At my first Warped Tour (Charlotte, North Carolina, 2010) I saw more tattooed and pierced skin in one hour than I’d ever seen in my life. I was living for everyone’s eccentric fashion sense, all the dark and heavy clothing that seemed completely out of place in the summer heat. The dynamic group of people represented, all enjoying the same music I had obsessed over as an angst-ridden teen, made me feel right at home.
Attending the last ever cross-country Warped Tour in Wantagh, Long Island on July 28 gave me a wild and unanticipated sense of déjà vu. Though it had been seven years since my last Warped, it felt hardly any time had passed.
From as early as the day’s initial 11AM sets, the Long Island air was charged with excitement. Happiness (along with pot smoke) seemed to buzz through the crowd. MyChildren MyBride rocked me to the core at twelve in the afternoon. Even though it was my first time hearing their music, I felt I’d been a fan for years. I was similarly moved by another new discovery: Orange County’s Dayseeker, fronted by the magnanimous Rory Rodriguez.
I had a near-spiritual experience listening to Phoenix, Arizona’s female rock outfit Doll Skin, whose crowd contained the most visible concentration of queer people at one stage all day. Bronx ghetto-goth hardcore band Shallow Views had one of the smallest crowds (and some of the day’s most inconsiderate, limb-throwing mosh pitters), but their humble intensity and dynamic performative energy gave me my fullest life.
At Warped Tour, love is shared indiscriminately. Crowd surfing might be the most obvious way festival goers supported and, quite literally, uplifted one another. And if a crowd surfer happened to fall halfway toward their favorite band, they’d be helped up and raised back into the air without missing a beat. This was potentially the last chance a lot of folks had to live out their ultimate Warped Tour fantasy.
The vast majority of Warped Tour attendees are working class who don’t have the expendable income to see every band that comes into town throughout the year, but a $45 ticket to see more than 50 bands is too good to pass up. In many cases, this festival is the only opportunity to see the music they love, something they anticipate and save money for all year long.
That’s why this festival is so incredibly vital. The Coachellas and Bonaroos of the world are drawing more and more people every year, while an every person’s festival like Warped Tour (very much the antithesis of Coachella) gets virtually erased. It’s depressing to think about, but I seriously doubt America will ever offer a traveling music festival as accessible, affordable or accepting as Warped.