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Too Much Concrete, So Much Pain
An exasperating day @ Vans Warped Tour 2009...the shameful truth about eating shit & paying for the privilege.
I'm in 7-Eleven, corporately-owned convenience chain, stocking up on provisions for the next morning. My arms are full with an 18-pack of Natural Ice, two 24-ounce cans of Bud Light Lime and a Bic lighter. A man in a wheelchair with a stump for a left leg whizzes up beside me.
The young scene kids in front of me surreptitiously snicker, but the one-legged man seems unaware or, more probably, well-adjusted to these kind of ignorant antics. When he spots my eighteen pack he says, "Hey, you should just crack that open right here! Why not give me one, man? Shit."
I laugh. "Ha! You think I'm kidding?" he says. "I'll drink the whole fucking box right now! I don't give a fuck!"
In his lap I see a sole 24-ounce can of beer. The giggling rugrats in front of me sprint off with their purchases and the clerk calls, "Next." I look at the wheelchair-bound man and his single beer and make a well-meaning comment that leaves me with my Route 66 skater shoe firmly in mouth...
"Hey, you can go ahead of me, man. You only got the one."
It doesn't matter what simple and innocuous thing I was trying to relate, only how the words were potentially taken. Superb, I thought. I just set us up for a monsoon of malicious karma at Vans Warped Tour 2009. The seven scorching hours spent at Nassau Coliseum the following day would confirm my suspicions.
NO FEAR IN THE FORBIDDEN ZONE
LOST IN WINNEBAGO PURGATORY WITH THE BITCH TWITS AND THE TAURINE BRIGADE...CHEAP, DISORGANIZED FUCKEROO IN UNIONDALE
"My dear boy, I promise you they'll be quite all right.
When they leave here, they'll be completely restored to their normal,
terrible old selves. But maybe they'll be a little
bit wiser for the wear."--Willy Wonka
The backstage concourse is like a slick, souped-up Army barracks with militaristic Monster energy Jeeps driving around and picking up women at random. My photographer eyeballs mountainous stacks of unopened Pabst Blue Ribbon 12-packs in the adjacent Production area and seems to salivate despite imminent cotton mouth. 6-ft-tall anorexic men with feathered hair scamper around in denim petal pushers while a curt and indifferent press harpy carries on coquettish conversations with band members while she is supposed to be checking journalists in. She fails to give us a set list and we end up having to buy one off a scalper for $2.
"Are you doing interviews?" she finally asked, after she stood with her back to us for fifteen minutes.
"Yes," I said. "We're scheduled to talk to I Set My Friends On Fire and FEAR."
She quickly scanned the list and replied, "I don't think they're here today."
"Beats me," she said. "They're not on the schedule."
There goes the bedrock of the article, I thought. The majority of my questions had been focused around the uber-80's punkcore geniuses who produced such songs as "Drink More Beer," "I Love Livin' in the City" and "Let's Have A War," three tunes that defined my growth as a teenage malcontent and helped to shape a scene that desperately needed a voice of defiance.
Not today, though. No dice. And to think I was going to give Lee Ving one of my warm Natty Ice brewskies. Since nobody bothered to tell me they wouldn't be there, we had to operate on the basis of a No Fear morale and turn to the children of America to give us hope and to give us an article. But first things first.
We're standing on the lawn before the Production table, right next to two massive tour buses, and cracking the first of many smuggled beers while Security guards amble around us looking volatile and pressed for time. We don't know whether we have to go back around to the front of the stadium to get into the event because the press bitch neglected to brief us on anything other than the fact that she never heard of our magazine, and my lips are already getting chapped as we spin around in circles, taking in our mysterious environs. Lost in the Forbidden Zone with sixty bucks for overpriced fluids and no idea where to go first in lieu of the Fear Q & A.
I started by swiftly moving around a pair of security goons and swiping two cans of Fanta from a Staff Only cooler. One for me and one for my photographer. "That's how a novice does it," I told her. "Make them think that you're one of them. Gabba gabba!"
We didn't know where we were supposed to be going, but we knew what we were in for: a gathering of boys that wear their sisters' jeans convening en masse in one cataclysmic orgy of yowling pre-pubescent death rattles. But ya gotta suffer the kids, especially if you intend to make off with their play money. The coordinators of this function understand this fact. The security folks do not.
