WARPED REPORT: SAN DIEGO
Los Angeles EIY Chapter member Paula Jean attended Warped Tour on behalf of EIY this summer. Here’s her full report!
Cricket Wireless Amphitheatre is about 123 miles away from my hometown in Los Angeles. But this was one of the only dates I was available to volunteer for and as far as it was, I knew this was an opportunity I didn’t want to miss. I had left the night before with my friends in There’s No Tomorrow, a local band that won the chance to play alongside the skate park for the same Warped Tour date. Band and vendor check in was at 8:30am and it was increasingly difficult for us to sleep knowing that the next morning we’d be taking part in the most amazing festival/tour in the country. Needless to say, the excitement made us restless and we were out of the hotel before we knew it on three hours of sleep.
As we pulled up to the parking lot, it was so surreal observing all of the tour buses and vans lined up. All I kept thinking about was which bus housed Adam from Taking Back Sunday, where David from Breathe Carolina might be or if any of the band members from New Found Glory were already awake. The first thing I did when we parked was text my point of contact, Hailey. She guided me to the Feed Our Children Now meet up location and there I met the other volunteers, Jessica and Adam. Both seemed to be as eager as I was. Shortly after, Franny and KC from the Feed Our Children Now team briefed us on what we would be doing throughout the day and we were off to set up our booth inside.
Before we began, we were instructed to wait for Kevin Lyman to come over to show us where to set up. I wasn’t sure if I heard Franny right the first time, so I asked him to confirm what I thought I heard. It was true, Kevin was walking over to designate our set up area and I was in awe and excited to meet Kevin, even if it was only for a moment. Kevin came by and thanked us for volunteering then proceeded to show us where we were going to set up the canopy. Right after we set up the tent, we unraveled the wristbands and the gate slowly opened for kids to come through to our booth.
Kids with tons of cans, broken/old cell phones, and cash donations flooded the booth and it was a hectic but fun two or three hours rushing to accept the donations and provide wristbands for the super stoked kids who hurried back to the skip-the-line entrance. I had recognized some of them that were there even before I had checked in. Other kids donated more than the required three. Others made cash donations and still brought a can or two just because they wanted to help out the cause. It was definitely heart-warming.
Around one o’clock, the crowd seemed to die down and I was off to check in at the press room. By this time, I was already starting to get the jitters. As I passed by the security guards and showed them my wristband, I couldn’t believe I was technically walking in to the backstage area. Band members and staff were lining up to get lunch and I was walking through to get to the press room. Little old me, walking through the Warped Tour backstage area, my mind was all over the place. As I entered the room, I met the press manager, Bethany. Words could not explain how amazing she is. Throughout my time in the press room, she constantly made sure everyone in the room was okay, whether they were there as the interviewer or the interviewee.
I spoke to her about how nervous I was and how this was my first time ever interviewing people that were widely known. She constantly reassured me that I’d do great every time I seemed to have a nervous look on my face. I felt very at home with her there. She even joked around with me as I observed Star Plus interview David from Breathe Carolina.
I told her how ridiculously big of a fan I was and she would just giggle and try to get me to observe closer. She’s such a sweetheart and you can tell how well of a job she does backstage too. Everyone there greeted her with high-fives, hugs and smiles. It really set the friendly atmosphere. Between interviews, some band members I wasn’t familiar with even started small talk with me. Matt from Young London, who just happened to be next to me waiting for an interview, told me that it was just how awesome Warped Tour is because there was really “no room for rock stars” there.
I was fortunate enough to be able to interview Derek from Mayday Parade, Jimmy Stadt from Polar Bear Club, Mike and Ricky from iwrestledabearonce, Jack and Alex from All Time Low, the tour manager of Warped Tour Lisa Brownlee, and the founder of the Warped Tour Kevin Lyman. Each had given me so much insight on information I can relay to kids in the local scene. I was so inspired by each individual who each clearly worked hard to get to where they are now. The questions I wanted to focus on were those that would give tips or advice for bands in the local scene:
Interview with Mike & Ricky from iwrestledabearonce
Q: How is your local scene back home? Did they support you through your upcoming?
Mike: Growing up, we had a local scene but it was kind of sh*tty. We didn’t really have any venues; I think we had one venue that was worth anything. Kids did not really come out, it was terrible.
Q: What city are you guys from?
