For as long as I wanted to be a music journalist, I have been writing about the Warped Tour. My first foray into the world of Warped Tour think pieces was an article I wrote for a fake magazine I produced for my Independent Study Mentorship class. It was 750 words of self-righteous get-off-my-lawn babble about attendees getting younger and not paying their dues the way I did. I realize now that I reached the upper echelon of jaded-ness before I was able to legally buy beer and it explains a lot. If you read my featured playlist this weekend, you already got the 411 on what Warped Tour has meant to me during my formidable years. If you haven’t read it, you’d be a lot cooler if you did.[1] When I wrote that, I hadn’t fully committed to going to the last tour date in San Antonio. In one sense, I wanted to go for old times sake, in another sense, I didn’t want to pay $40+ for a lineup consisting of only 3 bands I liked and had seen a few times already. At the last minute, Alissa convinced me to go, and I don’t regret it.

 

We entered the fairgrounds about 5 minutes until noon. After ritualistically taking a picture of the lineup board,[2] we realize most of the bands we want to see are playing late, like last bands playing late. We turned to each other and give each other a look that sighs I’m too old for this shit.

 

“Wanna watch Reel Big Fish?” she asks knowing that I have a soft spot for third wave ska.

 

I agree with hesitation. I love Reel Big Fish, I really do. I’ve enjoyed them every time I’ve seen them but the thought of being in the hot sun for 8 hours and change to wait to see Every Time I Die – literally the last band to play – completely took the wind out of me. We watched Reel Big Fish play and they were great. I’ve always likened their shows[3] to what Japanese game shows would look like if they were produced for America – a combination of wackiness and unadulterated dancing. It’s hard not to smile during their set.

After a pit stop at the Monster Energy fort to try their new energy soda and get some shade, we met up with Kat and Andrew as they were watching Mayday Parade. I’ve never been a fan of theirs though my brother got into them for a while[4] but I’ve always appreciated their commitment to their live show. Their guitarists leave it all on the field and are having the times of their lives and in essence that’s what it should all be about. They reminisced about following the tour over a decade ago to get people to listen to their band before playing a Blink 182 cover. As much as this little annual concert has meant to me, I forget sometimes what it’s meant to the bands that really got their start through it.

So they finish and as the crowd disperses, I make a mad dive to move up. 3Oh!3! is going to be playing in half an hour and I figure I want to get close to take some cool shots. Alissa brings me back to Earth, Dang, I didn’t know you were such a 3Oh!3! fan. Then I remember, I’m not really. Their first album was the soundtrack for some late night drinking sessions with my brother and was so ridiculous, we used to nearly lose consciousness from laughing so hard singing along to their songs. Seeing them for the first time wasn’t so much about seeing them as it was about coming full circle with these memories and having a good time. Alissa and I got separated and I found myself solo in a sea of fans contemplating how old I’ve gotten and how easy it is for everybody around me to drop everything and just enjoy the show while I questioned everything I’ve been doing up this point. Their set was fun and enjoyable and that should have been all that mattered, but of all the bands I’ve seen live, 3Oh!3! was the last one I thought would give me an existential crisis.

I spent the next few hours wandering around and trying to figure out the best way to kill time. It was during the time, that I contemplated just going home and calling it a loss for everything except for the notion of being present at the very last Warped Tour. I wouldn’t say I was miserable, but I definitely wasn’t having fun. The heat shone down and my already sunburnt neck was feeling like I was seconds away from having a hole burnt through my skin. I met back up with Alissa while she was watching Simple Plan. We killed some more time walking around, looking at merch and alternating between resting in the pavilion and going across the fairgrounds for water. We watched a few bands here and there and then finally 6PM rolled around when the bands we were waiting for were all set to play in a row.

 

We started watching The Used, a band I had only sorta seen live while waiting for Dropkick Murphys at Warped Tour 2003. All the old punks were chanting during The Used’s set[5] completely unimpressed. I don’t know if Bert McCracken took offense to it or if he wanted to show he could hang, but half way through their set he jumped from a huge speaker into the crowd. It was a pretty punk rock move to the point where I looked around and saw a number of Murphys fans nod in incredulity with a face that read okay that was actually pretty cool.