It's golf carts gone bad when my photographer almost gets mowed down by two guards in red shirts and silly hats. This would not be our last meeting with the bovine boys of Nassau Coliseum.
Tuning up. Might be Saosin. Might be Maine. At this point we had not been informed of the line-up. So there we are, standing by the medic vans, checking out the Hurley stage (?) and hearing the first sounds of what passed as music. The sky is especially blue this morning with cumulonimbus clouds soaring forward like jet planes and an unknown band by an unknown name playing a very mild, moody dirge as people in skintight jeans and Keds mill about, paying $8 for the first of many spring water bottles.
I had never been to Vans Warped Tour before, so I didn't know if it was this foul in the past. Luckily my photographer had attended the Randall's Island stop in 2004 and had vital information that would clue me in on the situation.
"They throw you in the pit at the end," she said of the crowd-surfing that she participated in back in the day. "I was like, 'AAAAHHHHH!!! ALL THESE PEOPLE TOUCHING MY BODY EVERYWHERE!!! IT'S AN OCTOPUS MASSAGE!!!!'"
"An octopus massage," I repeated.
"That's what we need for the article, man. The monstrosities of post-mod punk."
"Yeah," she agreed. "You had to trust them not to grab your crotch, but it's just all these fingers throwing you forward and slithering along your flesh."
I was beginning to understand fundamental protocol, but none of this would prepare me for the onerous realizations to come as we wandered through the tents...
HOT SLITS & COLD GREED
THE MACHINATIONS OF LIVE NATION PRESENTATION VS. RETARD URGE FOR MASTURBATION...HOW TO SELL ANYTHING TO CHILDREN
Two things were noticeable from the minute we were within view of the main panorama: Marketing and muff. Ignoring the onslaught of advertising and pandering for a moment, the real humdinger here was the ass. "Girls! Girls! Girls!" As Motley Crue once put it. Short ones, fat ones, skinny ones, brown ones. But ninety percent of them hot as fresh tarmac in July and down to ride, with Magic Marker proclamations of promiscuity scrawled all over their bare flesh. And a lot of them were not punks. They might have said they were, if asked, but these blonde and beautified lip gloss libertines were too "perfect" to be part of a scene that prides itself on flaws, insecurities and shame.
My photographer and I were walking around the asphalt by the main entrance when a gaggle of gauche Gucci-lovers swaggered past us with their gigantic handbags flapping behind them.
"What the fuck are they doing here?" I asked, my voice cracking out of sheer incredulity.
"I...don't know," Anna, my photographer, managed.
"We should interview them."
Anna wasted no time, prancing over to them in haste and asking very congenially if we could have a second of their time for a quick interview. The obvious ringleader, some synthetic jet-black-haired harlot with Paris Hilton sunglasses snarled and said, "No, we're busy," then plodded ahead at runway pace.
"I didn't know Lady Gaga was in town!"
Not every bitch barks and bites. Some promote their music on their hands and knees, with colored chalk on pavement. Kelsey of the newly-signed band Kelsey & The Chaos was outlining their slot on the Kevin Says stage when I walked up and asked if she might have a few words to say about Warped Tour.
"What makes Vans Warped Tour different from playing any other venue?"
"There's a type of new people to win over. Fans of other music genres. There's a ton of people and it's easier to market yourself when there's a ton of people...You see kids with Anti-Flag T-shirts and then you see kids with The Maine T-shirts. Every different kind of person is here and a lot of them are open to new bands."
"We played last year and we've been working at it for awhile. Every time we play here it's a huge honor and it's a lot of fun."
I couldn't understand what she meant at all. She said it was a multi-dimensional crowd, but I only saw the standard brand punks and these powdered pop tarts. I thought she was bullshitting me, so I tried to call her bluff.
"You plan on spending time here after the show?"
"We hang out at the barbecues and stuff and we'll probably be here until 8 or 9."
As Kelsey shot the shit with me I gazed around at the vendors hocking belt buckles for $30 and the sordid tents for all manner of corporate hook-up and I felt a bombshell coming on.
"What's your attitude toward Live Nation?"
"Live Nation," Kelsey sighed questioningly. "Ya know...The big man on campus..."
"So it's a necessary evil basically?"
"It's part of the game," she reasoned. "There's always gonna be that big company running shit. You gotta take it."