Mike: I’m from Louisiana, the other guitarist is from Louisiana, Ricky here, our bass player here is from Texas, Krysta is from New York and Mike is from Oklahoma. We’re all kind of scattered.
Q: So I guess it’s different in every city. I could only imagine how weird it is in Louisiana.
Ricky: Actually, it is pretty weird. The Texas scene where I was from was kind of weird too. It was like we would just find new places to have shows like every month because after we would have the show the people that would own the building would be like “well we’re not doing that again” because kids would f*ck sh*t up.
Q: What would you consider your big step to go from local to a bigger band? Where you were like ‘Oh, I’m getting somewhere”, that broke you out of the scene?
Mike: I think the first thing that we did, that I felt that we did, that kind of moved us forward or actually moving up was that right before we got signed we did our first legit tour. It was a DIY Tour but I had never done a tour like that in my life so I felt somewhat accomplished. It was awesome.
Ricky: I feel like, with us, the first big step is to do it yourself, go out there. Try to tour the whole country and then people will notice that damn this band is going everywhere and they’re not even
signed or anything like that.
Q: So how was that first tour?
Mike: Well for me, it was brutal. We ate Ramen noodles right out of the package and stuff like that.
Q: What kind of advice would you give the local bands to set themselves apart? Because they all kind of have a problem trying to get out there and bring out their music…
Mike: The one thing that we did was DIY tours; you have to get yourself out there. You basically have to, without being ridiculous, push yourself on people and just be like we’re going to play as many shows as we can, anywhere we can. It doesn’t matter, that’s how you get exposure.
Ricky: Yeah, you have to play more than just where you are from. If you could throw some big shows in your hometown, awesome but start playing other places too and start selling them places out. I’ve known so many people that get big in their hometown and that’s all they ever do.
Q: I guess a lot of them are afraid to not sell out there, but I mean you guys did it.
Mike: Well it’s a gamble, you honestly don’t know if you’re going to have to go home in the middle of the tour because you don’t have enough money or food or whatever. But that’s how we kind of did it and it seemed to work for us a little bit.
Interview with Kevin Lyman, founder of Warped Tour
Q: When you first started Warped Tour, how difficult was it to actually promote the event? Or was the scene already accepting and supportive of it?
Kevin: Oh no, it was difficult. People didn’t quite know what I was doing. I’ve been doing tons of shows in California with Goldenvoice and shows with street marketing so I think kids knew what I was trying to do here because we’ve already done something with skateboarding music type of events but when we got out of the state, it was really hard to build up that network of people. Now it’s like you guys are tuned in, just get on the website and I don’t even know if street marketing helps anymore. Passing out flyers maybe help but with
Warped, it’s almost like you have to live under a rock if you’re thirteen or nineteen to not know that Warped Tour is coming up.
Q: When I was thirteen, I remember knowing about Warped Tour but I can’t even remember how I found out about it. So when you were out there, what did you kind of have to do to put the word out there?
Kevin: In the beginning, it felt like we were literally selling every ticket to every kid. “This is what the show’s about, come in and check it out!” You know it takes that momentum and that’s the hard part, is hitting critical mass. Where you have enough kids in a town that sees so highly about something. With these trend setting kids, you know, that would be like, “Oh, the Warped Tour is so cool!” and a bunch of kids will want to come with them. I think it’s hard because you have street marketing and social media, with things like radio and print aren’t as important. Although, I still think AP magazine is very important because you guys still love reading that. But you’re not opening up the San Diego Tribune trying to figure out if you’re going
to Warped Tour.
Q: Where do you see Warped Tour in five years?
Kevin: I don’t know maybe here in this parking lot. I just know it’s an important thing for kids. It’s made this big transition from these old punk bands. Where the old bands used to be the baby bands of the tour like the Used and Taking Back Sunday. They’re the older bands on the tour now but you guys love those bands because it’s something you can relate much better with them than Bad Religion. I have to be smart
to keep it going.
Q: What kind of advice can give you to the local promoters?
Kevin: Just be patient, know your market, be careful when you start dealing with agents instead of booking with the band and just persevere. Be smart and learn your market place, be the best person in your market place and then you know bands will want to start playing. If you start bringing kids in and doing shows right, you’ll become that legitimate promoter.
Q: Thank you so much!
Kevin: Well I hope what you’re doing is a success and maybe you can take over Warped Tour in San Diego when I can’t do it anymore.
