This Sunday will mark only the second time I've been to the Warped Tour. I was asked if I planned on covering it for the Observer, and I figured what the hell. I figured this will be a worthwhile (and very large) show to cover, so I'm looking forward to it. Of course, I'm over-preparing for a long, hot day with all sorts of precautions. Sometimes I wonder if the Boy Scouts motto of "Be prepared" is more about overpreparing and overanalyzing for things that may or may not happen. I know that all too well.
I got lucky when I went to my first Warped Tour back in 1998. Since there was a threat of rain, the entire show was moved from the parking lot to inside the Astroarena. The Astroarena was built for conventions and not built for concerts, but that didn't stop Nirvana from coming through there on the In Utero tour. I never heard any complaints about sound or the sound system, but then again, you can miss a lot of over-ring and flutters with earplugs in. Keep in mind, that over-ring is what causes your ears to ring for days after the show if you didn't have earplugs in.
Anyway, because of apparently crappy sound system in the arena, NOFX decided to throw their entire payment for the day out into the crowd. As somebody who had spent an entire year on a few e-mail discussion lists reading debates about punk rock, making money off of playing punk rock, what it means to sell out, who has sold out and who hasn't sold out, none of those debates mattered when I saw this sea of teenagers and college students rush to grab a dollar bill or two.
There were many great sets I saw that day, including Bad Religion, the Mighty Mighty Bosstones, 22 Jacks, Unwritten Law, and the Rev. Horton Heat. And I got to see them all in the safe and cool confines of the indoors.
But now, looking at Warped Tour in 2009, I understand I'm not the same pop-punk/hardcore fan that I was in 1998. I've been critical (and still am) with the idea of mall punk, mall emo, and mall hardcore, but that's simply the purist in me. Another side of me comes through when I think about how glad I was that there was (and still is) something like the Warped Tour.
Jaded hipsters who claim to value booty-shaking music as much as atmospheric, Beach Boys-like rock can sneeze all they want to at the bands on the Warped Tour. Yet there's something to be said about music that impacts you at a young age and you still value that music years later when you don't listen to it that much (or at all) anymore. I haven't heard any of the latest records from any of the bands playing this year's festival, but there are quite a few bands that I look forward to seeing (like Bad Religion, the Ataris, and Underoath). I still have a taste for this music, so I figured I'll go for it and hope to have a good time, even though it will very obvious I am not a part of the target audience.