Front Porch Step. 90 degree weather with 100% humidity. Attila. $10 slices of pizza. Falling in Reverse. There have been a plethora of reasons that have kept my aging body away from the Vans Warped Tour over the last decade and a half. Much like this current presidency, I have watched in awe thinking, “These things keep happening. Why doesn’t someone do something?!” And finally then they did. Bad Cop / Bad Cop and War on Women (along with Safer Scenes) were added to this year’s lineup. Not only are these two bands absolute powerhouses when it comes to taking the stage, their music is filled with messages demanding equality for all, promoting feminism and humanism, and speaking out against domestic and sexual violence. They would be spending the summer touring with a metalcore band that demands people “Suck My Fuck.” This would be an interesting summer.
On Saturday, July 22nd, I picked up Mat around 11 and we headed out of Chicago, down the highway, and onto a state road. We talked about what the day may hold, if the other put on sunscreen before leaving the house, what bars we went to the night before. This was already way different than my last drive to Warped Tour circa 2004. I believe my mom drove and picked me up that year. As we walked up towards one of the entry gates, we passed someone asking a group of teen girls to take a listen to his band’s music. He had headphones in one hand and a stack of CDs in another. Mat explained to me that this was normal ‘outside of Warped Tour’ behavior. But to me, it was reminiscent of the guys who are stationed up and down Hollywood Blvd. in LA who ask you to take a listen before they ask you for your phone number.
We entered through the gate without waiting and headed straight for the Bad Cop tent where my pal Devito had been stationed all summer. He was duct taping shark fins made of cardboard for the Municipal Waste pit, he explained as his long, beautiful hair rustled due to a sudden hot breeze. Mat and I made our daily schedule and we were off! Save Ferris had just started their set as we approached the stage. I hadn’t seen the band in almost eight years, but they looked and played like no time had passed! It was like I was in a time warp back to the 2000s again! The height of the set was when singer Monique Powell convinced a bouncer to stand just below the stage as she sang a song off their newest release, an EP entitled Checkered Past. The song’s message was about loving someone so much that, at times, you want to murder them. As she sang, she sat on the edge of the stage, wrapped her legs around the bouncer’s neck and started tightening her grip. I figured the other bouncers would spring into action, or I would at least see a cloud of possible concern cross their faces. Instead they laughed and shook their heads.
After Save Ferris’ set, we had a little down time until the next band on our list. So Mat and I decided to journey around and check out merch booths, the others stages, and anything else interesting. It became strikingly clear that the grounds had been set up with the metalcore, swoopy haired bands on one side and the more punk-minded bands on the complete opposite area. We were weaving through the crowd, both people and band watching, when we saw it – the Parent’s Tent. Warped Tour has created an air conditioned (or at least heavily fanned) tent for the parents who choose not to leave their kids alone for the day but also could give a fuck about standing in the hot sun for hours. WE’D FOUND OUR PEOPLE! We entered the tent and were instantly met with skeptical eyes. If anyone questioned us, our plan was simple. We’d tell them that we had kids. If they asked where they were, we’d respond with, “We have no idea. Like any good parent, we haven’t seen either of them since yesterday.” But the parents were too consumed with watching Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, which was playing on a TV that had been rolled out into the middle of the room. After filling our water bottles with crisp, cold ice water, we retreated back into the blazing sunlight.
War on Women took the stage to a decent sized crowd that grew with every song performed. I’m not going to spend any real time talking about The Dickies/War on Women incident that occurred in Denver. The internet was filled with rants and raves from either side for weeks. If you want to start that shit up again, head to Facebook. What I will say is that I personally agree with the band’s message and I think their music is amazing to boot. They pack a 1-2 punch. It was also hard not to notice how certain crowd members who had probably never heard the band before became uncomfortable when they deciphered the lyrics to songs like “Say It” or “Roe Vs. World”. As Shawna lead the crowd in a chant of “Say it! Say it! I was raped”, I watched one drunken crowd member drop his jaw and stare wide eyed before stumbling away. And this is exactly why WoW is one of the bands that Warped Tour needs. They remind us all of the reality around us.
Municipal Waste was next and they were looking to party, as always. I scanned the pit for the cardboard fins that Devito had made. I couldn’t see them, but I did catch an eyeful of beer from a half full can that was flying through the air. After their set, we journeyed into the famed (and air conditioned!) press area for an ambush interview with Bad Cop. I say ambush because, until about an hour beforehand, I had no idea that I was interviewing anyone that day but we were on the list! It was during my “I didn’t plan any questions” freak out that my friend, amazing artist, and Bad Cop singer/guitarist superstar Jennie offered a joint interview. We could all ask each other questions! Linh (bass/vocals), Jennie, Mat, Eden (photographer extraordinaire and Bad Copy contributor), and I sat in a corner of the press room and spent the next thirty minutes kind of interviewing each other, kind of having a casual conversation, and definitely enjoying ourselves. We were laughing so loud, we actually had to be kindly reminded to keep it down. That interview will be up soon so keep checking back!
