Mothers and fathers with furrowed brows, are you concerned for your precious teens' well-being? Nervous that those impressionable youths might stumble down a dark staircase and onto a path of substance abuse, sex addiction, debauchery and crime? Uneasy of the world “out there” and how it may harm your babies?
You need not fear rock and roll. For today it is not sex-and-drugs-and-rock-and-roll rock and roll – it is fun-in-the-sun-corporate-sponsored-get-yer-autographs-here rock and roll.
Still, one wonders at all those kids as the sum of their parts. The bangs, manes, mohawks, plugged ears, pierced lips, bright eyes, raised bodies, tank tops, short shorts, baseball hats skater shoes, jersey tops, leather vests, jean jackets patched together, spiked, dyed or torn apart.
One wonders at the thousands of them, these flaming little people-buds, thrashing and screaming, destroying everything their parents gave them in a dusty parking lot at the Vans Warped Tour outside the Home Depot Center in the City of Carson.
Specifically, what is that they're gulping down? Monster Energy Drink — they love the stuff. What is it they're eating? Wonka-brand candy — it's free by the fistful. And those shirts they're wearing, the chain and logo around his neck, the neon-colored sunglasses on her face, the wristbands, fake tattoos and merchandise in-hand?
It was probably Kia or Fearless or American Rag who gave it or sold it to them on the cheap, somewhere in the mini-mall of vendors' tents where one could spend the better part of a day loading up on swag and spending an allowance in-toto on souvenirs.
In it all, something feels a little dirty.
“I want to hear you girls say, 'Dirty!'” squeals Tyson Ritter of the All-American Rejects. And then, “No, no, no. I want you to talk right to me,” he moans, moving his free hand toward his crotch so there's no confusion as to how he means it. “I want you say, 'Dirty…' You say, 'Dirty little…”
And then, as he bounds forward toward his dirty little horde, they yell back: “Dirty Little Secret!” Ritter pumps his arm in his tight, white suit as his band digs into the opening riff of their double platinum single by that name.
Girls and boys are reeling excitedly however they're able, the weight of the crowd pushing them against — nearly through, veggie-slicer-like — a chest-level fence. At least two have stood waiting here for the past four hours, through bands' sets they didn't so much care for, including Bring Me the Horizon and Andrew W.K.
Now their huge eyes are locked in ecstasy and their mouths are singing along, gender-blind makeup jobs all but washed away by sweat and sun. Phones and cameras are in the air – connoting reverence as Ritter swaggers this way and that on the modest main stage.
Across the grounds, past the vendors and beer garden, on the Punk Rock Legends stage, the Adolescents play to a harder pedigree of fans — spiked hair and demented smiles, weathered bodies hitting softer bodies. Here earlier the Casualties, Swinging Utters and Fear too played, and GBH closed its set with a thanks to old Hollywood.
Elsewhere, Sum 41, the Summer Set, Voodoo Glow Skulls, Bouncing Souls, Enter Shikari, Alkaline Trio, Motion City Soundtrack, the Rocket Summer, Attack Attack and Street Sweeper Social Club (the Coup's Boots Riley plus Rage's Tom Morello) all play or already played on one of the eight stages in the small lot, which had patrons bouncing about like pinballs set to set, with a lottery-generated show schedule that was decided upon that morning in accordance with Warped tradition.
In its sixteenth year, on the first day before nearly two months of similar setups nationwide, tickets cost about $30 and parking was $20. By 9 p.m., the music was over and nearly all had left.
Mom and dad, the aggression was modest save the bands' affinity for the F-bomb, there were no marijuana cigarettes seen floating around audiences, and security was tight, responsible and respectful, like one clean machine.