After that summer, I started to compile and organize all of the photos I had taken during the time I had dedicated to Project 143 and realized that while I loved a good number of them, I couldn’t really use any of them for the charity. The purpose of me taking photos at shows, up until that point, was to capture shots of any artists that were wearing gear from the charity on stage for use on our website and social media pages. I managed to pool a number of those shots, upload them to a website, and thus I began something called Shameless Promotions & Media. Which eventually turned into Shameless SF. The site that you’re reading this on. In the years that followed, I would photograph Warped Tour five times as a photographer, from 2015 up until this final year. I would interview artists in the press area, mingle with fans and fellow photographers, and spend every waking moment of each Mountain View date running my ass off to each photo pit to capture as many artists as I possibly could.
While I have a number of years and particular dates in Warped Tour history that I will consider among my favorites, this last year of the Vans Warped Tour will forever have a special place in my heart. It may have been one of the best years they’ve ever pulled off. Throughout each of the two days at Shoreline Amphitheater this past July, fans played witness to acts that at one point or another spear-headed every single generation of punk and alternative rock music. Old schoolers got acts like Bad Religion, The Offspring, Less Than Jake, The Vandals, and NOFX reigned supreme. The generation of pop-punk and pop-rock that followed, comprised of bands like Sum 41, Simple Plan, We The Kings, Set Your Goals, and many more dominated the two-day event. The metalcore-charged Monster-Energy Stage played host to some of the most impressive and chill-inducing acts the scene has to offer, with immaculate sets from the likes of August Burns Red, Silverstein, Memphis May Fire, and Wage War. The “BlackCraft” and “Full Sail” stages sat nestled away in the amphitheater, playing host to generations old and new alike with acts like The Aquabats!, Meg & Dia, Elder Brother, Bad Cop/Bad Cop, and One OK Rock.
It’s nearly impossible to recap every single artist that played over these two days; each one created a new memory that will forever be engrained in the history of this festival. Not only did each of these bands play what I would categorize as a perfect set, but they all made it their own. Anti-Flag brought forth the most energy I’ve ever seen them bring, and that says a lot given how over-the-top their stage presence is at each of their shows. The Used brought forth a monumental, career-defining set that will forever remain in the hearts of all the kids that grew up memorizing every word that Bert McCracken spilt upon notebook paper and later screamed into a microphone. There was a sense in the air that everyone knew this might be the last time all of these bands would be together, at least for a very long time, so they brought their A-game to every note, every vocal inflection, every stage dive, and every last moment they had up on that coveted stage, one that bands had fought for years to gain a spot upon. It didn’t matter what size the stage was on either day; the playing field was even, and the objective was the same: play your fucking heart out.
As I recapped in the soliloquy I provided above, I’ve done a number of dates of the Vans Warped Tour. I’ve seen countless sets, ones that will forever remain in my memories when I think back. The very last set of the night, of the last ever Vans Warped Tour, will forever be the first thing I think of when reminiscing on this tour. To recap: the closing spot of the entire festival was intended to go to NOFX. Who were, unbeknownst to most fans, stuck in Montreal after playing a festival there. This, as you could probably tell, created a problem. At 9:30 PM, the moment that they were supposed to take the stage and end the whole thing, Kevin Lyman walks out and announces what’s going on. The band are scheduled to land (finally) at 9:50 PM. In a humorous story, Lyman recounts that he had to do “the least punk rock thing he’s ever done in his life: charter a private jet”. None of the flights worked out, so a private jet would be the only way the band would make it back in time. But that meant that we had almost a half hour to kill. So how would the tour stall to make up for lost time?
By bringing out a consortium of band members that ranged from Quicksand, Sum 41, The Starting Line, The All-American Rejects, Atreyu, Thrice, Hyro The Hero, Yungblud, and countless others that I’m probably forgetting. They had spent the day in between their sets practicing various NOFX covers in anticipation that the band wouldn’t arrive on time. What unraveled was one of the craziest and most beautiful things I’ve ever seen at a concert. The last hour of the final Vans Warped Tour embodied what is exactly in the spirit of punk rock: it was chaotic, spontaneous, and hilariously fun. Many of those around me in the photo pit that evening will attest to hearing me state the following phrase over and over again: “Holy shit, this is the most amazing thing ever.”
It wouldn’t be until the last song of this cover set, “The Brews” (in which the tour brought up several fans to sing the song), that the members of NOFX ran on stage to a barrage of cheers from the audience. Without even missing a beat, Fat Mike grabbed the microphone and joined in the chorus as El Hefe, Melvin, and Smelly raced for their instruments and launched into a tightly compressed half-hour set. In the most memorable way, Warped Tour brought its twenty-five year legacy to a close with an absolute bang, and one that no one in attendance will ever forget.
While a number of people in my life are massively responsible for making things like traveling on that tour possible, I owe a massive thank you and gratitude to Kevin Lyman and the Warped Tour. Without Warped Tour, I wouldn’t have any semblance of a career, and for that I am forever grateful. Summers are going to be a lot different from now on knowing that this festival isn’t going to be hitting the road anymore. I will miss it dearly, as I know hundreds of thousands of people across the country will.
I mentioned at the beginning of this massive recap that I’ve tried to distract myself from writing this article because I didn’t want to come to grips with the fact that this is over. In a way, I think it was such a big deal because I attended my first Warped Tour during my first year of high school. Now, I’m 26. I’m getting married in two months. I’ve grown so much as a person in the last eleven years. Yet even though this music has been a part of my life for all of these years (and I am confident it will continue to be), there’s a part of me that knows a chapter in my life is ending. I was filled with anxiety leading up to the last date of Warped Tour because I think that, inherently, I knew this. But sometimes, things have to end so that something even better can come along. And no matter what, no one can ever take away those summers from us.
Whether we were part of the tour as an act that played to five people or five thousand people, a crew member that sweated it out in some of the most physically enduring conditions possible for three months straight, a patron who attended one time or all twenty-five times, someone who just went for a day because “that band with that one hit that’s kinda cool is playing”, you all played a part of the Warped Tour legacy, in more ways than you could ever possibly imagine.
Here’s to the miscreants, the fucked-up kids, the people who don’t know their place in the world. To the lost ones, the wanderers, the daydreamers, the true believers, the ones who dared to defy the status quo. Here’s to everyone who ever thought they could become a rock star, whether it was for one day, one week, one month, or summer after summer up on those stages. To the sleepless drives, the long nights, the ones who lived in the moment, took a chance, got up off of their asses, and threw themselves into the notion that playing in a silly little rock band could actually be one of the greatest fucking things they could ever do in their lifetime. To every kid who showed up early in the morning for a chance to get in first, who waited countless hours against the barricade or in lines at merch tents to meet their favorite artists for just a few seconds. To every crew member, stagehand, merch-person, food vendor, tour manager, publicist, and countless others who I know were crucial in the instrumentation of a tour of this caliber, summer after summer. If we crossed paths even once during any of those summers, from the bottom of my heart, I’m so grateful that we did.
And of course, to every naysayer, to everyone who said music like this wasn’t popular, to every asshole in schools across the nation that cast a dirty look at kids who dared to venture outside of the mainstream and listen to something other than filtered pop-radio. To those who made fun of you for wearing “that band t-shirt”, for constantly being attached to your iPhone, iPod, or whatever you used to listen to music. To those who told us we were stupid for believing in something so fleeting: you may actually have been the most important ones of all. We needed something to rebel against, right?
And yes. It may be gone. But our memories aren’t, and for that, we’ll be forever Warped.
Time to close this chapter. I guess this is growing up.