Twelve days in a row doesn’t seem like much on paper, but once you’re in the thick of things it seems almost unceasing. The last time I wrote you, dear reader, I was in Nashville, TN enjoying the sights and sounds of the Music City. We were blessed with two days off in a row, and while those were enjoyable, they were not near enough as we headed into our most daunting stretch of tour. In fact, our first day back to work featured one of the scariest bits of nasty weather we’ve experienced all tour, as well as some of the first large scale bits of drama of the tour. Our day began with clouds, which turned into torrential onslaughts of rain and lightening, and served as foreshadowing for the events that would take place that day. Kids ran amok, and the ground beneath my feet swelled with the onslaught of the celestial downpour. The show was almost cancelled, and even got put on hold for almost three hours, right up until Mother Nature decided to bless us with a random clearing out of the storm clouds.
However, this downtime gave everyone a chance to notice that we had an extra performer that day, one who had originally dropped from the tour, and one that many people did not want to see. Jake Mcelfresh is Front Porch Step. He was one of the earliest (if not the first) artists announced for this year’s Warped Tour. He’s also been accused of some pretty heinous crimes of a sexual nature since that time, and it led to him being dropped from the final tour package. If you’re not familiar with his story, click here. People were pissed, bands took to social media to vent their frustrations, and one artist flat out refused to play after the guy and almost left the tour completely. Now, I’ve got to tell you that I personally agree with every single person who got upset by all of this. In my own, private, life I despise such behavior and cannot find a single place in my life for someone like that to even be in my vicinity. But this is no one’s private life. This is a business, and in the eyes of the law this industry can do business with this human wastepile because he’s never been convicted of anything in a court of law. I’ve talked about the grace and humility of (Warped Tour founder) Kevin Lyman before, and so I’ll once again reference it. He’ll give anyone a second, third, or 65th chance. And sure, it might piss off some people, but he’s willing to take that chance in order to say, “Listen, I have your back regardless of the shit they throw your way.” I wouldn’t have invited the dude on myself, but I can see Kevin’s logic, and I have to applaud his ability to think so overwhelmingly progressively. The figurative storm was quelled by nightfall, eerily similar to the literal storm that stopped completely by the time the sun disappeared. Once the weather passed I was able to catch Riff Raff’s set for the first time all tour, as well as watch my buddy Jarrod do a guest vocal part for As It Is. Even when things turn grey, Warped Tour has a will to persist unlike anything you’ve ever seen.
We spent the next five days going through Georgia and Florida, and let me tell you- you’ve never really had to sweat in your life until you’ve spent five days outside in those states doing heavy lifting and hard manual labor. The humidity never dipped below 75%, and the sun stayed overhead in a merciless fashion that had yours truly begging for mercy after just an hour or two outside. The kids were phenomenal, and the shows were mostly flawless (the exception being all the kids passing out due to breaking one or two of the key Rules of Warped Tour), but I would recommend avoiding the great southeastern United States in mid-July as much as possible. I would start my day with a fresh tank top at 8 am, and by 10 am I was shirtless and still barely able to find a modicum of solace from the oppressive, all-consuming humid heat of Florida. In spite of all this, we still found ways to have fun and enjoy ourselves. In St. Petersburg we threw a beach party, and found ourselves dancing in the shoals into the wee hours of the morning. I even found a new friend who helped me begin digging a very massive hole straight through the Earth down to China. We woulda made it too, had the tide not come roaring in.
The next evening was the 4th of July, and we spent the day in West Palm Beach putting on one of the best dates of Warped thus far. When the show ended for the evening, a massive dance party broke out amongst all of us. Naturally, I was right in the center of the dance pit, slinging beers into the air, shaking my ass, and generally cutting the proverbial rug a new one. Once my knees were shot and my hair was drenched, me and a few homies (shout out to the HerbSupport Crew) made our way to a secret balcony over-looking the whole pavilion, where we rolled blunts, jammed tunes, and co-mingled until our very late night bus call. Orlando was on deck for July 5th, and that was easily one of the more interesting shows. The day began as any other, loading onto the grassy lot behind a giant stadium. As I was setting up, I was introduced to a local named Dina (pronounced DEE-na), who proceeded to spend the day with me by babysitting my tent while I had lunch, and even carrying my backpack for me when the weather shifted from gorgeous to tropical storming. She even helped me get pizza for the first time all tour, a very rare commodity on the road up until that point..
Our next stop was Jacksonville, and lemme tell you right now- Jacksonville’s venue was the worst. Not only was it tiny, confined, and isolated, but it was built directly over sewage lines, so the grounds were soggy and stinky. I think everyone was miserable that day, especially since we were officially 50% finished with our 12 day stretch at that point. Fortunately, it never rained while we were working, but that doesn’t change my perspective here: Jacksonville, FL is the absolute worst. For instance- whilst being driven to the shower that evening, I watched a man punch his girlfriend in the face in the middle of a public parking lot. I mean, I know crappy stuff happens everywhere all the time, but that’s still the epitome of a hell hole. We were all so desperately happy to arrive in Charlotte, NC the next day. No one more than myself. I was in such a great mood that day that I found my buddy Chris who operates the stand-up comedy tent and offered to throw myself onstage for a good 3-5 minutes and see if I could get any laughs out of anyone. My sense of humor apparently translates well to 15-20 year olds, who were the bulk of the 40-ish people watching me, and sometime soon you’ll have to ask me for my “They call me ‘Bus Daddy’” joke. Anyway, I got some laughs and a boost of confidence before I set off on the rest of my day (which concluded with me getting my toe nails painted by Brittany from the Truth Crew).