Interview with Jimmy Stadt from Polar Bear Club
Q: So up in New York, how is the local music scene out there?
Jimmy: In New York? It’s cool! Right now, there a bunch of bands like Such Gold from Rochester, that’s the same city as us, that plays every now and then. From when I was a kid, I was like fifteen and there were shows all the time. Rochester has a good college scene, so a lot of hardcore kids from Boston and New York would come down to school in Rochester and start booking shows with their friends’ band.
Q: Wow, so the support was really there.
Jimmy: It was. Actually, I don’t know if it is anymore but that’s the scene I grew up in and was lucky to have that community.
Q: So what do you think you guys did to break out of that local music scene?
Jimmy: It’s strange; our coming up was kind of strange. We started in college and it was a part time thing and we didn’t want to do it very seriously because we had all been in bands that had done it seriously and kind of failed. We didn’t really want to do that. But what happened was that it kind of just started to take off, it just started to strike a chord with people and we all just said you know we all want this life. If we didn’t go try it with this band, we would be remised. We would be doing a disservice to ourselves so we started touring full time in 2008. We had a small booking agent and we just jumped to a bigger booking agent and just grew from there.
Q: What advice would you give the local bands to set themselves apart?
Jimmy: Just keep doing it because you learn as you go. Everything I know about being in a band, I just learned from experience. There’s nothing I can tell you to prepare except be ready, if you want to do it seriously, be ready to lose money. Don’t be scared of that. That’s what you have to do in bands; you have to figure it out. Never stop trying to figure it out, just keep working it through because there’s always a way.
Q: So was there a time where you told yourself that you didn’t want to do it anymore, what pushed you to keep going?
Jimmy: When we were saying we didn’t want to do it, I’m not sure if we were being honest with ourselves. I think we had just tried and failed and were scared of the thought that we couldn’t do it. Our desire was
still there, we just thought we’d fail again. But then we got lucky and we saw that people were responding to it so became somewhat of a sure shot so we said let’s go on and try it. The way I thought it would be then compared to the way I thought of it now is light years in difference and I’m very proud of what we’ve done.
Interview with Derek from Mayday Parade
Q: When you guys were coming up, how was the local scene in your city?
Derek: When we were coming up, it was awesome. It’s crazy and it’s changed a whole lot but when most of us were fourteen and were getting into shows and playing shows, there used to be a couple of small, little DIY clubs. There was a place called the Thunder Dome which was this tiny little concrete box where we used to have a lot of the shows and it was just so much fun. There was a good local scene and a lot of bands were friends and would rehearse in the same place. There was this warehouse that a bunch of bands rented out and we would just
schedule which bands would practice which days and what times. So there were always a ton of people and bands there and we were all friends. We’d play shows together and go to shows together and stuff. So it was really cool and that was actually how we ended up forming this band. It’s through the years, we all kind of played in different bands together and eventually we kind of twiddled it down to the six of us. The scene definitely helped.
Q: So the local scene really seemed to have a great impact on you guys. Is that what really help pushed you guys?
Derek: Yeah, well when I was seventeen and Brookes was eighteen, we just graduated high school and we really wanted to actually go out there. We were friends with all these bands but none of them really took it as seriously. Most of them didn’t tour and we wanted to actually tour and go out and make this happen.
Q: What would you say is the first big step you guys took as a local band to kind of push yourselves out of the scene and eventually here at Warped Tour?
Derek: The goal right at the beginning, as soon as we started, was to record an EP as soon as we could and then release it ourselves, follow Warped Tour in 2006 and sell CDs outside of Warped Tour. We sold over 11,000 copies of our EP and we’d only been a band for six months or so. At that point, MySpace had a lot to do with it. Our MySpace plays started bump up a lot and we got some label interest and eventually Fearless signed us. I think being willing to go out there and do whatever you can to make it happen. It’s hard to say these days with
following Warped Tour thing because it’s different now than it was back then.
Q: Is that the only thing you guys did or was it more social media?
Derek: MySpace was a huge part of it and we would try to respond to people. We’d message people as much as we could. But I think the biggest thing for sure at the time was following the tour and selling CDs, kind of creating a buzz about the band which is pretty important for young bands and anybody. It’s when you get that buzz going, people start noticing.
Q: Did you guys ever hit that point where you felt that it wasn’t working out but then there was that drive that pushed you?
