I arrived stoked for A Day to Remember’s set, but soon wanted nothing more than to listen to “Back to Black”
On bus rides home from Upper Township Middle School, I sat by myself in my own seat. I routlinely pulled out my Dell DJ, short for the Dell Digital Jukebox MP3 player, from the bottom of my backpack. While my peers talked amongst themselves, I looked the other way towards the window.
I turned on “Welcome to My Life” and imagined the lead singer, Pierre Bouvier, serenading me:
Do you wanna be somebody else?
Are you sick of feelin’ so left out?
Are you desperate to find something more
Before your life is over
Are you stuck inside a world you hate?
Are you sick of everyone around?
With the big fake smiles and stupid lies
While deep inside you’re bleedin’
I didn’t have any friends to share music with. If I talked about my favorite bands with my peers, I was often teased for it. I suppressed any enthusiasm about my favorite bands around them.
. . .
“I have to get to Warped this year,” I typed to my friend over AOL Instant Messenger on my crusty keyboard to an already outdated, off-white Acer desktop. It was the summer between eighth and ninth grade.
“My older sister says Warped is for degenerates,” my friend, Kristen, replied.
Kristen didn’t agree with her sister. In fact, she and I liked the similar bands under the umbrella of emo music, the only person in my school I knew who did. However, she too lived with parents who didn’t approve of her music taste. Even if we managed to logistically get there on our own-doubtful for two 14-year-olds who can’t legally drive-the nearest dates were over an hour’s drive away.
Fortunately, staying indoors alone in the summers turned out to be its own gateway to exploring music. I discovered new-to-me bands in the mid-to-late 00s alternative scene beyond Simple Plan. On Xanga, Myspace, and eventually Tumblr, I’d listen to classics for the first time like “Don’t Trust Me” by 3OH!3, a metalcore cover of “Crank That (Soulja Boy)” by I Set My Friends on Fire, and an early demo of “Knives and Pens” by Black Veil Brides. The summer between ninth and tenth grade, I’d set my profile song to “The Plot to Bomb the Panhandle” by A Day to Remember, a band that taught me pop punk can have elements of metalcore.
. . .
When a group of college friends invited me to Warped Tour the night before the local tour date, an adrenaline rush overcame me. I paused and relived flashbacks of summer nights fantasizing about the day to come-of seeing my favorite bands perform live, running all over the venue between the different stages and perspective bands’ merch tents, letting it all sink in alongside friends who were just as excited as I would be- before I gleefully replied “yes” to my friends. A spontaneous invitation, I quickly grabbed my shiny, weeks-old MacBook Pro and logged onto Ticketmaster. We all bought our tickets with barely 12 hours to spare before we had to leave the next morning.
. . .
I sat in the backseat while one of my college friends, Ashlyn, drove us over an hour and a half from Mahwah, New Jersey to Uniondale, Long Island. Once parked in the venue lot, she climbed out of the driver’s seat to the trunk, which had nothing in it aside from a full case of some kind of pre-packaged beverage. It wasn’t coconut water, but it might as well have been. She dropped one in her drawstring backpack.
“They’re great for hangovers,” she told us. I looked down at the plastic water bottle in my hand and thought, she’s hardcore. I wanted so badly to be friends with her, for her to think I was as cool as I thought she was.
It was about noon when we approached the opening gates. Our beverages, including Ashlyn’s coconut water, were confiscated while in the entrance line.  I wish I could describe the embodied excitement I felt through my bones walking into the festival grounds, but truthfully, I don’t recall the feeling. I don’t recall any feeling.
We proceeded through the baggage check at the entrance gates. Ahead at the Tilly’s/Alternative Press stage, a large crowd convened. My friends and I couldn’t hear the music from the speakers that far ahead.
“Simple Plan!” Someone shouted.
My heart skipped a beat, the same way it does whenever I hear the opening melody to a Britney Spears song. I turned to my friends, who didn’t share the same expression. Whether they were disinterested in the band, or simply couldn’t hear, they promptly moved onto another stage.