We wheeled and dealt our way up the east coast, through Virginia Beach (another humid monstrosity, not really even worth mentioning) and into Pennsylvania, where the weather was abysmal on one day and phenomenally gorgeous the next. We were just outside of Pittsburgh to start off the Pennsylvania dates, and the rain could not have been heavier. It was so bad I found myself scrambling to buy a waterproof wind breaker from The Wonder Years and a camo bucket hat from Matty Merch and my homie Larry, and even that wasn’t enough. My whole set up got drenched and halfway destroyed by the time we tore down, and I accrued my first tour injury in amongst the chaos. I was loading my boxes onto the box truck when I lost my footing and slammed my surgically repaired right knee directly into the large piece of metal used to secure the doors to the trailer. I’ve spent the last four days since then in my knee brace with a massive knot on my knee. But I’m not the most seriously injured person on tour, nor am I the only one experiencing pain, so there is no real option other than sucking it up and powering through. Which is an attitude I’m glad I’ve taken, because Camden, NJ (basically Philadelphia, PA) the next day was one of the best days of tour.
For starters, the weather was damn near perfect, with a slight breeze blowing in off the Susquehanna River to combat the slightly warm temperatures glaring down from the sun overhead. And despite what I’ve been told by most people from Dallas, Philadelphians are exceptionally nice people. The vibes from the day were so solid that a bunch of us decided to venture across the Ben Franklin Bridge and explore the night life of downtown Philly. After stumbling upon one of the coolest beer gardens I’ve ever seen, Josh, Carol, Raeann, and myself taxied over to a little hole-in-the-wall place called Tattooed Mom. This place reminded me of the notorious 1919 Hemphill in Ft Worth, only with the ability to serve food and alcohol. Graffiti lined the walls; great music blasted throughout the whole building, and everyone was dancing, downing shots and generally having an excellent time. I’d define the evening as a success, in spite of the fact that earlier in the day the first of many flies started to drop.
For the sake of elaboration, we started to lose crew members in Philly. The first of which was the delightful Mel from the Keep A Breast organization. What I didn’t realize until that point was that she was only to be on the tour for the first few weeks, after which she was going to go home to California. Her “replacement” is the laid-back Monica, who (like me) is a massive Dallas Mavericks fan, as well as a total hippie, so we’ve definitely hit it off. Now, while that transition has generally been smooth and pleasant, not all departures and tour separations have gone as swimmingly. Two nights ago in Long Beach, my (seemingly accident prone) friend Raeann fractured her ankle in the middle of the night and basically got left behind in a hospital with no phone or means to contact anyone. She’s since rejoined us in Massachusetts, but for 24 hours there, her status was definitely uncertain. I suppose I’d take that uncertainty over the certainty of being sent home. As our 12 day stretch drew to a close, one of the first friends I made on tour (who I won’t name so they don’t get screwed out of jobs in the future) was fired in one of the shadiest ways I could imagine. I don’t exactly think it’s my place to comment on the situation because I wasn’t involved, but the circumstances around his departure are definitely far more fishy than I’m comfortable with.
I suppose that’s the nature of tour life. There’s so much fun, amazing, creative, and unique things going on daily, I think the natural balance for that is for equally as crazy, absurd, off-the-wall, and bonkers crap to happen. On one of my best days in sales, some kid came and exploded an entire package of Mama Chia seeds all over my tent for no real reason, then ran away quickly with his middle finger up at me. That’s tour life. I had to go through 12 days of some of the hardest, most intense work I’ve ever done, but the balance was having a full day in downtown Boston to explore and write and sip espresso. I wrote this entire article sitting in the Thinking Cup off Hanover Street after having a delicious seafood luncheon with my bus mates at Union Oyster House on Union Street. The day was just absolutely perfect. I got to spend time with some of my favorite ladies from Bus 15, like the lovely Fern from the Non-Toxic Revolution non-profit (and whose real name is Brianne, but who I call Fern because she’s the living embodiment of Fern Gully), and I got to have good drinks in a traditional Boston Irish pub. We collectively worked our asses off over the last two weeks. If anyone deserves a glorious day of discovery, good eats, and gorgeous locations- it’s us!
Looking Forward to Next Week’s “The Warped Perspective”
- OOOOHHHHHHHH CANADA!!
- Leaving the East Coast behind and heading back to more familiar territory
- More life and times of the Warped Tour crew
- Discovering how to turn Tinder into a free Uber