All photos by Kristel Aubrey Jax
The Warped Tour grounds at Echo Beach and all the kids who’ve been standing in a line longer than punk’s list of ultra-niche subgenres have been soaked through by the time the gates open on Friday in Toronto. 100 or so bands will play all day (until 9PM), rain or shine, on eight stages as North America’s largest travelling music festival celebrates its 20 year anniversary.
To anyone who graduated from early Warp’s between 1995-and-whatever, the festival’s continued existence has become either a punchline or a sad ghost-tour to ponder over craft brews — its unrecognizable lineups, its commercial hypocrisy, its irrelevancy (as if a punk fest that launched in the '90s was ever really timely). How can Warped Tour still exist, we ask as the bar plays decade old indie rock cuts — but we really mean, how can Warped Tour still exist when we, personally, no longer need it?
I decided to take my own warped perspective on Warped — that it was a relic that peaked along with my mid adolescence in the mid 2000s — and test it out with another seemingly antiquated cultural idiom: the LiveJournal / Hotmail survey - specifically that ultra-personal 40-question end-of-year mega-questionnaire which I still secretly fill out each January 1st, replacing the “2003” with whatever year time’s ever tightening grasp has allowed me to pull my mortal body through.
I took about half of these questions, originally snagged, undoubtedly, by some bored kid from one teen magazine or another, and replaced the New Year theme with the idea that years are marked by summers, and summers, for two decades, have been marked by Warped Tours. “Since your last Warped Tour…” I probed attendees between deafening sets and at least one appalling At The Drive-In cover.
Their answers were pretty much what I expected: honest, sincere, often trite, occasionally heartbreaking — the same as I would have gotten ten or twenty years ago except in the Instagram era. No one was camera shy, most had their photo poses ready to go, and almost everyone was wearing a Black Veil Brides shirt.
There’s been a lot of drama surrounding Warped this year as the community tries to sort through the damage done by various misogynists, pedophiles, abusers, alleged misogynists, pedophiles and abusers, and Idk-wtfs (sewage-ogynists? Whatever — terrible band name) in the newest faces of North America’s heavy music scenes — an ongoing battle that doesn’t start or end with Warped Tour.
Rock has changed costumes countless times over, but it has done alarmingly little growing up considering all its microgenres at least shares borders with radical and progressive ideas. As Jessica Hopper recorded in this dialog from (of course! The golden year) 2003: “‘If you have a problem with emo, you have a problem with all of rock history!’ ‘I know. I do.’” Replace emo with whatever the kids are calling it now. Bionic-wing-core? Yeah, I just linked that video again.
The think pieces and call-outs are right, of course — punk and alternative scenes especially ought to know better than to support predatory behaviour or doing this (trigger warning for wtf-ness). Yet walking the grounds, hyperaware as I was of controversies and shitty behaviour at Warped and beyond, I found none of this diminished the festival’s cultural relevance for who we are here and now — making the discussion surrounding it this year all the more important.
Twenty years have only expanded upon the climate that first produced Warp-topia: eras when kids who listen will tune into an always rising cacophony of corruption in large scale and small scale, raised as they are in the cynical, information-saturated culture created by the human shells of various pre-millennial rock movements, from Woodstock to "Anarchy In The UK" to "Smells Like Teen Spirit." Streams of status quo questioning music have morphed with the times, breeding derivatives for each generation of depressed suburban teens constantly on watch for the apocalypse. If the music sounds horrible, remember what being a teenager was like in the '90s, in the '00s. It was horrible (and so was NOFX). Now, it’s horrible and kids have smartphones.
The think pieces and call-outs are right, of course — punk and alternative scenes especially ought to know better than to support predatory behaviour. Yet walking the grounds, I found none of this diminished the festival’s cultural relevance for who we are here and now — making the discussion surrounding it this year all the more important.
*Shout out to Riff Raff’s merch guy for blasting Drake.
Here’s how 13 young fans at Warped Tour’s 20th anniversary answered my LiveJournal survey questions.
Melida & Victoria, 16
Klyd & Louisa, Montreal/Toronto
What does Warped Tour mean to you?
Brooklyn: It’s a day to have fun and leave every problem I have behind.
Adam: It’s a nice place to hang out with people who basically listen to the same music as you, and see live bands.
Cali: It’s a safe haven. Somewhere I can go and be myself and not feel weird.
Sam: It’s my first time going to a concert of this genre of music, and I only really got into it this year, so it’s a new experience but so far it’s really fun. It means getting to be with more people who are like me.
Nick: It’s a place where I’ve been able to meet a lot of people that are like me, and that’s cool.
