Stuck in the 2000s: My First and Last Warped Tour
I'm not alone in saying that music has played a major role in my life.
A bulk of my childhood was spent watching rock documentaries with my dad and listening to CDs of classic rock and glam metal that my mom mixed for me. I distinctly remember getting a shiny blue boom box for my 6th birthday, and then proceeding to use it for dancing to Kidz Bop and recording "radio shows" on my hand recorder. On our car rides to upstate New York, central New Jersey, or middle-of-nowhere Maryland, I spent a solid majority of my time in the middle seat wedged between my siblings and staring absentmindedly through the front window, my Target-brand mp3 or ancient iPod shuffle on full blast.
My music taste is somewhat eclectic. I have a habit of finding a song, listening to it for days on end, and then getting swept up into the rest of that band's music. One day I can be lip-syncing along to Taylor Swift and the next I can be head-banging to Metallica. I have a listen to a vast range of artists and genres, but the two that I always come back to, no matter my mood or motivation, are rock and pop punk.
I like to say that I'm a strange combination of 40-year-old rocker dad and 15-year-old angsty teen.
It's understandable that some people find my choice in music kind of strange. I can't even count the number of times my friends would look at my phone, see something like Slayer or MCR playing, and wonder aloud how I could listen to something like that and also do calculus homework.
(As an explanation, I can't do any sort of work without music, and to make sure I don't get distracted by my surroundings, I'll play the loudest and angriest music I can find.)
That's why going to Warped Tour has been a dream of mine since I was in middle school.
If you're unfamiliar with Vans Warped Tour, it's a yearly rock tour that's been crossing the country since 1995. It hits cities across America, bringing with it music, vendors, and an amazing community of fans. Some of my favorite artists, including Black Veil Brides, Avenged Sevenfold, Blink-182, My Chemical Romance, Fall Out Boy, and Paramore, had their careers launched at Warped Tour. Around 40 artists, from massive headliners to small-town bands, get to play at Warped Tour every year and bask in the atmosphere of all-black clothing, impulsive crowd-surfing, and ear-numbingly loud music.
And it's the last year. Ever.
Ever since I heard that first g-note in "Welcome to the Black Parade", I wanted to find people my age who listened to my kind of music, and Warped Tour seemed to be that place for me. Until this year, I never had the chance to go—it was either too far or too expensive or on the wrong day.
So when I realized that I'd be in San Diego at the same time as Warped Tour ... well I absolutely *had* to go.
I posted in almost every Slack team and Facebook group I could think of that would have people who would even think to go to Warped Tour with me.
I was psyched that I had the chance to go, but I definitely didn't want to go alone!
Maybe two weeks before Warped Tour was scheduled to come to SDCCU stadium here in San Diego, a fellow Qualcomm intern hit me up and I immediately bought collectors' edition tickets (holographic, of course). I looked through the artist lineup and saw bands like Black Veil Brides, Palaye Royale, and All Time Low in the mix, causing me to squeal inside a little bit.
And outside a bit, too, much to the slight annoyance of the rest of the cubicles around me.
I woke up bright and early on Friday, June 22nd, ready to take on the day and the second stop on Vans Warped Tour 2018: The Final Full Cross-Country Tour. Doors opened at 11am but there was already a line of hundreds of people walking into security by the time I arrived to the parking lot that I would be spending the next 10 hours of my life in. Slathered with sunscreen and wearing my best plaid, I can't describe how excited I was to rock along with some of my favorite bands and hopefully hear some new music along the way.
My friend and I had separate lists of bands we wanted to see, but the schedule was set up in such a way that our bands overlapped or we would be at stages close to each other. Warped Tour has their sets spread across multiple stages—Journey's Left and Right Feet, Mutant Red Dawn and White Lightning, owly.fm, Full Sail, and Shiragirl—so that there can be multiple bands playing at the same time.
After having my first listen to Crown the Empire and walking around the concert grounds a bit, it was time to see the first band on my personal list.
