“Wait, WHO?” I shouted out loud to absolutely no one but my laptop. The Vans Warped Tour had just announced its 2018 — the touring festival’s final — lineup and, despite keeping my ear to the ground throughout the years, I still found myself scrolling through the bands occasionally mystified: How are there so many artists that I had never heard of?
It was a humbling moment, to say the least.
And to be fair, the final lineup of the Vans Warped Tour, which launched in 1995, brings back a lot of acts that have become staples within the scene: New Found Glory, Reel Big Fish, All Time Low, Taking Back Sunday, Underoath, Sum 41, Simple Plan. These are only a handful of the big names making a return to the Warped stage this year; big names I recognized ten years ago, and still recognize today. But YUNGBLUD? Trash Boat? Deez Nuts? This was the first time I was seeing these names, and I was slightly baffled.
But isn’t that the beauty of Warped Tour? You go to see the bands you know and love, and in the process of walking stage to stage, you catch the set of a band you’ve never even heard of before. And, if you’re lucky, you dig them. You make a note of the band’s name in your phone. You find them on Facebook and “like” them. You find their merch tent later and pick up a CD, or grab a quick picture with the band, and you leave with a new set of songs to add to your personal lineup.
The discovery. The camaraderie. The connection. The shared experience of singing along to songs you and a hundred sweaty strangers love because it’s somehow always a hundred degrees with a thousand percent humidity.
That’s Warped Tour.
And despite knowing that Warped Tour is, in part, about giving visibility to bands a bit green behind the ears, I couldn’t help but feel old in my not knowing. I couldn’t help but feel a sudden aching in my knees as I shouted “WHO?” at my laptop — this, my musical equivalent of “get off my lawn!” Sure, I recognized a decent percent of the bands on the lineup, but I still felt as though I was only circling the loop — not entirely out of it, but not wholly within it, either.
And this middle ground is a place I find myself quite often now. “I’ve heard of that band,” or “That name sounds familiar” are things I mumble quite often. Sure, I have a “working knowledge” of things, just enough to get by in casual conversation, but not enough to stay afloat in an impassioned talk with any super fan, or even a casually obsessed listener, of most bands within the Warped scene anymore.
And here’s the thing, that really is okay.
Music is subjective, and it truly exists within this realm that seems to never end. Technology has made music, and the act of making music, so accessible that anyone can now try their hand at it. The gatekeepers of the music industry, while still present, have released their death-grip on the simple act of making music: it takes little more than GarageBand and SoundCloud to record a song now, and then a single tweet to broadcast it to your audience.
And while that accessibility — both from a creating and consuming standpoint — is something worth celebrating, it creates an over-saturation within individual markets. There’s just so much music out there, and while inherently heartening and worth championing, it can be overwhelming and frustrating when trying to sift through all the sounds literally available at our fingertips.
And while this optimism for music in general — and who gets to make music now — buoyed my initial mysticism, it did little to diminish my inflating awareness that I’ve grown up, and perhaps out of the scene.
But, this is the final year of Warped Tour. And I have seen countless posts on social media from my friends — all of whom are in their late twenties and early thirties — vowing to go to Warped Tour this year. One last ride, a final hurrah.
But, how do you survive Warped Tour as a world-weary millennial?
Well I Guess This Is Growing Up
While there’s some truth to be found in those affirmations that argue that “age is just a number” and “you’re only as old as you feel,” I am here to admit, with no hesitation, that I am a Russian nesting doll of a human being.
I have the soul of an 87-year-old grandmother nestled inside the creaking knees and cranky back of a 55-year-old divorcée, all of which is tucked inside the literal body of a 27-year-old.
I have stopped trying to make sense of these dichotomies.
Because I’m tired all the time. My friends are tired all the time, and I once threw my back out while sneezing. Warped Tour, with its brutal heat, graceless crowd surfers and relentless mosh pits, seems like the last place on earth for me and my kind.
Except, it can be braved. It can be done.
And the first step to surviving a day of guitar licks as unflinchingly hot as the resilient summer sun starts before you even leave home, my fellow millennial.
Nails for Breakfast, Tacks for Snacks
Your mom was right, breakfast is — forgive me this cliché — the most important meal of the day. So before you lace up your Chucks or slide on your Vans slip-ons, eat something healthy and nutrient-rich. It doesn’t have to be as involved as weekend brunch, but you should avoid salts and sweets, especially if you’re preparing to spend time in excessive heat, according to Rick Hong MD, FACEP, the head of Cooper University Hospital’s Division of EMS/Disaster Medication.
But Warped Tour is a full day affair and we’re — kind of, sort of — adults here. Don’t just call not shotgunning a Monster Energy Drink in the parking lot a win. Surviving Warped will take a bit more nuance than that.
