Jaded Eyes See Clearly, But Only Half of What’s There (orig. published Sept 4, 2010)

01Jul11

I spent much of the summer of 2010 following the Warped Tour in my car.  I kept a blog about it, certain entries of which I’m going to migrate over here.  This entry is from July 15th.

 

By 8:30am, the papering of the Warped Tour grounds has begun in earnest, and by 10am, almost every available surface–including but not limited to stage barricades, Portapotty doors (inside and out), fencing, railings, and the pavement–has been used. Outside in the line, folks are handing out flyers or holding up signs with their band and their set time.

(Oddly, one of the most thorough paperings I keep seeing is for some band called Litchfield on Rogan Records, who are not even playing the tour. It’s the old get-em-to-see-band-X-and-hopefully-they-get-exposed-to-band-Y strategy taken to the extreme.)

You won’t see Bouncing Souls posters, though. You won’t see the All American Rejects on the Portapotties or Motion City Soundtrack working the lines. They don’t have to, they’re Band X of the statement above. They were Band Y for enough years, and now they get to relax a little. The flyers are actually one of the most readily visible ways in which this corporatized tour still requires a lot of DIY ethic from most of the bands on the tour (or at least, any band that’s serious about capitalizing on the opportunity that Warped gives them).

Take the Mighty Regis. These Irish rockers record and release their own music sans record label. They bought and painted their own tent, paid for their own merch, drive their own RV (which they rented on their own dime). Go by their merch tent and the guy selling CDs is the same one who played on it. They got on the tour because (no joke) someone directed Kevin Lyman to their MySpace and he liked what he heard. Warped gives the Mighty Regis a 10×10 patch of ground and a stage to play on and not much else. Everything–like whether anyone actually takes time out of their day to come see their set when they could be watching any of 40 other bands–is entirely up to the band.

Far From Finished has practically got bringing people into their merch tent down to a science. Their basic premise (which I think is a solid one, but I’m biased) is that their music speaks for itself, so people just need to hear it. To that end, they have three or four iPods at their tent and are not even a little bit shy about attracting the attention of passersby and putting a pair of headphones over their ears. They’re not the only ones, either–go by the B.A.L. Records tent and Milenko of Lacerda will sing his music acapella for you.

If this is how punk rockers get Rich And Famous ™, it seems a really inefficient way to go about it. And of course, none of these bands who are on their first Warped expect any such thing. They just want you to hear their music (P.S., follow the links to their websites and go listen to their music, like omgritenaow). And in a weird way, watching these bands work the crowd reminds me of the early days of punk. Disclaimer: I am not actually old enough to remember this era. But I’m currently reading Gimme Something Better, a transcribed oral history of Bay Area punk (book review probably to come). And there’s all these stories from people who were in punk bands before there was any such thing as punk in San Francisco in the late 1970s, who talked their way into venues and onto bills by going in themselves and talking to the manager. Who found out about this band or that band strictly from the look of a flyer on a telephone pole. In a city of 100,000 uninterested people, and using only the power of their own individual voices, these kids who didn’t even know what they were doing connected with other like-minded people and created something bigger than themselves. And what is Warped but (again, in a weird way) its own little mobile, captive city? Why not hit the streets in Portapotty Alley and see if you can’t find some likeminded dysfunctional kid who doesn’t know what he’s doing? Good things may come of it, it’s not like it’s never happened before.

Footnote: I could find no way to fit her seemlessly into the article, but Sarah Saturday of Gardening, Not Architecture is another DIY musician on Warped this summer who is indirectly inspiring and fueling a lot of these posts about Warped and DIY. She also runs a website called earnityourself.com which is a really cool website–part FAQ, part networking, part support group–for anyone who is wondering just how to survive in the music business. Check it out.

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