Vans Warped Tour, what hasn’t already been written about the 21 year old music festival…plenty that’s what! The summer wouldn’t be summer without Warped Tour traveling the nation like a circus. A circus full of wonderful people who perform their hearts out, the crew working day & night to make every stop incredible, and the troves of fans that come out every year; young and old. I woke up on Saturday feeling lazy after spending the previous day with my lovely lady. No one will argue that waking up snuggled up with your significant other is something you are eager to leave. We traveled to Smithville about an hour outside of Austin to her home and said our goodbyes. This resulted with me taking the farm roads to San Antonio through the gorgeous state of Texas.
The plan was to meet up with my good friends & Brotographers Joe Ortega and Ryan Vestil for coffee before our days began. Unfortunately I had to bail before we could meet as I read the time the gates open incorrectly. I rushed to an ATM to take money out for sustenance to keep me going through the day. Thanks Pizza Hut for the grub! Afterwards, I drove to the AT&T Center receiving all kinds of messages from friends’ playing/working Warped Tour where I could find them during the day. I picked up my credentials and checked in with Danielle before embarking to the signature red inflatable with all the set times. You can always expect attendees going there first to take a photo of the set times with their phones. What I was not expecting was a wave of screaming girls running towards the Jeffree Star tent. The line for it lasted the entire day.
The first band I would catch was The Word Alive. I’ve seen these guys over the years and they never disappoint.They are currently representing their latest album Dark Mater on the road. Afterwards, I headed to the Full Sail Stage to catch my friend Francheska & her band, Bad Seed Rising. I first met her in Houston when they were on tour with my friends Dangerkids. I ended up creating a cool rotation GIF out of photos I took of their set. Don’t let looks fool you, she may appear small but she has a huge stage presence.
I followed up taking a few photos of Real Friends at the Journey’s Right Foot Stage on the other side of the asphalt landscape. It was to help pass the time for Less Than Jake on the Journey’s Left Foot Stage taking place after them. I’ve wanted to see Less Than Jake for a longest time now and Warped Tour made that possible for me this year. Chris DeMakes walked out in a very fashionable Red, White, & Blue suit complete with a stars and stripes bow tie. They had so much energy on stage I caught myself signing for a few seconds in between shots. I ran into my friend Sam also from Static Magazine at the Nuclear Blast tent where you can find him all summer long on Warped Tour. We talked about our lives and how much had changed in the last year. It’s so great to see many friends on the tour and succeeding in the industry. I got to cool off a bit under the shade as the wind started to pick up. You could see storm clouds in the distance and the weather was a concern on everyone mind’s. I swung by Tonight Alive performance to catch a few photos at the end of the third song then made my way to see The Color Morale. The last time I had seen them live was with The Word Alive and Motionless in White, during the Apollo X Tour. Near by I ran into my friend Ryan Pollack and his girlfriend Mariah selling merch for Crashtide Clothing, a clothing company from Texas. We have been friends on social media for a long time now and missed meeting each other at South By So What?! a few years ago. On the other side of the trailer splitting the two rows of tents for band and clothing merch I found my friend Dan Axleson, currently on tour with I See Stars. He is a good dude with his own clothing line all while pursuing his photography career. You have much respect from me bud with all that you accomplish constantly. I wish I could have spent more time with my friends on tour but we are all there with a job to do. Some perform, others tear down and set up stages, sell merch, and some are there to cover the festival for a publication *cough cough*.
I checked my schedule and rushed to make it in time for Four Year Strong. The band has quickly become one of my favorites over the years. Ever since my first show in Austin at Red 7 with my friend Amanda where we broke through the crowd. To sing along with everyone to Wasting Time was unforgettable for my first Four Year Strong concert. They had a Christmas theme going on with the band sporting their red Hawaiian Christmas button up tee’s which I regret now not buying one from their merch tent. If you have never gone to Warped Tour before, know this. There will always be two bands you will want to see going on at the same time. You cannot avoid this. See, every day before set up all of the band names are thrown into a hat. What kind of hat? An ancient Chinese straw hat of wisdom or the Sorting Hat from Harry Potter, I don’t know! But there is a hat and in this hat the names of the band are pulled from it to create the set list for the day. No two Warped Tour dates have the same set times. This introduced the challenge of being able to take photos of both Four Year Strong and I See Stars. Their starting set times were 15 minutes apart but you also have to factor in the time it takes you to navigate through the sea of fans between the stages, merch tents, etc. As a photographer who has covered Warped Tour several times in their career I am no longer surprised if I reach the stage at the end of the third song limit or after.
