ROAD WARRIORS: Meet The Muscle Behind the Vans Warped Tour

Posted December 6, 2012 in

Tune in to Warped Roadies every Friday at 11pm ET on Fuse. Photo: Fuse

For millions of kids across the country, the glorious heat of the summer months only means one thing: Vans Warped Tour is on its way. Since 1995, founder Kevin Lyman and his hard-working crews have been delivering a show beyond comparison, building and deconstructing in a matter of hours a literal city dedicated to bringing music to the masses. Taking at times 100 bands on the road with them––and all the head-butting that can create––it’s easy to see how attention has been diverted from the reality of what it takes to seamlessly deliver such a massive show night after night. But FuseTV is working to change that with the premiere of their new, unscripted series, Warped Roadies, which follows pit reporters, stage managers, and the primary set-up crew responsible for keeping Warped Tour running without a hitch. The hard-working gents of the set-up crew are all native to Salt Lake, and we invited them into the SLUG office to find out about their show, how they survive the winter months in the “normal” world, and how it feels to be the behind-the-scenes rock stars of the biggest tour on Earth.

SLUG: Let’s begin by telling the lovely readers out there what exactly it is you do behind the scenes of Warped Tour.
MIKE HOLSHUE: I’m part of the set-up crew, and I’m also the drop-ship manager, which takes in all shipments like band merch, festival supplies. I receive it and distribute it to the bands.
DANNY BATEMAN: I’m the set-up crew chief of the Warped Tour, also known as “The Ring Leader.” Basically, I get to hire ten of my best friends and run the largest crew on the tour.
ANDREW INCE: I’m also part of the set-up crew, and I’ve had numerous jobs in the crew, but currently I’m in charge of the fox truck which contains all the swag that the sponsors need distributed on a daily basis.
TERRY MYERS: I’m part of the set-up crew, Danny’s my boss, and he’s also been one of my best friends for like 16 years. Basically every day we’re building all the tents, the sponsorship world, running the day-to-day for the tour.

SLUG: Run down the premise of the show for me. What can we expect to see as the cameras follow you around?
INCE: Day-to-day routine and what we do behind the scenes. Everyone praises the rock stars because of what they do, but it’s a behind-the-scenes look at what makes the show actually happen.
BATEMAN: The real show happens offstage.

SLUG: Has it been difficult to get used to the cameras following you around, and providing commentary on things you have done so often you probably don’t think twice about it?
INCE: It was kind of awkward at first, but you get used to it.
HOLSHUE: At first they were almost in the way, because they want to know what you’re doing while you’re doing it. When you’re 15 minutes to doors and you still have an entire stage to set up, it gets pretty intense. But I think after a while, they figured out what it was we were doing and they fit in pretty seamlessly.
BATEMAN: I think the hardest part is, it’s so damn hot out there and almost none of us wear a shirt, so when they’re coming up trying to mic you and want you to put a shirt on, it kind of ruins your day.
MYERS: It was fun, it was a little funny getting used to at the start. We have only a certain amount of hours to get everything going so they were just following us around and if things got too stressful, it was like “Sorry, we can’t talk right now, we have to get the show going.” We had to do our job first.

SLUG: How true-to-life is the show? Do you guys feel you’re being well represented?
HOLSHUE: We haven’t seen the show yet! But I think from the beginning their whole thing was, we don’t want you to be anybody different, we want to show the world what you do, we think that’s the interesting part. They weren’t feeding us lines our asking us to do anything crazy. We tried to drum it up and they were like, “Dude, scale it back.”
BATEMAN: We have 10 guys that are best friends right on the same bus, and I feel like they captured a lot of our cheesy, bromantic moments, captured a lot of our highs and lows that are pretty real.

SLUG: How did you guys all get started on Warped Tour?
BATEMAN: All my friends had gone to Warped and I never had gone, and then my brother [Vic Back] started touring with The Used as their tattoo artist––we had grown up with them in Provo, so we kind of touched back with them that way. After my Mormon mission, my brother was like, “Hey, you need to come out on tour, clear your head, come have a good time.” So I went out on tour, hung out with The Used, and met a guy named Andy Lee who gave me a drunken interview … I worked my way up and then hired all my friends.
HOLSHUE: That seems like a natural progression … Mormon mission to Vans Warped Tour.
BATEMAN: I didn’t say I was the drunk one at the interview!
HOLSHUE: [Bateman and I] met at Coachella, actually. Once he got started, he tried to hire me for a few years, and then I think after about two years, one of the guys on his crew got hurt, broke his hand or his wrist, so he gave me a call and I was in. Another similar interview with Andy Lee and the rest is history.
MYERS: Warped was my first tour, Danny had a spot open and he gave me the gig, this last year was my third year.