Cole: It’s almost like a big convention for people who are all interested in the same music to get together, meet, and listen to music.
Emily: Really original people and really original bands.
Areeva: When you go to a mall, you’ll see one person with a band shirt on. Here everyone likes the same things as you, and it basically feels like family.
Melida: A place people can go to just be themselves. Whenever you tell someone you listen to heavy metal or whatever they judge you, but here everyone listens to the same music, so it’s a place where everyone’s the same and everyone’s different.
Klyd: A chance to go crazy.
Louisa: It’s a really cool concert where you get to meet other fans, enjoy the music, and be yourself.
What bands did you come to see at Warped Tour this year?
Kathleen: I was here to see Metro Station, but they cancelled.
Nick: Black Veil Brides, Pierce The Veil.
Emily: Pierce The Veil, Black Veil Brides, Asking Alexandria.
Areeva: Black Veil Brides, Pierce the Veil, Asking Alexandria, Juliet Simms.
What new bands did you discover from this year’s Warped Tour?
Kathleen: Sumo Cyco.
Nick: Found a new love for Silverstein.
Cole: Asking Alexandria.
Emily: Miss May I.
Klyd: Miss May I.
Since the last Warped Tour or in the past year...
What did you do that you'd never done before?
Brooklyn: I went out of my comfort zone and took a bus here from two hours away.
Adam: I got a tattoo — the Hylian Crest from Zelda
Cali: I started my band, I became really outgoing, and I dyed my hair.
Sam: Dyed my hair — that’s pretty much it.
Cole: I worked — I got a job last summer.
Emily: I took an online course in school.
Areeva: Before I wasn’t working and it was really hard to find a job, and now I have two jobs.
Klyd: Going to Wonder Jam. It’s like a Christian concert.
Louisa: My first Warped Tour, Wonder Jam, I had an internship abroad.
What was your biggest achievement?
Brooklyn: Graduating with honours.
Adam: I got a job, and then I got promoted to supervisor in under a year.
Cali: I dyed my hair — that’s literally it.
Sam: I graduated highschool and got accepted to university.
Nick: I didn’t fail any classes, that was something.
Emily: I made a lot of really good friends this year.
Areeva: I stopped cutting myself, so I’ve been clean for a year.
Melida: Opening up to new bands and not being closed minded to certain bands or different things.
Klyd: Getting a job.
Louisa: Getting an internship in Japan.
What was your biggest failure?
Brooklyn: There’s a lot... Not getting my G2 in time.
Adam: I didn’t get accepted into the course I wanted to get into for school.
Cali: I got into a really abusive relationship.
Nick: I almost failed a class.
Cole: My grades — I didn’t do very well in school.
Emily: I let go of a lot of really good friends.
Areeva: I haven’t had any — I’ve actually been doing way better.
Klyd: I didn’t do that well in school.
What was the best thing you bought?
Brooklyn: Probably new anxiety medication.
Adam: The Real Friends flag I have over my window: it has a little child crying, and it’s the best.
Cali: My laptop and my camera.
Sam: Honestly, hair dye.
Cole: I built my own computer last year and I bought all the parts for that, that was pretty cool.
Areeva: I wanted a PS4 but I got an Xbox One, but it’s still pretty good.
Where did most of your money go?
Kathleen: Moving to Toronto.
Brooklyn: Video games.
Cali: Concert tickets!
Sam: I don’t have a job so I don’t have much money to spend.
Nick: Video games.
Emily: Clothes and food.
Areeva: Band merch, concert tickets, convention tickets.
Melida & Victoria: Band merch.
Klyd & Louisa: Tuition fees and textbooks.
What did you get really, really, really excited about?
Kathleen: Moving to the city and getting out of the country to get more exposure as a painter.
Adam: Not really anything. I’ve just been going with the flow.
Sam: Coming to Warped Tour.
Nick: When my friend asked me to go to Warped Tour.
Cole: Coming to Warped Tour.
Compared to this time last year, are you happier, or sadder?
Brooklyn: A bit sadder.
Adam: A bit happier.
Sam: Happier, definitely.
Nick: I’m a lot happier now.
Emily: Probably happier.
Melida & Victoria: Happier.
Klyd & Louisa: Happier.
What do you wish you'd done more of?
Brooklyn: Talked to friends, and got out and about more.
Adam: When out more, was more social.
Sam: I wish I’d been more outgoing and less shy about everything.
Nick: Met more people, and did more things I should have done.
Emily: I wish I’d gone out with my friends more.
Victoria: Exercise more.
Melida: Going to more concerts — usually it’s just Warped Tour and then I go to one or two on the side.
