Muddy mosh pit mayhem. Black clothed, overly pierced Goths with brightly colored hair. Forty-year-old wanna-be-teenagers wearing not too much. Animal rights activists passing out propaganda. Cross-dressing punk rockers. And four kids in t-shirts and jeans from Glasgow, Montana feeling a little out of place. Welcome to Warped Tour 2003.
It was perfect concert weather in Bozeman, 80 degrees and nothing but blue skies. Since the concert started at noon, we went at 10:30 so we wouldn’t have to wait in line, but there was a line. Plus, the gates didn’t open until noon. It was worth the wait, though, because they were handing out stickers and other pretty cool stuff, including free demo CDs.
Finally, the gates opened and inside we found six stages filled with six-foot speakers stacked two, three and even four high. They thudded and thumped with the sweet sound of punk rock as our ears turned to mush. We were a little intimidated by the crowds, so we spent the first half hour hanging back, checking out vendors and seeing our first glimpse of real-life lesbians. You just have to love a liberal town.
The vendors were a rip-off. Pop was three dollars a bottle and I was too cheap, so I went without, which was a stupid decision I paid for later. They were also selling giant, charbecued – emphasis on the charred – turkey drumsticks that must have weighed two pounds each. The people who ate them were covered in sauce and looked like something from a low-budget zombie movie.
Feeling a bit more confident, I found my brother and headed for the mosh pit. If you’ve never been to a punk rock concert, it’s an exciting mix of humanity. The smells of sweat and pot filled my nose as I pushed and slammed and jumped. Suddenly, I felt myself being lifted; strange hands grasped me in strange places as I was pushed to the top of the screaming crowd and passed from hand to hand over the sea of people like a dinghy in a hurricane. From up there all the lights looked like a thousand miles of fire.
Once I’d crowd-surfed, I felt more in control and ready to take on the Warped Tour. The weather was getting nastier as the wind picked up and it started to pour. There were always four bands playing, so we checked out the big board and planned our listening adventure.
All the bands were good, but the ones that really stood out were the Ataris and the Drop Kick Murphys. The Ataris really communicated with the crowd and made me feel like I was part of the music. Their lyrics addressed the loneliness and isolation of life in a small town, which hit home with me. The Drop Kick Murphys were an Irish band that sing traditional folk songs with a punk rock beat. You’ve got to respect anyone who can use an accordion and a bagpipe to make punk music. The crowd loved them.
The grand finale was a performance by The Used. As the drummer rattled off a fast punk beat, the lead singer walked out wearing a skimpy black dress and boots. The rain came down harder, but no one was leaving early. This was punk rock at its best, and the heat generated by the crowd warmed the cold, wet clothes pasted to our skin. At the end of his last song, lead singer Burt McCracken climbed to the top of three stacked speakers and dove into the crowd.
Tired, cold and feeling like I needed to throw up from dehydration because I was too cheap to buy a three-dollar pop, we headed for the car. The next morning, we went back to our hometown, which is and always will be filled with pick-up trucks and country music. .