SLUG: How long did it take you to get used to the fast-paced, high-stress environment? I would imagine there’s quite a bit of turnover from folks who just can’t keep up.
BATEMAN: You really don’t get much time to figure it out. You either do it and it comes natural to you, or they don’t really deal with it.
INCE: Either you’re hired and you get burned within a week or two and sent home, someone else comes out to replace you. Once you’re in, though … We’ve had the same crew for a while now, at least as long as I’ve been on, with minimal changes.
HOLSHUE: It’s like you get sucked up by a tornado, and just try not to get thrown out. Day after day you either figure out how to make it work, or you get left behind.
TERRY: You definitely have a little bit of turnover. You really just gotta do it. Just because we know how long it’s going to be, knowing it’s going to be 8 weeks, and if you make it, you’ve accomplished something, so you look forward to that. But there’s no getting used to it. One day we’re all sitting at home and the next day you’re on tour.

SLUG: I’m sure the long months of non-touring are hard on you after all that exciting chaos. Would you call yourselves adrenaline junkies, in a manner of speaking? Does working on large festivals like Coachella help during the off months?
MYERS: Absolutely. We’re always looking to make the most out of every situation.
BATEMAN: It kind of ruins real life for you for sure.
HOLSHUE: The festivals help, it’s that same feeling. I mean that’s 80,000 people, it can be pretty intense at times. But the times off, they just don’t compare. Being home is tough.

SLUG: How do you keep up, physically, with such a demanding schedule? Obviously getting exercise isn’t a problem, but do you keep any sort of regimens to stay healthy and happy?
HOLSHUE: The trick is to balance work and play. You’re on Warped Tour which means partying is mandatory. So figuring out how much is too much, and scaling it back, and partying just enough so that you can only remember like half the summer and still get your job done.
MYERS: We don’t have a regiment or anything. I’ve been going to Warped since I was 16 years old, so every day being there is exciting for me. It’s easy to stay happy out there.

SLUG: So you’re all native to Utah; after seeing all these amazing cities on tour, what keeps you coming back?
INCE: I moved to LA for 5 years, and just barely moved back a year ago, but what really brought me back was family. You’re on the road gone long enough, when you do get to spend time here with them you take it for granted. My priorities changed.
BATEMAN: $500 a month for a two-bedroom place.
HOLSHUE: My wife lives here, so I really couldn’t go anywhere else even if I wanted to.
BATEMAN: One day, everyone on Warped Tour will be from Salt Lake. That’s my goal.

SLUG: On the pilot episode, we see a little demonstration of what can happen when the perfected timing of a tour gets upset by a band running too long. From what the episode showed us, it seemed like the communications from the stage manager were deliberately ignored by the band––which meant a shortened and rushed set for pretty much everyone else that day. Do you see a lot of these problems on tour where bands make it harder to do your job? How do you deal with it?
INCE: I wouldn’t say they interfere with us too much.
BATEMAN: They are always in our way. When I used to do drop-ship, you get there at 7 a.m. and you’ve already spent an hour and a half on your own separating 3,000 packages, and they come and start shifting shit around … They just don’t know, they mess up things.
INCE: We appreciate them, of course, we’re there because of them.
HOLSHUE: For them, there’s just no rhyme or reason. They just kind of wake up whenever, depending on their set time, roll out and grab their stuff. For us, we gotta stay pretty regimented, so it’s just finding that balance. By the middle of tour, everybody’s really cool.
BATEMAN: If you’ve got a niece or friend who wants to meet a band, everyone is way cool about that. You can kind of whore them out to your friends.
MYERS: For the most part, you get a lot of respect from the bands. They see how hard we’re working every day, they’re always telling us “Thank you for working so hard and getting this tour going.”

SLUG: Do you feel like the financial difficulties of the traditional music scene are being felt on Warped Tour? Are you finding yourself with less manpower, less gear, etc…
HOLSHUE: Totally. I think it’s kind of a top-down thing. Every year it’s harder and harder for Kevin [Lyman, creator of Warped Tour] to put on the show. It’s crazy, over 100 bands are involved, more and more sponsors are involved every year, because it’s taking more to keep the show going. And he does all of this keeping the ticket price under 50 bucks, it blows my mind. Most bang for your buck entertainment-wise. And this is noon to nine, all day long.