What do you wish you'd done less of?
Brooklyn: Overthink things and hide in my house.
Adam: Sat in my room and did nothing.
Sam: I don’t know if this makes sense, but I wish I’d done less nothing.
Nick: Wasted away in my basement.
Emily: Just being lazy.
Victoria: Sleep. I slept a lot.
Melida: Being more in touch with myself — I keep everything bottled up inside and I don’t talk to people.
Did you fall in love?
Emily: I don’t know how to answer that.
What political issue stirred you the most?
Kathleen: The fight for gay rights in the states.
Brooklyn: Equal rights in the states.
Adam: That town with all the racism problems — Ferguson. That pissed me off so bad.
Sam: The issues in Ferguson.
Nick: There’s a lot of controversy about video game violence, that’s something.
Cole: Gay marriage becoming legal in the states, that was pretty big.
Areeva: The whole war between Palestine and Israel. I’m pro-Palestine, so that gets on my nerves if someone is pro-Israel.
Louisa: I’m Hong Kongese, so the Umbrella Revolution.
What was the best book you read?
Kathleen: Ame & Yuki - Wolf Children.
Brooklyn: Dayna Lorentz - No Safety in Numbers.
Cali: Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell. She’s good. It’s cute.
Emily: H.B. Gilmour - Ask Me If I Care.
Areeva: John Green - Looking for Alaska.
Melida: The Lord of the Rings.
What was your greatest musical discovery?
Sam: Anything my best friend has recommended to me.
Melida: Youth In Revolt.
Whose behaviour merited celebration?
Kathleen: My girlfriends, for being there for me when I was going through a really rough and terrible time.
Cali: My sister: she came out as transexual to my parents.
Cole: Ronnie Radke from Falling In Reverse — just how well he’s been doing, starting his new band, and becoming sober. Seeing his rise up in the past year.
Whose behaviour made you appalled and depressed?
Cali: My friend. She started acting really mean to everyone — she’s not a nice person anymore.
Nick: A lot of my teachers.
Cole: Some of my family members.
What kept you sane?
What dates will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
Brooklyn: March 10: I went to a free comic con with the person I was sorta-dating at the time.
Areeva: April 21, but it’s personal.
How would you describe your personal fashion concept?
Brooklyn: Basically whatever is hanging in my closet at the time, and whatever’s cheap.
Cali: It went from really girly, to scene, to hipster, to… I don’t know what I am now.
Sam: It started out as pretty basic and went to “I really don’t care.”
Emily: Black. I like to wear a lot of black.
Areeva: A mixture of everything, but mostly band merch.
Louisa: I’m more casual, but this year I’m becoming more fashionable — before I’d just wear a t-shirt and jeans but now I’ll throw a cardigan on, stuff like that.
Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned:
Kathleen: Nothing really matters as much as you think it does.
Brooklyn: Don’t wait to do things that are really important, because you might miss your chance.
Cali: Not everyone you think you’re in love with you should trust.
Sam: You can’t always get things done by letting them happen — you have to make them happen yourself.
Nick: Not to judge people by their cover.
Cole: To not take people at face value: to see what’s beneath people, and not just take what they say.
Emily: To treat every day like it’s your last.
Areeva: You’re stronger than you think you are, and you shouldn’t give a shit about anyone else’s acceptance but your own.
Melida & Victoria: To be yourself and not let others put a label on you — to be proud to be different.
Klyd & Louisa: Try to say no — don’t always say yes.
What song will always remind you of the past year?
Kathleen: Probably “Blank Space” by Taylor Swift — not something you would expect, but, yeah.
Adam: “A Part of Me” by Neck Deep
Nick: “Rise of the Runaways” by Crown The Empire
Cole: “Sink or Swim” by Falling in Reverse
Emily: “In The End” by Linkin Park
Areeva: “Hospital for Souls” by Bring Me The Horizon
Louisa: “Crossfaith” by Monolith.
Quote a song lyric that sums up your year:
Cali: “We will never sleep, the sleep is for the week.” (Bring Me The Horizon, "Diamonds Aren’t Forever")
Sam: “I’m not afraid to die.” (Black Veil Brides, "In The End")
Emily: “In the end it doesn’t even matter.” (Linkin Park, "In The End")
Areeva: “I believe that we all fall down sometimes.” (Black Veil Brides, "Lost It All")
Victoria: “I have a problem.” (Beartooth, "I Have a Problem")
Melida: “Me in my own head.” (Beartooth, "Me In My Own Head")
Kyld: “Slave to nothing.” (Fit For A King, "Slave To Nothing")