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all words: Philip Chevalier    all photos: Jason Dixson

It is approximately 3:00PM at Merriweather Post Pavilion on a Wednesday. The air sits heavy with the smell of onions and low-cost marijuana. The Vans Warped Tour, and all three kinds of hepatitis, have together made a home in this place for the majority of the day. The shame surrounding me is extremely contagious, if only due to its being the only thing that isn’t here on purpose.

A massive, sun-battered, blemish-speckled human covers my body momentarily with her damp shadow; I’m thinking the shadow itself could probably be measured with some type of very sensitive scale. I am covered in her.

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My breath lingers around my mouth for a while, like it does when you pull your covers completely over your face, and as a result I find that the onion smell also operates in close quarters as an onion taste.

Silence is absolutely nowhere to be found.  I am standing in the middle of what can perhaps best be described as the strip-mall of music day-festivals.

Perhaps least surprising but most perplexing about what my eyes are encountering everywhere they look is that everyone meant to be here – they are here  on purpose. I cannot justify this – it simply is.

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Wading through an emotionally unstable lawn full of outstretched children, all of whom seem to have fundamentally mistaken their feelings about the world to be somewhere in the general vicinity of legitimate, I am scared and entirely alone. My feet take me down toward the main stage. I am searching there for something fascinating beneath the surface of this gathering, but all I am able to really put my finger on is that this whole thing is built upon mistaken versions of concepts like “anger,” “music,” and “fun.” Really, there is nothing about Warped Tour that even comes close to celebrating what any of those things actually are — at best, it only manages to be harmlessly “upset.”

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My photographer comrade, Jason Dixson, then points out to me that, if Warped Tour was taken as a representative sample of the world’s population, then most of the world would have tattoos. I tell him that this is a far more interesting way of saying “most people here have tattoos.”

We then jointly realize that the ubiquity of permanent body art here is actually somewhat ironic, considering the average age of those in attendance is somewhere just shy of 18.

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As far as ‘scenes’ go, Warped Tour is the culturally disenfranchised second cousin of all other scenes. It bears numerous types of watered down resemblances — from certain angles, and in certain light — to almost every full-blooded member of the ‘scene’ family. For example…

There are sort of hippies:

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Looking this way every day involves a deep commitment to borrowed personality:

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Even a small flock of bros: 

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We’d be wise to recognize that this occurs mostly by way of half-formed and unintentional mimicry.  Nothing about Warped Tour occurs naturally, in other words. It seems to spend most of its time grasping at straws in an effort to define who or what it actually is, all the while failing in a kind of twisted, painfully beautiful way to self-actualize.

Did I mention that there were bands there that played music? We happened to catch a couple of them.

Black Veil Brides:

Black Veil Brides most likely landed on their name through some sort of post-emo band name generator, and, if they didn’t, the band members’ collective brains must operate on similarly basic algorithmic coding. They enter the stage to an arena of teenagers chanting their textbook fucking name. The last fifteen rows of the seated area are littered with the parents of children that either have been or should be given up on.

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Standing in the narrow gap at the very front of the pit, the convulsing crowd behind me, and a group that has immediately revealed itself to be torturous to listen to in front of me, I feel myself to be at the exact place where all the energy is converging. Unfortunately, I am moments away from finding out what a heartthrob looks like in the scream-o universe – a bizarro clone universe that I had falsely assumed to be too inherently self-loathing to contain a certifiable Justin Bieber of its own.

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The reaction to this man’s tattooed arms was nothing short of pandaemonium within the largely female crowd for this segment of the day’s events. His growl came from somewhere fucked up, deep inside his annoyingly faux rebel exterior. Every member of this bullshit-core LA band seems to be having an amazing time pretending to be a rock star, while managing to perform for the very bottom of the FM radio barrel. Make no mistake, Black Veil Brides are many degrees of separation away from  anything you could call “dangerous.”

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But don’t tell that to this girl, who will most likely be avoiding large crowds for the rest of her young adult life.

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Reel Big Fish:

Interestingly, the palpable excitement surrounding Black Veil Brides is in marked contrast to the reception of Reel Big Fish earlier in the day. They had performed a series of brassy ska tunes that would have killed at any wedding, and were received by half as many interested people as were now gathered for Black Veil Bride. It isn’t that Reel Big Fish had lacked energy or anything like that, they had just lacked any relevancy whatsoever, even in the eyes of a crowd that so warmly embraces low culture. I realize at this moment that a 1:30 set on the Vans Warped Tour is probably a likely place in 2013 for a band relegated to cheap anthems from ten years ago and covers of no-longer-top-40 hits like Reel Big Fish to die.

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The Used:

Seriously, how terrified does this baby look underneath this mask?

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The guy pictured below on the left is the front man of a band called Young London that both dedicated a Third Eye Blind song to the memory of Danny Tanner and did not provide any of the actual instrumentation for said song. I have no idea what this band was pretending to be. 

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This is a band that we stopped to check out because they were wearing matching basketball jerseys and pretending to be angry at the same time:

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Best hair of the festie.  

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A nipple touch up because it happened before our eyes:

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