Derek: The probably worst/best experience was when we did a whole tour in a van with a trailer that was just full of CDs. We weren’t even playing, we were just selling CDs so our trailer was packed full of boxes of CDs. We would just get up every day around 7 or so and put on sun screen and hit the line to start selling CDs. There was not any way for us to escape the heat and we were there all day till the end. We would drive and when it was your turn to drive you just wouldn’t get any sleep, it was brutal but it was also so much fun. We were a
lot younger and doing something like that was very exciting. It shaped us.
Q: What kind of advice would you give to a local band? Something you wish you would’ve known back then?
Derek: Mostly that you’re best to play or be whatever you want to be and do things the way you want to do them. I feel like the times we’ve made compromises where we were like “well this is what we don’t really want to do but this is what the label wants us to do”. In the long run, just stay true to what you want to be and don’t listen to any label or manager for what your band should be with whatever you’re
Interview with Jack and Alex from All Time Low
Q: So back in your local town, how was the local music scene out there?
Jack: It was blooming. When we were youngsters and we first started this band, our local scene was amazing. I seriously remember the few venues that we played at. There were these two venues called St. Johns Hamilton and St. Johns Phoenix. They were these halls and I remember the shows going from twenty kids to three hundred kids. It was so awesome and all the local bands at the time were killing it. It was just a really cool time for the scene.
Alex: There were shows every weekend and we’d hop on and play for like thirty kids and it was awesome. There was a point where they had to stop letting kids in and that’s when we knew we were going to a big
Q: How is the local scene now?
Jack: From what I’ve heard it’s kind of dropped down a little bit. But that’s sort of how things work. I’m sure they’ll be some surge of bands that will build it back up again. Before us, it was Good Charlotte and before them it was Black Flag.
Q: So what do you think you guys did that pushed you out of the local scene?
Jack: We definitely separated ourselves from other bands. We did a lot of things that other bands weren’t doing.
Alex: One of the biggest things was when Jack really took the initiative to try and book our own shows out of state on MySpace. Even though we were still in high school, on weekends and vacations we would try to go out to New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia and anywhere that was near enough to drive to and get back for school. We’d do these out of state shows and play with other local bands and it kind of got our name out there. I think taking that initiative showed labels that we were passionate about it and we were driven to actually make something happen with ourselves.
Q: Did you guys ever book a west coast tour by yourselves?
Jack: The furthest we self-booked ourselves were to Texas. We went on this tour with a band called Hometown Anthem and it was our first real tour. My dad came with us and it was awesome. Most of us weren’t even old enough to get hotels or anything so we had to. It was awesome.
Q: What kind of advice would you give for the local bands?
Alex: Just stay driven, make friends, and make connections. The main thing is networking just reach out to anyone even if it’s a no; reach out to as many other local bands and other states and cities as you can. Just try and go play with them because it does make a difference.
Q: Have you guys ever suffered a point where it wasn’t working out but something drove you guys to keep pushing?
Alex: There’s certainly highs and lows in music, even for bands that are doing well. We’ve hit rough patches and without getting too specific, the biggest thing is to just bounce back and to tell yourself that there is always a better place to be. Keeping an optimistic and positive mind set really helps.
Interview with Lisa Brownlee – Tour Manager of Warped Tour
Q: As the tour manager, what are your main responsibilities?
Lisa: It’s really hard to say, but I basically oversee everything that’s been happening from how the hotels work and where the buses are going to get parked to travel. I don’t have a lot to do with how the schedule works but just internal issues with keeping it seamless and keeping everybody on the same page. Dealing with more the production crew, the people that travel with us and the tour managers.
Q: How does it seem to be going for you this year?
Lisa: This year has been unbelievable compared to all the other years. I don’t know why but for some reason the dynamics of all these bands just seem to be working really well. Everyone is really professional and really happy to be here. This so far has been my easiest year and I’ve been here seventeen years.
Q: What would you say was the most difficult year for you?
Lisa: In the beginning, it was very difficult for us. We didn’t have sponsorships for water, our catering was a health hazard. We didn’t really have any plan for how stages would be and it was just really not a lot of order so over the years we created a bunch of order. We always joke about the Kevin stage because that used to be literally where people would just show up from out of nowhere. Bands would come across the country and they would say “well Kevin said if we show up we could play” and we would joke and say, “Where are you going to play? the Kevin Says stage?” because there was nowhere else to play. That’s pretty much how that stage happened.
