- 1 CHARGIE GOES WARPED PART 1
- 2 About the Author
CHARGIE GOES WARPED PART 1
“I couldn’t wait for the Summer and the Warped Tour!” The infamous phrase from Blink-182’s “The Rock Show” brought out the excitement for every emo kid across America. For 24 summers The Vans Warped Tour presented by Journeys was an escape from reality for a single day. For just one day people from all different walks of life gathered together and spread positivity as they all shared love for one thing: music. Growing up both chronically ill and musically obsessed it was not surprising that I too found solace and support from the “punk rock summer camp” and “summer camp for misfits” for three summers at the Vans Warped Tour. This year Kevin Lyman, the legend behind the madness and tour founder, announced Warped would be going on it’s final cross-country run this summer. An era was ending. As a punk rock Chargie I felt it was my duty to report the events of the final Vans Warped Tour live. Here is the recap of the adventures at the Xfinity Center in Mansfield, Massachusetts for one last “Summer and the Warped Tour” experience.
Hope for the Day
The goal was to attend the free mental health workshop TEI (The Entertainment Institute) with Hope for the Day and Patty Walters from As It Is before gates opened. Unfortunately, due to a late start, not only did that not happen but the first set was also missed. Hope for the Day is an organization based in Chicago that achieves mental health and suicide awareness through proactive suicide prevention and mental health education. As a mental health and disability activist it was important to engage and live tweet the mental health discussion. Unfortunately, as often happens living with chronic illness, change 992 was put into action. On the bright side, it was not raining like last year. The sun was shining and the day was just beginning. A late start was not about to ruin the last Vans Warped Tour.
With cane in hand and a bag on my back my father and I made it through the gates and inside the venue. The first stop was to find the Sleep On It merchandise tent. A poster and Arnold Palmer needed delivery so it only made sense to stop there first. Conveniently they were located across the Owly stage, which was where the band would be performing later on in the day. An ice-cold Arnold Palmer was handed to their merch manager and all around awesome personality, Alex Smith. A camo hat for dad was purchased and cool Sleep On It pin and sunglasses were received. A great start to a great day. The next stop was to the Grayscale tent to finally buy a copy of Adornment (their debut album). We then hit the main stages to catch the We The Kings set. In 2016 I had missed their set, so naturally I made it a goal to see them.
What is really cool about Vans Warped Tour is how the Warped staff work hard to be inclusive and accessible. Across from the main stages was the Living The Dream riser so disabled fans and their friends would be able to see their favorite bands play. On one side of the riser were stairs and the other side was a wheelchair lift. Just walking in the heat had caused fatigue so after climbing the stairs and hanging the cane on the railing and it was time to enjoy We The Kings play their set. A spectacular view and a well needed rest from walking the venue. The day had only just begun after all. I needed to save as much energy as possible to make it through the day.
Relatable Rock Stars
Once their set was finished my dad suggested we head straight to the As It Is tent to catch them at their meet and greet. After wanting to meet the whole band for some time, this was the opportunity. Of course, as soon as we got there a whole line had begun and the band was running late. It didn’t surprise me that a large line was being formed early. As It Is have grown so much since the band they were six years ago with relatable lyrics and strong advocacy work to keep the mental health conversation going. In fact, their newest album which was just recently released, The Great Depression, goes over keeping the conversation of mental health going and how it is okay to not be okay. I ended up buying a download card and hope to be reviewing the album soon.
The line was long, so while my dad stood in my place I would sit down on the ground and listen to the set of Chase Atlantic. By the time I got to meet the boys I was overflowing with nerves and clutching my cane with trembling hands. The four gentlemen were understanding and even chatted with me a bit. Benjamin Langford-Biss, guitarist and vocalist of As It Is, explain to me that “no lyrics are sh***y lyrics if they come from the heart” after apologizing for the words in my songwriting journal I wanted to have signed. What was truly amazing was how genuine they were. Patty Walters, vocalist of As It Is, smiled and asked questions. After apologizing for being nervous they all gave assurances that everything was fine. A famous Patty Walters hug before taking a picture with the lads was amazing. It was truly an honor meeting them.
We The Kings
On the way to the tent to meet We The Kings a portable charger had to be picked up so Twitter could be updated as much as possible. Service at the venue was limited so it was tough. While trying to distinguish between the line for We The Kings and the crowd for Knuckle Puck I ended up collapsing because my knees gave out. While my dad went to go get a wheelchair from guest services I met a few fans in line for We The Kings and ended up striking conversations with them. We The Kings was one of the many touring bands whose songs I constantly used to help me cope with chronic illness. Songs such as “Check Yes Juliet” and “She Takes Me High” would distract my mind from symptoms such as moderate to severe joint and muscle pain as well as nausea due to Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (EDS).
Healing Through Music
Other songs like “Heaven Can Wait” and “Just Keep Breathing” remind that life is always worth living, even through the bad days of wanting to jump off “Skyway Avenue”. Their upbeat sound and positive lyrics were a huge help in staying strong through fatigue and the craziness chronic illness brings. The first time seeing them live as well as the possibility of meeting them fueled excitement. I was, however, hungry; so, as soon as dad came back with a wheelchair cherries and strawberries made a healthy snack while waiting for the chance to meet the band.
