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A World In A Parking Lot

I went to Warped Tour and met cool people, many of whom were with guitars and in bands.

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Okay, by now you guys should know I'm emo/pop-punk trash. I live and die at the altar of Blink-182, Green Day, MCR and all that shit. More often than not, I'm listening to some combo of 2000s Pop-Punk, gangster rap or John Mayer, and occasionally, begrudgingly, Taylor Swift (good music, crappy person). Yes, I know it's a weird mix. Meadows Festival in Queens served as my temple or my pop and rap obsession last fall but I still never got my pop-punk fix.

But where's the pop-punk temple, you may ask? The Vans Warped Tour. The country's longest running traveling music festival, where Pop-Punk, Emo, hardcore and everything that Hot Topic tries to sell gets together for what is essentially a summer camp.


Mayday Parade at Warped@rickhamilton620


State ChampsJesse Ladd


In the words of Knuckle Puck vocalist Joe Taylor, who is an awesome dude in sunglasses with a good taste (see below), Warped Tour is a "world built in a parking lot for a day", as tents and stages are erected in mere hours and from 11 A.M. to 9 P.M., bands take various stages for the most exhausting sets possible as crowds jump and sing along to songs and scream themselves hoarse.


Ya boi with Knuckle Puck, From Left to Right, Joe Taylor (vocals), Nick Cassanto (Rhythm guitar/vocals) and Ryan Rumchaks (bass)Brian Cheng


Me with Otto Wood (L) Geoff Wigington (R) of Waterparks, their lead singer and guitarist Awsten Knight was unavailable for questioningBrian Cheng


But Warped isn't just about killer music. It's about the experience, something that my 16 GB phone was unable to capture even a smidgen of. I ended up deleting a lot of my photos and footage from a lot of sets that day to make room for more. Knuckle Puck had to be deleted to make space for Waterparks, then Simple Plan, then We The Kings, then Issues, then Reel Big Fish (luckily I did have space to record something truly special).

That being said, it's truly an electrifying thing to watch bands new and old connect with crowds, whether that be 90s ska punk mainstays Reel Big Fish, 2000s gods and Maryland locals Good Charlotte or the almost synth pop-punk Waterparks. Each band on Warped brings something unique to the tour and to the crowds, which all sing and scream along to their favorite bands regardless of age, gender or anything else. I saw everyone from dads to babies at Warped, all having a fantastic time, crowd surfing and, in some cases, almost being dropped on top of me.

This sense of diverse community is something that Knuckle Puck's bassist Ryan Rumchaks said was one of the things he'd miss about Warped. For many including Waterparks' Geoff Wigginton, it's a place of fond memories. And on that day, many were made. I had a blast as they played the stellar song "Not Warriors." The same went for seeing Good Charlotte play their 2000s slacker hit "Anthem" and Knuckle Puck play one of my faves, the break up anthem "Gone", Simple Plan rip through "I'm Just a Kid", Reel Big Fish play the ska classic "Sell Out" and so many other awesome bands that I can't even start to list.


Me with Reel Big FishBrian Cheng


But really, as you've seen from these photos and quotes, Warped is where bands and fans unite in a symbiotic relationship and I got to live out my Almost Famous rock reporter fantasy when I saw the drummer of my favorite band State Champs behind a chainlink fence. Catching his attention led to me handing him part of a screenplay with his band's songs. Next thing I know, I'm backstage and get to record the concert from their point of view, seeing the mass of bodies shouting and singing, watching crowd surfers cross the sea of people to the front. I saw artists and their fans in perfect sync, giving 150% and getting that back. I was in awe of the band I considered to be my creative heroes at the top of their game, from a mere 50 feet away.


Backstage before the setBrian Cheng


The sad thing is, this is the last Warped Tour. As awesome as it is, attendance has been declining, costs are going up, and kids don't like rock as much as they used to. But it's still alive and well in the hearts of fans because even the bands themselves are passionate fans. I came in that day not knowing what to expect and left with memories for a lifetime, getting to do what I loved for a day and getting the scoop of a lifetime. In other words:

Warped Tour forever.


My autographed State Champs shirt and guitar pickBrian Cheng

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