Warped Tour ’08: Binging and Purging at the Fairgrounds One Last Time

Posted August 14, 2008 in
The Van’s Warped Tour used to rank up there with epic summer events like the X96 Big Ass Show and mercury busting digits in my little brain. And surprisingly it still ranks that high with hordes of sunburnt teenagers.

The Van’s Warped Tour is like an Asian buffet with all sorts of food. So many kinds and different regions are represented that it can be nauseating, confusing and may give you a toxic dose of MSG. Your intrepid SLUG representative braved the great horde of the unwashed to figure out what the fuck was being served. I got full and had to leave the buffet a little early with a case of the Delhi belly. But not ‘til I had time to check in with a few bands and the man behind the magic, tour founder and producer, Kevin Lyman himself.

I wasn’t there to check out the merch, even though there was a shit-ton. I wasn’t there to be arrested for statutory, even though there were many opportunities. And I definitely wasn’t there to get the big C: SPF 45 motherfuckers! The goal was to gorge on every variety and style of music I could before the flux hit. I consumed a lot of varieties of grubbin: some British Clash impersonators (Beat Union), caught a little Colorado rap/electro in the form of 3OH!3, delved into the NY Hip-Hop/nerdcore of MC Chris and saw some Japanese ska girls (Oreskaband) do their best imitation of fellow tour members Reel Big Fish.

The kids these days are known for being out of shape, a little slow and not very bright. It may be because they consume musical shit––the majority of what was on display at the Utah State Fairgrounds. I went to the Warped Tour a lot until about 2001. And I can say that the industry and the style of music has changed a fair amount since then. It’s not just the fact that I grew up a little (very little). It’s the fact that overall the music has been so polished and packaged for ease of consumption that boundaries are getting grey. We probably couldn’t realistically see what the industry would become back in the 90s––before Clear Channel monopolies and the Bush-administration-run FCC. We thought it was bad in the 90s when we saw a deepening rift between the style of music that evolved from the 80s punk originators into the unfortunate pop-punk then emo/folk. Now the deepening of the genuine vs. the commercial is even wider.

Ten years ago you had to chew your McDonald’s, but now that shit slides down easy with a wash of Coke, same with what you hear on the radio (yes, I’m a hypocrite). I saw Vans on sale the other day at a Smith’s in the bargain bin. The brand used to only be available in skate shops. I promised myself I wouldn’t spend this whole piece ripping on the tour, and I won’t.

Ultimately, the distinction has to be made between what the kids want and what they are served. If tons of fun in her ill-advised tube top over there wants a fucking double cheezburger of Panic! at the Disco beef with a side of some sodium infested freedom (or disInformation act) fries let her fuckin eat it. And the peeps are doing it. Hell, I’d play the Warped Tour and eat out at MckyDees all the time if I could. It would be a hellofa ride. It’s not all wine and roses though. The bands were in a line an hour plus to get the same food all the other bands were eating and they were doing it in the plush digs of the old rodeo ground concession area with a thermostat at over 100. No couches. No AC. No free BJ area (I asked).

So was there music JP? Will you shut the fuck up already and get to it.

Early on I headed over to an area where a herd of rowdy fuckers were stroking out to some electro-pop/rap from some sketchy looking guys from Colorado. 3OH!3 were putting on a good enough show and reppin’ the Rockies hard enough that I decided to talk to the fuckers. I’ve heard them before and wasn’t too jazzed, but their live show changed my mind. Their style is a little Beastie Boys and a little M.I.A. These guys still confuse me. Are they faking it or just having a good fucking time? Pushups interspersed with what can only be described as white-boy dancing were some of the stage tricks these guys used to light up one of the smaller stages on the tour and they were feeling it. “ The crowd in Salt Lake was intense. It was a really good show. One of our best shows,” the cardio crazed MC Sean said. Unfortunately, he’s retired the perfect form pushup due to a possibly career ending injury: “I threw my shoulder out in New Orleans riding a mechanical bull so I can’t do pushups right now. I’m going to have to stick to jumping jacks for my cardio. But we’re fighting the obesity epidemic one show at a time.” Thanks 3OH!3 for leading by example through your community service. I downloaded (legally) a grip of their songs and thankfully have had a good laugh ever since.


The response to 3OH!3 has been similar elsewhere according to MC Nathaniel. “It’s crazy. It’s our first national tour. Watching these kids in different cities go ape shit to our stuff is so surreal and really really fun.” The group does have some good beats and most importantly for what they’re going for, an interesting sense of humor. Nate busted out one of his raps with a serious, “Get your hand off my cock,” and then two seconds later, “Seriously. Get your hand off my cock.” Poor front row groupies. She will never wash her hand again, but at least the crowd enjoyed it. But according to Nate, 3OH!3 does look good enough to eat. So you can’t blame the overzealous groupies. “We look good. We usually have a little glistening sweat making our skin look great in the sun. Seans has been doing perfect pushups. We make sure we look really professional and really good,” Nate says. I’d have to leave that up to your discretion.

