Two weeks ago, I saw Sum 41, Yellowcard, Reel Big Fish and Less Than Jake at Warped Tour and it blew my effing mind.
That's not a journal entry from a diary I kept in 2007, by the way. That's an actual recap of my activities.
I went to Warped Tour in 2016 as a 27-year-old man with a job and insurance, not as an angsty teen who swore to his parents he finished his algebra homework minutes before leaving the house for public transportation. It's an actual thing I really really really did.
The irony here is this is the first time I ever actually ended up going to Warped Tour. I grew up fairly religious, and Warped always somehow ended up stopping in my area during the Sabbath, so I never got a chance to see it live when I actually listened to the music.
I mean, I do honestly listen to Sum 41 at the gym still nowadays (“Fat Lip” is the best song of all time and “Chuck” as a whole album was as important to me in high school as “The White Album” was to society whenever that album came out).
Aside from that, though, I can't tell you the last time I've heard anything from Yellow Card or debated whether Simple Plan was too soft to be punk. Half the bands I saw on the roster I didn't even think were together anymore, and the other half I haven't thought of since Barack Obama was a senator.
But when I was offered the chance to go, I obviously had to accept.
Receiving an email inviting me to attend as press was the oddest mixture of excitement and curiosity one could possibly throw together.
It felt like being handed a bag of gold doubloons in the street by a dude in a top hat. Sure, you're GOING to accept that bag o' doubloons, but you're also going to wonder the whole time on your way home what the hell just happened and who evens uses doubloons anymore.
And that was my main question: Who goes to Warped Tour in 2016?
The festival was on a Friday deep in south Jersey, over three hours away from the city, and featured bands that were big when MySpace was all of our homepages on Internet Explorer.
Wouldn't everyone who Warped is relevant to have work or grad school or something more pressing to be at?
By all trains of logic, I assumed a festival featuring late '00s punk, rock and SKA music on a Friday afternoon should basically amount to an empty parking lot with a bunch of confused roadies and bored merch booth workers just mulling around.
When I showed up the BB&T Pavilion in Camden, I realized I couldn't have been more wrong.
Warped Tour is still VERY much a thing and, for reasons I still don't really understand, its fans have stayed the same age since 1996.
That's the thing about Warped Tour's audiences: I get older and they stay the same age. Alright, Alright, Alright.
…OK, I meant that in the least creepy way possible. You get it.
Warped Tour is like a weird, loud time capsule but with more backpack sweat.
Think about who went to this music festival back in high school. Now imagine them with smartphones and you essentially have the audience of Warped Tour nowadays. It's the exact same group of people, just instead of being born in the late '80s, they probably weren't old enough to remember 9/11.
The fact they are into the exact same stuff I was into when I was that age is a total mind-fuck.
I don't even mean they are into the same style of stuff I was into, I mean they are literally enjoying the exact same stuff I used to listen to. I went to a set by Mayday Parade on the Journey's Left Foot stage and couldn't get into the standing area because there were too many teens moshing.
MAYDAY PARADE! IN 2016! I BARELY knew about Mayday Parade back when they were relevant during the mid-to-late '00s. How the HELL did these kids find out about Mayday Parade? It makes no sense, but they are massive fans and know all the words to "Jamie All Over." Go figure.
There's something really cool about all this. Seeing a significantly younger generation of punks lose their shit when Reel Big Fish played that opening guitar riff to “Beer” was an out of body experience.
An hour later, I was in the bathroom after watching Less Than Jake perform and heard two dudes saying how it wasn't an exaggeration to argue Yellowcard was more culturally important than Marilyn Manson because they had a violinist. This is a conversation I've had at least 50 times back in high school and college.
McConaughey was right. Time is a flat circle.
There was even a special tent just for parents with air conditioning.
I'm convinced Warped Tour will live forever.
What it lacks in flair and topical celebrity support, like the fashion scene at Coachella or Kanye at Gov Ball, it more than makes up for in grungy resilience. You're not just watching bands perform, you're watching a movement continue to thrive in the underbellies of society. A community that has found strength within itself.
The people who attend Warped Tour aren't the all-American quarterbacks, cheerleading captains and student council leaders of their schools.
Warped tour is full of outsiders who scribble Green Day lyrics on the inside of their composition notebooks because Green Day is the only group of people who speak to them, both figuratively and literally.
That was the main theme of the festival. It's a place for people who feel like outsiders to meet up with other outsiders and enjoy the same thing.
Repeatedly, bands had mental health advocacy groups speak before their sets to let festival-goers know there were experts in tents around the venue if anyone wanted emotional help or just needed someone to talk to. Warped Tour is a support system and it never leaves a person behind.
As long as outcasts exist, Warped Tour will exist and at its core, that is why it rocks.
That and Sum 41. Sum 41 still effing rocks.