Anyone who even casually knows me would probably say “obvi duh” upon hearing me declare that Warped Tour is my favorite day of every summer. And probably punctuate it with an eye roll. But it really is the one day a year that helps me relate a little bit to religious zealots, because being around so many of “my people” at once is a really powerful, exciting feeling. Much like being at one of those colossal mega-churches with people passing out and screaming.
A few weeks ago, I made a poster of all of my pictures from this year’s Warped Tour, which was one of my favorites.
And I feel weird saying that, because this year’s was rife was drama and controversy, starting with the allegations against Front Porch Step earlier in the year. This has been written about ad nauseum on the Internet, so I’ll keep it short: Jack Mcelfresh, the singer behind the Front Porch Step moniker, was using his scene status to lure underage girls via social media. Several of them finally spoke out about it via Tumblr, complete with screen shots of text messages and gross pictures he was sending them. I had never heard of him until we took Chooch to see Never Shout Never in Cleveland in 2013. We were hanging out by his merch table most of the night and he gave Chooch a free poster, which I thought was so nice, but also — we were there with the editor in chief of Alternative Press, so I’m not stupid. If I wanted my music to be acknowledged by the biggest publication supporting my scene, I’d give out free shit to a kid, too.
Now I just feel gross about it.
FPS ultimately was removed from Warped Tour; literally no one wanted to see his face after all of this. But then he made a surprise one-off appearance at the Nashville date which inspired massive outcry and widespread disappointment from those who had the misfortune of stumbling across him that day and everyone following along from home. This really put Warped Tour and its founder, Kevin Lyman, under a lot of fire and public scrutiny. Kevin defended his choice to allow Jake play in the Acoustic Basement that day by stating that he was working with Jake’s counselors and that this was part of his recovery process. While I have mad respect for Kevin Lyman for organizing my favorite music festival year after year, I will be the first to admit that this guy just shouldn’t even give statements to the media and he definitely should think harder before tweeting his opinions, because he is a master word-mincer. Every time he opens his mouth, he makes it worse! So he basically made himself look like a misogynist (and I truly don’t believe that he actually is) while essentially minimizing the issue at hand. Jake Mcelfresh is not the victim in this situation and he should not have been given a platform, even if it was only for one Warped Tour date.
That shouldn’t have even been an option. I will hand it to Kevin though, he made himself available every morning and invited any concerned fan to come and speak to him directly about this before the show.
So that was one big issue, and it was enough to start the #boycottwarped hashtag.
The second involved my old buddy, Jonny Craig! It’s never a dull moment with him. Quick backstory: the last time he played Warped Tour was in 2010, back when he was still in Emarosa. He caused a lot of drama and Kevin Lyman had to get Jonny’s mom to come out so they could attempt an intervention. Ultimately, he was told he’d never be allowed to play Warped again. But for whatever reason, Kevin decided to give Jonny a second chance, so five years later his new band Slaves was invited to play the second leg of Warped. (Emarosa played the first half.) Of course, Jonny started off by being super cocky about it, because everything Emarosa does, he thinks his idiot band can do better.
They managed to play…three dates, I think? Then people started commented on Jonny’s Instagram asking things like, “Hey, why didn’t you guys play today?” and of course, no one would respond. Well, Jonny sexually harassed their merch girl; it’s believed that he shoved his crotch in her face and made her touch him. I know, so uncharacteristic of him! He never even denied it, but still managed to make it worse by choosing douchey ways to express that what he did wasn’t “wrong.” He flat out replied “lol” to the merch girl’s vague tweet about how upsetting it is when alcohol turns decent people into monsters, which turned out to be her discreet way of alluding to what happened to her. Girl was traumatized, and rightfully so — she had only just met the band days earlier.
Some girl named Shelby who has known Jonny for some time and has also worked as his merch girl in the past, posted this ridiculous defense of Slaves online, about how women need to have thick skins to work in the music industry and that you have to expect things like this to happen, and how she can attest, without even being there, that Jonny was just joking around and that if you can’t “be one of the guys,” you should find a different job.
WHAT A WONDERFUL WOMAN! Teaching all these girls out there that they should just expect to be groped and humiliated by men, and if they can’t handle it, they’re clearly weak Lesser-Thans, right? So fucking sickening. Way to leave your own dirty finger print on rape culture, lady! The last line — really? So this girl should just go home and then Slaves can just carry on the rest of the tour like nothing happened? She should be punished but not them? I just…I can’t.
The bottom line is that being a merch person is still a job. Do you go to work expecting to be sexually harassed? Me either. So why should Slaves’ merch girl? She was just trying to make a living like everyone else.
