I’m afraid I’m going to have to start this off with an apology, dear reader. I left you hanging when last we met. I dangled the tantalizing prospect of finishing the story of 2015’s Vans Warped Tour right in front of your face, and never even attempted to deliver. In my defense, once the tour ended last August, my life quickly morphed into an exciting and unexpected roller coaster ride. But let’s back up a bit. There was a whole week left on the Warped Tour 2015 edition that I’ve almost glossed over, and I’d be doing you a grander disservice by not covering that week.
So some of you might have heard that there’s a presidential election this year, but I’m certain not many of you are aware that the next POTUS has already been decided. Noted hiphop star Waka Flocka Flame will be the next President of the United States, and I had the honor of serving him once already as his unofficial Secretary of Hype. Now, Salt Lake City, Utah is not exactly the place you’d expect to find Waka Flocka making a special, unannounced performance- especially not on Warped Tour. But it definitely happened, and as the story unfolds you’ll see where I fit in.
If there’s one thing you can always be certain of, it’s that the Warped Fam will get a hold of any super secret information quick, and that information will fly to the furthest reaches of the tour within minutes of that information being handed down. I awoke on the morning of Warped Tour SLC to the news that our dear future president was going to be performing an impromptu set on the grounds later in the day. Immediately the tour was buzzing, and I was determined to not miss this seemingly once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. The day progressed normally from there, although (as anyone who’s impatiently awaited something excited could tell you) there was a palpable excitement gradually building as each hour passed. Now, normally, tear down of the merch tents wouldn’t start until 6 PM, but you already know this day was different. En masse, the tour began its tear down at 5:45, and being the spider monkey that I am, by 6 I was sprinting across the grounds with my backpack and lawn chair in tow. The side stage was full by the time I got there, and the incomparable “Hard in the Paint” was reaching its climax, so I dropped my stuff off backstage and ran out to the crowd to join my friends in dance.
Short on breath, yet full of life, I reached the middle of the audience. Within seconds, a call went out from on stage. Our future leader demanded a Warped Tour style mosh pit for his music, and we were not about to disappoint. Those of us gathered in the audience immediately opened up the pit, and soon people were leaping on top of one another to crowd surf their way to the front. I pointed up, and my homies D-Lo and Danny nodded their heads as they prepared to boost me up into the air and onto the crowd below. These boys must not have known their strength, as they launched me easily 8-10 feet into the air. As I neared the apex of launch, I looked to the stage to see Waka pointing out at me and nodding in approval. Before I could react, I was pulled forward by the audience. I surfed the wave of the crowd all the way to the front, and as I came to a landing in the photo pit, I felt a very large, very strong arm reach down and yank me up by my arm pit. It was our beloved Waka Flocka Flame, and he demanded an audience with my bitch ass.
My mind went blank, and my body began to move in the purest form of elation possible. I ripped my hair out of its tight bun, spun it in a windmill motion, then immediately took front and center stage.
How could I refuse? I started jumping up and down and pumping my fists in some kind of odd mash-up of hardcore and club stomp styles. Unclear of his intentions, I sort of hung back for a few moments, until Mr. Flame turned to me, and nabbed my sunglasses off my head. The look of confusion on my face must have been evident, as the future-POTUS reached out, gave me a reassuring tap on the chest, and said, “Get it, boy.” My mind went blank, and my body began to move in the purest form of elation possible. I ripped my hair out of its tight bun, spun it in a windmill motion, then immediately took front and center stage. By this point in both the tour and this specific day, I was exhausted and running on fumes, but I could not let Waka Flocka down. He needed me to hype this crowd and I wasn’t going to disappoint him. For the next two or three minutes (which, in my mind, felt like 30 minutes), I pranced, danced, clapped, and screamed my way from one side of the stage to the other, with an extremely proud Waka watching from just behind the DJ booth.