There are plenty of adversaries stalking the grounds of Warped Tour: wayward crowd surfers, overly-eager elbows flying near the edge of the mosh pits, kids who seem so much cooler than you were at 16.
But your biggest foe — for sure! — is mother nature.
She’s real in her relentlessness and, over the course of my tours of Warped, I have witnessed my fair share of kids suffering from a natural byproduct of the summer heat: dehydration, and other heat-related illnesses.
A quick Google search shows that symptoms of heat exhaustion include dizziness, fatigue, headache, nausea, vomiting, and muscle cramps. As well as lightheadedness — low blood pressure — upon standing and a weak, rapid pulse.
And I had a friend get sidelined by several of these symptoms at the 2011 Warped Tour. Luckily, once she was sitting in the shade with a full water bottle and a pack of — perhaps illegally smuggled in — PopTarts, she started to feel much better and did not require medical attention. But she was officially done for the rest of the day.
I know, it could have been much worse.
But the best way to avoid the symptoms of heat exhaustion is to simply hydrate hydrate hydrate! And avoid alcohol and caffeinated beverages, according to Dr. Hong. If you believe you are experiencing any symptoms of heat-related illness, however, stop what you’re doing and rest, preferably in a cool, shaded place. And drink; drink water or a sports drink with electrolytes.
Simply put: listen to your body, and take the necessary time out to recover if you need to.
And drink, goddammit!
A Simple Plan
The best defense, so I’ve heard, is offense. And, in order to make sure your final foray at Warped is a day to remember, make it a point to come prepared. And pick up a map of the grounds, or any other informational pamphlet, when you arrive in the morning.
I know, I know. There’s an app for that now. But hear me out, because while you should be prepared for a plummeting phone battery, with an external battery backup on hand, what if you’re not?
Because while I can’t speak for every individual Warped experience, in all my past tours, there was always a piece of paper with set times, signing times and a general map of the grounds located somewhere near the giant, inflatable schedule found by the Journeys stages.
Find the inflatable schedule!
Because not only did that single piece of paper help me figure out where I had to be and when I had to be there to see who I wanted to see, it helped point me in the direction of cooling stations, water fountains and medical tents.
Don’t overlook the little things and the simple plans, and make damn sure you have a small backpack or drawstring bag with all the essentials.
Pack sunscreen — lotion only, no aerosol cans per the official Warped website — and one, sealed water bottle. Bring an external battery pack. Have a small package of band-aids just in case you get a blister on your heel halfway through the day or scrape your knee catching the pavement in a mosh pit.
Stash a bandana in your fanny pack — which are hip now! — and soak it in water; then wrap that bad boy around your neck for a quick cool-off. See, fashion can literally be cool. And no, I will not apologize for such a groan-worthy pun.
And don’t forget to consider the weather. If your forecast is slightly sarcastic with a good chance of rain, pack a poncho or one small, expanding umbrella.
And if you want to bring or buy earplugs, because you’re a 29-year-old who has to ask friends to “Speak up, man. You know I can’t hear shit,” then do it, and don’t give a damn if you might look silly to someone. Because you proved how brutal you were at 19 when you stood directly next to the speakers during The Devil Wears Prada’s entire set. You’ve earned the right to preventative care, man.
In short, don’t be reckless.
Because I don’t know about you, but my health insurance could be a bit better. And while I’m not saying tiptoe around the grounds — no, not at all! Have fun, bounce about and dance, Gavin, dance! — just be aware of what your body is telling you throughout the day, and come prepared as though Murphy himself will be standing guard with his arms crossed, demanding that you adhere to his law.
Cute Without the E
While styles and trends have come a long way since my first Warped Tour — for example, dad caps and overalls are cool again?! — one thing remains the same: dress for function over fashion.
And if you’ll forgive me for sounding like a chiding mother — I just want you to live your best life, okay? — please forgo the skinny jeans, the all-black ensembles, the beanies and the flannels. And trust me, that sentence pained me to write as that’s basically my entire aesthetic in a handful of words.
But Warped Tour is best experienced in weather appropriate shorts, loose-fitting tops, and sensible shoes. And sure, this might all seem like common knowledge, but you’ll be surprised at what your hubris can trick you into believing.
For example, I once wore flip-flops to Warped Tour, like an idiot. And no, it wasn’t my first concert.
I thought I knew my way around Warped Tour. “This old song and dance? Yeah, I’ve been here before,” I thought. “I’ll be okay.” And if Ron Howard narrated my life, a “She would not be okay,” might have rung out right then and there, when I was at my cockiest. But no. I went to Warped that year with flip-flops because I thought I could handle it. And while I managed to lose, find, lose again and find one last time the same flip-flop during Senses Fail’s set in 2012, they did nothing to offer support or protect my toes from the jumping and stomping feet the rest of the day.
