Saturday, July 23
Better than: Poring over the Fuck Yeah A Day To Remember archives in an un-air-conditioned room.
To get to Nassau Coliseum from the city you take the Long Island Rail Road, then a taxi. My cab driver asks what is going on at the Coliseum. “Warped Tour,” I say, explaining that it is many, many punk bands at once. “Oh, wow,” he says. “I saw all of the buses drive in this morning. It was crazy.”
At the gates, all the people deepened and distended by heat, a girl behind me says, “Maybe I’ll lose, like, ten pounds.” Everyone is advertising free hugs. Some dudes are trying to yield weed from a sign that reads, “Sell Us Weed.”
Blood on the Dance Floor, a duo from Orlando, performs at 12:20. Their hair is something like mall-goth architecture. Their music is vocally metalcore, sonically Postal Service. There is a slight breeze. Member Jayy Von Monroe introduces “Bewitched”: “This song goes out to anybody who has ever lost somebody,” he says. Someone fires a water gun into the audience. The other member of Blood on the Dance Floor, Dahvie Vanity, invites the crowd to “put your middle fingers up! We don’t give a fuck.” He belches into the microphone and takes liberal sips of Monster Energy Drink.
Another introduction, this one by Vanity: “This song is highly illegal.” The song is called “Sexting.” The lyrics: “Cut the shit!/ Show your tits!/ Flip it out on my Sidekick/ Like Quagmire in Family Guy/ Giggity! Giggity! All the time.” The girl to my left knows every word. She wears a shirt that says “LISTEN TO DUB STEP.”
• • •
I see Attack Attack! because they have some history with the internet; the term “crabcore” generated in a forum mocking Attack Attack! and their video for “Stick Stickly.” Some of the bands on the lineup seem inconceivable without the internet, without the work of small communities rapidly accumulating ardent new followers, growing strict, arbitrary allegiances in a chamber where time is condensed.
The reports of this year’s Warped Tour aggressively proclaim how there is free water, which is a novelty for any festival. “All I can do is worry about my kids,” says Warped Tour founder Kevin Lyman. “I knew that was one of things that was driving kids home last year. They couldn’t afford water.”
There is one tent for free water. It is next to the main stage. The line for it is forbidding. I have visions of buckling before ever reaching a station in which to refill and drink. I pay $5 in the short bottled-water line.
The third-wave ska band Less Than Jake invites people onstage during its set. First, a young man, whose head saxophonist Peter “JR” Wasilewski applies a razor to; when Wasilewski is done, the man bears a mohawk and a look of dazed pride. Then, a young woman, who’s invited to make out with the newly coiffed fan: “I know there’s dirty girls in Long Island.” She obliges. “She’s got ovaries running down her leg, she’s so down to make out with this guy.” When Less than Jake plays the next song, the young man skanks in place.
“We played this song on Warped Tour in 1997,” says vocalist and guitarist Chris Demakes. “No crowd surfing this whole song, only skanking.” Someone screams, “You guys are my favorite ’90s band!”
There is a feeling throughout Warped Tour of being both stuck and unstuck in time. Here is Less than Jake, preserved, offering complete emotional access to 1996. Here is Blood on the Dance Floor playing in 2011, but transmitting maybe from space. The sun is directly above us.
This is Less than Jake’s tenth Warped Tour, according to Wasilewski. “Tenth domestic,” he clarifies; they joined two international Warped Tours in the late ’90s, one in Europe and one in Australia. In that time, Wasilewski hasn’t observed any real change. “It’s still a bunch of kids that come out and stand out in the sun all day,” he says. “Some don’t drink enough water and some don’t eat enough food and you can pass out, but people have a good time. And I think everybody walks away with a really positive feeling.”
The tour has grown, though. Naturally. “Warped Tour was originally a punk tour,” says Wasilewski. “Maybe it wasn’t all punk rock, but it was a different kind of tour. It was the punk ethic of doing it yourself. Look at what it’s turned into. Kevin [Lyman]’s done a really great job.”
• • •
Gym Class Heroes, while playing their still-inscrutable fusion of hip-hop and emo, ask us to put up our peace signs and then put our index fingers down. This instruction is from a song of theirs, true, but this is the third time I have been asked to flip off a band.
• • •
3OH!3 invite the audience into a sphere where everyone is terrible and complete. They do this through a kind of conceited interrogation: “Who’s got what my exceedingly white friend would call an Irish sunburn?” “Who else is dumb enough to have a beard like me?” People scream. People without beards scream.
