Warped Tour has been summer staple for over 20 years now; for young music fans, it’s often one of the most anticipated days of the year. With a varied lineup, it’s possible to see many of the biggest names across multiple genres in one day, making the traveling festival a bargain for a wide range of music lovers.
But a lot goes into having a good Warped experience. Veteran Warped-goers know the ins and outs and have perfected their schedules for the day. But if you don’t have that level of experience, or if you just need a concentrated rundown of how to be safe, healthy and have the most fun possible, you’re in the right place. Consider this your Warped Tour survival guide...You’re welcome in advance.
Since all Warped dates are (relatively) local, this is one of the only festivals that you won’t have to make big travel plans for. You should carpool with your group of friends because parking at Warped venues can range from $15-$20. If you’re getting dropped off by a parent or friend, make sure you check out your venue’s website and learn where the drop-off section is located. If your closest Warped date is still a kinda lengthy drive (think 2-3 hours or more), you'll want to make sure you get extra sleep the night before so you can leave early enough to get there before doors open and still have plenty of energy!
HAVE A GOOD MORNING
Doors for most Warped dates open at 11 AM local time, but be sure to check your specific venue’s website as some can range a half-hour before or after that. When you arrive, there will be an extremely long general admission line, so here’s a tip for Warped newbies that will make your morning much better: On the way to the venue, stop at a grocery store a pick up 3-5 canned goods items (or bring a $5 donation or used cell phone) and take those to the Feed Our Children NOW! tent. It'll be near a flag that says “Skip The Line." Donate your items and you’ll get a wristband to wait in another, smaller, line that gets let into the grounds first. This means you can get to the grounds a little later but still get into the venue early, and you'll be helping a great cause!
Here are some other tips for the morning of Warped:
- Pack your bag the night before. No sense in scrambling the morning you're leaving and potentially forgetting something or getting to the show late!
- Actually eat breakfast. It’s tempting to skip this meal if you’re waking up earlier than you’re used to during summer vacation, but it’s the only meal you’ll get to eat in an air-conditioned place for the next 10-ish hours. Enjoy it. And make sure it’s something with substance, like eggs or a breakfast sandwich.
- Buy water. While you’re picking up your canned goods, buy two water bottles. One should be the largest bottle you can find, which you’ll want to keep in your backpack. Don’t open this one, because it needs to be sealed to bring it into the venue. You’ll be able to refill this all day at the water stations spread throughout the grounds. The other water bottle should be a smaller one, to drink while you’re in line and throw away before walking in. Trust us...waiting in line can be the hottest part of the day.
- Visit an ATM. There will be machines in the grounds to withdraw cash from, but you’ll have to pay a fee. And fees suck. Bring enough cash for band merch, drinks and food–and be sure to budget your dollars once you're there.
- Make food. Make yourself a couple peanut butter or cold cuts sandwiches for later. These will pay off when you realize you’re starving but only have five minutes to hike across the venue to catch the next band you want to see.
WHAT TO WEAR / WHAT TO BRING
There’s no one to impress when you’re going out to Warped Tour. Unlike the big-name festivals, there isn’t a focus on dressing up trendy. Your priorities when picking out an outfit are keeping cool and comfortable...and nothing else. That being said, here are some basic suggestions:
- Backpack – You get a lot of free stuff when you walk around the grounds. Whether it’s a band trying to promote their music or a non-profit giving stuff away, you’re going to come across things you want to keep. Throw in the T-shirts and music you’re going to buy and the stuff you’re not going to want to hold in your hands all day, and realize you'll need a backpack.
- Ziploc bags – If you don’t bring these to keep your stuff dry, the chance of a freak thunderstorm happening drastically rises. If it rains, just throw your wallet, phone and other items that can't get wet into these–your friends will owe you one if you bring extras, too.
- Towels – Buy cheap towels at a convenience store and bring a few. You’re going to be sweating all day, so you’ll be able to wipe down your face and arms to stay cool, then throw the towels out at the end of the day.
- Watch – Save your iPhone battery. Wear a watch to check the time all day.
- Extra socks – Because if it rains and your shoes get soaked, at least your socks can be dry.
- Sunglasses – The sun is so bright.
- Hat – A big, shady hat will help you out. But don’t mosh with it.