All of this culminated into a huge divide behind the scenes at Warped Tour. First, Kevin kicked them off the tour, but then decided, for whatever reason, to let everyone involved in Warped Tour decide the fate of Slaves. They had a town hall meeting one Saturday night after all the fans were gone, where everyone was invited to say their piece, and then vote on whether Slaves should be kicked off or not. I have become Twitter friends with Jonny’s ex-fiancee, Amanda, over the last year, and she had a friend who was at the town hall meeting that night. She and I DM’d each other for hours that evening, on pins and needles waiting for the outcome.
Can I just pause for a second to say that this is a band full of dickhead members who tweet things like this?
Alex Lyman is the Slaves guitarist, and I honestly think he’s worse than Jonny Craig. People get fired from their jobs for saying things much less bad than this on the Internet. But it’s OK because he’s in band, right guys?
According to Amanda’s friend, about 300 people showed up that night to vote. It started with Kevin telling Jonny that he’s done with him, and he’s done with his band, but now it’s up to his peers to decide his fate. It was, obviously, a landslide vote to have them removed from the tour. Jonny was incredulous, and during all of it, he still wasn’t owning up to what he did to tip over that first domino. He kept accusing everyone of judging him based on his past, when sadly, it sounds like a lot of the bands that voted him off were doing so because they were worried that the Warped Tour environment was reversing his recovery process, while also trying to reason with him that getting drunk every night was not something that he should be doing. The rest of his band got real defensive about that and kept saying things like, “he’s an adult, he can handle it” which is hilarious because Jonny Craig is one of the most emotionally-stunted people I have ever encountered. He is the true definition of Man Child, which is why deep down, I honestly feel really sorry for him.
Billboard interviewed Kevin Lyman about the decision to remove Slaves from Warped Tour; yay — more face/palm Warped Tour media spotlights.
My favorite part of this latest Jonny Blows It Again episode is that a bunch of bands started wearing “Bring Back Emarosa” shirts. <3
Meanwhile, Fronz from Attila was having a major feud with The Wonder Years and Buddy from Senses Fail, who went on to tweet a virtual manifest of the state of the scene and how shit needs to change and Kevin Lyman needs to quit giving stages to these immature brat-bands. And Coop from Hands Like Houses posted a picture of himself flipping off the YouTubers tent and saying that he wishes the kids at Warped Tour would stop paying so much attention to the people who have nothing beneficial to say (truth), which incited an Instagram riot with all the teenage girls who are obsessed with the Warped YouTubers.
I know shit like this happens every year, but it seemed especially bad this time around, resulting in Kevin Lyman to give another cringe-worthy interview in which he seemingly chose his words in haste, leaving them open to easy misinterpretation. (Warped Tour will never be a 21+ event, guys. That’s not what he meant. Kevin knows his Warped Tour bread-and-butter demographic is the teen girls!)
It’s depressing to see that most of the people defending Jonny Craig are GIRLS. The victim-shaming on Twitter alone is enough to make me want to cry for all womankind and scream at them to get off Twitter and go burn a fucking bra. And then I read comments about how bands have been doing shit like this forever and how come it was OK back then, it was brushed off as “Oh, that’s so rock n’ roll,” but now all of these bands suddenly are expected to be held accountable, and the scene is becoming so “pussified” and “sensitive.” How about, no—it wasn’t OK back then. But I think it was easier for bands to get away with bad behavior in past decades because their lives were more secretive and more protected. With social media, everything is out there. It’s easier for smarmy musicians to bait underage girls, and it’s also easier for them to get exposed for doing so. It’s better, and it’s worse.
This is why I’m relieved that Robert Smith of the Cure has barely any Internet presence at all. He still ensconced in beautiful mystery. And how rare!
The one silver-lining I took from all this drama is seeing how many bands I respect speak up about the state of Warped Tour, offering solutions, begging the ones who are giving the scene a bad name to hear them out, trying to resolve beef without violence, and just ultimately coming together in an effort to make this community stronger. Also? There are a lot of men out there in this scene who give a fuck about women’s rights and are willing to go to bat for us. Misogyny and rape culture is rampant at most music festivals—not just Warped—and in many music scenes, but it is refreshing to see that this is something that my scene is being vocal about and recognizing that shit needs to change. The discussions that have been going on all summer long over at Absolute Punk have been smart, intelligent, and a sign that there are people out there who are open to change and willing to fight to make this scene good again. Also? Asshole behavior and sexual misconduct will not be tolerated or brushed off as “it’s just rock n’ roll, bruh.”
It’s a lot to think about, and something that we’ve been talking about a lot in my house, Chooch included. As a music-lover, I don’t want to ever stop going to Warped Tour. But as a self-respecting woman? Things need to change, and soon.
There comes a point where it’s not actually just about the music anymore.