The Warped gods have smiled kindly upon me, dear reader. Mere days before tour officially began, I received a text to a group chat between the incomparable Jarrod Alonge, Larry Wentworth (known from here on out as Plague Foot), and myself. This portent of good fortune brought news that the illustrious Bus 15 was ours once again, that some of our old bus mates were going to joining us, and that the immaculate Kenny B was to once again guide our weary souls through the night. Elation might be an understatement to describe my feelings on receiving this news. Rare is the occasion for a second chance at awesomeness, and yet here we were- just a group of humans the universe seems to shine brightly upon.
Now Bus 15, like most production busses, is what we colloquially refer to as a “slave ship.” Take offense if you’d like, but the description is apt. Last summer there were a solid 18 people on our bus, which I figured was a pretty high number that couldn’t possibly be surpassed. How wrong I was, dear reader, as this summer’s edition of Bus 15 features a steady compliment of 19 riders (with an occasional 20th person riding the couch). Sardines once again! I’m not entirely convinced this is a bad thing, in spite of the close quarters. That tightness caused us to form a more familial bond with each other than what might have otherwise happened on busses with less numbers riding. Let me elaborate- riding with more space can feel comfortable but can also leave you with the ability to isolate or keep to yourself. While “me” time can be extremely important in life, it can become toxic in an environment where everyone is tired and tense. You have to bond with your busmates, even if only marginally. They live with you, they eat with you, they sweat and bleed with you. Shrugging them off is just bad for the business of Warped. That’s why the hashtag is WarpedFam, because it wouldn’t work any other way.
Now if you thought that I couldn’t possibly be more excited for something than I was about my bus situation for tour, you’d be mistaken. Nay, dear reader, for there was the first day of Warped, and this year it just so happened to be in a place dear to my heart. “The location?” You ask. Why, none other than my hometown of Dallas/Ft Worth, Texas. If you’ve been keeping track, I don’t live in the Metroplex anymore. In fact, by the time Warped Tour was going to be kicking off it would have been almost 6 months since I’d been home, or seen close family and friends. Naturally, I worked to control my schedule so as to afford myself the maximum amount of time with family and friends alike. This calculated effort paid off with my arrival at Dallas Love-Field mid-morning on the Monday directly preceding Warped.
My Texan family and friends have consistently proven themselves to be phenomenal people, and these feeble words I type will never be enough to emphasize their importance to my life. Going through and attempting to list each individual person who has had a massive impact on my life would be both exhaustive and redundant. Those people know who they are, and they were the ones I made time to visit. Each moment spent with these people was precious to me, and nothing exemplified this like the day I was able to spend with my grandfather, who everyone knows as Pops. Growing up, Pops and I spent endless hours together working on projects of varying nature. From gardening to complex household electrical wiring, I was given a thorough crash course in all things handyman from Pops. So naturally, when the time came for me to piece together my road case I knew who I wanted to call. I drove out to the south end of Crowley, TX early Tuesday morning, and began one more project with my beloved Pops. We spent the day manipulating raw materials into formidable objects, capable of handling the rigors of Warped.When the day was done, I had a fully functional road case, as well as three free-standing poster frames completed. As is usual, things started to speed up from there.
Everybody flew in on Wednesday, which caused the excitement to move from ethereal to physically potent. Hugs were shared, drinks were had, and the tour tattoos began. I decided to rest up and prepare for Day 1: setup day. I think the name is pretty self-explanatory, but for those still a little confused- set up day is the dress rehearsal for Warped. We build our tents for the first time, and finalize the overall look and feel that is so distinctly Warped. This is also the day where we claim our bunk spots on our bus, and collect our magical all-access tour laminates. My set up day ended with excited, drunken sleeplessness, having met my bus mates and deciding that the summer was already off to a solid start. As ready as I was for the tour to officially begin, my mind was full of anxiety as the day finally approached. And why was that? What reason could there possibly be for the crushing anxiety that kept me lying awake on my bunk through the first night? For those of you who know me, the answer will not be surprising.
