What follows is a diary of a trip to this year's Vans Warped Tour. The city doesn't matter, because Vans Warped is its own city. The tour stops in Cleveland this week.
7:41 a.m. Get a wake-up call from my 14-year-old nephew, Jeremy, whom I'm taking to his very first Warped Tour. He asks to borrow my faded old Bad Brains T-shirt because his Bowling for Soup tee makes him "look like a noob."
10:06 a.m. Traffic slows as we near the designated "Mom, drop us off here so we don't look lame" zone, half a mile from the venue.
10:41 a.m. Get in line behind 8,000 ticketholders. To pass the time, we play "Count the Warped Tour Corporate Sponsor Logos," but stall out at 147. Then I bet Jeremy I can beat him at "Name That Ringtone," but he wins, because I have no idea what the hell Crazy Frog is.
11:37 a.m. Get frisked and bag-checked at the gate, and our water is confiscated. "Don't worry," one of the ticket-takers assures us. "You can get a bottle of Dasani inside for $14."
12:18 p.m. We look at the listing of set times and locations. Ten stages and 89 bands . . . Jeremy rattles off the names of about 75 bands he wants to see. By my estimation we'll spend eight hours running from stage to stage, and about 14 minutes actually watching bands play.
12:45 p.m. Check out the Explosion on the Maurice Stage (which, I learn, isn't named for that Bee Gees guy who died, but for stage manager Maurice Acosta). They sound like a cross between Social Distortion and a whole bunch of bands that used to be on Dischord Records. But where's Jon Spencer?
2:20 p.m. Marvel at the Atreyu pit, which is half brooding goths and half thugged-out punks, brought together like "Ebony and Ivory" by the singer's wildebeest screams and the guitarist's thick mascara. But then the band does a cover of Bon Jovi's "You Give Love a Bad Name," confusing the hell out of everybody.
2:48 p.m. Stumble across the air-conditioned Reverse Daycare tent, where a bunch of parents read magazines and get massages while wearing airport-tarmac safety earmuffs to drown out all the punk rock. Nod and smile politely while some dad talks about the "good old days" when he and his pals just smoked lots of weed, chilled out, and listened to Pink Floyd instead of getting their lips pierced and beating the crap out of each other in the pit.
3:09 p.m. Get a text message from Jeremy: "i'm at the PS2 tent omg i PWNED at tony hawk w00t w00t!!!!1111 lolololol !! wot r u doin? r u at mxpx? they r totally gh3y!!!111 i'm gonna c hawthorne heights u wanna? plz???///" Spend 15 minutes trying to figure out what "pwned" means.
3:34 p.m. Finally find Jeremy at the North Stage and catch the last couple of songs from Hawthorne Heights, which I thought was a teen drama that comes on after The O.C. They sound like Jimmy Eat World, and everyone sings along to lyrics that sound like dialogue from a teen drama that comes on after The O.C. : "Cut my wrists and black my eyes, so I can fall asleep tonight or die."
3:56 p.m. Slice of pizza: $5. Cheeseburger: $8. Getting hosed at the food stand so Jeremy doesn't whine, faint, or get violent: priceless.
4:22 p.m. Check out the amateur skaters competing on the half-pipe for cash prizes and iPods. Try to impress the guy standing next to me by making up something about "When I was a kid, I could do a 10-80 nose-grab and then follow that up with a triple sidewinder ollie butterflip, no problem." Turns out the guy is pro skater Steve Caballero.
5:13 p.m. While watching the Matches plow through their peppy pop-punk set at the Volcom Stage, tell some gullible-looking kid that Blink-182 is going to reunite on the North Stage after Travis Barker's current band, the Transplants, finishes its set, just to see how far the rumor will spread.
5:41 p.m. Play a version of "Punch Buggy" with Jeremy -- every time one of us sees a crusty older punk or band roadie with the four-bar Black Flag tattoo, we slug each other in the arm.
6:14 p.m. Pop our heads into the Girlz Garage tent, where Jeremy grabs free samples of Garnier Fructis conditioner to hurl at All-American Rejects during their set.
6:21 p.m. Turn around to see some guy making off with my Dasani bottle, which still has a few precious, expensive drops of water left in it. I tackle him and he turns out to be Garrett, the Recycling Guy, one of two "contest winners" spending the summer picking up Warped Tour trash under the blazing sun 10 hours a day for $500 a week and all the hot dogs he can eat from Motion City Soundtrack's hibachi.
6:28 p.m. Jeremy helps me to the first-aid tent to treat the ankle I sprained while tackling Garrett. No All-American Rejects today.
7:08 p.m. Tough it out to the North Stage to see Jeremy's favorite band, My Chemical Romance, whose bombastic, gothic-melodic hardcore comes off like an emo version of the Smashing Pumpkins.
8:00 p.m. Hang out at the North Stage for the final band, the Transplants, which also features the guy from Rancid whose ex-wife bumps uglies with the Queens of the Stone Age dude now.
8:30 p.m. Hobble back to the car broke, sunburned, dehydrated, tired, and deaf. Smile, though, because the rest of the Warped Tour crowd is still at the North Stage waiting for Blink-182 to come out, which means it won't take us three hours to get out of the parking lot. Can't wait to do it again next year!