When I told my mom I was going to be joining a band on four days of Warped Tour for SPIN.com her immediate response was “That sounds awful.” Followed shortly by, “Are you sleeping with all of them?” To me, an avid pop punk aficionado, four days on a bus with one of the tour’s craziest acts, Reggie & the Full Effect, sounded like dream come true (and not at all like an opportunity to hone my hooker skills).
The plan was simple: Take the train down to my old stomping ground of Washington, D.C., hitch a ride to the suburban Nissan Pavilion, and hop on Reggie’s bus for the next four days until the New York show. In practice, however, waking up at 5 a.m. in order to meet local Maryland band Downtown Singapore at the end of the Metro’s Green Line and sit on the floor of their van as the vehicle rattled down Route 66 had me a little bit concerned that I would never be able to party like a rock star that night.
I didn’t need to worry.
Day One: Bristow, VA
The real story of the Warped Tour is not what happens between the time that gates open and the final band strikes their last chord; the real story is what happens behind the scenes, backstage and on the buses. Judging from past years, it seems like every day is really the same, a daze of dusty parking lots and scorching heat. The bands hang out on the buses or at their merch table until their set, play a few songs, and repeat daily. But once the tour shuts down for the night, liquor and beer emerge, and the party starts.
Last night, on the Reggie bus, where it seems fun is the only option, the party hit full force. I could regale you with stories of the day, with what bands played the most rocking sets or how an older mother mistook Reggie for a reggae act at his merch table, but as one of the band members told me last night, I should give you the truth.
Reggie & the Full Effect, originally a side project for Get-Up Kids keyboardist James Dewees, has evolved into a full-fledged rock act featuring Dewees on keyboards and vocals; drummer Billy Johnson, bassist T.J. Matthews, and guitarist Zach Aaron of Kansas City outfit Shots Fired; and guitarist Steve Looker. Reggie’s tour manager, Will — who claims to have not worn a shirt since commencing the tour in June — is the smooth operator, keeping everyone in check. Will took me on the bus my first day, found me a bunk (12 people sleep stacked on top of each in the center of the bus), and made sure I knew the most important rule: Don’t crap on the bus.
A day on tour with Dewees definitely involves his set fronting Reggie, and at least one of his other alter egos. Reggie’s show on the Hurley stage is the most conventional, aside from the occasional appearance of death metal alter ego Common Denominator (which features fake blood and capes). The second set, played on the tiny stage in the MySpace tent, finds Dewees adopting the persona of DJ Fluxuation, a flamboyant British techno singer who wears short-shorts and spends much of the set slathering his “Asian boy slave” with baby oil and feeding him popsicles. Social workers, chill: Asian boy slave is actually the tour manager of fellow Warped Tour performers Saosin.
But that’s not the story you want to hear. You want the story of what happens behind closed doors, when they let me, the enemy, see everything in all its unaltered glory. You want to know about the dance party to Flock of Seagulls that occurred in the back lounge, complete with a glow stick and black light. You want to know about how Dewees shoved his dirty underwear in his drummer’s face, claiming that they were covered in “two weeks worth of ball sweat.” You want to know how the band members run around the bus in their underwear and will try to insist that their guests do the same. You want to know how the back lounge TV immediately goes to porn channels when it’s switched on.
You might also not be so surprised about the massive amount of weed that gets smoked in the back lounge and the beers that wash down everyone’s gullets from the moment they wake up until the moment they pass out. All things you probably want to know all about, unless you are my mother.
But don’t worry Mom, I may be partying with the best of them, but I haven’t slept with anyone on the bus yet. Which I’m sure is very reassuring.
Stay tuned for more of SPIN.com’s Warped Tour diary!