Mat and I emerged from our air conditioned haze and headed over to watch Alestorm. If you’ve never heard of or heard the band before, the best way to describe them would be pirate themed heavy metal. I was half expecting them to take the stage in full pirate regalia and was a little let down when they showed up in shorts and neon colored t-shirts. But then again, it was terribly hot. No one would want to be dressed in a pirate costume in that heat… except the guy in the crowd two rows ahead of me who was dressed like Captain Hook.
Next was a back to back treat of SoCal favorites. The Adolescents has never let me down. I have seen them perform in every size venue from a small, shitty bar in Huntington Beach to a large stadium festival setting. No matter the venue, they treat every show the same. The raddest part of their set was when they brought up two kids to sing along to “Amoeba”. While the younger of the two kind of just stood there (don’t fret, little dude! I have terrible stage fright so I’m there with you!), the older knew every word. When Tony Reflex threw his mic into the crowd, the older kid took over vocals. And not just the chorus either, ALL vocals. It was awesome! Next was T.S.O.L., a band that holds a special place in my heart as they were one of my ‘starter’ bands. You know, the handful of punk bands that you listened to in middle or high school that opened the door to even more punk bands. Similar to The Adolescents, T.S.O.L. sounded as great as ever. Jack’s voice is still as striking and slightly grating (but in the best way) as always. The band actually has a new album out this year, which I had not heard about. The Trigger Complex was released in January on Rise Records.
I had waited eagerly all day to see Bad Cop / Bad Cop perform songs off their newest release, Warriors. Their set contained a good mix of old and new tracks and I sang along to every one. When the band came onstage, on of my first thoughts was that Linh had injured herself somewhere over the last month and a half of tour, as she was wearing what looked like knee braces on both knees. WRONG! They were knee pads so she could do super sick slides across the stage! And while I could go on and on about the merits of this band and the wonderful ladies who make it up, I will say one more thing. There was not another band that I saw all day who so visibly worked together. Each member of Bad Cop does not merely play their part of a song. They play them together. They each value the others as equal members of a team and that mentality makes for a very powerful set.
With two more bands to go, my feet suddenly decided to remind me of my age as Anti-Flag took the stage. Without any real planning, I’ve somehow managed to see Anti-Flag around thirty times over the last fifteen years. They always seem to be popping up at festivals and larger shows that I attend. And every time I “accidentally” watch their set, I am always in awe of what a powerful band they are and have always been. Today was no different. As the sun began to set over the *cough* beautiful grounds of the Hollywood Casino Amphitheater in Tinley Park, the band and stagehands moved Pat’s drums and Chris No. 2’s guitar off the stage and into the crowd for the final song. Last up was GWAR. I refused to get anywhere close to the stage, but Mat braved his way into the photo pit for the sake of photo journalism. The set was pure GWAR – funny and weird and wet and overall cartoonish. It was perfect.
Before we left the grounds, we got to hang out in Bad Cop’s bandwagon. Eden, who has spent the majority of the last two months on tour with the band snapping photos, showed me around. From the different bunks, to the shower, to the bathroom, to the kitchen/living room, to the… well, that was more or less it. We decompressed from the day and talked about how strange it was that people on Ebay were trying to get $6-$8 each for the Monster brand canned waters that the bands were supplied with daily. We talked about different parts of America, different bands on the tour, and friends that had been made or seen along the way. And that was when it really hit me. The feelings had been culminating all day as I compared my 2004 and prior Warped Tour experiences to today’s happenings. Warped Tour is not something to be feared or hated. Make fun of it all you want, but when used properly it can be a great resource for bands to gain fans and exposure all over the nation. It’s when select people on the tour act up or refuse to speak out that issues arise. When I was in my 20s, I didn’t think twice about what I said or who I said it to. I deemed myself ‘punk’ and therefore, did what I wanted. I don’t think I ever told a easily influenced teenager to “suck my fuck”, but I’m guessing I said something similarly shitty to someone impressionable. If I had a chance to do it over again, knowing what I know now, I would have surely handled myself differently. Bands – and people in general – need to remember that what we say and do affects others, no matter their age. So be a good person. Promote positivity. Stop sending creepy texts to underage girls. Treat people how you would like to be treated. And always, always spring for the $5 blue snow cones because they are not only delicious, but they also turn your teeth and tongue blue for hours.
Check out the below photos of our day at Warped Tour!