VWT+ EIY Press Correspondent Report: St. Petersburg FL w/ Gabrielle Calise
Sunburn, mosh pits, and men in morph suits. Throw in eighty-four bands playing all day on eight different stages, and you get one of the largest touring festivals and (in my opinion) the best day of the year. This is the beast known as The Vans Warped Tour.
Let me begin by saying that navigating through dozens of merch tents in ninety degree heat while ducking past the crossfire of bearded men shooting each other with water guns was not exactly how I expected my day to begin. Somehow I located the Shut Up and Deal merch tent to sign up for the EIY meet up and had enough time to dash over to the Dzambo stage to catch one of my favorite local bands, Set It Off. If any band demonstrates the Earn It Yourself mentality, it’s these boys, who have spent the past three years working their way up from building a local fan base in Tampa through self-promotion to signing with Equal Vision records and becoming label mates with Say Anything and Pierce the Veil. Not only do SIO explode onstage, but they also stick around after every show to thank each of their fans.
Afterwards, I hurried across the venue to see the supergroup D.R.U.G.S. An acronym for Destroy Rebuild Until God Shows, D.R.U.G.S consists of former members of bands including Chiodos, From FirstTo Last, and Matchbox Romance. I had a lot of fun watching them. I still had some time to kill before the EIY meet up, so I took advantage of the press area and scheduled interviews for later with Family Force 5 and Dead Cat Lounge.
There were about twenty people at the EIY meeting, including guitarist Nick Martin and tour manager Dakotah, both of D.R.U.G.S, and of course, Kevin Lyman. Kevin began by saying that he was pleased to see a lot of girls at the meet-up. Dakota explained how people who tour have to sacrifice a lot to make their dreams come true. He described Thanksgivings spent in hotel rooms with cold turkey sandwiches, and missing out on countless Christmases and family events. Kevin, who has been booking tours and festivals for years, now has a lot of control over planning. He books the Warped Tour around his daughter’s birthday and nice fishing spots. However, as with other professions, you have to work your way up.
“It’s rough, but it makes you humble,” said Dakotah. He discussed the hardships of touring. Bands drive all night to make it to different tour stops, and then have to get up at six in the morning to load. When new bands are just starting to tour, they have to do everything themselves, including all the driving and loading. Yet despite the harsh touring lifestyle and missing out on things happening at home, those with touring experience agreed that the moments spent touring have been some of the best times in their lives.
The conversation shifted to a question and answer session. A girl brought up the fact that a lot of her friends don’t come to Warped anymore because they miss bands from previous years and don’t know any of the new bands.
“People tend to lock in their musical tastes at a certain age.” Kevin said. He went on to explain that if he booked the same bands, Warped wouldn’t have thrived and continued to grow or draw new fans. For many young music fans, this is their first taste of a large music festival. A lot of bands that people are surprised to see on a tour like the Warped Tour go on to play at other large festivals. “The lineup is very eclectic this year.” He continued. “I thought about it for two months before I booked the bands.” Kevin puts a lot into planning and booking. “Warped Tour is my heart and soul. This is the tour I live and die for.”
To work in the music industry, not only is hard work important, but a lot also depends on how you treat people. “You have a lot of people that run on ego.” Kevin said. “You never want to become ‘That Guy’. The person who treats you awfully, and then wonders why he never gets hired. ”People remember “That Guy”, the one who is drunk, rude, or violent, for all the wrong reasons. “Treat every person like they were you, and you bought that ticket today,” said Kevin. “Say hi to security…Be as upbeat as possible. Having all of these good people around me makes it easy.” Kevin purposely avoids having bands with bad reputations on the tour. And of course, “you can’t buy or bribe or ‘bro’ your way into Warped.” To get a spot on the tour, you have to earn it yourself.
The EIY meet up was an incredible opportunity, and anyone who is interested in the music industry and is attending one of the Warped dates left this summer needs to experience it.
Unfortunately, I had to leave the meet up a few minutes early to catch my interview with Family Force 5, a band that I’ve loved for the past five years. I sat down with Derek and Josh (known to fans by their stage monikers “Chap Stique” and “Fatty”) to talk about their Warped experience so far.
“It’s been amazing! Amazingly sweaty.” Derek said. “I’d say if I had to sum it up I’d say sweaty mustache.” Josh and I laugh. “Just to clarify why we’re talking about that, there as a party last night called the Mustasho Basho.” We take a moment to discuss all things facial hair—lead singer Solomon (Josh’s brother, aka “Soul Glow”)’s “nappy” mustache, drummer Jacob (aka “Crouton”)’s well kept beard, and their sound guy Chad’s curlicue stache.
Mustaches aside, I ask about preshow rituals. “We like to play basketball.” Josh said.