Q: What kind of advice can give you to local promoters?
Lisa: You gotta be a really big fish in a really small pond to get out of there. Put on the biggest and best backyard shows that you know how to do. Work with bands that are cooperative, aren’t going to cause fights, where their fans aren’t going to come in and trash the neighborhood. People that are easy to work with and just build a really good reputation with it. That’s how we started. All of my good friends were really into skateboarding and we didn’t have bands or places to do shows for younger people so we found a cool parent that was supportive and we just started putting on shows like that. Eventually, I started working enough with all of those people that I was able to get into a venue and was able to say, you know what I just did all of these shows and I work with all these bands, how about I just come for free and help you put a local opener up. It literally snowballed from there. I really did a lot of it by myself for a long time and look, it worked. It seems that you’re starting in all the right ways.
Q: How far in advance do you plan for Warped Tour?
Lisa: I’ve been in this for seventeen years now so around this time, I already know what’s planned. It takes a full year and we’re already working on next year. As soon as Warped Tour is finished, the booking and planning, we’re already planning for next year. The routing is being planned, the bands are beings submitted, the busses are being booked, just everything happens literally right after it finishes, it just starts again.
Around four o’clock, I finally finished my last interview, with Lisa Brownlee. Before I left the press room, I just had to go back and thank Bethany over and over again for her great hospitality. I honestly did not want to leave the place and just crawl into a little box stuffed away in catering so I can continue to be part of this
amazing tour. But I knew my time there was up and I couldn’t be grateful enough for the opportunity. I left the press room with the biggest smile on my face and after checking the time, I thought I’d catch New Found Glory‘s set on the Kia Soul stage.
It’s not a surprise how much fun I had during their set, they’re a very energetic band. They even played my ultimate favorite NFG song “Understatement” and it was just amazing. Right after them, I took a break to check around the various booths set up around the Ernie Ball Stage but made it back to catch Taking Back Sunday and The Used back-to-back on both of the Kia stages. Still, nothing short of an amazing set with them as well. Being one of the more veteran bands in the scene, the crowd was packed with a mix of both older and younger kids who seemed to share the equal amount of love for the bands.
The last band I was waiting to see was iwrestledabearonce. I was excited to see them since they’ve always been fun to watch with their rowdy and awkward stage performance. At the end of the set, I was so worn out that it seemed like it took me forever to get to the parking lot. On the long commute home, all I could think about was how unreal everything felt. I kept reminiscing about the excitement at the door, the interviews and people I randomly met, and the awesome performance by bands that I love.
Before I went to sleep that night, I just felt so accomplished and grateful to have had this opportunity. I couldn’t imagine how anyone else would pass up this opportunity. I’ve already recommended volunteering for Earn it Yourself and Feed Our Children Now to a couple of my friends who are extremely happy and proud of me. It may have been just one day or a couple of hours I spent volunteering, but it was surely something that changed my life. I don’t think I would’ve wished anything different.
I’ve always been the kid in the crowd at Warped Tour so having the opportunity to help out at the booths and interview really gave me a different perspective and a greater appreciation for the behind-the-scenes production. The energy and work that every staff member and band member put into Warped Tour contributes so much to the overall success of this tour. The people that influenced me the most weren’t the band members but the ones that worked behind the scenes. Bethany and Lisa were women behind the scenes, making sure everything was run smoothly and they just did their job so well. It was inspiring to see women who hold such important positions, especially in a male dominant industry. Kevin Lyman, of course, was a great influence that day. I had always thought he had the normal CEO kind of job where he’d sit on his desk and crunch numbers. That’s why I was so surprised and in awe when he was one of the first to greet the volunteers when we reached the venue.
It’s very reassuring to see someone make something out of nothing in a course of a hardworking fifteen plus years. I recently joined a group of people who are trying to establish a nonprofit in Los Angeles called Damaged Goods. It works in building the local music scene there because it is unfortunately losing support from the locals. After interviewing Kevin, I really felt like I learned so much from him in such a small amount of time. I’m really looking forward to trying to become more active in my local EIY Chapter and just involved with our music scene in general.
Kevin Lyman’s immortal words, “Well I hope what you’re doing is a success and maybe you can take over Warped Tour in San Diego when I can’t do it anymore” will always haunt me, but in the greatest and most inspiring way possible.
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