I followed my friends to the smaller Skullcandy stage. A crunkcore band Blood on the Dance Floor- sigh-performed. Historically, BOTD’s front man Dahvie Vanity had a sleazy reputation within the scene. His band touted misogynistic lyrics beyond what was considered acceptable at the time; when Warped Tour veteran and Bring Me the Horizon front man, Oli Sykes, screamed, “So why don’t you just fuck yourself, you fucking whore,” in “(I Used to Make Out With) Medusa,” BOTD sang, “Cheated on me and broke my heart / Gonna show the world your private part s” in their song “Revenge Porn.” 
My friend, Freddie, raced up to the crowd and started throwing up his hands to the beat. While I don’t recall how he felt about BOTD, I attribute this more to the excitement of watching the first band perform of the day, rather than enthusiasm towards the actual band. I tried to emulate his zest; I snapped a photo and sent it via text message to upload to my Facebook wall, but I still cringed and waited for this performance to be over. If I think about this memory hard enough to this day, I still hear echoes of the cursed chorus from “Scream for My Icecream.” 
. . .
Later, on the Main Stage, ska band Pepper played their final song. We watched the crowd sway back and forth, nearly a few feet behind all shuffling around.
“Let’s get close!” Freddie urged our friend group. His favorite band, Attack Attack!, was up next.
I ended up so close to the stage that I could touch it. It’d be a little while, maybe 15 or 20 minutes, until Attack Attack! would step on stage. Roadies packed up their equipment to transition sets. While I’d listened to Attack Attack! on Myspace before and enjoyed their sound, I only recounted one or two of their songs that afternoon.
This is the hottest I have ever been, I thought. Not in appearance, but in body temperature. The midsummer sun beat down on me. I felt the body heat accumulate from the dozens, if not hundreds, of other teenagers and 20-somethings around me. There was also a continental heat wave that July into August; nationally, it was the hottest summer on record in the last 75 years.
I then received a Twitter notification via text message on my keyboard phone. The text notified me of the death of Amy Winehouse.
“Amy Winehouse is dead,” I yelled out. The crowd around me were unphased without a flinch.
I wanted to listen to Amy’s “Back to Black”-to hear the lyrics, “We only said goodbye with words / I died a hundred time s “-more than whatever I’d hear next on the stage in front of me. While Spotify debuted on mobile phones in 2009, iPhones weren’t around in my social circles; listening to a song on demand was impossible in this era. Attack Attack! promptly started their set without a mention of the breaking news.
Amy never performed at Warped Tour, but she could’ve. In 2008, she dropped a ska record, the same genre as Pepper. Her outfits alone, accented with her infamous thick cat black eyeliner, resembled those of internet scene queens. It was jarring no one, not even the band playing, acknowledged her tragic sudden death.
. . .
Around 5 p.m., I fell asleep on cool concrete in the shade, not far from a live band playing hardcore music. I woke up barely a half hour later. My friends, also exhausted, considered leaving. I persuaded them to stay since A Day to Remember’s set started at 9 p.m. They promised to stick it out for me like we did for Freddie.
. . .
After the sun set at 8:19 p.m., I shivered from the breeze in my Forever 21 black tank top and denim shorts. I accepted I couldn’t last until 9, let alone another minute. I suggested to my friend group that we leave, contrary to my earlier plea. All four of us were tired beyond belief, sunburnt, and covered in sweat, not only our own but of other festival goers’ who stood uncomfortably close to us in those cramped crowds. It was the kind of sweat that made your skin stick to a stranger’s skin if your bodies touched from standing so close together.
Defeated, I promptly trekked with my friends to the parking lot, where we’d have a long drive back to campus ahead of us.
“Did you hear that Amy Winehouse died?” I asked.
I spent at least $30 just on water that day with water bottles $5 a pop each, plus a $10 hamburger that could’ve been served in a school cafeteria. These prices echoed the offerings at Woodstock ’99 where festival attendees paid $4 for water bottles and $7 for a roast beef sandwiches, equivalent to $5.42 and $9.49 in 2011.
 Years later in 2019, Spotify removed Blood On the Dance Floor’s entire catalog from its platform, following sexual assault allegations against Vanity.
 My inner grammar nerd cringes at the band’s style choice for condensing “ice cream” into one word.