SLUG: Do you feel like the road crew is respected by the fans at these 15,000+ shows? If you’ve gotta do an emergency repair or something, do people get the hell out of your way?
BATEMAN: You come barreling through a crowd with a road case and yeah, kids move. When I was 15, I wanted to play in the NBA and I’d do anything in the world for an NBA player. So I feel like kids look up to you and want to do what you’re doing. We do a thing called “Making Dreams Come True” and we’ll find 3 dudes that are super pumped to be there and we’ll invite them backstage and let them run wild on their best behavior. So they do respect you, I’ve noticed.

SLUG: What’s the one thing you would tell/warn all show-goers?
HOLSHUE: Drink more water, and bring sunscreen!
BATEMAN: If you go to the Warped Tour website, Kevin has scripted out things kids should bring to the show, and he’s battled with venues over getting the prices of concessions dropped. Kids come to these shows and most of their families don’t have money, times are tough right now. He’s got it down to where you can get a meal and a large water for 7 or 8 bucks. We also have a program called Clean Canteen where kids can buy a bottle of water and fill it up as many times as they want for free.
INCE: Or you pick up ten water bottles from the ground, and they’ll give you a bottle of water free.
HOLSHUE: It’s one of those things worth noting, the type of concern and care the production staff has for kids at the show. I haven’t worked on another show where they care that much.
BATEMAN: Kevin doesn’t care about making money. You don’t see him driving a Bentley, he drives a 4-Runner. He is a humble-ass guy.
HOLSHUE: His passion is for the music.

SLUG: That first episode actually introduces us to Kevin Lyman and I remember it mentioning that he is out on every tour date with Warped Tour, so what is he doing out there for his show?
BATEMAN: What doesn’t he do?
HOLSHUE: Usually he’s out at the front gate every morning, helping kids line up, making sure they get in on time. He’s the hardest working dude out there. He’s the guy that should be doing the least, but he doesn’t work that way.
BATEMAN: He’s done every single job on this tour, so everybody respects him because he’s done security, he’s done set-up crew, he’s done the gate, he’s done every aspect of the tour. So when he gives you advice on something you could be doing better, you better do it. There’s nothing worse than working for a boss that you know doesn’t know what the hell he’s talking about, and Kevin knows.

SLUG: How long do you hope to keep doing this job?
INCE: I kind of think this last one might have been my last tour. Being older and out on the road, it’s harder, I’ve got different priorities now. I’ve got a puppy, a German Shepherd, and she’d have to stay home. That being said, the chance of a second season, I’d definitely want to be there. It all just depends. It’s hard, it kind of ruins real life. It’s very hard to transition.
MYERS: I plan on doing Warped Tour as long as the tour’s around.
BATEMAN: I personally am never going to turn my back on an opportunity or a dream that I have, because I did that with basketball. I had a big opportunity in France and I turned it down. And so this is what I want to do, not to say I want to tour for the next 30 years, because I told myself 10 years, but if the opportunity presents itself to move up and do something bigger, maybe production manager or produce, that’s ultimately my goal, is to produce shows. I want to stay in the music industry however I can within reason.
HOLSHUE: It’s one of those experiences where, after you’ve done it once, you get the bug. Everything else you do after that kind of doesn’t compare, so it’s hard to say you’re ever going to turn it down. During the winter months it’s easy to go, “Fuck, I gotta find something else to do.” But as soon as summer comes around again, you know you’re gonna go on tour.

Watch the whole Warped Roadies crew in action when their show premieres this Friday, Dec. 7 at 11/10c on FUSETV. Get a chance to win VIP passes to next year’s Warped Tour here. Even better, get yourself to the premiere party this Friday at Maxwell’s East Coast Eatery on 357 S. Main Street where Danny, Mike and Andrew will be tearing it up in person! You can find more information about the show at their official website. And be sure to follow the crew on their adventures via Twitter! @WarpedRoadies @mrdannybateman @mrterrymyers @MikeisWarped @andrew_ince

Tune in to Warped Roadies every Friday at 11pm ET on Fuse. Photo: Fuse The roadies rally for another day on tour.  Tune in to Warped Roadies every Friday at 11pm ET on Fuse. From L-R: Danny Bateman, Terry Myers, Steve Schaeffer, Mike Holshue and Andrew Ince. Photo: Fuse (L-R) Andrew, Danny and Mike being interviewed by SLUG Mag inside our Soundwaves From The Underground studio. Photo: Avery Carlton Danny and Mike outside the SLUG Mag HQs with our November issue. Photo: Avery Carlton