- Water – Like we said before, you’re going to be allowed to bring in one water bottle. Make it a big one and keep refilling at the water stations throughout the grounds.
- Cash – Cards might work at some merch tents / food stations, but you never know when cash will be the required form of payment. Be prepared.
- Sunscreen – Whether it's a spray bottle or a lotion type of sunscreen, make sure you bring plenty. You'll need to reapply this throughout the day because of how much you'll be sweating–and seriously, a crazy sunburn isn't the best Warped Tour souvenir to be looking at the day after your show.
- Poncho – Because just in case.
- Hand sanitizer – Because Porta-Potties.
- Phone charger – There are charging stations (although they might cost you you a few bucks), so bring this in case you absolutely need it. But the better option is to just manage your phone battery.
- Sharpie – You’ll want to mark up your list of set times with the bands you want to catch and have this on hand for autographs. You can buy a piece of paper with all the set times by stage right when you walk into the venue and it'll cost you $2.
- Earplugs – Especially if you’re going to be sidestage.
- Extra bobby pins/hair ties
Plenty of things can go wrong at Warped, but the one thing that will actually ruin your day is if you get hurt or sick. Staying safe and healthy should be the number one priority of your day, even above watching Pierce the Veil.
There are certain easy things - like remembering to apply and reapply (and reapply, and reapply) your sunscreen–but other safety tips might not be as obvious.
First off, you're going to need even more water than you anticipate. If you're sweating a lot, and you will be, you need to make sure you're getting enough water back into your body to offset that. You’re also going to have to remember to eat, because you probably won’t get as hungry as normal. Avoid greasy food in favor of those sandwiches we told you to bring, and avoid energy drinks (especially if you're not used to drinking them) in favor of water or Gatorade.
Warped Tour has special flags for important tents, like water stations or first aid. Make sure you locate the first aid tent right when you walk inside, just in case you or someone in your group needs to get there in short notice. An easy way to avoid dehydration and exhaustion is just to make sure you take a break every so often. Warped has misting tents too, and if your venue is an amphitheater, take advantage of that pavilion!
At the end of the day, it’s not hard to have an enjoyable time at Warped–in fact, it should definitely be one of the most fun days you have all summer. Just know your limits and if you start feeling weird, dial it back a notch. Watch the next band from the back of the crowd instead of the mosh pit, or sit under a tree for 15 minutes.
HOW TO HAVE THE MOST FUN
Buy A Map / Set Time Sheet
Seriously, dude. These cost $2 right when you walk in the door. It’s way more convenient than writing down the set times yourself or returning to the big inflatable board to read them. Use a Sharpie or highlighter to point out which sets you want to see and create a little plan for yourself.
Break Your Plan
The best part of Warped is seeing a bunch of your favorite bands in one day. But try to discover at least a couple new bands while you’re there, too. Check out that band you’ve heard of but never actually heard. If you hear something intriguing while walking by a stage, stop and watch instead of continuing to walk away. Discovering a new young band can be just as enjoyable as watching a current favorite.
Drink Water Constantly
We’re really not lying when we say “constantly.” Don’t even think about a soda. If you feel like you need some sugar, opt for Gatorade.
Meet Bands and Crew Members
A lot of bands on the tour will do daily meet-and-greets at their merch tent. Take this opportunity to meet your favorite singer without needing a special VIP ticket. Also, talk to the merch guys and people working at the nonprofit tents. They’re out in the heat all summer long and love talking to new people around the country.
Keep Track of Your Junk
Cell phone, keys and wallet. Always make sure you know where these things are. If you’re going to a mosh pit and your friends are staying on the outskirts of the crowd, leave these things with them and return the favor later. If you check your person for these items after every band you watch, you’re a lot less likely to lose them.
Live in the Moment
Instagram and Twitter are going to beg you to update them. But instead of spending all that time on your phone while you’re at the show, just take photos and upload them later on. Warped is a day for music, not for social media.
Respect Your Fellow Warped-Goers
Whether you’re in the mosh pit, waiting in line for something or just meandering around the grounds, be mindful of those around you. Remember that this is a festival full of culture-obsessed young people. There will be plenty of people representing something that you might not agree with, but don’t pick fights and don’t be mean. Just do your thing and let everyone else do theirs.