 

Alissa and I had planned to watch just a few songs and then head over to watch Senses Fail. The only The Used song I really like is “The Taste of Ink” but I really really like it and as I figured I would probably miss them playing it, I was kinda antsy to head over to see Senses Fail. McCracken came out with smoke bombs and the band went straight into “Take it Away.” All I could think of at that moment was how much Bert’s haircut made him kinda look like Bill Hader as Stefon from SNL. After a couple more songs, I look over to Alissa and motion towards the Senses Fail stage. She tilted her head to think for a second and replied with meh one more song. Much to our chagrin their next song was “Taste of Ink.”

 

Feeling like we had just won the lottery,[6] we headed over to the stage Senses Fail was playing. This is the fourth time I’ve seen Senses Fail and while I always felt I grew out of them after Let it Enfold You and was appreciative of Buddy’s journey back to contemporizing old school hardcore, I was pleasantly surprised at how good they were on this, the last Warped Tour ever. It was definitely the best I’ve ever seen them. They even took a portion of their set to do a nü metal medley of “Chop Suey” by System of a Down, “Bodies” by Drowning Pool, “Break Stuff” by Limp Bizkit and “Bulls on Parade” by Rage Against the Machine. Without looking up their setlists, I like to think that they chose to play this medley in San Antonio since those are the only songs 99.5 KISS plays. Of course, they ended with “Bite to Break Skin” throwing in a little Hatebreed cover in the middle. Watching them play this great set was the second wind I needed to get through to stay for Every Time I Die.

 

Alissa wanted to watch Real Friends, so we did or whatever.

 

Immediately after, I headed over to the stage Every Time I Die was setting up to play the last set of Warped Tour ever. I waited patiently as Chelsea Grin played on the alternate stage contemplating how this Every Time I Die performance is going to permanently close a 17-year chapter of my life. They opened up with “Bored Stiff,” and I was sucked in. I nearly lost my voice on the line “Hey there girls, I’m a C**t”[7] and felt like I was back at my first Warped Tour all over again. This was the fourth time I’ve seen them and it’s really hard to say which performance was their best because each one felt just as dynamic and exciting as the other, but this was the most significant. They’re playing the whole tour again this year and I know they know San Antonio goes hard for them and I know they know that we all waited 8 hours to see them play this set so that we can give the Warped Tour a proper sendoff. With every guitar thrust and head bang and every screamed lyric, it was perfect. So perfect. I kept digging for something that would tie this nearly two decade Warped Tour adventure in a neat bow while trying to live in the moment as best as possible.

 

My camera had an issue halfway through the day, so other than the occasional Snapchat video, I experienced this last Warped Tour the way I experienced the first. I contemplated not writing about it at all and just letting the memory live on in my head forever. Every Time I Die left their heart and soul on that stage and I was so grateful to be there for it, even when they closed with a newer song “Map Change” instead of playing my all-time favorite “Ebolarama.” I retreated to the side where I just wanted to soak in the moment as much as possible and then it happened.

 

My first Warped Tour memory was watching Davey Havok of AFI step onto the crowd while singing and the crowd just held him up. At that one moment the crowd and band were one and we were all a part of the show. It was the moment I realized this was where I wanted to be. So it made my night to see Every Time I Die guitarist Jordan Buckley step out into the crowd, guitar in hand balancing while playing the outro. It was too perfect, like this had all been something I had choreographed in my head and none of it was real. My Warped Tour experience had come full circle and at that moment I knew I needed to write about it one more time.


[1] While you’re at it check out Alissa’s Featured Playlist too!

[2] As far as I’m concerned, people who pay $2 for schedules are either people who are always running on an empty phone battery or are rich.

[3] And most Cali ska bands’ live shows

[4] I always assumed he started listening to them to impress a girl, but now I think he genuinely likes them

[5] The two stages were side by side, alternating back and forth

[6] not really the lottery, but maybe a scratch off worth a hundred bucks.

[7] Mom, if you’re reading this, I said coot and not any other C-word you might be thinking

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