LIVE: A 28 Year Old Goes to Warped Tour

By Mat Stokes

Going to Warped Tour at 28 is a weird experience, especially when the last time you’ve been was seven years prior. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. Seven years is a long time for things to change. Even when I was going to Warped regularly, there was already a notable shift away from the “traditional” punk bands people came to expect, (I use that term loosely because any festival that has featured Eminem, The Black Eyed Peas, and Sublime at some point can hardly be referred to as traditional.), and more towards the metalcore sound that dominates the stages, now. While the bands may be different than I remember, one thing has remained constant: the fans.

The people I noticed that seemed to be the most excited and having the best time were the kids. It has always been the kids and this year was no different. As far as I could tell, a large majority of the crowd was under 18. On the bus I took to Tinley Park, I ended up sitting next to numerous kids still in high school and Warped Tour would be their first concert experience. While I was unfamiliar with or straight up disliked most of the bands these kids couldn’t wait to see, their enthusiasm reminded me of being that age. There is nothing like the anticipation of seeing your favorite band live for the first time: the excitement building until the moment they take the stage and you get to scream your head off surrounded by like minded folks who have been waiting for the same thing. It warmed my jaded heart to see kids still getting excited in all the right ways for music. While it may have been for bands I couldn’t imagine feeling the same way about, it was nice to see the passion still there.

Less Than Jake

To my surprise, scattered amongst the sea of bands I’d never heard of, was a handful of bands I would go out of my way to see in any other situation. I enjoyed being able to have something to look forward to and connect with the younger kids about. More importantly, it allowed me to take a step back from my hang ups and just be excited about going to Warped. I’ll even admit that the first thing I did upon arrival was run over the big inflatable schedule and plan my day. It worked out well that the bands I wanted to see weren’t overlapping and I could take in Every Time I Die, Saves the Day, and MC Chris in one setting.

After getting my itinerary together, it was time to take in the sights and there was plenty to see. For reasons I can’t comprehend, festivals tend to attract a lot of people in food costumes. I saw everything from hot dogs to banana suits. Speaking of costumes, there were just as many who designed their own ensembles. They weren’t even band related. One kid referred to himself as, “The Napkin Thief”. He had business cards. One of my favorite encounters was with a dad who came to Warped with his daughter. She was nowhere to be seen, but I feel like that had as much to do with not wanting to hang out with your father at Warped as what he was wearing. He was decked out in a novelty sombrero with a pool inflatable on top, sunglasses with a built in mustache, and a neon tank top that read, “Ready to Party”. This guy was living up to his shirt slogan because unlike the other parents who just hung out in the air conditioned tent, he wanted to have fun and see what Warped Tour was all about, $11 beer in hand.


I was relieved to see that people still went to Warped to have fun. I don’t know what else I expected. Maybe it was just my bitterness to what’s popular that I couldn’t see the fact that just because I don’t know how I would enjoy some of these bands, that no one could. But, that’s what I saw: people having fun. No one was crying about having been dragged against their will. There wasn’t a tent for folks to get together and complain that Warped Tour is so much worse than it used to be. What I saw was people break dancing, playing hacky sack, making friends, and hula hooping. Kids were taking naps in the grass, passing grass, and drinking underage. They were crowd surfing or moshing or standing against a barrier all day waiting for their favorite band, (I think it was Of Mice & Men, this year, according to my t-shirt count.) Low quality photos and videos of the stage were being taken on phones for instagram and Facebook related use. Any way you can think of to have fun at a festival, someone was surely doing it. I’d bet that even the people I saw getting hurt would tell you that everything was a blast right until that point. At the end of the day, while the soundtrack may have changed, the atmosphere hasn’t. Warped Tour is still the same monster it has always been and there is plenty of fun to be had by anyone willing to have it.