Twenty-one years is a long time for anything to be around, I didn’t even expect myself to last that long. I am still here and kicking though, and so is the summer music staple, Van’s Warped Tour.
I attended the Minneapolis date of the tour this year; I finally had the chance to see the Dirty Nil, whom I have previously written about, went and made sexy eyes at Christofer Drew of Never Shout Never, smoke cigarettes while walking past the strangely cult-feeling ‘truth’ anti-smoking tent, and give my sunburn a break in a thankfully air conditioned tour bus while chatting with the band Born Cages about what it’s like being on Warped Tour.
Although they are newbies to the Warped lineup, Born Cages landed the tour perfectly, coinciding with the release of their first full length album, I’m Glad I’m Not Me. The band doesn’t fit the stereotypical punk/hardcore image of the tour, but singer Vlad Holiday pointed out, “[Warped] is moving to a place where it is more diverse musically.” The band has an appreciative laugh every time a kid in a hardcore t-shirt comes up to them to get a CD signed.
Historically, it’s been a lot of punk and hardcore music, but the doors have been opened to the likes of EDM, Rap, and Indie music like Born Cages. Warped Tour is turning into a place of musical discovery. Right now, it still feels like an experiment in progress, but you can tell that it is working and taking shape. Matt Maroulakos, bassist for Born Cages is optimistic, “Any kid in America who wants to see [Warped] can see it…The fact that the whole thing breaks down and opens up in a day and works, that’s pretty crazy, it’s such a huge undertaking.”
“Kids get a lot more attached to the songs and lyrics, and are a lot more vocal about it on social media,” said Vlad. And that is the true essence of what Warped Tour is becoming; it’s an all-encompassing festival that opens a band up to ears that may have never otherwise heard them. “We don’t normally play in front of a younger audience, but they’ve been really receptive and great.” Kids aren’t the only ones getting the opportunity to discover Born Cages though, Vlad mentioned that “[In Jacksonville] we got to meet Wee Man, and gave him a CD, and he was really confused by the title of our album, he was like ‘I’m glad I’m not me? But then who are you glad you are?’…he didn’t get it, but he will later when he listens to it.”
As one could imagine, sticking a dozen people in a bus for two months in the summer isn’t all glamourous. Many horror stories have come from people using the toilets on a tour bus. Drummer Dave Tantao reflected, “[The other day], I just needed to poop somewhere that wasn’t a port-a-potty, so we walked pretty far to find a real bathroom, but when we got there it was so worth it, my day was a lot better because of that.” Having a bus definitely helps with the day-to-day grind, but even so, Vlad wonders ‘When this is all over, we’re never going to forget this. It’s going to be like ‘holy shit, how did we do that?’’. This is the path of a musician though, Dave said, “It’s either this, or opening up a pizzeria,” and Vlad agreed, “Yeah, I think we’re gonna do this.”
I left the guys so they could get ready for their set, although I’m not sure how much work was to be done; I heard Matt ask as I left, “Should we get lunch or should we go play our set?” All in good fun though, you could feel that these three were in it for the long haul, and ready to do whatever it takes to make music their lives. And that is the beautifully fucked up thing about playing music; you can just see this drive in the bands doing this, it is exhausting, not always pretty or smooth, and you never truly know what is going to happen — passion for the art is enough to drive so many to keep pushing though.
Warped is the epitome of this; cramming a band and crew, with all the gear and merch they need for months on the road into a van or bus, all to play once a day and hope that some new ears will connect with their music. Do it yourself and you’ll understand, otherwise show your support for the artists out there doing the grind. David Ackert from LA Times sums it all up much more eloquently than I ever could with one of my favourite quotes:
Singers and Musicians are some of the most driven, courageous people on the face of the earth. They deal with more day-to-day rejection in one year than most people do in a lifetime. Every day, they face the financial challenge of living a freelance lifestyle, the disrespect of people who think they should get real jobs, and their own fear that they’ll never work again. Every day, they have to ignore the possibility that the vision they have dedicated their lives to is a pipe dream. With every note, they stretch themselves, emotionally and physically, risking criticism and judgment. With every passing year, many of them watch as the other people their age achieve the predictable milestones of normal life – the car, the family, the house, the nest egg. Why? Because musicians and singers are willing to give their entire lives to a moment – to that melody, that lyric, that chord, or that interpretation that will stir the audience’s soul. Singers and Musicians are beings who have tasted life’s nectar in that crystal moment when they poured out their creative spirit and touched another’s heart. In that instant, they were as close to magic, and perfection as anyone could ever be. And in their own hearts, they know that to dedicate oneself to that moment is worth a thousand lifetimes.
Photos by Aj Sugar (Click for more photos of Warped Tour 2015)