Free parking does not suck.
On a muggy, cloudy day in August, I decided to find out what exactly goes on with the people who make up the Warped Tour. Whether it be the people behind the scenes or ticketholders, I attempted to find out what their deal was. My quest took me many places and I give you what I learned from the people I encountered. Many people I talked to preferred to rename nameless, but I give you their stories regardless.
Each skater/in-liner/bmx'er has a set time on the vert ramp, and usually ride for about 1 hour. Most of the athletes I talked to were following the Warped Tour from city to city.
10 Times a Day/WLIR Band Contest Tent
George from the band Sprout informed me that WLIR contest winner's 10 Times a Day were following the Warped Tour in their own tent for the entirety of the tour. Not a bad deal at all.
Most of us are more familiar with the consumer end of this area. We go to concerts, pay $8 for a bottle of water and complain the entire way home. As James from Connecticut told me, "I think it sucks." The reason he shelled out $11 for fries and a drink: he had no other choice. "I'm fucking starving and I can't get out there," he said. "There" meaning outside the gates. There is no re-entry to the Warped Tour.
Some examples of food pricing:
Nachos - $4
Funnel Cake - $5
2 cups of Brooklyn Lager - $5 (a ROCKZONE.COM best buy!)
Gyro & Soda - $10
Meal for 2 people (including drink) - $22
I spoke with a manager of several concession stands at Warped, who preferred to go nameless. When asked what his reply would be to a consumer such as James, he simply said, "You don't have to eat." Harsh, maybe, but he has bills to pay too. The manager attributed high food prices to the high cost of rent at the venues the Warped Tour plays. In some locations, he has to keep track of everything sells and give a percentage to the venue. The cost depends on the city. "These kids won't understand until they get into business themselves. They just don't understand that running this business is not easy or cheap," he told me. There is a tremendous overhead for running a concession stand.
Crew and Catering
As I wandered around the abyss which is the backstage area, I found myself drooling over the marinated roasts, hamburgers, chicken, veggie burgers and other assorted barbecue delights set up for the bands. In order to get food, you need a ticket. A meal ticket of sorts.
I sat down for a few minutes with Earl, Crew Chief of the tour for the past six years. The dialogue went something like this:
RZ: Honestly, are people of the warped tour slobs or neat?
RZ: Do they eat more or less than the average person?
Earl: To me, it seems like they eat less.
RZ: What's your favorite city?
Earl: Not Cleveland.
Earl was a very happy man.
By far one of the bigger attractions at Warped are the Merch tents. Normally hard to find apparel, releases and other assorted oddities were now at fans' fingertips, straight from the band. In the SideOneDummy (Flogging Molly, Madcap, Casualties) tent, Mike from Arizona was kind enough to answer a few questions about the life of a Merch guy. He was quick to note that he did not work for SideOneDummy but was merely a "hired gun."
Life of a Merch guy is not glamorous. It is filled with long days and hard work. Luckily he has a partner with whom he can trade breaks with. "You have to, otherwise you won't stay sane," said Mike. He does get the meet and hang with the bands and ride in a nice cushy tour bus with production people. "Don't do this (job), it's really not cool. I mean, it's alright, but it gets old.
They are seen at every large outdoor festival. Some have an assortment of necklaces, rings, and sunglasses while others carry a long line of bongs, pipes and other paraphernalia. Mussa from Detriot was following the tour in a van filled with assorted crafts. Every day he has to set up, hope his products sell, and do the same thing the next day. This was his first year selling crafts on the tour, and told me he would do it again. When he's not following the Warped Tour, he's doing local events. Unlike food vendors, he has to pay Warped Tour to sell his goods. The idea might seem great: follow the tour around, hang out with bands and check out the cities, but as Mussa says, "You don't really have much time to see much of the cities." His day starts at 11:00AM by setting up his booth and ends at around 8:00PM, packing it up.
Security & Crowd Control
Probably the most hated of all concert staff. These are the people you meet once you've hurtled yourself over the barricade after booting someone in the front-row while crowd surfing. I've seen some pretty horrifying things in the past, and today was no exception. However, some security staff were quite friendly and were there to do their jobs: lookout for everyone, including the fans. I witnessed one security member chase a kid down who had dropped a few dollars after falling over the barricade. To say it touched my heart would be accurate. I also witnessed a security guard tear off a girl's bracelet (sending all the beads to the floor) while inspecting her press pass (which turned out to be forged). Crowd control was awful in the beginning of the event, and had it been better, situations like this may have been avoided. Security had to play catch-up for most of the event. This year's security staff were more well behaved then years past, but I suppose some things never change. I discovered from a source that a security guard had been found choking and eventually throwing a fan in front of the stage.