June 24th was the kick off day for the 2016 edition of Vans Warped Tour, but June 24th is also the birthday of my brother, Reagan. That’s nothing special in and of itself, but it might take on a different meaning when you understand that Reagan has been dead since 2012. In October of that year, Ray (as we all knew him) succumbed to the disease of choice and injected a lethal dose of heroin into his arm, accidentally ending his short and beautiful life. Since his death, my life has transformed in ways most people can’t imagine. When you lose someone that close to you, it’s simply hard to give a fuck. I spent the first year after his death mourning in all the wrong ways, turning to substance, romance, and work to numb my pain and keep me insulated from the hurt. After nearly taking my own life towards the middle of 2013, I decided to take an extremely hard look at my life and work towards making improvements. I started by getting my mind and body healthy. There were extended therapy sessions and more prescription medications that I care to openly admit. I worked and worked until I had a grasp on how to process the immense feelings within me. That self-evaluation process led me directly down a path that eventually led me to meeting my aforementioned boss, and ultimately towards the career that I’ve discovered for myself within the music industry.
You have to understand the significance of everything, and how that could punish my mind emotionally. I am who I am because of the pain and struggle that I went through. Those moments and memories galvanized me, and made me someone capable of handling anything. And that explains my emotions on the first day of Vans Warped Tour 2016. By now, dear reader, you understand that I’m fully capable of making the most out of any situation, and that’s precisely what I did on Day 1. I put my dad and on the guest list so we could spend some time together, and my brother and some old friends came to spend the day with me. Fortune also shone brightly upon my bitch ass, in the form of a beautiful feminine creature, who graced me with her warm presence for the duration of my work day. At night, after tear down, my lady friend and I enjoyed delicious Texas pit barbecue with my mother, aunt, uncle, and grandparents. Looking back, my day was a blur, but the first day in my booth felt solid, and I by the time my head hit my pillow I felt ready for the gauntlet that lay ahead.
The next few days in Texas were relatively uneventful, and relentlessly hot. Time flew, and before I knew it I found myself partying on Bourbon Street in New Orleans. Conceptualizing time and place whilst on Warped (or any) Tour is an Einsteinian feat of relativity. Once things pick up steam, you’ll find yourself falling asleep in Florida and waking up in Virginia, and never really understanding the difference. Other than the obvious things, like Florida being one of the most painfully humid experiences a human can possibly have, or Charlotte, NC as the site of a parallel universe capable of manipulating a person’s point of view by at least a 6% grade, things tend to blend themselves together. Accordingly, Warped hopped, skipped, and jumped its way down into America’s Wang, where I was able to see my lovely friend Dina again. Eventually we made our way through the lovely city of Savannah, GA for our second, most glorious day off.
By this point, I’d started making new friends among the group of people who make up this year’s tour staff, and I took this opportunity to get to know these folks a little better. There’s the tremendous Jolee (pronounced like Angelina’s last name), who has made my life endlessly easier than I ever expected it to be, including giving me some of the most baller braids the planet has ever seen. This year’s Sumerian Records rep is the ever-sharp Conor, who has become a solid friend on this tour and introduced me to some radical people- including homeboy Kaelin, who works for WhiteChapel slingin’ their merch. As I mentioned earlier, there’s a lot of bonding that goes on between bus mates, but there are also a lot of adjustments that have to be made to living life on a slave ship. By our day off in Savannah, we’d been through the turmoil of week one, and were, generally speaking, happy to be with and around each other, and decided on a group brunch at a delightful, Australian-style cafe named The Collins Quarter. The coffee and food was delicious and made to order, and the atmosphere was thoroughly inviting. Almost as inviting as our conversation, which felt alive and happy, sprinkled with jokes and goofy Snaps. Heading into the next stretch of shows, things were finally coming together, and if there is such a thing as a “groove” to hit on Warped, I felt confident I was in it.