I ended up catching the end of the third song for I See Stars then I was off to the Journey Stage to check out Pepper for the first time. Their tent is set up near the stage and I run into my friend Travis who sells merch for them. We had not seen each other since Finch in 2014! We caught up for a few minutes then asked if I should look out for any moments to capture during their set. I could hear one of the stages finishing up which meant Pepper was to go on soon. It is only 2:30 pm at the time and my mind is starting to reach the point where it needs a break for a recharge, both body & mind. I suck it up and decide I can wait a bit longer. Now everyone who goes to, or planning to go to, Warped Tour it is very important you eat food and drink plenty of water during the day. It is very hot out in the Summer depending where you are located and the bands still appreciate you regardless if you only make it for part of their set. It never fails to see attendees get pulled to the crowd and taken to medical because they do not keep hydrated. So back to Pepper a band I discovered a few years ago and didn’t think that many knew about them at first. Boy was I wrong. Their love and excitement for their fans were ever-present in their stage presence. Live they sound so close to their recorded albums, it’s great! Right after them The Maine are set to go on and on my way over to the next stage. I finally ran into my Brotographer Joe! We technically first met at a Taking Back Sunday show at Emo’s in Austin. Since then he has done so many amazing things in one year than I have done in all of my 8 years of shooting. He is as genuine of a good person as they come. Make sure you check out his work! I cannot forget to include running into Ashley Osborn next to the Hope For The Day tent. One of the leading women in music photography teaching TEI classes for it so be sure to check that out. The Maine took the stage in matching white button up shirts and blue slacks. During their set we caught a bit of rain and I got what shots I needed then booked it. Every Time I Die was set to play soon after The Maine across the show grounds. This is one band I’ve wanted to see live for a long, long time now. Seeing photos of their shows from friends I always felt I was missing out. This year was going to be the year I would get the chance to not only see them live but take photos of their performance as well. My hopes started to diminish as a wall of rain headed towards us and I took cover over at the Crashtide Tent with Ryan and Mariah.
I eagerly waited for the rain to go away but it remained consistent leading up to the start time for Every Time I Die. I started packing my gear in case lightning showed its ugly face and forced and evacuation. There was no lightning but there sure was thunder exploding from the stage as ETID started to perform not giving one sh*t about a little water. I asked Ryan to look after my bag, as I only needed my camera body and one lens in case the rain got worse. Now the camera I shoot with is weather-sealed so it can handle a bit of water. I run to the pit entrance and see that not one fan left. They all stood in the rain because if ETID didn’t care, why should they. I figured I would be the only one in the photo pit. Nope! Much to my surprise there were a few people there and I joined them in the fun. I’ve always wanted to get shots with legitimate weather effects in the photos. I couldn’t see with the water making the sun block runny and stinging my eyes. Water droplets on my glasses and viewfinder made it near impossible to see anything. I shot with my instincts and hoped that my lens hood on my Sigma 35mm f/1.4 ART (My go-to lens!) would keep as much water off the glass at low angles. Jesus, their set was insane! So many crowd surfers, jumps on stage, etc. If my camera for some reason had died right after their set I would be okay with that. Even if the photos I walked away with were terrible for the most part with a few good shots. I would totally be okay with that because I shoot to document. I have a quote on my website and I cannot recall for the life of me of the origins but it says, “I truly believe there are things nobody would see if I did not photograph them.” Sure, there were other photographers there with me but these photos are mine and mine alone. They would not exist if I had not decided to deal with the rain and do what I love to do.
Things slowed down for a bit due to the rain so I took that opportunity to go find food. Picked up a pie from the Pizza Hunt Tent when I got a message from my friend Sean, you may know him as Sedition1216 on Instagram. He is a truck driver on the tour and also shoots when he isn’t busy working or sleeping for the drive to the next tour stop. He asked if I could go get his photo wristband for him as he was just waking up. On my way to pick it up from the media check-in I spot Kevin Lyman, founder of the Vans Warped Tour and I politely introduce to myself to ask him for a moment of his time to take his portrait. I take one shot, thank him, and wished him a good rest of the day. The gig that is Vans Warped Tour never stops and there is always work to do. I understand that with any live production so I don’t want to take anymore of his time than I have to. Issues were next on my list but before I went to the stage I had to bust the chills with my friend Eric Fain who is currently on tour with them selling merch. We first met at the Apollo X Tour through our friend Quinn, both rad dudes who work hard in the industry. Eric was slinging merch left and right to all the kids lined up to buy the many great designs they have on tour. The theme…Pokemon! Even their stage amps and cabs were designed to look like the Pokemon video game cartridges and video game systems. The crowd went nuts for the band. They haven’t been on my radar since the tour they did with Bring Me The Horizon a while back and they sure are back on it. Their set began with an impromptu cover of the Pokemon theme song that I’m sure many fans will appreciate. Band after band continued with Young Guns, Motionless in White, and more. In between I ran into and met for the first time a social media/photography friend Molly Hudelson who is on Warped Tour with Peta2. Totally say hi to her if you see her. Like a mosquito that never goes away the risk of rain was always present and at one point the festival paused due to severe weather conditions around San Antonio. I took refuge with Eric at the Issues merch tent as we watched fans being directed towards the pavilion for their safety. Eric said it best, “It looks like security is trying to herd a bunch of cats”. Despite being instructed where to go for their safety many of the attendees were walking aimlessly towards the stages. The wind started to pick up, Eric and I started to shrink the tents down to hold out for the storm. Eric and I haven’t known each other for long but our passions make it feel we’ve been good friends for years. We talked about the industry, his recent & last performance with his old band, and future goals. This year there are a lot of good people on the tour even the ones I do not personally know. It is only the second day and everyone is like family to one another. Much love and respect for that.
