My first Vans Warped Tour experience happened eight years ago and it ended with a trip to the hospital. My parents were very hesitant to let me go but I assured them it would be alright and I wouldn’t do anything stupid. Their most emphatic words of warning as I left the house, en route to La Salle Park in cut off jeans and a Drive Thru Records shirt, were DO NOT GO INTO THE MOSH PIT! Well I did. And it lasted about 45 seconds. It was around 2pm and NoFx was taking the stage. This was the highlight of my day and I had to make it memorable. I looked at my friend, he looked back and we both knew it was time to man up. He took off one of his shoes, threw it at the stage and we both jumped into the pit. Unfortunately I jumped right into a large mohawked man and fell straight to the ground where someone stomped on my leg. That was the end of my day, but at least I went out with a bang.
I went every year for the next five years after that. In 2006 I watched from afar as Every Time I Die gripped the crowd in their hands and thrashed them around, ordering them to create one of the biggest circle pits I’ve ever seen. I watched New Found Glory play an hour long set (unheard of at Warped Tour) and I watched Paramore play in front of 20 people on a stage the size of my desk here at Artvoice.
But my most memorable Warped Tour happened in 2005 when I went solely to see one band; Thrice. This was a different type of experience. I was a veteran now. I was a little older and no longer interested in getting high off of the pain and adrenaline of the mosh pit. I knew how things worked and I knew I had to conserve my energy since Thrice didn’t go on until around 6pm and it was approximately 162 degrees outside. The day went by slow. My friends and I walked the grounds of Darien Lake, checked out the sea of tents and carefully watched the schedule of bands to make sure we didn’t miss anything worth seeing. We saw it all and when it came time for Thrice to take the stage we were more than ready. We headed over to the main stage an hour early to get a good spot and we ended up right next to the sound booth. We waited for the band to take the stage but the sky was growing darker and more threatening by the moment. A drop of water fell onto my hand, and then another, but Thrice was finally strapping on their guitars. Just as their first guitar chords blasted the audience rain started to fall from the sky in sheets. It didn’t matter though, this was what it was all about. The band was on stage, three songs into their set, soaking wet, trying to avoid electrocution and screaming “The earth will shake!” over and over as the winds whipped harder and harder. As the song came to a roaring climax a blast of thunder and a bolt of lightening illuminated the park while the wind tore apart the vinyl fabric stage. The stage crew rushed the band off stage and the show was over and we were soaked. Stunned, we walked the half mile back to the car in the rain and mud, got in and drove home covered in dirt, passing by thousands of similar looking people trudging to their cars.
These are the memories I’ve taken from Warped Tour. They may not all be pleasant but they’re mine and I wouldn’t trade them for a seat in Shea’s or an air conditioned night at the Tralf.
This year Warped Tour returns to Darien Lake and with Alkaline Trio, The Casualties, Motion City Soundtrack, Every Time I Die, The Bouncing Souls, Face to Face, Four Year Strong, Reel Big Fish, The Dillinger Escape Plan and Andrew W.K., it seems like a good time to make some more memories.
Over 200 bands playing, see www.vanswarpedtour.com for a full schedule of all 14 stages.
Please share your Warped memories!