Sweaty kids, bikini tops, shaved ice, swag and more than 75 bands can only mean one only thing: The Vans Warped Tour.
New Mexico State University's practice field was the stage for this year's tour, its 16th, last Wednesday.
More than 75 bands jammed out all day on seven stages to a mix of kids, punks, metal heads and annoyed parents. One of the most intriguing aspects of the tour, however, is the array of bands playing the shows. "Mainstream" acts such as Face to Face, Alkaline Trio, The Bouncing Souls, The Swellers and Andrew WK travel the country in decked out tour buses with managers, roadies and video game consoles. Other bands are struggling to make it to the next show.
"We're trying to scrounge up enough gas money to make it to the next show in San Antonio," said Roger Esparza, bassist for Dose of Adolescence. "I'm just bombing around the parking lot selling CDs and begging for donations."
The Duke City's own The Harlow Defense was featured on the Local Stage, ripping a 20-minute set.
"It was like having my cherry broken," said Mike Kmenta, guitarist and vocalist in Harlow, "by a huge, sunburned dong,"
"It really was similar to having sex for the first time" Kmenta added. "It was sweaty, sloppy, awkward, and it was over as quickly as it began."
One artist in particular was excited to be back on the tour.
“I did Warped back in '03 and hit a rough patch in my career in '05," said Andrew WK. "When my management called me up to tell me we were doing Warped again, it was such a wonderful and exciting surprise."
Andrew said the Warped Tour is a great institution in the music industry, and is one of his favorite crowds to play in front of.
"There's definitely a unique vibe at these shows," he said. "It's not a hippie festival at all, but there's a lot of love and energy,"
"It's all about fun with aggression." he added. "And so many amazing bands are here to let the music fuel it."
He said it's an absolute departure from his recent public appearances.
"I've been doing a show for Cartoon Network called ‘Destroy Build Destroy’ and motivational speaking events. I've lectured at Harvard and Yale, which is just surreal. I've been around 10 years now and I still can't believe it," he said. "It's like watching a movie that I'm the star of sometimes."
One band on tour feels the Warped climate has shifted over the last half decade.
"We did the tour back in '05 and it's definitely a different scene now." said Nick Diener, front man for The Swellers. "MySpace changed it all,"
"Bands used to record a demo and send it out to every label and try to get on any tour, but now they just put their music on their site and the labels discover them."
He said he definitely misses some of Warped's perennial acts like Bad Religion, NOFX and Pennywise. Diener said he wasn't sure the new crops of bands will still be relevant in 10 years.
"I don't think it's necessarily a bad thing, but it should take more than getting a song on ‘Glee’ to become relevant."
The end of the day was delivered by none other than Andrew WK, who managed to get the crowd dancing after more than nine hours in the hot Las Cruces sun. "Party Hard," indeed.