The Swellers’ Day At Warped Tour
Ideally between 7 and 8am every morning our Bandwagon (converted RV/affordable tour bus option) would pull into the Warped Tour lot. My annoying iPhone alarm would wake me up, I’d pull my curtain from my bunk open and see the zombies that are my bandmates and crew. Our eyelids heavy and our demeanor in a strange state of emotional numbness, we’d open the door to find what type of weather awaits us.
The first and most crucial part of the day is finding catering immediately, eat some cereal and down some coffee. Remember, every single day the location of everything from the stages to the production building to your vehicle are completely different. I’d see some friends, socialize a bit then it’s off to find the Ernie Ball Stage while our merch guy sets up our tent and gets ready for his day.
The stage we played this year, the Ernie Ball Stage, is a converted truck that opens up into a stage. We’d load our gear across the lot, rain or shine, in the most differing terrain. One day will be plain blacktop and a straight shot to the stage. One day was literally ROCKS, not gravel, ROCKS in our parking lot. We had to load about a football field’s length with our big rolling drum case with tiny wheels and our dolly (2 of the wheels broke in a week) across the rocky lot around a fence and behind our stage. If you struggled at all, someone would notice and offer to help out even if they’re complete strangers. Restored a lot of our faith in humanity. We’d set our tent up and all of our gear to claim our spot for the day.
Around 9:30 each morning, Nick (our singer/my brother) was acting as our Tour Manager and would get our set time. Another crazy thing about Warped Tour is that the set times for bands changes EVERY DAY. The cool part of that is giving all of the bands an equal chance to draw a crowd. The second we find that out, it was my job as “the promotion guy” to start writing our time on about 1,000 postcards and about 50 posters I’d be hanging up around the lot. Every stage I would get posters up wherever kids could see them.
11am or sometimes a bit earlier, the front gates would open. Usually about 20,000 people are showing up to these events. Dates like Detroit have gotten close to 40,000 people if I remember correctly. Imagine that many people waiting in line ready to go see their favorite bands… it’s pretty intense. The second they start coming in you’ll see a bunch of bands with set time signs screaming at kids to buy their product, but I would hand out every single postcard I could and make contact with people. Even if they’re wearing the shirt of a band that’s NOTHING like us, I would still give them our set time postcard. The hard work doubles as a tool to get people to your stage and if they DON’T come, you just had free advertising and got your band name fresh in their heads!
Catering lines for lunch and dinner are usually about 45 minutes long, so you’d have to make sure you time it out perfectly. Tada! Catering does a phenomenal job of literally catering to everyone’s needs. They have a ton of vegetarian/vegan food as well as an assortment of everything else. Usually the meal is everyone’s favorite part of the day. Bands would also volunteer to serve catering in exchange for a pass to cut the line. I have a lot of fond memories of Silverstein giving me extra soy chicken and cake.
Hanging out at the merch tent is always really fun. You get to interact with people who like your band, or strike up bizarre conversations with people you know you’ll never see again. Everyone wants FREE STUFF so you better be prepared to hand some stickers out. Great way to draw people in. Also with the heat getting brutal some days, it’s nice just getting to sit in the shade and hang out with people.
The set is always the pinnacle of the day. You get to let loose and remember the real reason you’re on this festival: to play music! We had a blast getting to play for everyone everyday and it’s always the best feeling when you see other bands on the tour watching you. Our technical last day of the tour a lot of the production and crew people came to watch us and it made us feel pretty amazing. We love everyone involved with Warped Tour and they all work so damn hard!
You pack up, load out, then have the rest of the day to either watch bands or just relax until the BBQ most nights. Every year the “barbeque band” will go on the whole tour getting to play in exchange for setting up a rad party for everyone at the end of the day. It’s donation-based but there’d be burgers and hot dogs (normal and veggie), good tunes and lots of drinks for the drinkers. I’d go socialize and goof off with friends, but a lot of the nights I’d go with our friends and play a game called ULTIMATE WEREWOLF. Our friend John James Ryan (tour manager of The Wonder Years) would be in charge of the game and one day we had 44 people playing, including Kevin Lyman‘s daughter. It’s just great bonding and a hilarious, relaxed way to end the night.
We had the privilege of a shower on our Bandwagon so we’d take one, wind down, then head back in the bunk around 1am each night getting ready to do the same thing tomorrow. A little sore, a lot sunburned, and ready for another exciting day with your friends and awesome music.
This year actually marks 10 years since we played our first Warped Tour date in Detroit in 2003! It’s hard work, but I would easily do it every summer if we had the chance!
What is your favorite Warped Tour Memory?!