"Well," I said. "What do these kids get in exchange for twelve dollar bottles of spring water?"
"Ugh! Absolutely nothing! It's a rip-off! It sucks that they charge so much for water, considering these kids are out in the sun for ten hours and they don't even get water. People are gonna drop like flies."
Kelsey really was one with chaos, for these words would prove to be a bona fide prophecy as the smoldering afternoon crept up on the crowd and things got stickier.
Before we left her to her chalking, I asked Kelsey if she had any parting words for the children. "Come check us out on MySpace," she said. "And make sure to check out our show."
Anna and I made the mistake of joining a couple fourteen-year olds in a circle at some record label booth where a guy whose name was either Drew or who was claiming to be the human embodiment of Truth was asking everyone to engage in a game of "Truth Says" in an attempt to win T-shirts and other swag. When I raised my arm without Truth or Drew or whomever telling me to, I was flagged and left the circle, but when everyone went over to claim their free shit I sidled up to the T-shirt girl and reached for a shirt.
"What are you doing?"
"I'm getting a free T-shirt," I said.
"But you were disqualified!" she yelled.
"Ah, c'mon! We're with the press. We love you guys!"
In truth I didn't have the faintest idea who the fuck they were or what it was they were trying to promote, but just like every other simpleton in the Coliseum, my eyes glazed over and drool formed in the corners of my mouth whenever someone announced the prospect of getting something for "free."
My finagling paid off in the form of a large gray T-shirt painted up with some elaborate "Gray's Anatomy" style heart and rib cage design. I slung it around my neck and we carried on to find more cheap tricks. Instead, what we found shook us. Around every corner there was something impossibly wrong.
This was supposed to be a punk rock tour, but what we were seeing was all the earmarks of a Marriot conference room trade show, with an AT&T karaoke booth thumping disposable pop songs of yesteryear and inviting kids to come up and perform karaoke while signing up for AT&T services.
"NASSAU COLISEUM NOW EQUIPPED WITH THREE ATM MACHINES! IT'S ALL PART OF NATIONAL LAMPOON'S ENDLESS SUMMER! ENDLESSLY SPEND YOUR MONEY!!!!"
The Port-A-Potties stretch as far as a city block and everyone lines up to stick their band's poster on the shitter doors as children rush to the registers to pay twenty dollars for a T-shirt they could get for ten or fifteen on the corresponding band's website. Some little girl tells me to shut the fuck up in a cranky, overly-tired shriek as I dispute the price of Warped Tour set lists with one of the scalpers selling them for two bucks. An eruption of violence as four teenage girls, clad in nothing but pink tank tops and yellow short-shorts, tear apart a band poster yanked off a Port-A-Potty door, ripping shreds of the thing out of each other's hands.
"This is child's play," Anna assures me. "Nothing's sacred any more. These kids' high school yearbooks are half yearbook and half advertisements. It's true. New York is one of the first that did it. You see Mary-Jo the Real Estate Expert on the flip side of your BFF's star of tomorrow photo."
The Growlies are in full effect...A P.O.S. Merch booth clerk is having a panic attack on his cell phone, as the melodious sounds of some anonymous howling skullfuck surges in the background...Optimum People are here, Truth is here...All-out corporate mindfuck...Pedophilia runs rampant at this year's Vans Warped Tour as men in their thirties hose down a Slip N Side for the peach fuzz pack in cut-off jeans and bikini tops...Midriffs are everywhere and sinfully, tastelessly untouchable for most of the dudes old enough to remember where Punk sprang from...Belt guy charges the children $30 a piece for the buckles, says he'll give it to us for $10 because we quote work for the tour end quote...Blatantly apparent that he's just some Rasta mon fresh off the boat, but still...How can you justify robbing the blind?
The scent of mushy cat food is prevalent along the Northeast corner of the Coliseum, proof positive that Patti Smith is hiding in the wings, her legs wide open and her eyes aghast at a mockery of punk nearly as horrendous as the pungent odor emanating around the walkway.
AT&T's Melting Pot is giving you a chance to win a free video and drink a Monster energy drink. I run up on the face of the booth, some slightly tattooed, slightly clammy chick with cankles. "I have a question," I say. "What's punk rock about AT&T?"
"The fact that we connect you with the world and music and, actually, since you're at Warped Tour, it's your world...and it's our world too."
