Photo: Patty Walters at Warped Tour, shot by Tom Stone

My only Warped Tour regret is not going every year. I didn't go throughout my teenage years. I either had no ride, no money, no friends or I had to babysit. I had to watch my best friend come back with a Shwayze T-shirt the year I thought I was in love with Cisco Adler. I had to hear about how it was “the hottest day of the year,” and how everyone “almost fainted from dehydration.” How it was so hot they could barely stand on the asphalt, but couldn't resist the urge to get in a circle pit. How they got awful blisters on their feet after a day of jumping up and down at the snap of every vocalists’ fingers. And how they discovered this great new band after listening to a demo while generously applying aloe to their severe after-Warped sun burn.

I wanted all that.

Luckily, I crossed it all off my bucket list last year. That's right, in my early 20s I had gone to Warped Tour for the first time. I put checkmarks by all the mayhem and debauchery that I felt I was supposed to experience, and this year when I woke up for Warped, it was like a 6-year-old's Christmas morning. Instead of a Barbie dream house, I got my perfect version of a Christmas present: a day of escape.

Even though I had only one year under my belt, the second I got on the property it was like a hug. Something similar to going home for the first time after being away at college (the home-cooked meals and clean clothes part, not the curfew part). It was exactly what I expected: camaraderie. Watching a group of men push each other down during Crossfaith's set only to immediately  pick one another back up almost brought a tear. That's something I don't know that I would've appreciated as a teenager. It's a unique respect for humanity found only at Warped (and most similar shows) that I don't think most parents quite understand, either.
 
I just tried to soak it all in.

Unfortunately, Warped is a lot like Disney World in that you can't possibly do everything you want to do. You can't see everything you want to see. I scheduled by entire day last year and still had to choose between Jag's voice and Fronz's presence and I missed half of each set trying to do both. I decided this year would be different. This year I would go with the flow. This year, the flow was heavy downpours and I had to pick between finding new bands in the rain, or watching the main stages comfortably. For the most part, I picked comfort. Regret nothing.

I watched Juliet Simms and her duet with Andy Biersack. I listened to Trace Cyrus be obnoxiously rude, actually telling people to leave the stage if they weren't dancing. (I, personally, have learned to not jostle myself before I'm fully awake.) I got to see Kyle Pavone infamously walk on the hands of those in the front row and I got to see PVRIS and Pierce The Veil absolutely kill it despite the raging weather just outside of the pavilion.

I missed Riff Raff, and I also somehow missed his gigantic merch tent. I missed Mod Sun. I missed Bradley Walden coming down off the stage during Emarosa's set, and then rolling down the muddy, abominable hill at First Niagara. I missed Bebe Rexha. And I didn't get over to the acoustic tent at all.

All of those things were on my list, but what I realized over the past two years is that you simply can't go by a list. You can take that schedule and plan all you want, but the more you stick to that schedule, the more likely you'll be to miss what's in front of you. Yeah, I stuck under the pavilion. But if I had been running around all day I might have missed seeing an entire family get ecstatic at seeing Miss May I. Or Christofer Drew showing up on stage with no shoes, no shirt, and requesting cigarettes from the audience. I may have missed seeing the things I would have only seen at Warped Tour.

Am I preaching yet? Good. So, next year, go to Warped for the fun. Go for the camaraderie. Go for the good stories. But most importantly go with the flow, even if that gets you blisters and a sun burn.

Brandy Hadden is a columnist for AltPress. Follow her on Twitter.