Before I had a chance to realize what was happening my dad had wheeled me in front of Travis Clark, vocalist of We The Kings. Immediately he greeted me with a hug and asked my name and how I was doing. He then took my Punk Rock Summer Camp shirt and passed it around to be signed. I made my way to each member until I reached Charles Trippy, bassist of We The Kings as well as daily vlogger for a YouTube channel called CTFxC. While I was saying hi he noticed my temporary tattoo I had on my shoulder, mimicking the tattoo he has on his arm. It was a simple blue and purple wifi symbol, although in the CTFxC stream of things it had way more meaning. I mentioned that I loved his vlogs as well as Travis and Danny’s too. I even showed him my CTFxC and This Star Won’t Go Out wristbands.
After a few minutes of chatting he asked if I had a phone and then snuck a selfie with me. Photos were not part of this meet and greet according to a very official looking cardboard sign, yet Charles took the time to quickly sneak a photo. Him going the extra mile really made all the difference. My dad started to pull me away so we could stop at the med tent and cool down for a few minutes. I quickly put the brakes on, insisting that I needed a hug from Danny Duncan, drummer of We The Kings, before leaving for a quick break.
Sleep On It
We made it just in time to sneak in for a spot in front of the barrier just before my friends in Sleep On It were about to hit the stage. This marked my third time seeing this up and coming Chicago pop punk band and my wheelchair could not have been parked in a better spot. Before Warped Tour had started on its final run teasing the band online had been in fun; even going as far as a petition to have them cover Smash Mouth on tour. This earned disapproval by Jake Marquis’s, guitarist and vocalist of Sleep On It. Earning an eye rolling emoji after persistently pestering the band account to cover Smash Mouth was weird. I had a feeling they would not play a cover, yet was still anxious to see if they would make mention of it. During sound check I was both surprised and hyped to hear Teddy Horansky, guitarist and vocalist of Sleep On It test the mic by singing “Somebody once told me the world was gonna roll me, I ain’t the sharpest tool in the shed” by Smashmouth. To my dismay, Jake did not continue with the song but just did the scripted “Check one two, check one two.”
The actual set was beyond spectacular, like it always is watching the sleepy boys take the stage. It had been a hot minute since I had seen Luka Fischman, drummer of Sleep On It, play a set. Last time I caught the boys on tour, Eric Somers-Urrea, drummer of Marina City, was filling in for Luka while he rested after a shoulder injury. Being able to see Luka taking it away on the kit felt like everything was alright again. The highlight of the set was not Luka’s awesome drumming skills nor was it the fact I knew every single word of each song in the set list and had the perfect view from which to shout the lyrics. Hands down the best part of the entire set was the energy of AJ Khah, the band’s bassist.
A Better Bassist
Bassists who do nothing but stand in place and play has always been a grudge of mine. Khah is the polar opposite of that. He runs across the stage and headbangs, making phototastic hairflips happen. He engaged with the crowd and rocked every single note. As a photographer, that is the stuff that is entertaining and preferable to shoot.
As a human being it immerses me into a whole new world where everyone geeks out about music as much as I do and no one judges you for it. That’s how every concert experience should go and Sleep On It exceeds my expectations each set. At the close, while they all walked off, for some reason had this new found confidence and yelled “ONE MORE SONG, PLAY COPE!” Jake heard my comment and ran back on stage, locking eye contact with me and shouting back, “NO! NEVER AGAIN!”
The Most Annoying Fan on Twitter
After their set I noticed Luka was talking to some people on the other side of the stage. There were some nice people that they saved a spot while we traveled over to go say hi. Of course I have to make every encounter awkward, and just waited until he noticed me sitting and approached me. Continuing with the awkwardness, I introduced myself to him as “the most annoying fan on Twitter”. He did not agree and dismissed this idea. Despite my annoyance my love for the lads really shows through. We had a nice conversation until I was asked by who I assumed were his parents if a picture could be taken. Luka admired my hat and asked me if he could wear it for the picture. Curious to see him wear it I agreed and let him try it on for size. A bit small, but I had to admit he rocked the Texas hat better than I did. That surprised me because hats were definitely a me sort of thing.
As It Is hit the stage at 4:00 and their was a nice view from the Sleep on It merchandise tent line. They had made several jokes about the 4:20 meet and greet time during their set so of course I felt compelled to joke back when I met them. Alex Smith, Sleep On It’s merchandise manager was handing out stickers and signed CDs to the line. Before handing my books to be signed I apologized for yelling “PLAY COPE.” All was forgiven and we were able to take a quick picture before hurrying to catch what I could of Set It Off.
Continue to follow the rest of Hana’s adventure #ChargieGoesWarped in Part 2 available Sept. 21, 2018.
About the Author
Hana Belanger is a disability advocate and activist, contributing author for The Unchargeables, slam poet and important part of the Unchargeables Twitter Team. College student and barista by day, music photographer and fan-girl by night, this nerd of all sorts balances chronic illness, a social life, and learning to be an adult. An optimistic gal who always knows where one can turn on the light even in the darkest of times is still trying to find the meaning to life. You can find her living in the moment usually at a concert or cafe with ice packs, a camera, and headphones.