I flash her a crooked smile and give her a thumbs up. Well played, AT&T lady...but I'll be back. There were bigger fucks to flay, like the South Koreans who were turning Warped Tour into a cheap Suburban mall...
"BECOME A FAN OF PUNK ROCK TODAY AND YOU CAN ENTER TO WIN AN ALL-NEW 2010 KIA FORTE KOUP!"
Kids were lined up for about two blocks to get airbrushed temporary tattoos bearing the Kia car decal stamped on their bodies. "You're signing up to be human billboards!" I screamed. A few of them turned to look, but it failed to register. Not one of them budged from their spots.
The openly Pop artists like Pink and Kelly Clarkson seem to be more genuine about what they are doing than any organizer or production pusswad or pussified band at this outrage, and they have emotions and a message to go with their image, which is more than I can say for ninety percent of the bands here today. Everybody thinks they're in that ten percent, but fuck 'em in their wireless cunts. You can't top "Who Knew" or "Dear Mr. President" with all the sweepstakes in their spurious stable.
KIDS SAY THE DUMBEST THINGS
SCARY KIDS SCARING KIDS NOT NEARLY AS SCARY AS TEENAGE VACUOUSNESS
HOW AN EIGHT-YEAR OLD CARVED IT UP AND LEFT THE "PUNK" SCHMUCKS IN THE FUCKING DUST
By noon I had surrendered my satchel to the sun god and purchased $30 worth of bottled water. My lips were cracked and flaking like the shell of a cicada. I was ready to plunge headfirst into the pandemonium. With good fortune I would get a concussion.
"LOOOONG ISLAAAAAND!!!!!! WE ARE HERE FOR YOUR BREAKFAST PLEASURE!!! OUR FIRST SONG IS CALLED 'MOOSE CLIT CHIPS!!!'" At least that's what it sounded like he said, but there was no way to be sure. After all, if the press folk wouldn't provide us with a proper set list, I highly doubted we were going to get our hands on a paper copy of their song titles.
"Oh, she looks like the genuine article," I said, staring down a passing group of overweight tweens. I had set my sights on the less chubby one, an orb-shaped Irish girl in black and purple clothing, her fat head done up into a massive raven mohawk, her swollen bottom lip accentuated by a ball ring.
We chased her and her flatulent friends down and asked them if they had time for a quick interview. The mohawked girl turned to her friends to see what they thought. The biggest one flashed us her gums and frowned. "If it doesn't take a year," she whined in an out of breath fashion.
"Why are you here?" I asked her.
"For the music?" she replied with a question mark, as if to say, "Duh!" Then she laughed like Pat Sweeney and fingered her piercings.
"How do you rationalize the price of merchandise and concessions at these shows?"
"Um, they're all right, I guess."
"Doesn't matter." The laugh again.
"How could a show like this kick more ass?"
"I have no idea."
"How much did you pay for your tickets?"
"What is it about these bands that really gets you?"
"I like the bands and they're hot?"
And the laugh one more time. "Yeah, they're hot."
"Okay, thanks," I said, wandering off into the sea of salty skin.
The costume was pure punk, but the outlook was classic North Shore Beach Bitch. If this was the voice of today's turnout punk rock was in dire straits, a band whose music is actually less awful than most of the shit blasting out of the amplifiers at this here music marathon.
Scary Kids Scaring Kids take to the stage and start off their set with a Brand New track. This is something we would come to notice as the gold standard of every group's set. Every artist warmed the crowd up with a familiar cover, most of them straight pop songs and classic rock. But not Scary Kids. They reached only as far back as the first five years of the new Millennium for their cover.
A person who could only possibly be a keyboardist or back-up singer, in a green tanktop, did nothing at the advent of their set but thrash around, looking like an anorexic Geddy Lee, convulsing like his own schizophrenic energy was shooting out of every musical instrument.
The lead singer definitely believes his own bullshit as he perspires like a mongoose in the Sahara, gyrating his torso to every simplistic verse. "See your eyes," he says. "We're gonna slow things down for a second and just chill out. Smoke some weed if you got it!" The kids go nuts, screaming louder than the screamo bands on all the stages around them.
