One of the significant experiences that I had while on a writing hiatus, is attending the meat space version of mySpace, the Vans Warped tour. Traveling with my personal guide, my daughter and I attended the July 28th show in Chicago. For those of you who are unaware of this cultural phenomenon, we spent six hours on a hot and humid Saturday, trying to listen to parts of the 60+ bands scattered across eight stages at the venue. Because of other commitments, we left early and could have spent the final three hours trying to squeeze more into already packed day.
Once we purchased our tickets and entered the venue, we had to find out who was playing when at the show. The listing of bands is attached to a blow-up sign. There were several bands that my daughter wanted to see, including Boys Like Girls (of course they do), Hawthorne Heights, New Found Glory, and Alkaline Trio. Not knowing what to expect, I brought the book that I was reading at the time, Cult of the Amateur, fully expecting not to enjoy myself. But boy was I surprised, and I actually found a few bands that I really enjoyed sampling. These bands include Big D and the Kids Table, The Graduate, and May Day Parade. Maybe it was the fact that I am older, but most of the bands that I enjoyed the most played at the main theater, in the shade with a cool, easterly breeze coming from the lake. I guess I cannot take the heat, so I stay out of the kitchen.
In addition to sampling the many bands, I spent time walking around the bazaar that is set up. Each band is given a small display area, which their various CDs and paraphernalia can be purchased. There were also several commercial setups, from Vans to Trojans (imagine my shock when the young woman asked if I wanted a free sample in front of my 15 year-old. I do not know who was more embarrassed.) There were also several public service booths, from PETA to Living Green to How to Live a Vegetarian lifestyle. My favorite was the PETA booth, where they were handing out “I am not a Nugget” stickers. It was like live mySpace advertising.
In addition like on mySpace, you could “friend” the members of the bands who would appear either at their own or a sponsors booth to meet and greet, chat with new fans, and sign objects. My daughter purchased a new set of Vans which she had signed by so many bands and people, that even she lost track of who signed where. These organic, friends groups kept popping up throughout the venue, allowing people with similar tastes, the opportunity to connect with a band that they liked.
Noticeably absent, at least from both of our views were open use of substances and haze that I remember seeing when I went to events, like the Toledo Speedway Jam in 1979 (REO Speedwagon, Blue Oyster Cult, and headliner, Ted Nugent) as a young man. This was actually enjoyable. Maybe the Just Say No campaign is working.
At the end of the day, we traveled home, sunburned and exhausted, we critiqued the bands we had heard and some we had not seen while scanning through the compilation CD we purchased (50 bands/50 songs/Five bucks). Not bad for 10 cents a song. Cheaper than purchasing them on iTunes and more legal than downloading them from LimeWire. We had a nice day and I wouldn’t mind going back again next year. Maybe, I will be asked to go again.