corolla to Warped Tour. Every other car in the parking lot is ten years old, unwashed, and have seen better days thus it will take you nearly an hour to find the right one.