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The Reverse Daycare tent at the Vans Warped Tour resembles nothing so much as a really relaxed waiting room. While away the hours in a bazaar armchair while your daughter (always a daughter) treks from stage to stage, occasionally texting you or stopping by the air-conditioned tent and asking the security guard stationed outside to poke his head in and call for you. (She’s not allowed inside.) Read one of the provided magazines (Vogue, Allure, Lucky, In Style, Women’s Health, Runner’s World); watch a movie; doze off (intentionally or otherwise). It’s a minor but crucial element of a tour that, as Reverse Daycare Tent Manager Shilpa Hareesh pointedly noted to me, is now older than many of its attendees.
On Saturday at Nassau Coliseum, Warped Tour first-timer Denise—who spent most of her time in the tent catching up on a backlog of Crain’s New York Business—told me that the tent was the deciding factor in her 14-year-old daughter’s Warped attendance, after a plan for her to go to the festival with a group of older kids was nixed. (Last names and kids’ names and ages, where provided, were volunteered by parents.) Denise’s daughter researched the Reverse Daycare Tent and presented her case, recruiting her mother as a chaperone for her and her friends. This is a common narrative, Hareesh told me, and a cursory online search for “reverse daycare” bears that out. Several other parents who had planned for Reverse Daycare also brought their own reading material, whether a Grisham mass-market or Fifty Shades Darker on an e-reader.
Three-time attendee Tiffany Drummond, seated nearest to the power strips, was the model of scene responsibility, helping confused parents hoping to charge their cell phones and indicating the cord that led to the tour-provided, shared iPhone charger. (Hareesh said she hoped to replace a tour-provided universal charger that had been stolen on the way to Sunday’s Warped Tour stop in Hartford.) Drummond noted, almost proudly, that her daughter Tia, now 16, doubled down on the Warped Tour each year, attending once with her father in California and once with her mother on Long Island. Later in the day, after her mother excitedly introduced me to her outside the tent, Tia would tell me that this year’s Warped Tour was “more relaxed” than last year’s. Probably not unrelatedly, the two had arrived at 11:45 that morning, which, notably, was the latest any parent I interviewed indicated, even though doors supposedly opened at 11:30. Denise deadpanned about her own crew’s 10:30 a.m. arrival: “I was told that we were late.”
Many other parents simply took a brief reprieve from the sun and the noise of the festival. Hareesh stationed herself inside the tent’s entrance, greeting parents and listing the amenities, including free beverages—water from a cooler, sponsored Monster Energy Drinks—and massages (provided for $1 a minute by Stage Hands Massage to benefit the nonprofit Hands That Rock). A widescreen television showed closed-captioned DVDs (Saturday’s selections included Blazing Saddles and The Fugitive), with the audio broadcast into a different channel of the same headphones used for the Silent Disco “dubstep party.” Two still-unreleased films also screened: Renee, starring Kat Dennings, and Fat Kid Rules the World, directed by Matthew Lillard. Hareesh told me that Lillard actually contacts her looking for feedback from Warped parents—and I bet she gets quite a bit.
Once she gives parents the layout, Hareesh knows to just leave them alone. There’s enough natural light in the tent to read by, but not much more, and that’s sort of the point—it’s a break from the Warped sensory overload. Certainly sound bleeds in (especially from the Acoustic Basement Stage, located in the adjacent tent) but for one father named Neil, it was a bonus—he came in the tent expressly because he knew he could check out Anthony Raneri of Bayside’s solo set while sitting in the air conditioning. Yet the tent was never completely full, despite holding only 35 chairs within a mere 400 square feet. Some parents stayed in the area of the Coliseum itself that was open, which contained restrooms, concessions (some served at repurposed beer counters), and electrical outlets was also air conditioned. Others camped out in the “beer garden,” a fenced-off smoking area repurposed as a 21-and-over-only zone.
Many parents—fathers in particular—seemed to be negotiating concerns and freedoms on the fly. Gene Walker brought his daughter Ashley to her first Warped Tour, and while she enthused about Blood on the Dance Floor and was excited to see Falling in Reverse, he only said “I’m following her” and that he was having fun. One father, who declined to be interviewed, sat a distance back from the Ernie Ball stage during Fireworks’s set, holding a Man Overboard LP his daughter had bought. Mark, whom I talked to as he charged his phone inside the Coliseum, had let his 15-year-old daughter an her friends split off for a little while, but he showed me the Mighty Mondo CD and Sick of Sarah T-shirt he’d bought after they’d seen the two bands earlier, because, he said, the two bands were pretty good and he wanted to support them.
That turned out to be about as much as I could get out of any parent about music. A complex negotiation of “coolness” was at play. When I asked Denise about her own teenaged concert experiences, she recalled being dropped off by her parents for KISS (also at Nassau Coliseum) in a tone that might have implied that she wouldn’t have made the decision her parents did to let her go. She also brushed off a question about the music she listens to now with “I don’t want to embarrass [my daughter],” though whether it would be by being too “out of touch” or too “in touch,” i couldn’t be sure. Mark’s voice betrayed a moment’s hesitation when he recalled having seen Mountain live, as though he was afraid I wouldn’t know who Mountain was. Patty and Jen, two mothers and Warped first-timers hanging out in the beer garden, shared a laugh—impossible to decipher without a ton of context—after one of them said she liked Matt Toka, who’d played earlier in the day.
I could go on forever about the gender dynamics here. At the same time, the number of parents present at the festival paled in comparison to the number of parents who arrived at show’s end to drive their kids and kids’ friends home—their cars wrapped at least one-and-a-quarter times around the Coliseum—so drawing hard conclusions may be overzealous. That said, it seems clear that some parents are much less comfortable letting their daughters go unaccompanied to rock shows, and Reverse Daycare is one way in which the Vans Warped Tour has tried to address this disparity in a way that allows for the negotiations that are part of parenthood. Without the support of teen girl fans, could the Warped Tour have lasted 18 years? Would it have as good a reputation? It’s impossible to know, but my gut says no.