I came across their music quite randomly. I'm pretty sure I was listening to a Panic! at the Disco YouTube mix when one of their singles came on, and from there I was hooked. They're a relatively new band, bringing back art rock with their sound and style. Comprised of brothers Remington Leith (vocals), Sebastian Danzig (lead guitar), and Emerson Barrett (drums), I knew that they put on incredibly heart-racing and crowd-jumping sets.
I wasn't disappointed at all.
During the extremely short time (30 minutes) that they took the owly.fm stage, they absolutely dominated the crowd around them. I was in the very front, maybe two or three rows of people back. If you look at their Instagram post below, after Remington jumped into the crowd to sing an enthusiastic cover of "Teenagers" by MCR, you can see that I'm the girl to the very left of the photo with a dark blue hat and a red phone in my hand.
It was exhilarating.
After their set, they thanked everyone and told their hordes of screaming fans (which surprised me, because I never realized they were so popular!) about their meet-and-greet happening at their booth. Obviously I ran over and stood in line for an hour to meet them—would I be a true fan if I didn't?
Yes, it took over an hour to get to their booth. Yes, I was alone on the line because my friend was at another stage. Yes, I was hungry and thirsty and slowly baking in the sun. But even after all of that, I finally got to meet three sweet and talented musicians and talk to them about how much I love their music. They even recognized me from the crowd and commented on my upbeat personality when I met them, which obviously made me leave their booth nonchalantly and start shaking once I got around the corner.
Black Veil Brides:
My next focus was a band that had popped up time and time again in my life. When I used to go to the library to burn CDs onto my iPod, BvB would be a recommended in my check out cart. Spotify started recommending their hits when I spent my entire summer last year listening to mixes that Spotify cooked up for me. It wasn't until, like Palaye Royale, they were put into a YouTube Music mix that I finally started listening to them.
Since their set was a bit later in the day after Palaye Royale, I had killed some time with buying official Vans Warped Tour merch (a stereotypical Hot-Topic-esque long-sleeved baseball tee with the concert dates and locations on the back, and a "Forever Warped" enamel pin and flat-top baseball hat bundle), refilling my water bottles on the long line for free water, and grabbing food from the abundance of food trucks lining the edges of the parking lot. I sat and ate my chicken gyro wrap while listening to bands like This Wild Life, Ice Nine Kills, and Nekrogoblikon.
Ice Nine Kills was dressed up as famous Halloween villains like Freddy Krueger and Jason, while Nekrogoblikon had a man dressed as a goblin run around on stage with them. I don't know if he was in the band to perform or was just someone they hired to wear the costume, but it was no doubt an entertaining experience to have over lunch.
Around 5:45, after standing around and waiting for the roadies to switch the equipment on stage to BvB's, the band, composed of Andy Biersack on lead vocals, Ashley Purdy on bass, Jinxx on rhythm guitar and backing vocals, Jake Pitts on lead guitar, and Christian "CC" Coma on drums, came on to start their set.
When you have a band as established as Black Veil Brides, most of the songs they play are their hits from past years. It hit everyone in the nostalgia when they played "Knives and Pens", "Rebel Love Song", and "Fallen Angels." I loved when they closed their set with "In The End", one of their best ballads and one of my favorite songs to sing on long car rides or when I'm in my room alone.
Their look reminds me of the old heavy metal bands my dad and I love to listen to, with their sleeves of tattoos, big and overly styled heads of black hair, and clothing consisting entirely of denim and studded leather. The crowd reminded me of heavy metal concerts, too, because there were these two or three random guys nearby that decided to start a mosh pit.
And when you are someone who exclusively relies on their glasses to see, a mosh pit is terrifying.
Thankfully, once they realized nobody was catching on (mainly because the crowd was my age or younger and we don't seem to be as into that kind of stuff as our parents were), they stopped and the crowd filled in where they were just flailing around and hitting each other.
At the end of the day, it got me a bit closer to the stage!
