Warped Tour, Jacksonville, FL

WARPED OUT – A Parent’s Journey Into Rock Heaven, Warped Tour 2015

We all grow up. It is inevitable.

Some of us though, fight the tide of time, long into adulthood.

We all do it, in various ways; holding on to a long loved hobby, music genre, or some ritual experience. If you are a parent, you get a special kind of ticket into the past.

Children are often the conduit through which we get to revisit past experiences- and simultaneously- see these experiences though the lense of our advancing years. We hoped to have such an experience, when my husband and I took our oldest sons, ages twelve and ten, to Warped Tour this year.

My own Warped Tour experiences were not made in my teens, but rather my early twenties- I was out on my own, and away from my parents disapproval of my musical proclivities. I saw some of my favorite bands, singing my favorite songs- with thousands of other people loving the EXACT same thing I was. It was a palpable sense of belonging.

Once I had my sons, I endeavored to give them a lush and diverse musical education. Starting with classical, moving into THE classics, and from there- forward in time. However, like many things children see in the home; reading for leisure, oral hygiene, or thriftiness, some things are past down subconsciously- and so it was with my ten year old and punk rock.

My boy LOST HIS MIND when I told him we would be seeing THREE of his favorite bands on the same day. The days leading up to the concert were clearly agony for him. Question after question, about every facet of that coming day.

And then, the day dawned. After shipping off the youngest brother (who is four and a half) to nana’s house, we ate a late breakfast and dressed in appropriate festival apparel; clothes that are not too nice, shoes that tie, (but not your nice ones!) sunglasses, earplugs and LOADS of SPF.

We left our Murray Hill home, and headed Downtown- to park at a friend’s house in Springfield.  The social media pages for Warped Tour were a little foggy about where the venue actually was, and I knew parking would get ridiculously expensive the closer we were to the venue. We ended up parking a solid thirty minute walk from the venue. (Oops!) However, we would have had to pay $10 to $20+ to park anywhere within a 10 minute walk.

The experience of warped tour is definitely different than it was in my young adulthood.  It is definitely more commercial, with a clear brand identity. The backstage and band setup were very efficient. The venue has security that is “young person” centric, allowing parents to exit and re-enter, but not kids. There was also a designated “parent daycare” for those parents, whose kids (like my own) were not yet old enough to be dropped off unsupervised. However, I was there to enjoy the music WITH my kids- so other than a peek to see what was in the tent (mediocre AC and free lukewarm water in Monster cans) I was uninterested. We paid $2 for a program, a sheet of paper with the band schedule on one side, and a map on the other. We situated ourselves in the back of the crowd, at the stage where “favorite band #1” aka Peirce the Veil would play. We established a post-show meeting spot in case we were separated in the crush. Peirce the Veil began, and of the bands I saw while there, they had the best production experience of the day. Their last song was a family favorite, and the experience was enriched with streams of smoke and streamers flying.

I had encouraged the boys to get as close to the stage as they could, while being mindful of where the pit was. They were trepidatious about going into such a dense crowd by themselves. So for the next show, Memphis May Fire, my sons and I went to the front, standing a full 20 minutes in advance of show time- the hoard piling up behind us.

The security, which plucks the onslaught of crowd surfers off of the throng, deserves a lot of credit in the safety and success of a large festival like Warped. Not only did they keep my guys from being kicked in the head repeatedly, but they hosed the crowd regularly with blessed bottles of cold water. The stage front hazards were worth it, at the end of the show; my 10 year old caught his first guitar pick.

After Memphis May Fire, we walked about the grounds, having a listen at the various stages, enjoying the blow-up slip-n-slide, and looking at merchandise. Upon consulting the schedule, we realized we had a full 2.5 hour gap until our next favorite band. So we decided to make the (epic) trek back to our vehicle, and take a respite at home.

We returned in the evening, to catch We Came As Romans. Since the festival was nearly over, the cost of parking was lower ($5) and we happily paid it to park right by the gate. Once in the venue, we located the correct stage, and my ten year old said he wanted to be up front again. He and I assumed spots in front of the stage barrier, and waited. By the time We Came As Romans began to play, the sky had turned dark with thunder clouds, and the last two songs were enjoyed under a full on downpour. My son then caught his second guitar pick of the day.

Drenched and tired, we made the (mercifully) short walk back to the car, along with streams of other people- all- rocked out. The kids had had a very full festival experience.

You can never go backwards in time, but there is a middle place, where time has momentarily frozen. You and your child, part of a wonderful shared experience. You look over at that person you made- enjoying the same things you do- and it is as if it’s the first experience for you, too.

I know that eventually, they will not want me with them. My presence will be an irritation-and eventually-my liking something might qualify it as “uncool”. Hopefully there are a few more Warped Tours to go to between now and then.

About Monica Toups