For the first time in rock history, I witnessed a shift. A shift in realizing the potential of an undervalued asset. A shift in recognizing a pattern. A shift in knowing that despite whatever horror the present presents that our future holds something brighter than all of our hope combined. What shift did I witness?
I witnessed the first Warped Tour hosted in the city of New Orleans.
At first, I was hesitant in regards to covering this event. As an avid consumer of pop-punk music in my early teens, I set a certain standard before approaching events of such magnitude. I like to go to festivals prepared to party by listening to the latest acts and familiarizing myself with what I shouldn’t miss. Although Warped Tour 2016 in New Orleans neglected to feature some headliners-cough, cough, Blink 182-it still hosted a variety of well-known acts that drew in a small crowd. Admittedly, being a native of Houston, Texas-where the event has been going on for years-I had a larger-than-life perception of the festival itself. I expected throngs of fans wildly thrashing and moshing. Unfortunately, I was not met with this crowd. Where were all the punk kids? Did the ska kids find a better show? Ultimately, several bands still proceeded with kick-ass shows, but the festival could have been met with a broader audience. Beyond my generic description of the festival itself, as a reporter, it is my obligation to include you in my experiences, so I will direct you towards three points of my experience.
A Strange Set Up
Upon arrival, Nick (our staff photographer) and myself were increasingly concerned with a seemingly infinite arrival line. I was so excited to see the amount of kids sweating in line. I couldn’t stop thinking: “Rock is alive in Louisiana; yes!” Having entered the concert area itself, my excitement continued until I made it past the main entrance gate. The event was hosted at Mardi Gras World and condensed seven stages into a space that should have probably hosted about five. Two of these stages were so close together that when bands ran over their set time someone passing by had to listen to both. Talk about cognitive dissonance. Why were the stages so cramped? Despite tossing so many stages together (seemingly haphazardly), there also seemed to be an abundance of room for more potential audience members. Where did all the kids in line go? Warped Tour did not seem to be advertised well or perhaps the ticket prices too steep. Why was this event hosted for only one day? Why was it on a Monday? These are all unresolved questions I still hold that I would love to learn the answers to.
We Carried On
Unhindered, we navigated through sweltering heat to catch a few acts, conduct a few cool interviews, and enjoy the day. This site features articles about all the individual bands we caught the shows of (find it in the Festival Features section), and as time went on, people seemed to trickle in to these shows through the gates. We had a reprieve in our day outside in speaking to an awesome member of an even better band (hint their show article is here and his interview is here) but eventually ended up back in the crowd sweating our butts off. Much like the version of Warped Tour I attended in Houston throughout my high school years, the heat was absolutely stifling. This did not hold back some avid fans, but several groups of people were seeking shelter from the heat under tents, having to miss fantastic shows. If you chose to attend this festival in the future be sure to dress appropriately for the heat and more importantly come well hydrated.
The crowd FINALLY rolled in the last two hours of the festival. The Journeys Left Foot and Right Foot Stages were next to each other drawing one massive crowd. There is only one word to describe the last few acts: electric. What New Orleans was waiting for finally happened: an energetic crowd with equally energetic performers engaging in phenomenal performances. Sweaty pulsing bodies were screaming lyrics, dancing, cramming together and swaying to the music filling the air. I can only attempt to describe the glory of masses of totally different strangers all chanting Yellowcard lyrics together while swaying against each other. The pulse of a scene was throbbing and we were a part of it.
I will not spoil individual performances in this general review article. Go read reviews of them yourself. This article is a calling. A calling to all kids that love rock and punk and pop and ska and screamo. A calling to all kids that grew up listening to Sum 41 or Bullet For My Valentine. A calling to people that just want to enjoy a huge quantity of talented musicians from across the country. PLEASE head to the Vans Warped Tour next year if they choose to host it in New Orleans again. We need to be ensuring events like this SELL OUT so more musicians find out what a great city New Orleans is so they will come back. Let the music scene see just how amazing fans can be. Let them see how awesome local acts they share stages with are. Let them feel the music this city sings.