The documentary opens with Mitch from Suicide Silence describing the band's sound, "You put it in and you're like want to punch a baby or I want to go throw a brick at a car. Like you don't know what you're going to do. It's just inciting violence," which segues into Chris from Never Shout Never greeting the crowd, saying Let's bring the peace and love to Warped Tour" as he plays his acoustic guitar Chris from Never Shout Never, and explains that "I think that there's one thing that everyone can agree on, and that's love." and flashes his Love is My Weapon tattoo. This sums up the dichotomy of sounds in the tour in the first few minutes - Warped Tour can be anything for anyone.
Focused on four bands, Suicide Silence, Mike Posner, Never Shout Never and Forever Came Falling, the film captures and compares the stories of strikingly dissimilar sounds, putting them all together to create a clear picture of what happens each summer.
The title takes its name from an interview with Fletcher from Pennywise, where he describes the nature of tour and its ringleader Kevin Lyman, "Kevin Lyman is the ringleader, and he's willing to be what he asks of everybody else, and that's what the Warped Tour is about. It's about being a team, and if you don't want to be part of it, get the f**k off the tour and go be a rock star somewhere else, because there's really no room for rock stars on the Warped Tour. It's people."
And while there may be no room for rock stars on this tour, there is apparently room for a pop star in the form of Mike Posner, who starts out presented in a somewhat unflattering light. Posner is an interesting juxtaposition to begin with, as a musician who doesn't readily fit the pop punk screamo warped mold. The real first look at him compares the posher space he has on the bus he shares with Fake Problems and Anarbor, and has him discussing going from playing 2,000-people headlining shows to 200 people at his sets. When he says "I've already sold more records than like 95 percent of them ever will" and comes across as a diva it makes me really wish there was no room on the tour for guys like him.
But as the film progresses, he is humanized a bit, like in moments where Posner professes his love for Suicide Silence makes him humanized a bit, and while its readily apparent that he values his fans and is grateful, it's also clear that he views himself as a brand as much as an artist. His mind matches the mentality of the music industry.
His view is offset by the other featured bands. Never Shout Never (AKA Christofer Drew) is clearly in it for the love of music. It's a simple as that. He loves to play music. And he loves his fans, and wants to give them his all. As he says, "Warped Tour is sometimes these kids' only escape. It's what they pick to do that summer." And his fans - who are almost entirely young girls - love him. One hilarious clip takes place in Backstage Lounge, where he plays a set. It's full of girls singing Never Shout Never Songs, and pans around to show one guy, very bored, looking for all the world like a boyfriend who got dragged in there.
Mitch from Suicide Silence is a very real person, discussing his social anxiety that falls away when he takes the stage, becoming what his mom describes as a "magnificent beast." He's a loving son and a husband, and a father with a beautiful little girl. And this is presented very well, pairing it with his onstage persona. While he passed away this month in a motorcycle accident, this documentary stands as clear statement - as well as flattering portrait - of who he was.
But the real heroes of the documentary are the valiant underdogs of Forever Came Falling. The hardest working band on the tour, they're not even on the tour. Instead, they're following (and living) in a leaky van, selling CDs to the kids in line waiting to get in, busking to make enough money to get to the next town and collecting signatures asking to get on the tour. This band from 29 Palms, CA represents the real spirit of punk rock, dealing with the rigor of the road without even getting the glory of the stage. They're humble and just trying to make it.
Their dedication has paid off, because not only are they granted one day on the Warped Tour and been featured in the documentary, but the band performed at the screening for No Room For Rockstars, where Kevin Lyman announced that they had been signed for the 2013 tour.
And Lyman is the last main character of the film, and the footage captures him everywhere. The man who makes Warped a reality year after year handles everything from logistics to throwing daytime barbecues for the bus drivers. And he also takes time to talk about the early days, starting a tour for who calls the "the tastemaker kids," remembering the bands that started on Warped and exploded, including Sublime, No Doubt, Deftones, Kid Rock, Eminem, My Chemical Romance, Fallout Boy and Blink 182 (who rode on the floor of Lyman's bus because they had no money). And he remembers that Warped is a product of its time, which is what makes it what is today when he says, "If I started the Warped Tour in 2010, it wouldn't have lasted two days."
Through blazing heat, pouring rain and all kids of inclement weather, Warped is the festival that goes on every year. It's everything to the youthful counterculture that is becoming less and less of a counterculture. From its early days, of which Fletcher from Pennywise says, "it felt real, it felt homegrown and it felt punk rock," to its current time, where it become a springboard for artists like Posner, Katie Perry, 3OH3! and even brokeNCYDE, the Warped Tour is the one big thing going right now, that serves as the gateway for young kids nationwide to get their first glimpse of the fringe, and their first taste of punk rock.