I tried to speak to several security personnel but they had been told not to speak to press. I did find out that security usually receives their meals as part of their job, but today they had been "running-late" and had to buy their own meals from the concession area. They were also not taking away bottles of water, most likely due to the highly publicized risk of heat exhaustion and dehydration. There were an abundant amount of EMS workers throughout the venue, and tanks of free water were available for everyone.
This year, the New York Parks Department handed out flyers to everyone, instructing them to not publicly urinate, light bonfires or litter. Approximately 5 yards from where they were handing out this flyer, a garbage can sat surrounded by the very same flyers. Irony at it's best.
The Yoohoo area
Yoohoo has always been a fixture of the Warped Tour. Now infamous for their zany contests and crowd ogling, everyone wanted a piece of the action. The most sought after prize this year: t-shirts. In years gone past, when the dust was unbearable, Yoohoo neckerchiefs were a hot item.
After spending 5 minutes by the Yoohoo booth, I discovered an offer for free stuff if you let a Yoohoo staff member give you one of several interesting hair cuts, including a mohawk. There was also a contest in which two kids raced to finish two 6-packs of Yoohoo in under 15 minutes. Sounds easier than it looks, and man did it look nasty half way through the contest (I'll spare you the details).
Cheers to Yoohoo for spicing up Warped tour year after year. Unfortunately women's rights activists would have a field day with half the things girls are suggested to do.
Transporting the Gear
My final and most intriguing interview was with Jerry Glass, who was responsible for transporting a trailer full of band gear from city to city. When not working on the Warped Tour he can be found working on Broadway and other areas of production and stage work. He can be responsible for any number things: "It depends on who hires me to do what," said Jerry. "It's something I do and I've always done. It's not necessarily pick up and go, it's a career thing." His favorite tour: Wayne Newton `93-`94, which he attributes to good catering and hotels.
The one thing he likes about the Warped Tour is how the tour remains independent. "They're not bought out by the big guys. They are still the promoters in some of the places we go. They don't own the tour, whereas most tours going on now, one company owns the tour and almost monopolizes the image."
Jerry has gotten to meet a lot of the performers, but he notes that there are about 300 people on the tour, and it's difficult to meet and remember everyone. "There haven't been too many days on the tour, as a driver, you're able to go out and see what everyone's doing. There are still bands I haven't seen yet." This he attributes, to his work schedule. "We drive at night, we sleep in the day. If you're out there playing around and watching the bands, there's a possibility that you might not make it to the next show. You can never let you're guard down, and that's a golden rule of this business."
This evening, he plans to leave around 11:00PM. Most of the trucks won't get to the next venue (Asbury Park, NJ) until 1:00AM and the band buses will not leave Randall's Island until 3:00AM. The distance between Randall's Island and Asbury Park is about 2 hours, which Jerry says is "too easy." After arriving, Jerry will sleep until around 6:00AM, where he'll begin to set up. There is a detailed system to where all the busses and trucks are parked, and this takes some time to implement. Eventually he will make it over to the catering tent for breakfast, set up a bit more, and hopefully sleep again around 1:00PM. "You sleep a good 8 hours to do a 500 mile run that night." He tells me that the past few days have been the easiest on the whole tour, due to the close proximity of the venues.
Since Jerry has been driving trucks for awhile now, he has become accustomed to some of the hardships of life on the road. He is traveling the tour by himself. It is against policy and also a bad idea to have someone ride along with him, for liability reasons. "We (the trucking industry) are scrutinized by the Department of Transportation. It can get you in trouble. For instance one guy put a girl out on the street after giving her a ride, she left her purse in the truck and the police had to track him down. You never know what you're going to run into."
All in all, this years Warped Tour was run more efficiently than in previous years. This may be attributable to Launch Media handling the tour this year. I received the impression that this will be the one and only year in which Launch will be responsible, but no one from Launch would comment. Certainly there is room for improvement, but for an event this size, it seems an impossibility for it to run smoothly. We'll see you next year.