My hypothetical Ron Howard would have been right: I was not okay. I tried to dress cute instead of practical that year and I suffered for it — just ask me about my bad knees!
So just remember, Warped Tour isn’t the place for new, unbroken-in shoes or tight jeans. Fuck aiming for being cute. Aim for being cool.
All the Small Things
But just because flip-flops shouldn’t be worn in the mosh pit doesn’t mean flip-flops have no place at Warped Tour. Stashing a pair of shoes in your car, and a change of clothes for that matter, can truly make the car ride home after a day of constant motion and sweat much more enjoyable.
In having attended well over 100 concerts in my life so far, the best tip I’ve ever picked up is: always have a post-show bag packed and waiting for you in the car.
Pack a small bag with a change of socks, a comfortable t-shirt and your favorite pair of moccasins or any other well-worn shoe. If you wear contacts, consider packing your glasses and contact case — and some hand sanitizer to minimize the potential eye infections found in removing your contacts with dirty hands — and give your eyes a break on the drive home, especially if you road tripped for the show.
And while you’re packing your post-Warped bag, throw a few water bottles, or Gatorades, into a cooler with ice or ice packs. Include a few snacks as well, if you want to go that extra mile and really treat yourself after surviving an entire day of crowds and the height-of-summer heat.
Never overlook the simple joys of a cold drink and a dry pair of socks after a long day. And have Tylenol handy, just in case you need to fend off a headache from all that head banging.
Has the music always been this loud? Have my feet always hurt this much after standing for an hour? Is that a new band name or some hip, new slang?
Getting older doesn’t inherently mean that you’re relegated to the back of the crowd, or pushed out of the mosh pit. For all my fatigue and creaking joints, I still find myself dancing and singing and bouncing and screaming along to my favorite bands. I can rally.
Because getting older doesn’t mean you stop doing things, you just start doing things a little differently.
I might not be able to dedicate myself to the hours-long wait along the barricade anymore, but, in lieu of that, I’ve managed to pick up a talent for finding the perfect spot along the fringe of a pit, or along the corners of a crowd that allows me plenty of space to move around, without the constant threat of getting shoved or toppled by a crowd surfer.
Because I’ve taken a lot of knees and feet to the head over the years and been crushed this way and that. It was par for the course as a teenager, but now I need a bit more distance between me and my neighbors. And it’s nothing personal, I’ve just noticed an anxiety that has flared up in my old age that politely demands breathing room. And I give it that.
Because while I can’t speak for you or your own personal experiences, I have found that navigating my early twenties came with a lot of introspection; this natural effect which is the result of becoming unmoored from my teenage years, and drifting much closer to my thirties than twenties. This flux and flow often lead to a better sense of self and, if you’re lucky, helps establish a small community that champions that self.
Because, as is true with surviving anything in this life, community, understanding, and solidarity go a long way.
While at Warped, be aware of what’s happening around you. Listen to your own body, but listen to others, too. And if you need to help someone up in the pit, whether it’s a Warped-rookie trying to get their only shot at a festival fix before it’s gone, or another weary millennial looking for their last hurrah, help them up and help them out.
I’ve witnessed some truly touching moments of strangers helping strangers at concerts. And nothing compares to singing a lyric in concert with hundreds of fellow fans. After all, we accomplish nothing alone. And surviving one, final Warped Tour is no exception.
And, truth be told, this how-to is dressed up in a bit of a farce.
All of these tips for surviving Warped Tour — the massive festival that has crisscrossed the country for 23 years and has been a summer staple for so many of us — simply apply to everyone. After all, we’re all carbon-based life-forms. We all need to hydrate. We all need to eat. We all need community.
So, the only true and proper advice I have for millennials, or anyone who might feel “too old for this,” attending their final Warped Tour is this:
Growing up doesn’t mean looking down on things you don’t know, or understand. And I know we are capable of great acts of unity and empathy, but hating on something is easy, too.
It’s easy to brush off a new trend or roll your eyes at a teenage girl’s latest obsession. It’s easy to stick to your guns and stick with what you know. But I gave YUNGBLUD a listen after my initial reaction of “WHO?” and I dug what I heard. There was a vulnerability underneath the gritty, London break-beats swagger and slick guitar-hooks. There was something worth listening to.
Because that’s the beauty of the Vans Warped Tour, and perhaps one of its greatest legacies: the discovery.
Ashley Cline is an avid introvert and full-time carbon based life form currently living in south Jersey. Since graduating from Rowan University with her Bachelor's in Journalism, she can usually be found singing show tunes to her dog, drinking too much iced coffee and wearing beanies. Her personal best at all-you-can-eat sushi is five rolls in eleven minutes. You can find her yelling about Carly Rae Jepsen on Twitter and posting photos of her dog on Instagram.