Reid’s Day & Night On The Warped Tour

Once upon a time when I was but a wee lad of thirteen, my favorite band came to Shreveport, and my fifty-three year-old father took me to Hirsch Memorial Coliseum to see…Styx.

Now I understand this is a fairly hilarious first concert memory to have, especially since the Styx “Kilroy Was Here” tour was legendarily bad, a mock-and-roll opera about rebellion and censorship and…robots. My dad to this day thinks rock concerts would be better if they had a plot to them.

Back to the point, my dad was actually cool enough to go to a concert he didn’t give a middle-aged crap about, just so I could go. He was, and remains an exceedingly cool dad.

Fast forward to now. I have friends whose fifteen year-old daughter wanted desperately to go see the Vans Warped Tour. Just as desperately, neither one of my friends wanted to go and waste a whole day at an outdoor festival.

It was time to pay it forward.

So I volunteered to take her and her boyfriend, and the offer was enthusiastically accepted. Carved in stone, even. I live a thousand miles away from Cincinnati, and they were going to fly me in for the show if they had to.  They were thrilled to no end to be off the hook for this all-day tour.

If we could get a few more people in black t-shirts over here, that would be just great.

The odd thing about this show is that even just a few years ago, some of my favorite bands were playing here. Mighty Mighty Bosstones, Rancid, Reel Big Fish, Bowling For Soup, Gym Class Heroes, Fishbone, Fall Out Boy, Glassjaw, all bands that had played on the Warped Tour in the past.

However, some time between those tours and this one, I’ve apparently topped the hill and left coolness behind, proceeding full speed into cranky-old-dudeness.  Two years ago, I’m William Miller. Now, I’m Wilford Brimley.

By my rough count, there are 95 bands on this Warped Tour (no exaggeration). Of that sizable number, I had heard songs by two of them, and only owned an album by one (New Found Glory). I felt pretty sure that was the worst ratio of any of the fans in attendance. If my 82 year-old dad were there with me, I’d only be one band ahead of him. He’d probably spend the entire day hoping Styx or Billy Joel  showed up for a surprise appearance, but he wouldn’t be any more left out than I was.

Macon, TJ, and I arrived at Riverbend about ten on a Tuesday morning, to wait in line with a couple thousand other early risers. We brought canned food with us to get a “jump the line” pass, which as far as I could tell just entitled us to wait in another, even longer line the size of your average American Idol audition.

It took so long to reach the end of this line, my frequent flier miles expired.

After waiting in the line without end, we got to the gate for Riverbend. There were 3-4 lanes open for people to walk through, and they were checking bags. The gate worker glanced at my bag so fast, the only thing she could have been checking it for is mass. She glanced at the top of my backpack and waved me through. I could have had hand grenades, oriental porn, and radioactive isotopes in there, and as long as I wasn’t packing a soda at the top of the bag, she was going to give me the green light.

As we walked in, the shows started. There were ten different stages, all set up at the right angles to each other so there was a minimum of bleed-through. The first band up was We The Kings, who gave a Hell of a show considering they were performing at 11:45am on a Tuesday. I was pleasantly surprised at WTK, they were good solid power pop based music, and it sounded like we all owned the same albums growing up.

Stage right, then stage left. Two bands, no waiting.

That was kind of the theme of the day, as bands I’d never heard of put on pretty solid shows in half hour intervals. I came away from the day thinking it wasn’t new music or bands that sucked.

Radio sucks. That’s why these bands tour almost a hundred at a time to get out in front of crowds, and hopefully make new fans.

Most of these bands don’t get radio airplay, but I don’t guess that would matter since I gave up on music radio long long ago. Finally getting to listen to them, I realized this current generation is just building on the musical shoulders of their influences, the same as my favorite bands did.

Hey, the kids are alright.

Getting a Bad Rap, Deservedly

Unlike a lot of people in my demographic of grouchy old white dudes, I like rap and hip-hop. One of the crowning achievements of my life is getting followed on Twitter by Chuck D. My main problem with rap is the same problem I have with pop music, no one is actually saying anything.

