Playing On The Warped Tour: Part Four
By Eric Kamm Published October 17, 2009
The Face Behind The Music
You'll notice that the name of the festival is comprised of four words denoting two concepts--“THE VANS” and “WARPED TOUR.” The former concept represents the part of the event that includes selling merchandise such as shoes, clothing, and an abundance of corporate entities inappropriately labeled “bands.”
The latter word, “TOUR” more appropriately describes the event, which, in my experience, is genuinely about the music. I feel lucky to have seen many great musicians perform at Warped over the years. While these several aspects of the tour could seem like the diabolical workings of “The Man,”—all of these entities are incredibly useful tools for every party involved. It’s what they call synergy. Big bands with corporate label budgets bring in loads of kids who, in turn, discover smaller groups. Independent groups bring in their friends who, as they’re walking between the smaller stages, hear a song performed by a band on a major label (not that anybody should care). All of these kids see the advertisements next to the stages, where the people who own those companies pay millions in advertising fees, which in turn get distributed to cover the expenses of the tour, and pay the musicians’ living expenses. And so on, and so forth. Kevin Lyman, the owner of the tour, goes to great lengths in efforts to allow small bands the opportunity to play his festival, and he does this for no other reason than to support as many bands as he possibly can. To further drive in this point, I’ll mention that in later years a certain drummer told me that his band's bus broke down, and he thought that they would have to drop off the tour. Instead, Kevin Lyman threw the band a little extra money so they could rent another vehicle and finish the tour. That money came directly out of his pocket (and this is particularly significant if you consider the fact that it made absolutely no difference to the tour’s profitability whether this group performed or not).
What I’m getting at is that there is a whole lot going on at these festivals. I got to meet a lot of amazing drummers, and I got to meet a lot of people pretending to be drummers. On that first day I interviewed three or four people posing as drummers, as they told me in great detail about perks like the video game systems in their vans. Some times I had to try my hardest to remember their names long enough to thank them once the interview is done. In fairness to them, I was posing as an interviewer, so I’m sure I could have asked them way more professional questions. As I reviewed the interviews later, I had been so nervous, things went a little more like The Chris Farley Show than that Charlie Rose thing I was hoping for. And to their credit, even the guys talking about video games, had some great suggestions for warm up routines, and had hilarious stories about life on the road. When all was said and done I got to interview tons of amazing drummers likeBrooks Wackerman (interviewed < here) and George Schwindt of Flogging Molly (interviewed here) which was an incredible experience.