It’s times like these that make you wonder where the police are. Midnight on a Saturday, heading west with my best friend on the horsehair worm of a road they call Highway 20 splitting eastern Oregon. For 19 hours we’d been riding a high and wild wave and it had just crashed. Washed up in the foam, we slogged down Highway 20, blind to the future and driven by the past. Still half-drunk and mad off Redbull, we had four hours of driving until we made it home.
Warped Tour 2010: 23 hours, 646 miles, my friend’s white 2010 Subaru Legacy, more than 60 bands, 20 miles of hitchhiking, $100 dollars’ worth of beer, a ticket stub signed by Reel Big Fish and a black T-shirt that says “Get Fucked.” That’s what I got from my first trip to Van’s Warped Tour. To some this might seem like a lot of bullshit, but there are many of you out there that will understand this story. That day in Nampa, Idaho, somewhere between the blazing sun and the burning asphalt of the Idaho Center, I realized I was no longer a child but not quite a man. That terrifying moment when your palms sweat and you realize you’re too old for beer pong, but too young for wine.
Just 23 hours earlier, at 5 a.m., I got a call from my best friend Keenan. “You ready?” he managed to force out, still half-asleep. I grabbed my wallet and headed out the door.
Ahead of us we had more than 600 miles of desert, FRS Energy drinks and Harry Potter 5. Yes, we listened to Harry Potter to get us pumped for a day of raging with thousands of young punk rockers and hipsters, and a handful of 30-year-olds with a vestige of youth in their eyes; wraiths of their former selves they struggled to leave behind—a struggle that at 23 I was slowly starting to understand.
We stopped first in Boise so we could park our car and grab a ride with a couple people we knew that were headed to the concert.
The air was already scratching the mid-80s. I got out of the car and decided to change my shirt. As I stood in the strange neighborhood, half-naked, I realized there was a small family watching me from inside the home we had parked in front of. To late to turn back now, I thought. If I were three years younger I’d have changed my pants on their doorstep for fun, but a growing awareness that I’m not the only human in the world told me this might be rude. Keep changing. Let them imagine—probably falsely—all the decadent and depraved activities my 23-year-old tattooed body had partaken in.
About an hour later we were at the Idaho Center, through the lines and in the concert. By then it was almost 90 degrees. We were rubbing shoulders with the sweaty masses, thousands of kids with purple hair and leather bracelets. It was like being inside the sticky pages of a Hot Topic catalog. A Justin Bieber concert with tattoos.
I couldn’t tell you who was playing when we first arrived. Probably some of the smaller bands: AM Taxi, The Word Alive, Set Your Goals. I could, however, tell you where the beer was. We found the giant two-dollar Pabst and began to drink ourselves down a few maturity levels.
At some point in the day, Reel Big Fish did a meet and greet, complete with catering by Buffalo Wild Wings. Keenan and I caught wind of it about seven beers deep. We weren’t drunk, our ability to communicate was still evolved, but boozed enough not to care. We didn’t have tickets to eat wings with Reel Big Fish, but we decided to go anyways.
Security for an event like that isn’t too bad. The meet and greet was set up behind a handful of tacky green curtains inside the stadium. I wish I could tell you our secret entry involved air ducts, 60 meters of high-grade 10.2mm Mammut rope, chloroform and black masks, but that’d be a lie. In reality it only involved getting past one bug-eyed, skittish-looking girl who stood as both ticket taker and security, her back-up being inside the event setting the buffet. Any loud noises around that one and it looked like she could fall into violent tremors and bite her tongue off. We had to be careful because we didn’t have the capacity to explain, if we had to, what happened to the writhing tongueless girl we left behind if we got caught. Far too risky.
An operation like this requires one thing: confidence. Walk past the twitchy coed like we own the place. Make eye contact with a stranger on the opposite end of the room, wave, and move in their direction as if seeing your friend distracted you from revealing whatever credentials were required. The key is to not look back, no matter how loud she yells. By the time you make it to the far end of the room, she’ll have given up for two reasons: One, she doesn’t want to make a scene—they don’t pay her enough; and two, she knows if she chases you to the other end, it opens up a floodgate of kids hungry for Buffalo Wild Wings and Reel Big Fish.
The operation went off without a hitch. I knew it would, I had used the technique a year before at the Blazed and Confused show in Portland, to get backstage and smoke the good smoke with Slightly Stoopid. Another story for another time.