It's an athletic routine at this point, the thrashing of the hair and the pulverizing of the skull. One day soon the merch booths will sell Sweatin' to the Screamo on DVD and these kids in their neon short-shorts will eat it up like something brand-new on the Dollar Menu. Except it won't be a dollar. It will be $28 because it will contain "rare" live performance footage yanked from a scene just like this, a scene that the kids already paid $40 to go and see. And, finally, the fat girl with the mohawk and her churlish BFF will be able to look in the mirror and feel as wonderful as the Holocaust-skinny singers they look up to.
These are children. Children of privilege. It doesn't matter if some of them are in their early-to-mid-twenties (that just compounds it), they're unequivocally children...born with silver spoons dangling from their puckered and powdered assholes and raised on the North Shore of Long Island, mostly, in such a way that they never have any reason to rebel. But security and structure get boring. Every Catholic schoolgirl I've ever known became a raging slut. And Warped Tour is but one of the places that many of them gather, to burn through their allowances while feeling like they are actually spitting in the face of their parents' traditions and properly slumming it.
There are two notable problems, among sundry, that I can't explain without turning a handgun on myself or Them: A real punk would refuse to pay $6.00 for a bottle of water. And the younger ones here have brought their parents along for the ride, ensuring that they wouldn't run out of money and that they'd have a safe ride home.
The embrace of Thanatos is absent here.
Then there's Cassidy, the mohawked girl from earlier, who is still haunting my dreams and whose total disregard for anything was a happening that really freaked me out. Is this it? Not completely. For every vacant-eyed dunce there is an emo kid who had to apply four extra layers of eyeliner to prevent against looking like a disgraced owl after each blubbering breakdown.
Scenes always end up being reduced to their sparest and most mundane parts, because the people of that scene adhere to the standards of that scene and are too afraid or too self-conscious to stray from its patterns. This is doubtlessly a result of scenesters being insecure and, therefore, requiring a scene to feel protected in the first place.
It's high time that these insecure welps wake up to the fact that no matter of rebellion, revolution or general overcoming of societal or social ills has ever sprung from a sense of insecurity. Progress hinges on an almost cocky level of confident defiance that isn't achieved by playing the same chords and jabbing holes in all the same places as the ones who came before you. Progress means being a big enough punk to create something recklessly new, and hurl it in the face of everyone within reach.
I was thinking about all of this shortly before we walked away from the Hurley Stage and the next thing I remember is being approached by an eighteen-year old kid with a green handkerchief around his neck. He emerged from one of the Port-A-Potties and asked me if I knew where he could get some ice.
"What for?" I asked.
He held up his left palm and showed me the blood. I reached into my tote bag and pulled out an Ice Pak. He put it on his palm and thanked me, then handed it back.
"You sure you don't want to hold on to it?" I asked. "I've got more and it might keep bleeding."
"Oh no," he said. "It's not my blood."
"Yeah, I just came out of the bathroom and saw this blood all over my hand. I think it's somebody else's."
I dropped the ice pack on the ground and wiped my hand hard against the leg of my cammo drawstrings. I grabbed a bottle of water from my bag and poured it over the kid's palm. Just then his friends walked up and asked if I could spare water and cigarettes, which I did, for reasons that are still unclear to me. Pity, maybe, or frustration with the venue's treatment of their target audience. His friends all wear these bright-colored handkerchiefs and so, also, do a lot of the other kids in the Coliseum, lending an appearance of several Caucasian gangs that practice some non-violent form of aggression. It doesn't become all that alarming until I realize that I have a yellow handkerchief on my own head and, probably, look like I'm part of this peculiar scene.
Back by the Hurley Stage again. An eight-year-old child rides the ramps in front of us on the official Vans skating ramp. This two-and-a-half-foot tall little gent, in his bright lime green shirt and gigantic red helmet, has been the most spectacular attraction at Warped Tour so far, grinding on the ramp like he is Tony Hawk and jumping up with great determination every time he falls off his board, testament to the spirit of old...or maybe I'm delirious...
Somewhere in this time frame Anna swears we see Canadian solo chick Lights perform, but I write it off as masturbatory fantasy and we continue on our way.
Perspective is shifting here. Tenses are getting jumbled. Caucasian thugs in multi-colored bandanas give me pause, with the exception of their lady friend whose enthusiasm about my name and my photographer's name is questionable but certainly welcome. Finally feel like we're making contact.