“Sometimes we watch Rocky 4.” Derek added. “That scene where he’s fighting Dolph Lundgren. There’s something inspirational about it.”
FF5 are known for crazy onstage antics. They released a music video shot during the 2011 involving lead singer Soul Glow crowd surfing inside of a giant hamster ball. “We prefer, well, to be more politically correct, it’s more of a gerbil ball.” Derek said.
“We call it the Soul Globe.” Josh said. “It’s the only way we can get him to shut up sometimes, [we] put him in a big plastic ball and close him off and say ‘You have fifteen minutes in here until you die.’”
“It’s been pretty cool. I mean, he gets inside that thing and rolls on the crowd. The crowd gets to punch the bubble,” said Derek. “The rest of us, the thing that we like about it is we go nuts throughout the whole show, and we realize that no matter what we do, if he’s in that bubble, that hamster-slash-gerbil-slash-rodent ball, nobody’s gonna look at any of us onstage, so we can just do anything.”
“Sometimes we sit down and we play checkers.” Josh joked.
So far, Warped Tour has been treating them well. “The catering’s always amazing.” Derek said. “I am a huge fan of that. I’ve also been doing some Muay Thai fighting, there’s a guy on this tour who just teaches it. It’s been really cool! I’m learning how to jab-cross.” I had to ask: Could I possibly see a demonstration?
“Sure! Mustache Muay Thai.” Derek said, laughing. I asked them about their favorite aspect of Warped Tour.
“[Warped] is like a big band hangout, you get to see a bunch of your friends, and just hang out for the whole summer.” Said Josh. “The staff, the people that work here, are all just wonderful people to hang out with, so it’s just as fun for the bands as for the people who come, so I think that’s probably just the coolest thing about it.”
Derek and Josh said that they’ll be sure to check out an EIY meeting in the future, and so after a quick Muay Thai lesson from Derek, it was time for me to see some more music. I decided to check out hip-hoppers Grieves and Budo on the Skullcandy stage. They put on a killer show, so I went to meet them at their merch booth after their set. I also saw Gym Class Heroes and the Ready Set before I met the members of the EIY band Dead Cat Lounge at their merch table for an interview.
I sat down with three members of the Tampa-based punk band to chat about their Warped experience, their crazy onstage names, and of all things, taxidermy.
“We haven’t played here before, so to be able to play and have all these people here, we’ve handed out a lot of cds, and it’s just really cool,” said Dead Cat Lounge bassist “Roach”. DCL gave out over 500 free cds with stickers over the course of the day, and they also have a link up on their facebook page for a free download.
“I’d been to a couple Warped Tours, and it was always like, ‘Man, that’d be a lot of fun to play!’ Now I got to do it,” said guitar player Aids.
“You know, I think we got a lot of passion, and I think there’s been a lot of old school bands who had a lot of passion,” said Cheese when I ask about DCL’s influences, which include bands such as Dead Kennedys and Black Flag. “It seems like punk itself has been the most fun for me to play.”
Dead Cat Lounge’s name is surprisingly literal, inspired by a taxidermy cat named Boney. “He’s right on the mantel. We all pet him before we go practice,” Roach explained. “He’s just lounging around!”
“Aids kisses him before shows, we only pet him,” laughed Cheese.
“We’ve had a great time. EIY was very cool, we want to thank them, and Sarah Saturday.” Roach added at the end of the interview. “Hopefully people will check us out. We’ve got a lot of shows coming up in the local area. We play a lot, from Miami to Tallahassee. We just want to shout-out to EIY!”
Dead Cat Lounge’s merch booth was right across from the Ernie Ball stage, so I decided to check out the band Victory Bound Rival after the interview. I’d never heard of them before, but they were a lot of fun to watch and photograph. I bought merch and got as much free stuff as I could carry before seeing Yelawolf and Bad Rabbits both put on amazing shows on the Skullcandy stage. My last two hours of Warped Tour were so much fun. I ran to the Nintendo 3DS stage to see Larry and His Flask’s erupt onstage with flailing beards and banjos. Afterwards, I enjoyed a dubstep set from Big Chocolate, and then it was back to the Nintendo 3DS stage to see Family Force 5 close out the day with a giant dance party.
I was reluctant to leave Vinoy Park at the end of the day, and miserably thought of the 364 days that I would have to endure until next year’s Warped. But on the drive home, I realized that this was the best Warped Tour I have attended yet. I learned so much from Kevin Lyman, got to talk with members of one of my favorite bands, Family Force 5, and had so much fun in shooting in the photo pit at Warped for the first time. I’m so grateful to Earn It Yourself for giving me this amazing opportunity. I also want to extend a huge thank you to the members of Dead Cat Lounge and Family Force 5, as well as my family, especially Lena Georges, for helping me out. If anyone has a chance to get involved with Earn It Yourself, I highly recommend it!