Once we knew we were safe we introduced ourselves to the two girls sitting at the table we had used as our distraction. One of them was balls deep in her cell phone and seemed not to care about the band. Freaked out by her weird vibes, we hit the wings and met the members of Reel Big Fish.
The food was good and the band was great. Obviously, with a few dozen adoring fans all clawing at their pant legs, we didn’t spend a lot of time with the band. We had just enough time to say hi, get our ticket stubs signed and snap a cell phone picture. Our one and only good deed for the day came when we got lead singer, Aaron Barrett, to go over and cheer the bitchy girl up. Some sort of weird parental instinct made me want to help the girl. I’ve always been thoughtful, but the damn emotions were growing out of a new place. I didn’t even do it to impress her. I still can’t decide if it was a good or a bad thing. I didn’t even hit on her afterwards.
After the feast we found ourselves by the main stage and in sight of a half-naked man, probably in his mid-30s. He was drunk and dancing like an animal, jerking between what looked like a hunched over swamp-monster bear-walk, and a stretched sylvan yoga pose. Suddenly the animal began to howl like a wolf, sticking his nose to the sky as if to snort a cloud like a fluffy pile of cocaine. I thought to myself, Thank god this beast is inside here, with all the other crazies and hustlers.
A sight like that can go unnoticed in the middle of a concert. But unwilling to die, the boy in me imagined putting that thing out in the real world. He would surely send the head of some conservative yahoo spinning off into the universe of unspoken freakiness. For a brief moment I wrestled with the reckless thought of placing that animal in the middle of some quiet southern town. Watching the faces of the townsfolk twist in furious angles as they attempted to grasp exactly what it was they were looking at. Suddenly thrust from the comfort of their wooden pews and into reality.
I quickly abandoned the thought. Too hot for wild fantasies. The boy in me doesn’t need to die, he just needs to realize the ramifications of his twisted thoughts. I chugged my two-dollar PBR and faced the brutal truth that I could be the “crazy dancing, too old to be here guy” someday. I imagined myself being placed in a small southern town where the folks would make quick work of me. Beating me in the shins with tire irons until I couldn’t even walk home, and then regressing deeper into their churches. The image haunted me. A futuristic mirror that made me want to wear loafers and watch Jeopardy! It was time to leave.
We started to sober up as the concert drew to an end. We had lost track of our friends early on, so we hitched a ride the 20 miles back to Boise. We said our goodbyes to the chauffeurs, got in our car, and headed to Taco Bell for some fat and grease to soak up what beer was left in our guts.
More than 300 hundred miles of long dark HWY 20 stood between Bend and us. I don’t remember the exact time, but after some tacos we pointed the white rocket west, pressed play on Harry Potter and hit the gas.
We made it home safe, and had no troubles with the police. When I woke up the next day I felt odd. It wasn’t regret; we both had a blast. I felt a strange sense of guilt. The kind of guilt that doesn’t come from a poor decision you made, but rather from a decision you were expected to make. The same guilt you felt when you left home and threw out your old toys. The sharp pain when you think about how much you once loved those toys but that you’ll never play with them again.
I guess we all sort of feel that way at some point. I did after the show. A guilt that we’re leaving those shows in the past and moving on into the future. Not only that, but I have no idea how much money I spent on the shirt I woke up in. The big black one that says, “Get Fucked.”
Cody Newton is a 24-year-old recent graduate of the University of Oregon. His degree is in Journalism, and he’s currently working as an editorial intern at Willamette Week in Portland, Oregon.
Cody has won two large national journalism awards (Pacemaker Award by the Associated Collegiate Press; Mark of Excellence Award by the Society of Professional Journalists), and was also nominated for a Hearst Award. As far as fiction goes, he’s won a short story contest for The Source in Bend, Oregon. He was the youngest—by a significant margin—of six writers to win.
His education is in journalism, but his passion is in creative writing. He’s done his best, despite the standards of a dry industry, to try and combine his love of creativity and journalism. There’s still nothing in the world quite as satisfying as sitting down to write in the style you want, and say the words you want to say.
Cody has been writing creative fiction and non-fiction for years now, but he’s only recently beginning to feel confident in his unique style. He’s a hard worker and doesn’t plan on stopping until he’s achieved all his goals.