The Vans Warped Tour has been kicking across the country for 17 years and this latest entry – which Jason Lancaster of Go Radio and many other bands have appropriately dubbed “Punk rock boot-camp” – showed that there are no signs of this behemoth slowing down. Need evidence? Over 20,000 people descended upon Vinoy Park in St. Petersburg, Florida on July 31st and only a handful left prior to the last note rung out on the Teggart main stage.
This “old” guy, when comparing to the predominantly teenage crowd that flies into these hallowed grounds, stayed from beginning to end; and got an eye-witness account of what emperor Kevin Lyman (the man who created this juggernaut) described to me as a “revitalized tour” this year. Let’s begin…
Armed with my trusty recorded and my partner-in-fun, photographer Stephanie Byrne of Burn Exposures (check out her pics that are laced in this account) we embarked through a mass of teen angst as we made our way to the press area backstage. Which is poorly marked and no one working the grounds had a clue where it was. But we managed and take pleasure in other people’s stupidity.
Bands started performing at noon with Against Me playing the role of curtain-jerker on this day. And that’s the beauty of this tour, the line-up shifts everyday. It may drive the bands crazy at times, but this tour is for the fans and this format pays off major dividends.
Setting up shop right on the water, PR people were blowing up my phone wanting to get their respective band an interview. Since the half the acts were unknown to me, the one person I did recognize – and have previously interviewed before – was Gym Class Heroes drummer Matt McGinley. Matt recalled our convo from not too long ago and we ended up just joking around how we all are getting old and are clueless regarding who a lot of these bands are. Especially for Matt, since the Gym Class sound is not what one typically used to hearing on the Warped Tour, despite the group playing previous installments.
That said, the variety pack this tour has embraced – another credit to Kevin Lyman, who took firm control of the booking reins this year with listening & approving all the current acts – is being met with a jovial response from not only fans, but from the bands as well; who attended this as fans as well. Christopher Leigh of Electric Touch summed it up rather nicely when reflecting on the critics and the atmosphere Lyman has created…
“He (Lyman) brings all these bands that aren’t necessarily A-list artists or anything and just puts them together and makes it a community. He throws these barbeques where he’s actually cooking. They (critics) bypass all that, and that’s really what makes this festival so great, is that all these bands are hanging out with each other. I mean, I went through the toll booth yesterday and I saw a line of trailers going through it and it’s like, we’re all in this together.”
After yapping with Matt, the first interview of the day was with Go Radio guitarist Alex Reed. Alex is evidence of one of those “I answered an ad online and got the gig” scenarios. Guess they do exist after all…
“They (Go Radio) had a tryout audition process online that I found, and I’m from Michigan. Never met them before, and a friend said you should check out this band.”
This was back when Myspace was relevant and Alex recalled a monster list of criteria and experiences applicants needed to have.
“They gave me a shot and I toured with them for seven months before I was officially in the band and been around for two-and-a-half years since. And here I am, living my dream.”
Alex thought it would be funny if we did the same set of questions I gave to his fellow bandmate Jason in a prior interview. One of those said questions discussed revolved around the rigors of the being on the Warped Tour…
“It’s hot, sweaty and a lot of hard work.” But we’re making friends with people and it’s been awesome.”
Go Radio considers themselves still in a growth period and they know that they have “a lot to prove and a lot to earn, and as long as its growing, we’ll keep fighting,” says Alex.
After photog-extraordinaire Steph snagged a few shots of Alex – the only guy she found attractive that day – it was right into an interview with Josh86 and Geoff from the Ska band Black Square.
By Joe Belcastro
Photos courtesy of Stephanie Byrne