Warped Tour begins in Mansfield, Massachusetts in a number of hours, and sadly, I will not be in attendance. Warped really is a one-of-a-kind entity, and while the Lollapalooza’s that came before it may have dropped their aims to bring alternative music to the masses across the vastness of America (most recently, Ozzfest suffered the same fate, with a single show in Dallas, Texas rather than a full-out tour). Being able to experience the tour-on-wheels is certainly remarkable; a full-blown, 8 staged (and a handful of music-tents) carnival that appears out of nowhere and is taken down by dusk. There isn’t a second that some form of musical expression isn’t being tossed into the air from corners of whatever open-space the tour rolls through, a rumbling monstrosity of noise that lasts twelve hours and leaves you dirty, exhausted, and sunburned.
And yet, I’m not sad necessarily because I’m missing the tour, but the idea of the tour. Warped Tour was created to bring music of all shapes and sizes to the masses at a cheap price. Certainly, half of that is true; tickets for Warped are exceedingly inexpensive ($25 – $35, give or take), especially considering the mounds of bands that pile in for the summer-long haul. Yet, what may be cheap in price has ultimately become cheap in experience. Among the most vivid memories of my last experience at Warped Tour (aside from the veritable dust storms that arose across Fitchburg due to the mosh pits) was the in-your-face consumerism. I can’t say I’ve never yearned for free shit (at one point in my life, I went after free crap at events with a certain vigor), but to see mounds of kids scramble for a free t-shirt from the Truth while not being completely knowledgeable of what those pieces of merchandise represent left me feeling sick.
What’s more, merchandise seems to have a bigger role in Warped than the live experience of music itself. Every band rolls in with a merch tent crammed with t-shirts, CDs, hats, and whatever you can slap a band-name on. It’s understandable that a band wants to get their name out there, but when consumerism overtakes the music it’s meant to represent, something is amiss. The idea of punk is to be able to express yourself musically in a voice that’s separate from the mainstream. So what does that say when the majority of space taken up during Warped Tour is simply urging people to spend money than do something individually? As Marshall McLuhan said, “the medium is the message.”
The fact that an alternative/punk tour has become such an arm of industry is aggravating in its own right. But, the idea that Warped Tour has failed its original intents to bridge the gap of “punk” within the mainstream is even worse. There is a reason that emo, punk, and pop punk are seen with such severe and negative stereotypes, and unfortunately Warped Tour hasn’t put forth any acts to incur otherwise. This year is no different. Aside from a handful of punk/emo bands (Say Anything, The Bronx, Against Me! chief among them), this year’s Warped is certainly lacking a diverse lineup that it used to parade across the country.
Where are the ground-breaking artists meant to bring a sense of something entirely different than the “norm” punk acts (why is there even such a thing as the “norm” for punk)? Sure, the inclusion of Dillinger Escape Plan and Matisyahu (as well as classics such as The Germs and Fear) offer up a slice of diverse noise, but those acts are only on the tour for a week or two. What ever happened to folks like Andrew WK, Beck, Billy Idol, Black Eye Peas, Cherry Poppin’ Daddies, D12, Deftones, Eminem, Fu Manchu, Godsmack, Gogol Bordello, Hank Williams III, Hatebreed, Hed PE, Helmet, Ice-T, Immortal Technique, Incubus, Joan Jett, Jurassic Five, Kid Rock, Kottonmouth Kings, L7, Limp Bizkit, Long Beach Dub Allstars, Misfits, NERD, No Doubt, Ozma, Ozomatli, Pietasters, Quarashi, Reverend Horton Heat, Rollins Band, Snot, Staind, Streeghtlight Manifesto, Sublime, Sugar Ray, Talib Kweli, Valient Thorr, and Weezer? Whether or not you like or disdain the previous bands, or any group on this year’s Warped Tour, you have to admit that this year’s Warped is missing the diverse showcase of sounds it used to contain.
If Warped Tour is ground zero for punk on the mainstream level, then what kind of images are being portrayed about emo and other forms of punk? When all the sounds are similar, the images stereotypic, where does that leave the definition? Punk, as it is viewed by the majority of society, is fast becoming a Levittown (if it isn’t already). Although creating a vast blueprint may be ideal for living spaces, it doesn’t and shouldn’t suit music. Music is meant to project individual creations to the world, not blur the lines of people into one big ball that can easily be circumscribed as the ideal for everyone. The minute any genre can be made fun of simply through compressing dozens of its acts into a small box, something is certainly wrong. Hopefully, this is just a short bumble and not a terrible fall for Warped and the idea of punk on a widespread level.
Dillinger Escape Plan – Milk Lizard (live at Warped Tour):