All Time Low:
If I thought that the mosh pit for BvB was scary, I had no idea what was coming when All Time Low would perform.
ATL is one of those quintessential bands that everyone pop-punk listener knew in the early 2000s. My earliest memory of them was hearing "Dear Maria, Count Me In" after watching a slew of Shane Dawson videos—that proves some point about how long they've been around.
As one of the few bands that I knew who have stayed consistent in their lineup—Alex Gaskarth on lead vocals and rhythm guitar, Jack Barakat on lead guitar and backing vocals, Zack Merrick on bass and backing vocals, and Rian Dawson on drums—I got back into listening to them when they released their latest album, "Last Young Renegade." It was one of those albums that had matured with the band members themselves (you can only be a pop-punk boy band for so long) but still caught my eye, err ear?
I didn't have a chance to see them perform at SummerStage in Central Park last summer (along with Waterparks, who I've now been listening to *because* of Warped Tour!), Warped Tour was my best chance.
And oh my god did they put on a show.
I really wish that I could upload my video of their last song (of course it was "Dear Maria") to see how insane their show was but you're just going to have to read about it instead.
Something that commonly happens at rock concerts, including Warped Tour, is crowdsurfing. I've always wanted to do it, but it's extremely scary to have to rely on the people below you to carry you to the front of the stage without dropping you...which is unfortunately pretty common. I'd say in the span of the nearly dozen sets I went to, I saw way too many legs kicking in the air after people dropped someone's torso but managed to hold onto their lower body.
So when the boys of ATL noticed that people were too busy jumping and singing along to crowdsurf, they called us out on it. In fact, Alex said that the security guards at the front of the stage looked bored because they had no people to drag out of the crowd.
I'm not a security guard, but I'm pretty sure they were fine not having to haul battered crowdsurfers over the railing.
Cue the tens of people who figured that it's one of the last performances at Warped Tour: San Diego so the might as well ride the wave of hands to ATL themselves.
And ALL of them just so happened to have a trajectory over my head.
My friend was recording "Dear Maria" for me and in that video you can hear he screaming "KEEP RECORDING" as he passed my phone back to me and attempted to stop the people's torsos and feet from hitting the back of my head. I spent 70% of the song watching the band and the other 30% looking behind me to brace myself for the onslaught of crowdsurfers.
There was one girl whose friends said it was her birthday and it was her *dream* to crowdsurf, so of course my friend was recruited to help start making her dream into a reality. I am not exaggerating when I say he and the other girls carrying her ran at least 15 feet before there was a group of people willing to continue her crowdsurfing. The commotion was intoxicating—the rush of people around me is one of the main reasons going to concerts is my favorite way to listen to music.
Walking out of that crowd when All Time Low was done performing hit me like a ton of bricks. I had finally attended Warped Tour and would never be able to do so in the same way ever again. I had gotten to share the experience of attending the final cross country tour with thousands of people who felt the same way about the same kind of music, and that's beautiful.
For those of you who are hitting your local Warped Tour stop or riding your dedication across the country/world to go, be prepared and look through these tips that are officially published by the tour itself. My five personal reminders are:
- Bring a water bottle (unopened) or an empty water bottle, because you'll need water and there's free water stations throughout the venue
- Cover your ENTIRE body in sunscreen, because even if you think you don't burn, you will
- Wear comfortable shoes—when I got home, sitting down gave me the biggest rush of tired ecstasy I had ever felt, because my Converse were way too worn down to stand on for an entire day
- Keep a notepad or CDs or something for band members to sign, since most of them have meet-and-greets and workshops, or can even be found walking around the grounds
- Don't be afraid to speak to the people around you on line or in the crowd—they're all there for the same reasons as you and it's fun to meet people who share your taste in something
If you're thinking about attending Warped Tour, do it. It was exhausting and crowded but worth every penny. It was experience, and honestly a part of history, that I don't think I or anyone else after this year will be able to have again. Nevertheless, Warped Tour will live on, even if just in our hearts and playlists <3