There is the concurrent feeling that 3OH!3 are not a part of Warped Tour at all and have broken in. They shout “Go! Go! Go! Go!” at the crowd. They overcompensate. But, whatever. The beliefs and facts are confused. 3OH!3 can infiltrate a mood and amplify it without actually contributing anything. They play a new song called “Robot” and tell those who were “born without a heart” to “put your hands up.” Are they interrogating themselves for how they are just vague shapes for misanthropy to inhabit?
After the 3OH!3 set a distressed girl leaves the crowd and is insistently followed by another girl with a sign that says, “Touch her.”
• • •
Ben came from Carle Place to see A Day to Remember. I ask Ben what his day has been like. “You get to a point where you just don’t care,” he says. “You’re not tired.” Dana, also from Long Island, is covered in body paint. “I almost passed out,” she says. She considers something, and then returns to the dialogue. “Twice,” she adds.
• • •
Alabama rapper Yelawolf tells us to “make some noise if you hot as a motherfucker.” He performs to a small crowd, a chunk of which requests “Pop the Trunk” insistently. He talks of how he just signed to Shady Records and raps over “Still D.R.E.” He tears open a Monster and stage-dives. He stage-dives again. Here it is possible to recognize something in the performer that is also in his audience. People are moved and he is moved into them.
Relient K manage to carry “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” through every mutation of post-hardcore. This is Relient K’s third Warped Tour, after two runs in 2005 and 2008. Theirs is a comparatively pleasant noise, completely aligned pop-punk-slash-emo, which distances them from the other bands playing. “The Warped Tour crowd is definitely more into the heavy music for the majority of the bill, which is really cool,” says singer and guitarist Matt Thiessen. “I get why kids like it, too. Times are weird and sometimes you just want to turn up the noise a little bit and flip your parents the bird.”
It turns out the lineup’s heaviness is the result of an elaborate calculation by Lyman. “You try to go where your fans are,” Lyman says. “At the end of last summer, I did some research. 60 percent of the people that answered the survey, the top bands they wanted to see: August Burns Red, Asking Alexandria, The Devil Wears Prada, A Day to Remember. The hardcore Warped kid was into that harder stuff.”
• • •
A Day to Remember are literal headliners; their inflatable cartoon heads decorate the top of the stage. To their left and right are massive amplifiers that are also inflatable cartoons. They start and the audience throws toilet paper at the band and each other, in long arcs, as if a prank has turned into an everyday transaction.
Twenty minutes into A Day to Remember’s set, the left inflatable is loosed from its restraints. It declines suddenly but also slowly, as if decaying. It disappears beneath the crowd. A man on a small, elevated plank above the stage holds a rope as the inflatable recedes. I cannot tell whether all of this is in the script.
No one around me seems fazed, or surprised, or ecstatic. They are either tired or they have finally accepted something about themselves that they find beautiful and have decided to live in that space. A few boys behind me have somehow found empty boxes and transformed them into chairs. They fold into them meditatively, and they sing.
The last song of A Day to Remember’s set, “The Downfall Of Us All,” begins with the vocal articulation of a breakdown riff, which, assumed by the crowd, was tidal. It upset the calm, the bleary dehydration. I leave because the people around me are falling into each other.
• • •
I ask Lyman if he has been considered a “sellout” by punk communities, which, yes, of course he has. “There’s ten percent of the people that the Warped Tour’s not for,” he explains. “Warped Tour’s for 90 percent of the people who just want to come and listen to music and have a good time. And maybe learn something, and maybe join a non-profit.”
“I know the kid who’s telling me that I suck,” he adds, after some thought. “I know that kid. I wasn’t that kid. I was in the 90 percent of kids where, if you had something going on your backyard, I was there.”
• • •
In a grassy area where people engage in various forms of inactivity, a man passes by carrying a large water cooler. “Does anybody want some ice-cold water before I dump this?” he asks. People encircle him, crushed Aquafina bottles in hand. After everyone refills, one dude suggests that the man pour the remaining water on his friend, a girl lying on the grass wearing a “Party Girl” t-shirt. “Oh, she wants me to dump this on her,” the man says, the whole cooler tilting in his arm span. The man prepares his body to pour, but he is asked to wait by two attendant friends who pull out their cameras to record the event from two different angles. The man tips the cooler until it is vertical. The girl abruptly stands up, shivering. “Ah!” she screams. “It’s fucking cold!”
Critical bias: I sometimes think that “metalcore meets Postal Service” is where things are headed.
Overheard: “There are burn marks on those trailers. Why are there burn marks on those trailers?”
Random notebook dump: There were few shirts, but the most-spotted band shirt advertised Asking Alexandria, who I did not see. In 2011 the relationship between punk or the looming whatevers grown from punk have a relationship with electronic music that is intractable, and so: There were also many dubstep shirts.