Over the past seven years, kiddie dance/rap band Koo Koo Kanga Roo have become Twin Cities favorites. When we heard they'd be playing 38 dates on the Vans Warped Tour — which is aimed mostly at pop-punk teens — we asked them to document the strange journey. Featuring more than 70 bands on nine stages, the Warped Tour is the largest traveling music festival in the United States. Here is the first installment of Neil Olstad and Bryan Atchison's tour diary.
Bryan and I have always wanted to play this tour. The crowds are full of young, energetic, goofy kids. It’s right up our alley. Also, I grew up going to Warped in high school. Being one of the bands on this tour means a little something extra than our usual tours.
In the first few hours it became clear to us that Warped Tour exists at the intersection of summer camp and the circus. Meeting the bands we would share the summer with (the wonderful gentlemen of I Killed the Prom Queen and Hundredth) felt like meeting your cabin-mates for the first time at camp. Bunks are involved in both scenarios. The massive scale and logistics of a tour like this are incredible, especially from up close. Dozens upon dozens of tour busses, semi-trucks, RVs, and other enormous moving pieces all work together to transport the tour to 41 cities in eight weeks. It’s totally a circus. Punk rock, rappers, and teenage angst, oh my!
We’ve made it through the first three shows of the tour. Most of the weekend felt like a learning process for how the summer will go. There are so many elements to keep track of each day. Merchandise, press availability, catering meals, guest list, promoting your set time, setting up for and playing your show. It’s a lot. Especially for our team of only three people — Bryan, his brother Jeffy, and myself. Already we’ve become smarter and more efficient.
Warped Tour bands play the same stage every day and for us it's the Beatport Stage, but the set times for the 8-10 bands on each stage change daily. Daily set times aren't announced until the gates open at 11 a.m. This levels the playing field a bit and gives each band a chance to play for as many people as possible. It’s up to every band to promote their set time all day long. There are way too many awesome bands vying for the attention of 15,000 people to sit back and hope people will show up. We’ve learned that we need to work hard every day to get the word out about our band and give people a reason to come check us out. Being shy isn’t an option.
Our strategy involves "big head" signs — 48-inch versions of our heads advertising our set time. Nobody on the tour has anything like it and they really stand out. Thousands of people wait in amazingly long lines to get into the grounds as quickly as possible. We hit the line at 10:30 a.m., walk up and down with our giant heads, and do everything we can to get people to come see us that day.
“Warped Tour is what you make it” was the advice that we heard before it started. We’re going to hustle and make it awesome.