WHAT'S GOOD FOR THE GLUTTONOUS IS GOOD FOR THE GROWING
THE STRUCTURE ENCOURAGES THE INDIE BOY...SCREWY PROMISCUOUS KISSYFACE FOR FLEDGLING PHOTOGRAPHER...MAKING A DIME ON THE DOLLAR OF WARPED CHARLATANS
I had suspected that someone robbed the free T-shirt right from around my shoulders earlier in the day, but a visit to a familiar Port-A-Potty revealed the truth, that I had left it on a once-dry ledge beside the filthy bowl and multiple people had used the portable pooper since then, effectively showering the sleeve in urinary splatter.
I considered picking it up and letting it dry off in the sun, but the prospect of contracting Hepatitis seemed like a lousy one. So I did what seemed like the punk rock thing to do and soaked it in my own piss, so that nobody else would get to abscond with what had been rightfully mine.
Missiles & Markers took to one of the stages at 2:10. Some time before that we had visited the Missiles & Markers merch booth where the vendors were advertising "$2 Kisses." Now it made sense why all these girls were giving it away for free. It was in the spirit of punk rock to thumb their noses at a system that would charge for human affection.
"Any chance we could get a free kiss?" I asked the two girls and two guys running the booth. "We're with the press, we'll give you a good write-up."
"Why not?" the WASPY twenty-something dude to the right exclaimed. I thought he was just being cool, but photographic evidence suggests that he had an odd sociopathic urge to inhale my photographer up both of his nostrils. The kiss lasted longer than would be expected and left a bad taste in Anna's mouth.
Everybody was selling something, even the fans. Virtually every girl had something like, "Free sex man," delicately scrawled across their tummies. We were sitting in the shade, handing out Body of Christ breath mints and fortune cookies to poor soccer moms and hysterical teens. One of the little whippersnappers even took off with a porcelain penis cup I had gifted to Anna for her Natural Ice consumption.
A lanky kid with a Southern lilt to his voice plopped down beside us and asked if he could stamp our arms with a band name.
"Why not?" I said. "Everybody else is getting branded."
"Excellent!" he squealed. "And would you like to take a listen to the band whose name is on your body?"
He placed the oversized headphones over my lobes and I soaked up the sounds, screeching sobbing emo crooning in front of traditional genre guitar shredding. I hit the red button on my voice recorder and spoke into it with the headphones still on my dome. "They don't know any better. They are unaware of any other way to express themselves."
The lanky boy removed the headphones from my head and set them down at his side. I asked him where he was from. He said he was from Kentucky.
"So you're from Kentucky, following the tour. In what capacity?"
"I'm the singer, actually. My name is Clay and my band is called Hark the Herald."
Hence the three words on my wrist.
"You're the guy singing there?" I asked.
"Yeah," he said. "This is what's it all about for us. Meeting people is priority one, food is priority two, and selling music's priority three."
"Yeah, be a store. You are creating retail, in a sense..."
"So that's how you get your name out?" I asked.
"Pretty much. When we're on tour I can't talk a lot, which sucks, because my voice goes out from singing day after day. So this is just great."
Clay is a gregarious self-starter who shoots wedding photography to support himself when he's on the road. Which is anomalous when one considers the apathetic nature of his contemporaries at this warped shindig. Or maybe not. Looking around I can see that every band here is taking great pains to be recognized. Even bands like Hark the Herald that are not on the line up.
The first punk rock thing I heard all day came from Clay's own lips. "I'd rather be poor and happy."
THE SUN GOD WILL BLIGHT YOU, WHETHER YOU BELIEVE OR NOT
GETTING READY FOR THE SHOWDOWN
Vendors have to unscrew bottle caps on all beverages because these ignominious little scamps throw full bottles at peoples' heads, causing serious concussions and lacerations.
"Six dollars for lemonade? Thank you..."
The fans are still pure despite being raped by the Machine. A group of them shared several grams of marijuana with Anna for a dollar.
Some fuck-awful band is singing about a "beautiful tragedy." I struggle through sun burn to try and make sense of this, but it only makes me more aggravated. How the fuck can a tragedy be beautiful? Real life isn't full of Shakespearean woes.
