Nicole MacDowell Staff Writer
If you’ve never had the chance to attend a music festival, I highly recommend it. It’s not just a concert, but a life lesson. Not to mention you get to meet a lot of new people and discover new music.
This year, I got to attend VANS Warped Tour with my little sister Ami and my best friend Nick. For those of you who don’t know what Warped Tour is, it’s an alternative rock music festival that tours worldwide and features both small bands and headliners such as Black Veil Brides, All-Star Weekend, Forever the Sickest Kids and Bless the Fall. It’s set up with 6-8 stages arranged around the venue and a continuous stream of music around you.
First thing you should know is that at most venues, parking on-site is extremely limited due to the large number of deluxe tour buses, rented trailers for vendors and stage equipment and for personal vehicles of staff. We arrived almost two hours early to get on-site parking. We then waited in line for about an hour and a half. While we were waiting, a small band called Rosedale was performing in the parking lot. They were very interesting and had some cool songs.
The gates open at 11:00 AM and as soon as you get in, everybody swarms the vendors selling schedules. A schedule costs $2 and is extremely helpful because it also serves as a venue map. Bands begin playing at 11:15 and there is more than one band at a time performing, so you have to prioritize. The first band we saw was Hawthorne Heights and they really energized the crowd. As the “opener” of the day, they got everybody moving and screaming, despite the 97 degree heat and humidity. I had never really heard their songs, but they were catchy and interesting.
Depending on the venue you attend, some stages may be indoors. The amphitheatre at the Comcast Centre in Hartford was shaded and provided relief from the heat. Inside, we saw the end of Stick To Your Guns, a smaller band of guys in their twenties. The lead singer gave a really touching speech before leaving the stage about how the youth of today is the only hope for the future of tomorrow and how if you’re being pushed down you need to fight back and be your own person. Right after them on the other half of the stage was popular band Forever The Sickest Kids. They had the audience jumping and they were also messing with the upfront security. The lead singer would constantly tap security on the head and was adamant about getting people to crowd surf up to the stage to meet him. He was one of many singers who were definitely getting security upset.
It was getting late and we were hungry so we set out to find food. Out of all the vendors there, only three were selling “real” food. When I say real food, I mean meal-type food and not alcohol or sugar. Lunch for four ended up costing just under $50. Be prepared to spend money, it’s really unavoidable.
After lunch, we headed back into the crowds to hear Relient K. They had one of the biggest crowds right at the peak of the afternoon. They played songs off all their albums and closed with their biggest hit, “Be My Escape”.
When Relient K ended their set, we decided that standing in the sun for a few more hours was going to be brutal so instead we found a shady spot underneath a tree and found a clearing amongst at least 50 other people who were all thinking the same thing: stay out of the sun. From there, we were still able to see the two main stages and hear the music.
Our afternoon consisted of 3OH!3, Bless The Fall, Chiodus and Never Shout Never. 3OH!3 was ok, playing songs that I personally wasn’t a fan of. Surprisingly, they opened with “Don’t Trust Me” rather than closing with it. Bless The Fall was insane!!!! They are one of my favourite bands and we were dancing in the shade to all the songs off their newest album, “Hollow Bodies” so nobody really knew the words. Next we heard Chiodus, a band I had never heard of. Like, ever. They were decent, nothing too spectacular. After, we heard Never Shout Never, and I’m in love with them. All three of them. Their best song is a song that was written while high and actually sends a great message about loving yourself and not letting the haters of the world drag you down.
After the main stages were done hosting bands that we really wanted to see, we headed back through the crowds for dinner. Dinner was the same as lunch, just as expensive. Honestly, be prepared to spend a ton of money on food.
After dinner, the sky filled with clouds due to an impending storm. Honestly, clouds were a gift from the Gods. Everything was shaded and even though the humidity didn’t change it helped to not be in direct sunlight. We took advantage of the shade and browsed the various vendor tents for bands and outside vendors. Most band tents had signs telling you where to see the band perform and almost every single band had a signing scheduled.
For me, my night ended shortly before 7:30 PM when I nearly passed out from dehydration. I had to leave the venue and I sat in the air-conditioned car. I missed the one band I had really wanted to see, but I could still hear them from the car. Honestly, it was the best experience I could have asked for.
Warped Tour Survival Guide
HYDRATE.You’re allowed to bring in
onesealed water bottle. I’m not kidding when I say that one guy was walking around with a 3 gallon jug of water. And it has to be water. No Gatorade, no iced tea, no cans and no reusable bottles. It has to be a clear and sealed water bottle. Don’t worry about drinking it all because they have a water station designated for people to refill their bottles with ice cold water for free. You have no excuse to get dehydrated.
Avoid the mosh pits.Unless you’re a pro wrestler, don’t get in a mosh pit. They are violent and I watched people get dragged out of mosh pits torn and bloody. Not to mention people have died in mosh pits. They’re dangerous and you should just avoid them. Don’t get yourself mangled over a band.
No crowd surfing.Most venues have a policy against crowd-surfing that involves you getting removed from the venue. It’s also dangerous. Again, I watched people get dropped on their heads and trampled. Please, I love you, don’t get hurt for a band. It’s not worth it.
Don’t spend too much money on souvenirs.Yes, while some bands and booths at Warped Tour sell things for what seem like decent prices, you can find the same things online or in stores. Concerts have a HUGE mark-up on merchandise. Also, there are small, non-signed bands that will approach you and try to get them to buy their CDs. If they are charging more than $5 for it, don’t pay. It isn’t worth your money.
Keep cool.I know it’s hard to keep cool when it’s nearly 100 degrees outside, but even if it means running into the bathroom and splashing cold water on your face and arms, do it. Keeping your temperature down will make you feel better. Also, Warped has a massive Slip-n-Slide that you can use whenever you want to stay cool.
Enjoy yourself.Don’t get so caught up with trying to figure out which bands are playing when and just enjoy the experience. While it is an event that happens every year, it changes every year. Enjoy the memories you’ll make and all the people you’ll meet. Take the opportunity to run wild and be crazy. Wear those short shorts. Coat yourself in neon war paint. Scream and dance and party. Carpe diem, my friends.