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Vans Warped Tour: Disappointment Is the Best Word to Describe It

I have a vague recollection of always wanting to go to Warped Tour when I was in middle school. It was just a few years after it had begun, and it was the first time in my life that punk rock could have made sense to me, as I was entering my angsty teenage years.

Having said that, teenage me never got to go to Warped Tour, so this year was my first. The problem is, I think it came about ten years too late.

Maybe it was just the heat, but I couldn't help but feel like too many things had changed since the Warped Tour's inception in 1994. Whether it was the increased commercialism and mass branding of the event, the way the style of music had shifted to something that I could largely not identify with, or the fact that I felt at least a decade older than the bulk of the crowd, more times I felt like an outside observer than an actual participant.

The worst let down though, was that almost nothing truly notable happened throughout the day. I hung out in an asphalt parking lot for seven hours, patiently ready to document anything and everything exciting that happened. Unfortunately, I came out of the event with fewer notes and observations than I had from nearly all two or three hour indoor concerts that I've been to recently.

The highlight of the day, by far, was Andrew W.K.'s performance. Sadly, this happened before 2:00 PM, and nothing anybody did later was able to top it. While the temperature didn't seem to phase the performers too much (though it must be noted that they were in shade the entire time) Andrew W.K. recognized the excess heat, and still asked people to form a circle pit. They still did it. And then, amidst 111 degrees, with an outstretched fist he gave the best quote of the day. "You're giving your energy, to the party!"

Having done so, the following are random notes from the other 6.5 hours of 2010's Phoenix leg of the Warped Tour.

  • Other people have reported, and I can confirm, that several body parts were burned just from being adjacent to the asphalt. This includes the soles of feet, (through socks and sneakers,) and asses, (through underwear and jeans.)
  • There were a plethora of women in bikini tops, but a disproportionate number of women in bands. Major props to those who were out there.
  • Warped Tour is no longer a punk festival. While I really enjoy the kind of music that should be represented there, theoretically, I would probably only classify like half of the bands as punk. There were another large handful that I would classify as screamo crap.
  • Could my negativity have been partially fueled by the sun? Maybe.
  • The placement of the stages was ridiculous. Even though the event was at Cricket Pavilion, the "main stage" was not the main stage. (You know, the one with the shade and the fans?) The "main stage" was the one in the middle of the parking lot. The absolute last one to get shade. The one with the extraordinarily hot asphalt. Really bad decision.
  • I love that there was a social activism component to the festival, what with non-profits set up throughout. Sadly though, I personally didn't hear one band mention any of them, (even though many of them support several,) so this component was overlooked and seemed somewhat forgotten. (The one exception was the All American Rejects telling you to text a $10 pledge to a clean water fund, which they did in a really condescending way to the people they were trying to benefit.)
  • Many of the booths used shade as the #1 reason to visit them. And I think it worked.
  • The festival charged $2 for a piece of paper with a xeroxed copy of the schedule. For reals?
  • There was so much corporate branding, that even the First Aid tent read, "Vans Warped Aid."
  • I heard Sublime playing at the "discourage kids from smoking" booth. *Shudder at the thought of Sublime playing at Warped Tour.*
  • On a positive note, the vast majority of the bands were extremely accessible, and encouraged people to come talk with them both before and after they were done playing. The most notable bands did not participate in this, with the exception of Andrew W.K.
  • The small stages were too close together, making it really tough to hear, well, anything.
  • Three sided tents are actually hotter than being in an unshaded spot.
  • I saw no drinking fountain or free water available. Bottled water cost $4.50. (Isn't it illegal not to give someone water when they ask for it in Arizona?)
  • Cool band to check out that you probably haven't heard of: Speakeasy Tiger from Denver. I don't care for dance music very much, but they were pretty good.
  • A few notable T-shirt slogans seen at Warped Tour: "You're not D.I.Y. Unless You're Amish," "Sex, Hugs, and Rock & Roll," and "Bong Hits 4 Jesus." (Not really sure what the last one means...)
  • There was a giant fire hose spraying people down all day. Great use of water. Next time give it to us in cups to drink. (Anyone know if the hose is part of the tour or just a Phoenix thing?)
  • Go while you're still young!
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