As we drag our feet through the crowd, trying our damndest to stay awake, I spot the umpteenth girl to bear the words "Free Kiss" and I take the sable-eyed beauty up on her offer, hugging her with a vice-like grip and jamming my tongue between her blood red lips. We had reached the point, after wallowing in strangers' saliva, where we had accepted Capitalist defeat and began reveling in the consumerist carnival. It's all beautiful, as long as you have a wallet in your pocket.
Making your way through the crowd is a sluggish slamdance. The CHILL people are here, saving inner-city youth and children with low self-esteems by taking them snowboarding.
Vedic culture permeates the show. We discover the Science of Self-Realization at Vans Warped Tour. Even the Swami is self-promoting today, pimping it fanatically like Hare Krishnas in airport terminals.
"I don't care," some girl screams and it is emblematic of the entire experience.
Denny's is offering a Taking Back Sunday Bacon Cheeseburger Meal, for a limited time! The smell of shit is prominent in the air. Anna is being suffocated by dirty girls' tits. Some kid in a Ramones T-shirt with his arm in a sling tells me that he had to go to Warped Tour, regardless of the injury he sustained from "rockin' too hard for his own good." He can't explain why the tour is so important, just that the bands rock. Seems to me that they don't rock hard enough for their own good.
Anna and I try to cop a ride on the back of one of the club cars, but a corpulent security guard with a Teddy Roosevelt mustache tells us, "No free rides."
"Oh c'mon, man. We're with the press."
They leave us in the dust with a tag team of angry punk girls protesting this injustice.
"You saw that?" I ask them. "Fuckin' Nazis, man!"
"I know," one of them concurs empathetically. I should have asked this one for a free kiss.
Ivy League drummer looks like he stumbled out of a Gold's Gym. Their saxophone player resembles Todd Bridges...and they all cut it up. You c'never judge a book by its cover. You can, however, judge a band flyer, and the one for Walk Off The Earth- featuring a zany picture of three grown men in tube socks and short-shorts riding a bicycle together- explains a whole lot about the mode of dress among this year's attendees.
This was a premeditated eyesore that nobody would cop to. The Walk Off The Earth foot soldiers would eat a tab of Cyanide before admitting that they were dressed for a marathon because their favorite band had re-introduced the sporty trend.
Fuck, I'm hot! The brain is cooking. Like that anti-drug commercial from the Eighties. My hypothalamus is in a frying pan. Pass the salt and pepper...Remaining awake by watching teenage girls eat footlongs.
I missed my interview with I Set My Friends On Fire due to a lapse in judgment; for some odd reason, no doubt brought on by sun poisoning, I decided to watch two obese Latina girls karaoke their husky hearts out to Motorhead's "Ace of Spades." In retrospect it was a boon rather than a bane that we missed the interview. After watching their set and finding that this so-called "experimental" and "progressive" act did little more than roar incomprehensibly, I knew that nothing they could have said for themselves would have been sufficient.
Finally it gets to be too much and we make for the far end of the Coliseum grounds. Someone tipped us off to the Free Refill area. At first I thought it was a mirage. I could see a Burkin Water Tank in the distance. No tables set up with coolers or anything like that. Just a tank truck. I wondered if we could just suck the water out of a spout on the side of the truck.
My suspicions, however absurd they had seemed, proved to be correct. When we reached the far end by the litter-ridden fences, a mass of hundreds of kids were all crowded together as if in the world's largest mosh pit. They were all wrestling over nozzles on the side of the tank, struggling to get their taste of nature's elixir.
I wedged my way into the bunch and hurled forward, holding my red cup underneath the spout. Some skinheaded girl who weighed 80 pounds drove into me with all her might and caused the water to drench my leg as she greedily filled a thermos with as much H2O as it would hold. I fought my way back under it, soaking my skater shoes as the people behind me bum-rushed me.
It reminded me of a story this web-zine journalist had told me earlier in the day. "This is a great gathering, except for the skanks and the fat people crowd-surfing. One of them fell on me, drove my ankles into the pavement. She falls on my back and sticks her leg out as she lands, effectively bending me into a pretzel and seriously scarring my shins. It's too much concrete and so much pain."
When Anna and I emerged from the Water Pit I marveled at the level of primitivism. It isn't supposed to be this way, I thought. Then again this is the kind of ferocity people have come to expect from a show like this. Let them drink water!
