So, you got approved to shoot the Van’s Warped Tour this Summer? Awesome!! But what on earth do you bring? You might have covered other outdoor festivals before in the past but the special thing about Warped is that it’s its own kind of monster. The line-up changes daily, everyone plays 30 minute sets and as soon as one band ends, another begins, sometimes at the opposite side of the venue and sometimes overlapping your favorite band’s set. The constant uncertainty and physicality of covering Warped is enough to make any seasoned journalist want to throw in the towel. But luckily, I’m here to help with some tips I have learned over the years.
Preparation is key. Yes, you can survive Warped unprepared but I have OCD and I check, double check and triple check everything. To quote Robert De Niro from the 1998 spy thriller Ronin “I never walk into a place I don’t know how to walk out of.” I try my best to ALWAYS be prepared and have a plan A, B, and C for everything I do.
– Check the weather close to the date you’re covering. Is it sunny? Is it in the high 90’s? Is there cloud coverage? What’s the humidity level? All these things can make the difference between an awesome shoot to wanting to flip tables and salt the earth.
– If you’ve never been to the venue before, plan your route. Find out where the bathrooms are and concessions. If it’s indoors, it’s most likely air conditioned so you can cool off for a little bit.
– If doors say 11, aim to get there by 9!!! Remember you’re not the only one attending the show. When it’s time to check-in, you can easily spend an hour or two in line with others on the guest list.
– Gather up a list of who you want to get coverage of and build a back up plan in case they’re performing at the same time. Also don’t be afraid to check out a band you’ve never seen before. Warped Tour is not so much about the bands you know but the ones you don’t know.
– If you’re doing interviews that day, print your questions out. I personally would not rely on reading them off of my phone in case anything happens. Plus it kills your phone’s battery if you didn’t bring a charger.
– Please do your research! I’m sure bands are tired of being asked “How’s the tour going so far?” If there’s a female in the group please don’t ask “What is it like being a female in a group with a bunch of guys?” That’s just lazy journalism. Try to keep it short and to the point. You’re normally given 10 minutes max so remember you’re not writing a dissertation on the life and journey of [band] and their impact on the world of music and society.
These are some of the key things that I HIGHLY recommend you bring with you to the show. Most of them are pretty common sense stuff but I’m surprised every year when I see people forget most of these. This list will be the longest.
– Sunscreen!! You definitely will need to bring sunscreen. Here’s a little tidbit about SPF numbers: SPF-15 protects against 93% of UVB rays, while SPF-30 protects against 97% of UVB rays. Anything higher is just a marketing ploy. Also, remember to reapply.
– Ear plugs should be a no brainer here. Volumes can easily reach levels of 110-120 dBs at shows. Unless you enjoy the ringing in your ears, please plug them up. You can use cheap foam ones to something a little more higher end.
– Wear comfortable shoes. You’re going to be on your feet all day. The black top will be acting like a giant hot plate so wear something comfortable and breathable.
– Dress comfortably and wearing black is suicide. You’ll be out in the sun for probably a good 10hrs. Dark colors absorb light while lighter colors reflect light. I’d personally advise against dressing up in all black in the pit. Besides, no one’s going to care what you look like. The focus is the stage, not your outfit.
– Bring a hat or a bandana. The hat will help shield your noggin from the sun and help eliminate glare to your face. The bandana can help keep sweat away from your eyes and act as a face mask in the case of dusty venues.
– I cannot emphasize enough about bringing extra batteries. Unless all of your devices have some sort of incredible power management system, things will die. EVERYTHING DIES!!
– Bring extra memory cards with you. One year I covered Warped, my memory cards failed on me. Luckily I had back up so I was able to salvage the event. Ever since then, I always bring extra cards on me as well as leave fresh cards in my car.
– Bring a pen/pencil with you to take notes of the show.
– If you’re doing interviews, pack some cough drops. It’ll help keep your throat moist.
– Be conscious of how much weight you’re carrying on you. Remember, you’re going to be lugging this stuff with you all day in the heat while running back and forth throughout the venue.
– Bring money with you for food and drinks. You might be able to snag some Monster Tour Water backstage or a can of Peace Tea but that stuff might not really hydrate or fuel you up properly in the long run.
– Remember to breathe. Do you have an hour or two to kill until your next shoot? Sit down, relax, and regret signing up for this. Check your shots. Get some “b-roll” shots of the audience, venue, scenery… Recharge your devices and yourself. Touch base with your crew if you came with others.
– Make some business cards to promote your work and outlet.
– Bring an extra Powerade bottle cap in your bag. LiveNation likes to sell you bottles that you can get for a dollar for about $5 inside. They also take the caps. Why? I don’t know. Maybe they’ve got an awesome POG collection somewhere.
– Don’t forget the cables to charge your devices as well as a USB wall charger!!
– An external battery pack if you can’t find an outlet anywhere.
– Snacks. You’ll be running around so much, you might not get to eat until closer to the end of the day. I personally prefer granola bars, or fruit snacks or anything with a pretty good calorie level because calories = fuel for your body and you will definitely be burning calories all day.
– Anti-chafing stick. Look, I’ll admit. I might be a little out of shape (HA!) But to prevent “chub-rub” stick one in your bag.
– You can use the official Warped Tour app for the schedule but to be honest, it’s much easier to spend the $2 to get a paper copy along with a venue map. You can also take a pic of the schedule on your phone but you will also run the risk of your battery dying faster.
– Leave extra socks in your car! In the instance that it might rain or just the feeling of slipping on a fresh SOFT pair after a long day spent on your feet.
– Same reason as above. Leave an extra pair of shoes/ sandals in your car! Your blisters will thank you.
– A change of cloths is optional. If you want to put on something less gross after sweating it out all day is up to you.
– Energy drinks? If you’ve got a long drive home or to the next city, this might help you stay awake.
– For you hard working stiffs like me, take the next day off. Last year when I was on the road with Warped Tour I had a day off so I decided to go home and sneak in a work day because moneys. All day all I can think of was mapping out the route to next city, where am I going, when am I going to sleep, how long until I get to shower again, why does everything hurt, what do I need to resupply, etc…
– Gold Bond helps stop sweat, prevent crotch rot (or swamp ass) and helps fight foot odor. (PRO TIP: Gold Bond brand typically costs about $5-7 depending where you go. Or you can go to your local Dollar Tree and buy a bottle of “body powder” which is the exact same thing.)
– When you can’t shower, baby wipes are the next best thing.
-This is NOT a bird sanctuary!! Leave your egos at home.
– Sharpen your social media skills. Learn to tag your pictures appropriately. You’d never know who’s looking at your shots!
Remember, you’re here to do a job. As fun as this can be, remember to be professional. Respect is something EXTREMELY emphasized here. Respect the stage managers, the crew, security, fans, bands and each other. Remember what Ice-T said: “Talk shit, get shot!”
But above all, don’t forget to have fun. Welcome to the Thunder Dome!
This post was written by:
Henry Chung – I have been covering the Vans Warped Tour since 2011 and even got to spend time on the road with them for the North-East dates back in 2014. I have also been attending this “punk rock summer camp” every Summer since 1996.