Friday, June 24, 2011

Vans Warped Tour - tribes organic and contrived

The 17th Vans Warped Tours kicks off today in Dallas, TX.  This year's line-up seems to have a more pop flair to it with bands such as 3OH3, Simple Plan, Family Force Five, Gym Class Heroes and Jack's Mannequin.  Paramore will grace the mainstage for four stops.  There are plenty of hardcore, scream-o, ska and great punk bands too.  But the point of including this event on the Art Tribes blog is because with 80 buses, 20+ eighteen-wheelers and all the rag-tag vans and trailers bringing up the rear...THIS is probably the biggest, most complex, well organized gypsy caravan North America sees.

Unlike most tribes, whose members gravitate towards each other based on common interests and goals, Warped Tour has both contrived and organic elements.  Organically, everyone on the tour is there for the music, believes in various social, environmental and medical causes, and likes to travel.  Most are ok with the lack of major creature comforts over periods of days such as showers, laundry facilities and a comfortable bed.  As the gypsy king and queen, Kevin Lyman and his wife set examples by living the same life as everyone else if not moreso.

The organic tinkers, travellers, and minstrals send requests, compete in contests and, sometimes, hunt Kevin down to plead their cases to join his cirque to wander the U.S. and Canada from late June to mid-August each year.  Some musicians have become mainstays, groups such as NOFX/Me First and the Gimme Gimmes, Less Than Jake and The Casualities.  There are also the new kids that include bands recently signed to majors that have become really popular with the 12-30 crowd and then there are the unknowns looking for that break who play the "Kevin says" stage for meals and assisting in various ways around the tour.  Most of the non-profits are fairly well established; The Truth campaign, Peta2, Boarding for Breast Cancer, Music Saves Lives, etc. 

Then there is the contrived part of the caravan.  These are mainly musicians who are invited by the production team.  Many are headliners or play the larger secondary stages.  Most are well-known and are the names that will draw the crowd.  Considering how many people there are to feed, vehicles to maintain and all the other expenses that go with this enterage, they need to sell tickets, merch and concessions to fund it.  Some of these groups and solo acts are Warped veterans so they meld in with the troupe with no issues.  Others are artists who came out of left field (myspace, facebook, ilike, etc) got a sweet record deal but have zero street cred.  And then there's even others who have done time on the tour and/or been van bands who forget where they came from once they do become popular and show up with an entitled attitude. 

I hope some day to actually get some real time inside the workings of Warped Tour as I see the potential for some real 'flies in the ointment' or 'oil and water' with the mixing of an organic tribe with a contrived tribe.  If I get press again this year for my stop, I am going to have my eyes open and will have questions for artists, volunteers, and staff about the social condition of the tribe.  I'm also going to be watching for members of other tribes in this area and their interactions.  Having now experienced the cross-overs, suspecting they were there all along, it will be interesting to see the meetings from this perspective.

For more information please visit VANS Warped Tour 2011  If you're as addicted to your Android or iPhone as I am, there are apps that provide dates, line-ups and ticket information.  Please come out and support your local bands playing "Kevin Says" and all the artists and non-profits who give up their summers to bring great music and causes to you.

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