We’ve got a little handbook for newbies attending Warped Tour today at Klipsch Music Center compiled by spirit guides Kyle Vaught (Handguns), Nick Hamm (Citizen), Andrew Johnson (Have Mercy), and — perhaps most excitedly — Hoosier acoustic pop-punker Grey Gordon of Fort Wayne. Have fun! Wear sunscreen!
Take care of yourself
“Stay hydrated,” Hamm says. “I seriously see people getting carried out on stretchers every day. That’s no good!”
Above all else, the number one risk at Warped Tour is passing out. While running from stage to stage, frantically searching for the next band, it’s easy to get caught up in the disarray and forget to take care of your body. Nick, Kyle, Andrew and Grey all implore you to stay hydrated. Luckily, you are allowed to bring in one sealed bottle of water, and there will be free fill-up stations.
“Find out where those water stations are,” Vaught says. “The amount of people that are passing out this summer is insane. There’s kids everywhere passed out left and right.”
Staying hydrated is step one, but don’t forget to eat. There will be multiple vendors selling those precious calories and nutrients throughout the day. Unfortunately, the food tends to be a bit pricey, so be sure to bring some extra cash. Keep in mind Warped Tour’s limited vegan options. The official Warped Tour rules allow you to bring in one small homemade snack, but that isn’t always enough to stay filled all day.
“I’ve had several kids who are vegan come up to me and go, ‘Hey, what vendor should I go to?’” Gordon says. “Unfortunately, I just straight up do not have an answer for that. I don’t think it’s super vegan friendly out here. If you can smuggle in vegan snacks, that’s probably your best bet.”
If you’re prone to sunburn, bring some sunscreen and find some shade. It’s a rare commodity under the hot sun at Klipsch. If you feel too hot, find some shade and take a break.
Find out where stuff is
No feeling is worse than realizing your favorite band is starting in five minutes and you have no idea where the Monster Stage is. Actually, it’s even worse when you have absolutely no clue where any stage is or when your favorite bands are scheduled.
To fix that, enter The Wall. On that giant blow-up board, the daily lineup schedule is displayed. Pull out your phone, take a picture, memorize it. If you’re afraid your phone will die – it’ll probably die – printout schedules are sold for two bucks. It’s probably the cheapest thing at the festival.
Take the time to explore all of the tents. Nearly every band will have a merch tent, record labels will have their distros and there will be representatives from loads of groups. Pick your fancy!
“For all of the negative press that Warped Tour gets, the cool thing about it is every facet of life is represented here,” Gordon says. “This is very much a microcosm. For all of the terrible shit here, there’s animal advocacy groups, there’s cancer advocacy groups, there’s advocacy groups for women’s rights and abused women. There’s a lot of positive stuff going here — you just have to open your eyes and look for it.”
Make sure you feel safe
This year’s tour faced criticism due to their handling of Jake McElfresh acoustic act Front Porch Step’s inclusion. After reports that McElfresh was allegedly sexually harassing underage girls via sexts, social media and attendees were up in arms about his tour presence. Warped founder Kevin Lyman chose to remove McElfresh from the tour, but allowed him to play the Nashville date on July 1. The decision was met with backlash from fans, the press and even other artists on the tour.
“Kevin thought that it would be okay, he thought that would maybe help [McElfresh] do better,” Vaught says. “Personally, I don’t think that was the right way to go about it. If you’re getting in trouble for 14- and 15-year-old girls, I don’t think you should be playing a set in front of 14-year-old girls right now.”
“You’re creating an unsafe space quite literally,” Gordon says. “You’re putting a person who has a tenuous mental health situation, at best, in a place not only with his victims but with his detractors. The opportunity for violence to occur was escalated to the nth degree.”
A common critique is how vulgar a lot of the content is coming from the bands. Critics of the tour deem it an inappropriate environment for high school kids (and younger).
Let your own judgment guide you. Your parents probably didn’t come with you — even though parents get into Warped Tour for free now — but it never hurts to pretend that they did.
Embrace your freedom, but be smart about it. If a band is spewing hateful speech, don’t give them your ears. Don’t feel like you have to buy shirts covered in swear words because everybody else is. Don’t put yourself in a situation that makes you feel unsafe.
Don’t see Attila
There’s a reason I gave metalcore scenesters Attila their own special section. Both Gordon and Johnson name-dropped Attila as the epitome of a bad influence. The band is criticized for their overtly offensive songs and behavior, considering their fanbase is so young. Singer Chris Fronzak has frequently used hateful, bigoted speech at multiple Warped Tours over the years.
“[Fronzak] already has the loudest voice in the world as an American, straight, white male,” Gordon says. “And the thing he’s choosing to do with that platform is endorse the use of words like ‘faggot’ or ‘bitch.’ That’s just whack to me, there’s no joke there.”
“There’s 13, 14-year-old girls walking around with [Attila] shirts that say ‘Suck My Fuck,’” Johnson says. “I feel like that’s really inappropriate. I understand you’re trying to be vulgar or it might be a gimmick, but be a little respectful. What would that kid’s parents think about your band if they saw that shirt? I’m 28, if I had a shirt that said ‘Suck My Fuck’ and I wore it around my mom, she’d kick my ass and tell me to take it off.”
Live your life the way you want to, but if you respect yourself, and if you want to avoid seeing a 25-year-old dude calling young girls “bitches,” I highly suggest skipping Attila’s set.
Give the small bands a chance
One of the best things you can do at Warped Tour is to stay open minded; you may surprise yourself. Every year, the Ernie Ball stage features some of the best local bands in each city. These bands promote endlessly and have worked their butts off to get onto this stage. The local bands performing today are The Wise Man’s Fear, The Brothers Grimm, Sirens, Chin Up, Kid and We Are Forever.
In the likely event that you don’t know every single band playing Warped Tour, you will probably have some free time to explore. Each stage offers phenomenal musicians pouring their hearts out in the blistering heat, hoping they can please the fans and make some new ones. If you like what you hear, try to support the small bands before you support the band that can already afford a tour bus.
“There’s bands on this tour that work hard every single day just to get maybe 10 people to watch them,” Hamm says. “I don’t think people realize that. They will leave the tour and still struggle the same way they did before.”
Above all else, have fun. If you didn’t have fun at Warped Tour, you didn’t do it right. This is just a guideline, so remember that you don’t have to follow any of this advice. Go crazy, crowdsurf, mosh, sing until you puke. Do you.
“Honestly, enjoy it,” Vaught says. “Come out here, have fun, do what you’re supposed to do.”