If you’ve read any of my previous articles, you’ll no doubt remember that one of my key rules of Warped Tour is to STAY HYDRATED! I can tell you right now, that in Salt Lake City, on a hot August day- I had broken one of my own key rules. Seemingly mid-jump while on stage, my sides began to cramp and my vision began to blur. I was exhausted and dehydrated, and dancing on a hot stage for the world to see. I was clearly beginning to wear out, but I suddenly felt a sharp, cold burst on my back. Turning quickly from the shock, I see Mr. Flame dumping an ice cold tour water all over my back. Ecstasy spread over me, and the music was winding down. I reached out to thank my future POTUS, and he shoved another fresh, frigid can of tour water into my hands while simultaneously motioning for us to shotgun the water together. We cracked into our cans, gulped down the contents, and as one final act of showmanship, we both proceeded to spew the last few mouthfuls up into the air- like a pro-wrestler stepping into the ring to face his foe.
After one more hug, I jumped off the stage to grab my stuff, but before I could reach my items I was immediately bombarded by my friends and tour mates who were beyond excited for the seemingly unimaginable event they just witnessed onstage. Cell phones were shoved in my face with blurry pictures and insane videos. Several tour photographers approached me saying, “Let me edit these pics I just took. You and Waka look incredible!” I even met a few people who’d been on the tour the whole summer, but never really interacted with me before. The whole campus was teeming with excitement, and my “performance” with Waka Flocka took the top spot for daily conversation amongst the Warped Fam. I went to bed that night feeling re-invigorated and excited for the final week of Vans Warped Tour 2015.
I could talk about my experience in Denver (“Safety Meeting” Capitol of the United States) the next day, which involved a 5-star hotel, a seemingly endless flow of “safety” supplies, and an extremely rad homegirl from DFW. Perhaps a story or two from Las Vegas would be fun (all night Diplo concerts and 6 AM margaritas are coming to mind), but as the famous adage says, “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.” After Salt Lake City, we still had another week of tour, but looking back now it was such a blur that I couldn’t pull a potent anecdote out of my ass if I tried. I’m not exactly certain you’d be missing out on much besides more jokes about “Safety Meetings,” or warnings to not be drunk when your bus drops you off at the final hotel (spoiler alert: this ends with all the cool merch you accumulated over the summer disappearing forever). No, dear reader, Warped Tour 2015 ended and life moved on. Significant changes were in store for me that fall, but for the time being I was clueless.
Leaving something like Warped Tour and going home at the end of the summer was easily one of the most difficult things I’ve had to do. I had to go back to reality, and to put it bluntly- my reality was not exactly a pleasure cruise. Before I go further, I’d like to make sure it’s understood that in comparison with other folks, my life is and was not disaster. This just happened to be a time of personal difficulty that I feel is worth mentioning because countless other people leave Warped Tour (or any tour for that matter) and go home to not-so-glamorous lives. Without question, this is the hardest part of touring, but it’s part of the package deal. I suppose that I’m writing about this for those folks out there who are thinking about trying to tour for a living. I think it would help people to understand walking into it that touring is not all parties, passes, and the rock star lifestyle. We’re human beings with human lives, and just because touring seems radical doesn’t mean every aspect of it is. Returning home is one of those difficult things.
But it has to be done, and so I did it. I went back to Texas, and no sooner had I arrived than my issues smacked me in the face. Some things happened in my personal life right before I left for tour last year, and I had just dumped that baggage at my departing terminal in DFW Airport as I took off. Specifically, I was dumped by my long term girlfriend and my parents divorced after 35 years of marriage. More accurately- My (now ex) girlfriend left me for a man three times her age, and told me before she left that I was going to fail and be miserable and alone when tour ended, with all of this happening on top of me trying to process an extremely sudden marriage dissolution from my (seemingly) happily married parents. I’m not sharing this for pity- I’m sharing this so you understand that when I left for Warped last year, I was running from some demons, and I spent a good chunk of my summer avoiding and ignoring them. I used the anger and hurt as fuel to propel me all summer. My goals were to kill it in sales, make new friends, avoid the pain of my parent’s divorce, and to prove my ex wrong. Half of those goals are normal, sane goals to have. I’ll let you decide which half those are. Back to the narrative- when summer ended, that constant high was gone, and quite frankly, I was exhausted. Combining those variables together would leave anyone feeling depressed, and I was no exception.
I didn’t have anything to distract me from my personal demons anymore, so my thoughts and actions were of a very dark and tormented nature.