My partner in crime for the day, Ed of Tamerlane, (who was not amused the majority of the time and who I still “owe”) and I caught some Every Time I Die as our “hardcore” category filler. Ed thought it was sub par. Being a hardcore aficionado, I think this was an almost passing grade. Fortunately Ed didn’t punch anybody, that I know of. I had some time to chat with the lead vocalist of the band before they went on and he was a surprisingly intelligent and genuine guy. It’s hard to hate a band just because they are the food equivalent of a ham fried rice with still frozen mixed veggies when their lead vocalist, Keith Buckley, is a pretty OK guy. He started changing my mind about whose fault the plethora of shit at the Warped Tour was. And made me realize that all the bands, barring the huge headliners, were really just short order cooks at the whim of their audience; deep frying egg rolls to go.

The guy admitted to having a rep for being a prickly interview, but Buckley claims, “ I’ve never walked away from an interview. I have a pretty good sense of humor. But when someone asks: ‘So how’d you guys get started?’ eyes roll. That person hasn’t cared to look up something. You could look that up via Internet. It just seems a lot people say they’re interviewers because they want free passes to the Warped Tour,” this shocked me or course, how could the careless freeloaders do this at the tour? ‘Not me’ I thought, ‘Not SLUG. Not this time.’ It’s a sick cycle, according to Buckley: “It’s a hassle then because everyone has to go through the burn of making the interview happen making sure everyone’s at the right place at the right time then they’re like ‘This is my first interview, it’s for my school paper.’ Really? So you got in free to the Warped Tour. It happens a lot. We are record holders of doing people’s first interviews ever. It’s a running joke.” I had heard the band had a reputation of being dicks to these people, but Buckley opened up a little and got thoughtful. “I feel bad sometimes… if they’re really nervous. Sometimes I want to pour my heart out and start crying and make it the most in depth interview I’ve ever done and have it be in some really obscure middle school paper.” I learned you can’t judge a faux hardcore singer on the Warped Tour by his cover (black v-neck, long hair, tight jeans and knuck tats).

Every Time I Die

If you like your Brit-rock light and refreshing then another group I caught, Beat Union, should satisfy. I think these guys are OK, in the sense that their hooks are damn catchy and their obvious roots from The Clash make anyone (not the diehards) but most fans of Joe Strummer and Co. able to understand their sound. But it tastes like the Coke machine sweetness nozzle is broken at the buffet when you sip on this group. And broken in the too much high fructose way, not the extra bubbles. The crowd wasn’t really into these guys, despite the band’s hyped performance, and a dismal constant of forty, or so, wandered in and out in a sort of overflow from the main-stages. I can’t resist a cattle metaphor here. The crowd looked like Hindu cows with more pretend angst. Beat Union’s bass player jumped off a stack so they got points for trying.

Taste points (or frivolity points) must go to the Oreskaband: comprised entirely of young girls from Oresaka, Japan with a penchant for… you guessed it––ska. These ladies are straight outta the countryside, no English language niceties here and were in it for the music, obviously. Or whoever put them up to it wanted it to appear so. The trombone player was very cute. Points for the ska band for being cute, ska and Japanese all at once, but they’re ska so subtract five. Sorry. If you like ska and are tired of the ol’ British and American varieties try some Japanese ska on for size. Same thing, but with more of a raw fish flavor.


In passing, I talked to some dude from Say Anything! as they were looking for one of their lost band members. I asked if he was in the groupie tent and random band member (I think the singer) said there wasn’t a groupie tent. Another tour myth busted. Say Anything! didn’t have a sense of humor and their music isn’t that good. JP: One. Say Anything!: Zero. I guess if there was a groupie tent the majority of bands on the tour would be sent to the pen for any interaction with 99% of their fans in attendance. Lesson learned.

Some young thing named Charlotte Summers, much hyped by the tour’s founder, was preparing to hit megastardom from the looks of the gaggle of photogs trying to get her pic. I thought the buzz was large enough she should have been on the main-stage. But she sucked in such a poppy way (even more poppy than Beat Union) that I only lasted one song. That’s saying something, especially for the Warped Tour. I have since seen her video on VH1 (I have a valid excuse, it plays straight music videos at 4 am when I’m at work and everything else on cable is busy promoting cutlery and breast toning exercise equipment) and her suckiness was verified upon seeing her extra-raccoon eyed “look” that they gussied her up with for prime-time video repeats. She was not a standout on the tour.