THE CRUCIFIXION OF PUNK
DIGITAL DEATH RATTLES OF GENRE LONG ABUSED...VANITY REACHES EXHILARATING APEX ON SO-CALLED SMART PUNK STAGE
Balls swollen, eyes throbbing, I prepare for the last act. As Anna and I sit Indian-style on the white hot ground, two girls lay their friend down and start freaking out. "Oh my God, what's happening?!"
"She's sick! She's sick!"
One of them goes to force-feed her a handful of pretzels.
"Hey!" I yelled. "Do you want me to get her some water?"
"OH MY GAWD, COULD YOU?! PLEASE?!"
"Yeah, but don't feed her that."
"Those are salted, no?"
"Don't let her eat those. It's gonna dry her out more."
It's scary to see a girl dehydrating like a guppy that leaped out of a fishbowl. The panting is nice, but the white tongue and the eyes rolling back in the skull is a look of derangement that isn't natural or attractive.
I run to a vendor and explain the situation, holding out my empty red cup. He pours lukewarm water into it without looking me in the eyes and returns to his wad of crumpled twenty dollar bills.
The girl was all right. And my act of altruism toward the dehydrated one was appreciated by her two clueless girlfriends. For a glimmer of a second I thought I might even get a jump out of it from the nearby trio of skanks with "Free Sex Man" written on their forearms. But no such fuck.
This episode made me queasy. To see that these children don't have basic common sense is scarier than realizing that they don't know how to handle money. The homeless in this country do all right for themselves with basic street smarts, but I suspected, from the evidence on hand, that these kids wouldn't know a pederast from a parole officer.
And then it exploded. The moment we had been waiting for. All day Anna had been telling me about the abominable queen who encouraged anorexia, bulimia, Botox and bastardization of every kind. And we had been waiting for the opportunity to get close enough to beat the fucking dress right off him. And now he was standing over us on the stage, looking like the test tube offspring of Ziggy Stardust and Zoolander.
"Yo, I got that terminator twat/You can give me your cyborg load/I can swallow it whole/So wet, it flows."
Holy industrial banana faggo! What in the name of Kraftwerk is this?!
"Spit on it then sit/Obama's rubbin my clit/I got that boom boom pow/Make my kitty go boom boom oww!"
Jeffree Star is the epitome of all that is wrong with the 21st Century. That's all we thought he was. But that proved to be the point. His whole act hinges on holding a mirror up to a vain and disgraceful society that murders its wives and children, sinks millions into elective surgeries, suffers for surface beauty and renders themselves completely synthetic, for the sake of some misguided and selfish sense of self-contentment.
It's Marilyn Manson circa-Mechanical Animals, only without the historical significance or droplets of narcotic hope. This is the craziest shit I've seen in a while, the open and unabashed embrace of everything prosthetic and plasticene. And with his sexy Latina-African back-up dancer, his frustrated homosexual cousin and his demonically orgiastic digital eruptions, he makes his particular brand of techno-punk palpable to a crowd who can only possibly be receiving it on that base level that gives it its strength. This is primal and uncouth, two words that should always be associated with true Punk.
"Cuz we got the meat that bounce/We got the future sound."
As we left the grounds, I saw a man who looked not unlike Dan Fogelberg walking around the
AT&T Melting Pot booth. He looked totally out of place, so I figured I'd interview him, to see if he knew what he was into here.
"Paul McCartney shirt, Lennon glasses...Why are you here today?"
"I come every year," he said. "I love discovering new bands. I work at a record store and do security, so I've met a lot of the bands doing that. So I come to visit friends and discover new people that I end up falling in love with."
Maybe this dude was hip to something I wasn't really prepared to understand, a sort of Woodstock sentiment that supersedes the avarice of the empire on which this tour is built. Maybe Warped Tour 2009 was the beautiful tragedy that band was singing about, one where the overall landscape was tragic but where a few magnetic personalities brought the sunshine and made the day beautiful.
Backstage we met a white-haired Southerner named Harry Holesinger, a caterer with a little hot plate and a whole lotta love in his heart.
"Is this your first time with the tour?" I asked him.
"This is my fourth year."
"How has your history with the Warped Tour been?"
"I love it. I ain't crazy about the music, I'm not a young man. But I love the people. Some o' the nicest young people I've ever met in my life."
"What's the craziest thing you ever saw here."
"I don't know. I don't really consider it crazy, just different..."
PHOTOGRAPHY BY ANNA FEITZINGER.