For twenty-one summers now, Vans Warped Tour has been travelling around North America and Canada bringing a wealth of music to the masses. Hugely influential, the travelling festival remains a rite of passage for audience and artist alike. A punk-rock summer camp if you will.
Last week’s decision to allow Front Porch Step a platform at the Nashville leg of the event was wrong. For Warped to continue forward, the people behind the festival need to have a serious discussion about what Warped Tour means in 2015 and the responsibilities they have to protect their audience. But, as American Opera said on the day though “There are 80 bands that you should see today. And only one that you shouldn’t.”
In 2015, Warped Tour is an international event, for an international community. It’s ever-changing yet has threaded itself through twenty-one years of alternative history.
Ahead of the festival, feelings about the run vary from band to band. PVRIS’ Lynn Gun is “super excited! This is our first year playing the whole tour,” she explains. It’s a similar story for Candy Hearts’ Mariel Loveland, “I am beyond excited! We’ve wanted this for so long and we are so grateful and ecstatic to get the chance.” Meanwhile, Moose Blood‘s Eddy Brewerton sees it as a “dream opportunity for us and the perfect chance to come tour America.”
Citizen have their concerns. “It’s going to be very long and very hot but we’re excited to be playing,” they state from the road. “It’s the best possible thing we could do for the release of ‘Everybody Is Going To Heaven’.”
PUP‘s Steve Sladowski knows “it’s going to be a challenge,” but he’s up for it. “Challenges are fun,” he enthuses, “There are a lot of long drives and we probably won’t sleep much, which may well suck. But one thing we’re good at is finding ways to have fun and enjoy ourselves; Warped Tour will be no exception and we’ll surely make the best of it.”
Taking in 41 dates over seven weeks, Vans Warped Tour is a gruelling commitment. “We hadn’t prepared in any way really, other than trying to be as organised as possible,” admits Eddy from Moose Blood. “The realisation of what we were doing didn’t really hit until we got to the States.” Candy Hearts are the boy scouts of the group. “Preparing for this tour required a lot of extra things we don’t normally think about like creating a mobile merch shop (our super awesome space-themed tent) and designing a larger than normal merch line,” explains Mariel. “Also figuring out how to shower when you’re living in a car with very, very limited hotels took a lot of planning for me. I’ve pretty much given up on my hair.”
“We also had to modify a van so it was suitable to live in and we did it all DIY,” she continues. “We built bunks, ran electricity through the whole thing and created beds from some foam we got at Home Depot.”
Citizen are not as organised who did “nothing special,” ahead of the tour. “We just decide what the best set would be for an outdoor festival and then we practice. We all seem to wait ’til the last possible second to pack. Most people do.” PUP have stuck to their three keys rules ahead of their stint on the festival. “Sleep as much as possible, do your laundry, and prepare your liver,” while PVRIS are throwing caution to the wind: “There’s no preparing, you just gotta roll with it and hope you don’t die.”
With such a daunting distance to cover, every band tackles the drives differently. Moose Blood will be travelling by BandWagon, as will PVRIS. “It’s basically a mini bus,” explains Lynn, “we always travel with a van and a trailer so this is weird for us. It’s too nice, we never really have nice things.” Citizen are “sharing a 12 bunk tour bus with our new friends in Lee Corey Oswald. The bus is cozy enough. We have a PS4 set up and all like to play Mortal Kombat X,” while Pup are sticking to the real challenge. “We’ve never been ones to do things the easy way,” Steve admits, “so we’ve decided to do it in a van with a trailer. We’re bringing our friend Jess Flynn along – she’s a kickass tour manager, photographer, and rad human from Philly – so she’ll be there to hangout with us which is gonna rule.“
Candy Hearts, in their DIY ‘Vandy Hearts’, already know the struggles of getting about. “Initially our driver quit on the third day of tour because he was having difficulty driving overnight and didn’t really understand the lifestyle of living in a van during the summer – which is hard compared to a comfy bus. We ended up staying awake all night for a week trying to get from show to show, but we finally found someone lovely who gets it and is willing to rough it with the rest of us.”
Expectations about the festival vary but the weather is playing on everyone’s mind. PUP are expecting, “a loud, sweaty shitshow.” Moose Blood, who’ll be playing through ‘I’ll Keep You In Mind, From Time to Time’ as well as a couple of older tracks, are looking forward to, “hot weather, long days, sweaty shows and hard work.” Citizen, who’ll be hungry to try out their new album on the expectant crowd promise they’ll be “playing well and sweating a lot,” alongside the hope they’ll get “a nice tan.” PVRIS, who you’ll have to “come and watch to find out,” what their set is like, are anticipating “lots of sun, sweat and awesome catering.”
Candy Hearts are using this tour to show off the diversity of their debut.
“We’re playing a lot of songs we haven’t played before from ‘All The Ways You Let Me Down’. I think it’s a good mix of really fun, punky sing alongs and slower more emotional songs.”
Playing to somewhere in the region of 500,000 kids is an intimidating prospect, especially with all that legacy surrounding the tour. PUP, who are nevertheless most nervous about “the vast and dark indifference of the universe” (errr – Ed) are taking it all in the stride and that horizon-less landscape is also what they’re most excited by. PVRIS are worried about “losing their voice,” and it’s a similar story for Citizen’s Jake Duhaime who fears “equipment malfunction. I have bad luck like that. Everything else doesn’t worry me much.” Moose Blood are just concerned about their manners: they’re most worried about “pulling our weight and assisting the stage crew whenever possible. It’s nice to help out but we’re not good with early starts…”
What Warped Tour does more than anything is present a chance. A chance for people to surround themselves with like-minded individuals, to go to their first festival and discover their new favourite band, and to see bands that mean the world to them. For the bands playing, it’s an opportunity for a platform. There’s 500,000 potential new fans and an opportunity to learn vital lessons, which is a unique proposition.
“A lot of my friends went [to Warped] when we were younger,” says Jake from Citizen. “I had gone to maybe three or four of them but never thought I would be playing it one day.”
“Our sixteen-year-old selves are so impressed with our late-twenties selves,” admit Pup. “Our late-twenties selves were genuinely surprised to find out that Warped Tour was still going on. These two selves will most certainly collide in sweaty excess on a daily basis.”
For PVRIS, who are most looking forward to “all the friends and hangs,” they know the power of Warped first hand. “I grew up going to Warped, so it was a pretty big part of my life. [It’s] always inspired me to want to play it and here we are now.” And for Brits abroad Moose Blood, Warped Tour was something only experienced through Blink-182 lyrics and shaky crowd footage. “I think it means more to me now that it ever did when I was growing up. Every year I look up YouTube videos of the tour, so it’s really surreal and a massive privilege to be here.”
This isn’t the first time Candy Hearts have been on Warped, as they joined the run for a brief three-date stint last year. “Those shows were absolutely amazing! A dream come true and so much fun. I remember hearing about the Shira Girl Stage as a teenager so getting to play it was awesome.” The band are excited for the east coast shows, “It’ll be cool to play where we are from,” and hope, “People watch our band, like our show and decide to come to more of our shows in the future.”
Despite fond memories and the ecstasy of the whole affair, Mariel is still nervous. “I think Warped Tour is a bit like college or high school and my nerves have nothing to do with our live show because that’s all rehearsed. I’m nervous about not making friends and having to always sit alone at catering! I still have flashbacks to when I had no one to sit with in high school,” she admits.
But as Mariel explains, “Warped was the festival for all these kids who felt like they didn’t fit in – and for one day a year in the summer all of us DID fit in. It was also just generally a lot of fun.”