Vans Warped Tour, Phoenix, AZ – in 120 minutes or less…

“Hell called…they want their weather back.”  It’s usually a joke, but after today’s grueling temperature combined with monsoon humidity and brilliant sunshine, they can have it.

Vans Warped Tour serves a right of passage of sorts for the youth of the moment and those who relive their younger years at the fests.  This all day touring music festival that has its roots back to 1994, brought its infectious energy to Glendale today.  The line-up of bands represented many genres of alternative music from the smooth soul of reggae, through ska, all the way to hard core punk.  Highlighting the day were bands such as Streetlight Manifesto, Taking Back Sunday, Yellowcard, New Found Glory, and more.  In fact, 90 bands were scheduled to grace the many stages at Camelback Ranch Stadium at the beginning of today.  So, yes, this is the ultimate concert day here in the valley, and across the country as they tour.  People came dressed in band shirts waiting for signatures and meet and greets.  Acoustic sets happened at various locations.  Music continually played all through the day.  It’s fantastic and shouldn’t be missed.

What I did hear today, I absolutely loved.  Pierce the Veil rocked the field immensely.  New Found Glory played a Green Day cover as a nod to why they formed in the first place, Bless the Fall rocked a packed lot, and Streetlight Manifesto kept the field dancing to their unique ska beats.  In fact, I feel sorry for anyone arriving later in the day because these bands were unbelievable!

That being said, today was far short of what I have experienced in years past.  Oh, not in the music category…that was amazing, what parts I heard.  And the day’s line-up was sure to prove equally great.  The bands definitely showed up to rock their hearts out for the dedicated crowds.  It was more the venue experience that left a bitter taste.  Perhaps if it was unseasonably cool, the annoyances wouldn’t have been what they were, but that was definitely not the case today.  No, today it was 108 degrees and higher within the crowds.  The monsoon has kicked into gear bringing its humidity.  The sun remained unblocked by any wisp of cloud cover.  Now, that in and of itself is usual for the Warped Tour here in Phoenix.  So, you may be asking yourself (or not…maybe you could give a crap and loved it all anyway), what made today so different?  In my own little humble opinion, the venue is the wrong choice for this tour.

So to keep this rant on the shorter side, (so not possible for me!) here’s what I liked about the stadium: the shade covering the top walkway deck and on the seats once the sun actually started setting, the food choices were okay and the bathrooms were plentiful and clean – at least in the early afternoon.

Here’s what I didn’t like:

The main stages were too far from the stands in the scorching sunshine, the merch tents were scattered along the whole field and then lined the walkways to the other various stages, the tunnels and walkways were frequently jammed, the side stages were quite difficult to crowd into, there was no water on that huge field for sale (just one shaved ice tent that had a line half way across the filed), the small water bottles for sale were $3 each, only low-calorie G2 was offered for sale as an electrolyte replacement beverage, and the parking was atrociously far from the entrance gate.

Now I’ve been told in the past by some pretty smart people that if I’m gonna complain I better dang well have a solution to offer or I should just keep my comments to myself.  So, here are the corrections I would implement:

Consider a different venue such as Tempe Beach Park which has been used for multiple stages in the past during the Tempe Music Festivals and it has a water splash zone that could be utilized to help keep people cool, bring in another sponsor like vitaminwater that is nearby and routinely provides free beverages to concert goers to help keep them hydrated naturally, lower the price on the bottled water so the kids attending can actually afford to stay hydrated – some of the free water lines took 20 minutes to get through; keep the stages in open areas and don’t pen them in so that air can still flow through the crowd, have more hydration stations throughout the venue so people don’t have to go too far to get to water, have shuttles for bringing people to their vehicles if the parking is far away from the entrance and exits, have a cooling station and water stations on the field if you’re going to keep this location, and lastly have all the merch tents on the fields in rows or something and make more room for the side stages for this venue.

Honestly, even though the two main stages were on grass, I couldn’t tell the difference between that and the pavement out at the Ashley Home Furniture Pavilion where it’s been held since 2006.  At least out at the pavilion, the firetrucks blasted water into the air much to the delight of those braving the heat of the day.  They had slip and slides of the pumped up variety where friends could race each other to the end keeping them cool.  (If either of these things were at the stadium today, I never found them.  It wasn’t a venue easily navigated.  And even the maps were difficult to follow for the $2 they charged.)  The pavilion itself had covered, shaded seats all day long for those who needed a break from the sun.   And people could listen to bands while sitting there because the stage was divided in half allowing music to continually play there.  All the other stages were a walk, but that walk was never crowded and a breeze, even if it felt like a blow drier, swept through the venue inside and out.  Oh, and vitaminwater was there handing out hundreds upon hundreds of free drinks, both regular and zero varieties, to help hydrate everyone.  Water was there for sale and was a little pricey, but the bottles were larger.  And when the day was done, your car wasn’t a mile from the exit forcing you to walk the perimeter of the building and then across a field to get to it.

Last, but certainly not least, move the Phoenix date up on the tour calendar before the humidity kicks in from the monsoon.  Start. Here.  June 17th would have been fine.  The heat is so much more tolerable when it’s dry.   Or move the location entirely to Flagstaff, but that would severely limit ticket sales as other tours have discovered.

So there you go.  My two cents.  Take it for what it’s worth.  I’m sure lots of kids had an absolute riot today watching their favorite bands old and new (which were seriously rockin’ the park), heading to meet and greets, hanging with friends and making new ones, leaving their parents at the adult daycare tent, and maybe wishing they remembered the sunscreen.  And refuse-to-grow-up-cause-it’s-way-more-fun “kids” probably enjoyed it, too, but a little reluctantly.  Me?  I’m sturdy as anything, but old enough to have sense to get out of the sun and heat.  It was just too much today.  As I exited the park at 2:25pm, I saw two ambulances coming in and one leaving with a few people inside it.  I felt I made a wise choice.  So I leave with humble apologies of no band photos from the pits, but a few from the shade up above.  I look forward to next year’s Vans Warped Tour that comes through Phoenix.  I love this tour and all it represents.  I just hope it’s under slightly better conditions next time.

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