Over the past seven years, kiddie dance/rap band Koo Koo Kanga Roo have become Twin Cities favorites. They write hyperactive songs about dinosaurs, fanny packs, and hating sandwich crust — you get the idea. When we heard they'd be playing 38 dates on the Vans Warped Tour — which is aimed mostly at pop-punk teens — we asked them to document the strange journey that began June 19. Featuring more than 70 bands on nine stages, the Warped Tour is the largest traveling music festival in the United States. Here are Koo Koo's dispatches from the road.
Ventura, CA (June 22): Bryan and I have always wanted to play this tour. The crowds are full of young, energetic, goofy kids — it's right up our alley. In the first few hours it became clear to us that Warped Tour exists at the intersection of summer camp and the circus. Meeting the bands we would share the summer with on our tour bus — the wonderful gentlemen of I Killed the Prom Queen and Hundredth — felt like meeting your cabinmates for the first time. Bunks are involved in both scenarios. The massive scale and logistics of a tour like this are incredible, especially from up close. It's totally a circus. Punk rock, rappers, and teenage angst, oh my!
We've made it through the first three shows of the tour. There are so many elements to keep track of each day — merchandise, press availability, catering meals, guest list, promoting your set, setting up for and playing your show. There are way too many awesome bands vying for the attention of 15,000 people to sit back and hope people will show up; being shy isn't an option. Our promotion strategy involves "big head" signs — 48-inch versions of our heads advertising our set time. We hit the festival entrance line at 10:30 a.m., walk up and down with our giant heads, and do everything we can to get people to come see us that day. "Warped Tour is what you make it" was the advice that we heard before it started. We're going to hustle and make it awesome.
San Antonio, TX (June 29): The entire summer is going to be a hot and sweaty affair, but last week's shows in the Southwest boasted some of the highest temperatures we'll come across. It was 110 degrees while we were onstage in Mesa, AZ! Similar temperatures in New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas kept us sweating and searching for shade all week. Wearing a shirt entirely drenched in sweat has become commonplace. Our skin is crispy and tanned; we don't really look like the pale Minnesotans who started this tour. The battle to remain hydrated is even more complicated when we essentially dance nonstop in our daily, 30-minute set.
There are around 950 people traveling with the Vans Warped Tour, many of whom work the entire Warped circus from 6 a.m. until midnight daily. However, when the overnight drive is short (three to five hours), there is a Warped Tour BBQ before bus call. It's a great way for the hundreds of people who make up the small village that is Warped Tour to get a chance to meet and get to know each other. There is even a "BBQ Band," and this year it's BoyMeetsWorld, a pop-punk band from Cincinnati. Being the BBQ Band means getting to play one of the smaller Warped Tour stages in return for manning the grills and serving up hot dogs and hamburgers. This tour is such a great opportunity that bands are willing to flip burgers for the chance to be a part of it.
Jacksonville, FL (July 6): We've completed our second full week of Warped Tour shows and we're getting into a nice routine. After we unload gear and set up our merch tent, set times for the day are released internally around 10 a.m. This resembles a high school musical cast list or a varsity football team roster being announced. Around 10:30-11:30 a.m. is prime time for promotion. We walk up and down the line and try to intrigue as many people as possible as they wait to enter the venue; while promoting our set in super-hot weather, we discovered more people come to our show if we're shirtless. Bands play all afternoon and into the early evening.
Despite the hundreds and hundreds of people on this tour, familiar faces are everywhere and we've met lots of new pals. A great way to meet more people is to volunteer to assist with serving food at a tour meal, which Bryan and I did this week. The line to get lunch and dinner each day can be huge and frustrating but we were surprised at how respectful and courteous everyone was as they came through. It was fun to get a little behind-the-scenes look at how the catering team feeds 1,000 people three meals a day. Fifteen shows down, 23 to go. People in the South think there is snow in Minnesota year-round. I'm ready to head north.
Hartford, CT (July 13): Yesterday we finished the longest, most intense stretch of consecutive shows of the entire tour: 12 days in a row. Being away from family and friends in Minnesota can be tough, but we're meeting so many new people and converting them to the silly church of Koo Koo. My high school band was inspired by bands like Blink 182, Bad Religion, NOFX, Rise Against, Saves the Day, and many, many more Warped Tour acts. There weren't many other kids at our school who liked those groups, but for one day a year we found our people. Musically, the Warped Tour features more heavy-rock acts theses days; metal and hardcore bands like Black Veil Brides, Asking Alexandria, and Pierce the Veil are the biggest draws of the summer.
In past years, pro skateboarders were listed alongside headlining bands in promoting the event, and an entire skate park was set up at each tour stop. Today it seems that the "YouTubers" — super-popular young YouTube stars like BryanStars — have taken the place of skating as a major non-music draw to the festival. The meet-and-greet line for the "YouTubers" is as long, if not longer, than any line for any main stage artist. To keep a traveling music festival running for 21 straight years, continuing to evolve with the demographic is paramount. Because of this, the Vans Warped Tour will remain an important and rare place for young weirdos and outcasts to see music and become a part of a community.0x00E7
Koo Koo Kanga Roo play the Vans Warped Tour on Sunday, July 26, at Canterbury Park; 1-866-777-8932
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