Rap should be like music, poetry, or any other kind of creative impulse. You write, you craft, you create what you know, and you turn your eyes on the world to reflect.

The first rap artist I saw? T-Mills. His first song? “I Just Fucked This White Girl.”

That’s not exactly American Pie. Hell, that’s not even Cherry Pie.

As he was getting ready for the song, he shouted to the crowd “Any white girls out there?”

I’d just like to take a moment to let women worldwide know that you are under no obligation to answer that question. T-Mills is a rapper, not a census taker.

A Good Idea Done Elderly

I know we’re supposed to automatically reject the whole notion of music under a corporate logo, but the Vans Warped Tour was a thing of beauty.

I’ve been to quite a few concerts, and had to sit through interminable soundchecks, smoke breaks, and just moments when the band was too drunk to show up.  I saw AC/DC once where one of the cannons fell off the back of the stage before it even got to fire during the big encore. I saw a “Rock Never Stops” tour where five bands who all sounded exactly alike still took a half hour between sets to change equipment, with absolutely no discernible change in tone.

Ninety-five bands performing on this tour, and the trains all ran on time. One band off, another one on, here we go.

If they’d sold alcohol in the Reverse Daycare tent, they’d have been millionaires.

The best part of the tour? The most prescient concession to their audience?

The Reverse Daycare tent, where adults got to sit indoors under fans and relax with noise-cancelling headphones on. I got a ten-minute massage ($10 for charity) and free cold water while thirty other adults sat around, sitting in front of fans and watching Blazing Saddles.

A teenage girl came to the tent opening and asked if her mom was in there. The attendant said she’d go look, but the girl had to stay outside. A few minutes later, she brought a woman up front who wasn’t the girl’s mom, so she just threw the teenager out and we all got back to our nice quiet shade.

Vans, I salute you. I bought a t-shirt merely to show how much I love you.

Quick Notes For Performers

There was a skate park at the show. Why? Why the Hell not?

Hey, you with the mic. Stop telling me to put my hands up. It’s tiresome, especially when you do it several times in a single verse of your songs. It’s a concert, not a stick-up.

Singer: Everybody get your hands up! Get ’em up! Come on! Get your fucking hands up! Up!
Audience: Yay!
Singer: Now, throw your wallets onstage! Now! Come on! And keep those hands up!

By the way, today’s musicians use the word “fuck” a lot. As Lewis Black said, it’s not a word, it’s a comma. I’m certain in my old-school era of regular concert going, such lyrical poets as Steven Tyler and David Lee Roth probably used the word quite a bit. However, when you’re walking around seeing literally sixty bands in a row perform back-to-back, the certain sameness of the stage patter starts to get to you.

Merch Table Madness

I’m not sure if they know this, but the guys who run the merchandise tables for the bands are not actually rock stars. Just walking around, I couldn’t help but notice what giant throbbing wankers most of these guys have turned into.

These distant columns were absolutely magnetic in their attraction of older people.

No one came to see you, Captain T-Shirt, so you don’t really have the high ground to be a dick to everyone who walks up. I’m sure it’s a sweet gig to have. Most people pay in cash and it’s tough to keep track of all of that inventory, so I’m sure you have full pockets. And no matter how big of a dick you are, there’s certainly no one to complain to.

Irate Fan: Let me see your manager!
Merch Table Goon: (extends middle finger) Sure!

And quit ignoring the guys to talk to the ladies. I hate to break it to you, but no woman is going to sleep with you for a t-shirt. Spreading it for $15 worth of merchandise is firmly in crack whore territory. I know you’ve given up all stability in your life for the privilege of being near music while sleeping every night twenty to a bus, but that’s no reason to take it out on us.

It’s not your picture on the shirts there, Slappy. No need for the insult comic routine.

— Reid Kerr recognized exactly two songs on the day.