There are two overarching mindsets regarding the Vans Warped Tour, America’s longest-running touring music festival. The first perspective espouses Warped’s bang-for-the-buck value and the community it fosters: For a fair ticket price, fans can check out a wide swath of bands, from scene stars to struggling upstarts across all genres; get free music and assorted swag from participating labels, charitable organizations and various other companies; and learn about the activities of nonprofit groups working to make the planet a better place. The second camp deems Warped as nothing more than a clusterfuck of marketing opportunities designed to capture the all-important youth demographic. In the eyes of detractors, the punk-rock summer camp bombards patrons with plenty of corporate logos and special deals to get said demo to pony up for overpriced food and drinks, as a legion of bands playing “shitty music” soundtrack the entire outing.
No Room For Rockstars trailer:
The common link both these camps can swear by is director Parris Patton’s No Room For Rockstars, a documentary filmed in 2010 during the tour’s 16th year. Patton’s film isn’t shot like a concert documentary-cum-sociological study like such classic productions as Woodstock or Gimme Shelter. Instead, the movie sets up a tableau of three different artists navigating the tour’s harried schedule, their off-road activities and their own egos. Patton’s cameras primarily focus on Never Shout Never frontman Christofer Drew, whose feel-good pop has polarized audiences significantly; Mike Posner, the Duke University grad whose R&B-flecked pop he recorded in his dorm room had him poised to do grad-work at the Justin Timberlake Finishing School; and the pop-punk outfit Forever Came Calling, a scrappy bunch of dudes who hail from “fucking nowhere,” and aren’t blessed with good looks, nice hair, rich parents and (thank Christ) entitlement issues. All they want to do is play, with all the heart and hope found in any hospital chapel.
Between these characters’ chronicled paths, Patton cuts away to various bastions of Warped culture. In one sequence, Warped majordomo Kevin Lyman is seen showing his appreciation to the tour’s various truck and bus drivers by preparing them a special barbecue; later in the movie, he’s handing a tour manager his ass when inclement weather during a Texas stop shuts the event down for safety issues. Suicide Silence frontman Mitch Lucker discusses his personal sacrifices and the Catch-22 situation in which many bands find themselves (specifically, playing hundreds of dates a year to bring home enough to actually support a family). Various Warped lifers testify to the arduous pace of life on the road, as well as sharing their own redemptive stories about being on the tour.
The reason why both proponents and critics of Warped can celebrate No Room For Rockstars is because it doesn’t take sides. If Patton chose three other personalities to follow in this film, the same revelations about community, the 21st-century music business and the resilience of the human ego would still have been uncovered. The old hip-hop adage has always been, “Don’t hate the player, hate the game.” During various junctures in the film, Patton’s cameras capture such eye-opening moments as Posner complaining about playing a set to 200 people when he’s “sold more records than any band playing today,” or Drew warning that Lyman needs to change his business model if he ever wants NSN to play Warped ever again. The behavior of a few tour attendees is equally unbelievable, as well. (Watch how a harried Drew hobbling on crutches tries to deal with thee fan from Hell.)
At its conclusion, No Room For Rockstars reconciles that sense of community all of the various tribes of Warped (pop, pop-punk, hardcore, emo, screamo, post-hardcore, whatever dude, check your iTunes library) have gathered together under in solidarity. Because for every obnoxious fan, careerist band dude or some venue’s questionably priced food item, there’s a kindred spirit reaffirming Warped’s energetic underdog culture. There ain’t no rock stars in the pit, either.
No Room For Rockstars will be playing in select theaters on Thursday, March 1. (For a full list of participating theaters, see the documentary’s official website.) The documentary will also be available to purchase exclusively on iTunes beginning April 2 and is available on DVD as of May 15. AP is also sponsoring a showing of No Room For Rockstars at the 36th annual Cleveland International Film Festival in March; visit clevelandfilm.org for more information. AP will also be premiering a clip from the movie on Wednesday, so be sure to stop by Altpress.com that day to check it out!