With the severe weather warning lifted thousands of fans rushed the stages once more to continue their celebration of music. My first Warped Tour was in 2013 (I am a late bloomer *shrugs*) and the highlight of it for me was Reel Big Fish. See, I always wanted to go to Warped Tour when I was a young lad but I never could due to work. I started working since high school and it feels like I have never stopped. I worked in high school and 4 years after that to pay for college. I did not want to graduate with a college degree in debt like most do. I didn’t attend a prestigious university nor do I come from money. I went to a local college in my hometown with every cent I earned from work. Now what does any of that have to do with my first Warped Tour experience? Everything! I didn’t know the full line up at Warped Tour in 2013 and when I discovered Reel Big Fish was performing. My first time seeing my favorite ska band whose music, antics, and over all attitude in life had an impact on me. I knew I had to just have fun for a change and take a break from work. I sang along to every word in the first three songs as I took photos. Once we were escorted out I gave my gear to a friend and joined the rest of the “fishes” in the crowd. Jumping up and down despite my legs feeling like mush from running all day. Running in the circle pit during their variety music type covers. Leading up to me crowd surfing on top the sea of fans during my favorite song, Beer. Seriously, one of the most liberating, stress-free, and immensely fun times in my life. Flash-forward to 2016 I get to do it all over again. Unfortunately, due to the rain their set was cut short in an effort to keep the festival within its schedule. I did get to sing and shoot the first three songs, joined my fellow “fishes” in the crowd, & joined the fun in the mosh pit.
There were two bands left on my list, Yellowcard and New Found Glory. Days leading up to the Vans Warped Tour in San Antonio, Tx Yellowcard had announced their farewell tour and break up after 17 years. On a totally different spectrum of music from Reel Big Fish these guys had an impact on my life as well. I have a very odd range of music I listen to because I listen to what sounds good to me, regardless of genera and opinions of others. So “Here I go, scream my lungs out” as I shoot their set. They are all over the place on stage and my one goal is to get that signature flip photo of Sean. My photographer friends in the pit will tell you that didn’t happen but I won’t go to detail because I was threatened “Not to talk sh*t about this on the website” by a power-hungry, trigger-happy personnel. This is me doing just that. No hard feelings to the tour or venue staff. It had been a long day and I probably caught them in a bad mood. Moving on! The last act in my sights and one I have not seen since 2009. New Found Glory! I remember vividly driving my mother’s Intrepid with the windows down blasting “My Friends Over You” with high school friends late at night. Writing this right now I realize how the end of my 2016 Warped Tour was a trip down nostalgia lane. The consistent cloud cover dispersed allowing for the gorgeous Texas sunset ignite the sky for the closing of today’s Warped Tour. There is one last moment I want to share from today and it was an epic moment during New Found Glory’s performance. Ian Grushka bassist for the band is quite a character on stage. Making funny and interesting faces along with poses for the crowd, which is gold for any photographer. The pit was a tight fit with most if not all credentialed media and tour photographers present. Ian would move from one side of the stage to the other and most of the photographer would follow like sheep. This can make things challenging when shooting the rest of the band or trying to catch a moment with Ian to snap a few shots. I typically start with a wide-angle like my 35mm in the first song, second song I’ll switch to a 50mm or specialty lens, then finish shooting with my 70-200mm telephoto lens. With so many of us in there and little room to move around I decided to go with the telephoto early on so I could shoot above the photographers (I’m pretty tall). Which worked out great because as I waited patiently for Ian on the left side he spots me. Before the horde of photographers comes rushing to him I manage to take a great on stage portrait of him looking straight at me and only me. Ian, if you are reading this please contact me at the email address right above the photo gallery below. I would love to send you a print of the photo. For everyone else reading this let’s get the photo to go viral!
That’s it for Vans Warped Tour in San Antonio but not for us here at Static Magazine. Be sure to check out Sam’s Warped Tour Perspective throughout the summer exclusive to Static Magazine. I like to thank everyone that is part of the Vans Warped Tour directly on indirectly that help make this a success every year. There are plenty of dates so if you like what you read here go experience it yourself. Cheers!
[ P H O T O G A L L E R Y ]
Photographs taken on June 25th, 2016 at AT&T Center in San Antonio, Texas
Disclaimer: All photographs are copyright Clark Terrell Photography and cannot be used/cropped/printed without the consent of the owner.
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