If it were not for the Internet, MP3 files and MTV2, the Vans Warped Tour would not live in the minds and desires of the teens of Washington County. For good or bad, the plugged-in experience of even the most isolated U.S. citizen results in a taste for the likes of Guttermouth, the Damned and New Found Glory, three of the more than 75 bands performing last week at Suffolk Downs in Boston.
During the time of year when Down East begins to feel crowded, we headed south at 4:30 a.m. from my Trescott home. I was the designated driver and mother. After picking up my son’s friend and his brother, we were off. Sharing CDs, and trading off places in the car to accommodate rather tight seating, the kids were fine company for the journey.
We began to recognize fellow concert-goers only after exiting the Maine Turnpike at the Kennebunk service area, well over four hours into our trip. Getting out of their new-model Volvo plastered with bumper stickers including Circle Jerks, Anti-flag and Rancid, three young men in leather and a young woman with spiked hair, nose ring and red fishnets preceeded us into Burger King.
As we approached Boston, indications of camaraderie were increasingly frequent. An estimated 18,000 people converged on the race track set up with seven stages , all varieties of booths for food and merchandise, a huge half pipe, long lines of portable toilets and other tents that we would learn about through out the day.
It was hot by any standards, and for us it was really hot with ozone-laden air, causing a thickened, burning haze. But it was all there to experience, through sight, smell and sound. Real senses, not virtual. The various rhythms and lyrics blasting from the stages suggested chaos and anarchy. The people were peaceable and friendly, even the most generously pierced and tattooed. I felt my charges were safe. We met from time to time to sip drinks and find shade as photo shots were planned that would place them in the scene.
Slowly walking around behind stage grabbing a few shots of performers tuning up, I was approached by my son rushing forward to tell me that Chris had collapsed in the crowd and had been taken away . In a yellow-and-white tent, Chris was stretched out with four medics hovering over him. What required a two-hour recovery, including oxygen and an IV, was most likely dehydration. The boys who witnessed the collapse, my son and his brother, found even talking about the event to be scary. As his mother designate, his well-being was now my main concern. We headed to the air-conditioned hotel room.
Passing on one’s job to the younger generation is inevitable. This was the time. My daughter, Zel, was quick to pick up my old 35mm camera loaded with black and white and Joe took the notebook. They interviewed an all-women punk band and photographed skateboarders on the pipe. When I brought Brice back, he took over the photography. For him, the experience was like no other: up close, very close and rubbing shoulders with the concert photo pros.
Chris took his time to approach even the thought of going back. But the idea of seeing his favorite band, Bad Religion, gave him that extra strength. In fact, the first indication that he was returning to his old self, as he was still stretched out in the tent, was when he reached into his pocket to pull out some money and asked his brother to buy him that Bad Religion shirt he had seen .
This band with the kind of name that makes you wince to say in mixed company was the closing act. Their music churned into the cooling evening on grounds that were strewn with every imaginable piece of concert debris. A West Coast act, with the reputation of being the fathers of modern punk, they brought the mosh pit wildly alive as even one crowd surfer made his way past the guards onto the stage. My son was right up front shooting the performers, the others were a safe distance back just enjoying the sounds.
After the long trip home, Chris and Joe were asked by their mom if it was worth it. “Of course,” they said. For all of us, it was something unlike what you find on a CD.