I spent the first three weeks home hiding in my bedroom. Then out of the blue, I had an abscess form under two of my teeth, requiring immediate surgery that kept me bed locked for another week. Shortly thereafter, my lease was ending and I was preparing to move in with some friends nearby. Unfortunately, one thing led to another and after some shady moves on my “friends” part, I was suddenly homeless, barely employed, with a dog to feed and an unexpected medical bill hanging over my head. And oh yeah, I didn’t have anything to distract me from my personal demons anymore, so my thoughts and actions were of a very dark and tormented nature. Dearest reader, I cried myself to sleep more nights than I can currently remember, and felt myself distancing from friends and family alike. Reluctantly, I moved into my mother’s sewing room. The reluctance was more from pride than anger, as by that point I had begun resolving my feelings about my parents and their tumultuous split. I was 27 years old at this point, and to me at the time moving back in with mommy was a big step backwards. But that ended up being one of the best decisions I’ve ever made, because it freed me up for the next chapter in my life.
We can jump ahead from there to the end of October. I’m toiling away my days working for a small warehouse that produces cedar urns for pet and human remains, and I’m drowning in a wasteland of uncertainty. The job was solid, and so was everyone around me, but I couldn’t shake this feeling that I simply was not in the place or position I needed to be. Re-enter Mark Bubb and Killer Merch. Whilst perusing my social media randomly one day after work, I see a post of a kitty meme stating simply, “I can has job?” The post was from Bubb, he needed a full time person for the Killer Merch warehouse, and I felt that familiar twinge of excitement. I sloppily left a comment:
“What if I moved to California?”
*receives text message on cell phone*
“If you move to California, I have a job for you”
My memory of the next 12 hours is a blur, suffice it to say that I was elated as things began coming together quickly. I called my trusted humans (close family and friends) and asked for their wisdom. Without exception, every important person around me told me to go, and some even questioned why I hadn’t left already. By the next morning I was confirming my position, and learning that I had all of 10 days to pack my car and get my happy ass out to California. Two weeks later (and after having spent some very cold nights in a tent across the great Southwest) I was in Los Angeles, CA fulfilling orders for Killer Merch and beginning to get to know the people who would become important parts of my life over the next 6 months.
My hope, dear reader, is that by now you understand that I’m a story teller. I’m not a bragger, nor am I a name dropper. By design, I seek to share information and give you a sense of reality. I’m just a guy, albeit a guy with (in his opinion) an interesting story to share. The only reason for my bringing this up is to make sure we’re clear that when I talk about my experiences, it’s because I want to share them with you, not because I want to make myself out to be some kind of badass. I know I can’t please everyone, and regardless of how I try to spin it, someone will read my writing and find me pretentious and full of myself. But the honest truth is that I’m just high on life, and I’m honored to have had the experiences I have- especially over the last year. Anyway, here I am again, derailing the narrative to paint a fairly redundant portrait- back to the meat. The surreality of my life since moving to LA is barely fathomable. I’ve met celebrities, and I’ve been backstage with rock stars. I’ve been dragged out of Whisky Go-Go for moshing, and I’ve taken rides in $250,000+ BMW’s. I watched the Super Bowl on an 80” flat screen mounted in the den of a sprawling mansion, and tasted wine and cheese on the coast near Malibu. There have been countless new, and amazing people that have come into my life and made my experiences even richer than previously thought possible. I love the Killer Crew and I’m honored to call myself one of them.
As I’m writing this, dear reader, I’m looking out the window of Southwest Flight 3456 to Dallas, somewhere below me is the eastern edge of California and I’m headed home for a weekend of fun with old friends and family. In two weeks, I’ll be taking off for Dallas again, this time for my second year on Vans Warped Tour. I’ve been offered a branding gig with Nuclear Blast/Sharptone Records, with a slight bump in pay and an easier over-all workload than I dealt with last year. These past twelve months have been an unbelievable journey, full of mischief and mayhem, trials and tribulations (I never even mentioned totaling my car in February, or the nearly two months I spent doing a 6 hour daily, round trip commute to and from my warehouse that followed the accident), but here I am- back, better than ever, and going no where but up.