MC Chris was a bright spot, in a surreal way, for the day. A somewhat odd choice for the Warped Tour, this little fella is best known as the voice of MC PeePee Pants on Cartoon Network’s Aqua Teen Hunger Force. This guy has some pretty silly rhymes over some pretty silly beats, and is best known as a founder of the nerdcore movement, which involves some geeky shit like comics and other semi-nerdy stuff like white boy hip hop. An example of an MC Chris rhyme goes something like this, “I’ll take a Carnival Cruise/ Kathy Lee lets me rub my dick on her boobs.” There’s something so undeniably poetic about that sentiment that it must be mentioned. I was supposed to talk to MC, but he blew me off because his 30 minute set combined with a 30 minute meet ‘n greet with his fans winded him enough that he needed to take a nap at 4:30, according to his roadie. Did I mention MC was a founder of nerdcore? In his defense I think it was MC’s meddlesome roadie cock-blocking my ass. Or MC could have been banging some of his hotter fans (I saw them, they do exist), in which case, I can’t blame the guy. I’d say “fuck off” to SLUG for some of the finer pleasures this valley has to offer. At an effort at full disclosure he texted me for a phone interview weeks later, but I was like soooooo beyond MC Chris at that point I was all like “Whatevers.” Plus I was lazy.

My final interview of the day was a chat with Kevin Lyman, the demon word-slinger of renown as founder of The Taste of Chaos Tour, the new Mayhem Festival and the shenaninganery of the Warped debacle. Before you completely tune out Lyman as a purveyor of dumbed down music in every genre… he does deserve some props for his greening of the tour since 2002, creatively named, The Warped Eco Initiative. And they’re getting better at it. “It’s great to see the 20 kids out there with the recycling bags and t-shirts. My solar powered stage the Kevin Says Kia stage is amazing. The quality of production is topnotch. Bands are fighting to get on that stage and not fighting to get off of it. There’s always a need to do better though. The bio-diesel is coming in everyday, but there’s always a need to do better,” Lyman says at a very fast pace. This comes from a humble middle-aged dude in shorts and a rumpled T. He didn’t look much like “The Man,” although he talked a bit like it.

But the guy claims: “If you’re driven by money you’ll never make it. I make a nice living, I won’t deny that, but it can’t be your first objective when you wake up.” And he just may be real about it. I got the sense that he was. From the viewpoint of someone that has personally pondered the idea of music promotion before Lyman seems pretty grounded and offers this: “The best advice is that you have to be willing to walk out into the parking lot, take a bag of 25,000 dollars and light it on fire. Because you’re going to have your up days and your down days.” Apparently Lyman has been losing money lately due to the economy and rising prices in every sector and he knows it. But he has so many hands in different pots he will probably be just fine. Ultimately the number of national artists on the tour may reduce in size, but that is a good thing because Lyman wants to bring more local bands to the Warped Tour next year. Good news for local bands and good news for the scene in general. Unfortunately it is motivated by a cost/benefit analysis. Such is the biz.

And the ultimate reason Lyman is in the game is for, get this: the sunshine. “Bottom line the thing that resonates with me is strange. It has to do with sunrises and sunsets. How many people get to say they get to see 46 different sunrises and sunsets a year? In a lifetime people see the same sunrise. It may be awesome, but you forget what they look like. But we’ll be rolling out of here and I’ll be looking at the sunset here and tomorrow I’ll be looking at the sunrise in Denver. It’s pretty awesome.” Strange for a multi-millionaire in bed with every corporation seeking the young teen demo to admit to it, but he continues with, “Today we were driving up here from Moab watching the sunrise and people that were riding with me were amazed. Those are the kinds of people I like to have around me. And I remember a kid running up to me saying ‘I got to see the Used’ in New Jersey and the mom was like ‘Yeah,’ and she probably did the same thing when she met Bob Dylan. It’s a sense of discovery for the kids, a sense of discovery for me.” Really Mr. Lyman? I discovered something too. And it smelled like fantastic ‘dash of the local flavor’ public relations. And he did it well.

There was some other hooliganery I saw but nothing worth writing about. But I learned quite a bit this year: People will eat what makes them feel good, and the smiling gentleman behind the buffet can’t always be blamed for filling up the kids with what the kids want to eat. He even probably has good intentions, or at least will claim he does. Also, I really can’t be expected to stick around to see Angels and Airwaves and Say Anything!. Even I have my limits on what I choose to binge on. I had to throw up in the bushes on my way out on sight of the Angels and Airwaves shit-storm. Puking never felt so damn good.