Note: I’m a columnist for the Reader Weekly, an alt-weekly newspaper in Duluth, MN. Every Tuesday I post a new column.
You can tell how lame a music festival is by how much surface area is sold to advertisers. As a festival gets less relevant, the owners will do everything they can to squeeze the last few dollars out of it. If there’s ads taped to the ground, you’re probably going to have a shitty time.
The Warped Tour not only has ads on the ground, but also ads taped along the sides of each port-a-potty. I’m surprised a man didn’t pop up from the toilet hole to inform me of a sale at Hot Topic. If you were unable to blink, you’d literally spend 100 percent of your time at The Warped Tour viewing ads. The whole venue is a cleverly constructed trap.
But hey, the most punk rock thing you can do these days is not be punk, right? So setting up the festival grounds on asphalt and then selling bottled water for $5 is awesome! Too bad nobody thought to call Johnny Rotten and have him do live ads for Hollister between each band’s set. I’m sure he would have if someone informed him that being a shameless douchebag is the new not being a shameless douchebag.
These things are easier to put up with if the entertainment is good, but going to the Warped Tour in 2007 is like attending a Bee Gees concert in 1984. No matter what your reason is for attending, you shouldn’t tell your friends. I told mine I was spending the day jerking people off at a highway rest stop. This excuse was less humiliating than admitting I went to the Warped Tour.
My real excuse was the band Bad Religion, whom I’ve wanted to see since I was a teenager. They rarely play shows, so I thought braving the sea of bored 15-year-olds would be worthwhile. I was wrong. In order to see the band for 30 minutes, I had to waste an entire day watching 50 other bands that couldn’t fill a small club if they gave away tickets.
Of course, it’s not entirely the fault of the Warped Tour. This is just what happens when a festival is based on a genre of music that hasn’t been cool for over five years. As pop-punk music and extreme sports went from “hip and edgy” to “ways to sell Mountain Dew”, the Warped Tour became the vaginal yeast infection of modern rock.
Besides, the festival does have some benefits. If teachers want to educate kids about the dangers of unregulated capitalism, the Warped Tour would be a great field trip. Sandwiches cost $8, a Rolling Rock beer is $7, and a pizza the size of your palm is $6. In the heat of summer, few people could possibly go all day without spending at least $40.
It’s also a great lesson in hypocrisy. Want to sip a beer while listening to your favorite band? Think again. You must drink your beer in a fenced-off pen far away from the stages. Meanwhile, cigarettes – which pose a much larger and more addictive risk to underage teens – can be smoked or shared anywhere, without a wristband to verify the age of the smoker.
This poor treatment of drinkers was the last straw for me. If I’m paying $6-$7 for a beer, you’d better not stick me in a wire pen like a leper. They wouldn’t even let me stand near the fence of the drinking area. I was told to stay at least ten feet back, for fear that I’d infect someone who doesn’t drink. What was I going to do, pour beer through the fence? Not with a six dollar beer, jackass.
I had been willing to overlook the other horrors of this punk rock toilet camp, but the beer faux pas was too much. I will leave a concert disappointed if I must, but I will not leave humiliated. I’d love to have the Warped Tour’s owner hang out at my place sometime. I’ll charge him $35 admission, blast mediocre MySpace bands for nine hours, charge him $7 for a beer, and then make him drink it in the bathroom with the door closed.