Blood, sweat, rock and roll

Avoiding heat stroke and dehydration, going home covered in bruises, sweat (some that isn’t your own), and finding sunburns in places most people wouldn’t think possible might not be everyone’s definition of a great day. Those people have obviously never been to Vans Warped Tour. This summer, I had the privilege of experiencing all of those things twice.

Both times, I got in line between 8 and 9 a.m. General admission gates open at 11 a.m. My group and I donated $5 to the Feed The Children organization, which allowed us to get through the gates an hour before the general admission line. The organization also accepts canned good donations which allow donators to get in early as well.

People taking the donations either stamp the hands of the ones donating or give them wrist bands so they can get into a designated line. I recommend donating. Not only will you be helping a great organization, but you get to find the merchandise tents and stages you need to be at throughout the day before any bands start playing.

Bands usually hold their meet and greets at their merch tent, but some hold their signings at sponsor tents, such as Trojan and Alternative Press magazine. Finding out where signings take place early in the day helps lower the levels of panic. Sometimes you need to purchase an item from a specific band’s tent or need a wrist band, which are given to a limited number of people, in order to meet the band. Trust me, you need to find those things out quickly because items go fast.

I went to Dallas, TX and Denver, CO to shed sweat, tears and layers of makeup for some of my favorite bands. Both dates were more fun than I could have ever imagined. Though Denver’s crowds were significantly rougher than the ones in Dallas, I wouldn’t trade any hit I took to the rib cage or kick to the back of my head from a crowd surfer for anything. I was in front for every band I watched in Denver, minus one. After eleven hours, I didn’t have any fight left in me by the time the last band played.

There were more than 90 bands playing, and I saw 13 of them. I didn’t get to watch every band play that I wanted because some of my favorites were scheduled to go on stage at the same time on different stages, or their set times were really close together. Choosing between bands was one of the most heartbreaking decisions I’ve ever had to make. Sorry Atilla, Breathe Carolina, and Crown The Empire for skipping out.

My favorite performers by far, were Falling In Reverse, Motionless In White, Icon For Hire, Issues, The Summer Set, Scare Don’t Fear, The Ready Set and Of Mice & Men. They all had incredible stage presence and put everything they had into each song they played. The crowds were vastly different for each of those bands. I thought I broke a rib and was going to collapse in the crowd for Motionless In White, while in the crowd for The Summer Set I was smiling ear to ear while forming the shape of a heart with my hands, along with everyone else.

Not only did I get to watch outstanding bands play, I got to meet a couple of them. I met Scare Don’t Fear while I was in Denver, and met Jeffree Star in Dallas, as well as Shawn Jump and Ariel Bloomer from Icon For Hire. They were all humble and friendly. It’s an indescribable feeling to hug and take pictures with someone most people only get to see in music videos.

Despite dreams coming true and being too excited to function properly, the heat was enough to knock me down from cloud nine. My sister and I spent over $30 on water alone. There was a refill station available that allowed guests to fill water bottles for free, but the lines were ridiculous, so we bought water bottles from venders.

Along with heat comes sun, and as the pasty white person I am, sunburns were unpreventable. I left both dates with second degree burns and blisters, despite reapplying sunscreen every three hours. I lasted the entire 12 hours in Dallas without sitting down to rest or take a break, but in Denver I laid in the grass next to lots of strangers who apparently couldn’t walk anymore without feeling faint either.  I had never had to shotgun water until that day.

There were girls dripping hair dye onto their shoulders and shirts, people at the back of crowds in wheelchairs and on crutches, and I saw a few people pass out. The amount of fans who fought through the heat, mosh pits and lines just to see their favorite bands and artists was incredible to see. The crowds are like one big family which understands why everyone else is there. We all connect and appreciate the bands for what they do. We’re all there for the music and our bands. The songs have touched something in our hearts that no one else ever has, and for the first time, we feel as if someone understands us.

Bands show support and acceptance that the rest of the world doesn’t. It would only be fair to give that support and acceptance back by singing along to every one of their songs and screaming from the top of our lungs. Vans Warped Tour has been active for 20 years and is still going strong. I encourage everyone to go at least once. You won’t regret it, I promise.

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