Warped and Jaded

Published: Friday, August 1, 2003 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, July 31, 2003 at 3:30 p.m.

If there is one thing the Warped Tour has over nearly every other tour, no matter how similar, it is the unprecedented access to the performers, or rock stars as attendees more likely recognize them.

Seriously, there is no other opportunity to walk ten feet into a maelstrom of tents and noise and come upon Rancid's Tim Armstrong smoking cigarettes and talking to fans. And there is definitely no other place to accidentally run into AFI's Davey Havok on your way to puke in a garbage can, or against a fence as one young fan did Sunday at the Jacksonville Fairgrounds.

Witnessing this girl hold back her own dirty blond locks as she shared a big spit with the surrounding punk hordes, I was left to wonder if her mother (or father) had accompanied her to the show as so many others had. There is, to be sure, no mistaking the relationship between the bikini-clad 12-year-olds sucking pizza over their braces and the wide-eyed shock of dumpy adults who clearly have no idea what to make of Mohawks and tattoos tempting their babies to the dark side. Contrary to the onstage antics of the Suicide Machines (who put on one of the days best sets), this dark side isn't all that threatening. C'mon, are free samples of Easy Mac really going to lead me down a path to heroin and unprotected sex behind the Truth van? One can only hope.

Granted, as this reporter gets older, and the kids at the Warped Tour somehow stay the same age, there can be no doubt that the youngsters benefit from a visit to "punk summer camp" (as the bands like to characterize it). The maze of tents pushing knowledge of music, politics and double-fudge YooHoo offer the kids an opportunity to discover a world mainstream America would rather they don't find.

Principle among these is the tent for AK Press, publisher of "radical literature" spreading information that people in power would rather we don't read. The tent is filled with piles of books by under-celebrated scholars, such as Noam Chomsky and Gore Vidal, in an effort to reveal what the mainstream media won't. In this age of cowboy politics, punk rock has finally begun a true effort to infiltrate the powers that be. With Fat Mike pushing his punkvoter.com harder than ever, Warped fans are hopefully learning something this year. (And hopefully they'll help get the country back on track next November.)

Less than 20 feet from this mélange of knowledge was a line of fans waiting for a meet-and-greet with one of the Warped bands - it could have been The Used, but nobody in line seemed to know exactly what they were waiting for. Hmm, waiting in line and you don't know why, sounds like fun.

Each of those kids did have a logo-covered bag in their hands full of free stickers, CDs and catalogues, all of which they got in exchange for a name and email address for future marketing opportunities. Collecting all the stuff is part of the fun of the tour considering that nobody likes all the bands, though the bands are still the main draw.

From The Ataris stirring cover of the Bryan Adams classic "Boys of Summer" to Andrew W.K. asking for nothing more than smiles and pumping fists, the music of Warped united fans on the hunt for those limiting their experience to head-nodding on the sidelines of the mosh pit - a group which included this reporter. I'm sorry, I don't feel the need to be pummeled by pushing-30 tattooed delinquents whose only pleasure in life is pounding wusses such as myself. Take your beat-red skin and drink another beer, my pleasure comes when your liver disappears and your Chevette explodes.

Most interesting about the Florida stops of the Warped Tour is the opportunity to buy hard liquor in addition to beer. This, as tour founder Kevin Lymon mentioned in a quick talk on his impressively comfortable tour bus, is something that only happens in the Sunshine State. Personally, rum runners go well with hardcore, mostly because it's easier to understand the garbled lyrics of onstage screamers with a tropical haze over your brain. It's a shame organizers weren't selling the weed that many underage fans passed around the outskirts of the circle of merchandise tents, they probably could have made a lot more money.

Lymon also mentioned that tour organizers figured, at least in part, where the problem of fake tickets originated. That's right, Florida.

Some piece of brilliance got his paws on some Ticketmaster ticket stock (that's the paper they print on genius) and stamped some blurry versions of authentic tickets with a low-quality home printer. With the lure of saving ten bucks or more over the official ticket price, young fans were duped into getting screwed. Here, though, is proof that the Warped Tour beats everything else.

Properly pissed off fans helped tour organizers catch at least a few of the peddlers of fakeness, and many of those who bought the tickets got into the festival anyway because it wasn't their fault that American ingenuity was applied to screwing the little guy. (Wait a second, isn't that the way it's supposed to work.)

At the end of a sweltering, typically hot day, the sensory overload was worth the effort of a drive and the relatively cheap price of tickets, even for those of us who didn't pay.

Learn a little, get some free stuff and hopefully get a bloody nose in front a stage - all the things that a young person's life should be filled with. This is why the Warped Tour continues to outdoor every other festival like it and will continue to do so for a long time to come.

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