Houston Weather Throws the Warped Tour One Last Curveball

When the rain rolls in, most head indoors.
When the rain rolls in, most head indoors. Photo by Cory Garcia
For the Warped Tour, chaos is a feature, not a bug.

95 percent of the concerts you’ll go to in your life will be fairly straightforward. You’ll know the basics: who is playing and in what order, where you’ll purchase merchandise, where to go to pick up your tickets, and other things of that nature. But that’s never been how the Warped Tour operates. The placement of the stages can change from year to year. Trying to find the merch tent for the band you like is like a scavenger hunt. They don’t announce the set times until the morning of the show.

In that way, the Warped Tour has always been an experience generator in addition to a concert festival. Will two bands you like be playing at the same time? Should you try and get up close to see a band perform or try and get a good spot in their autograph line? Do you risk showing up late and missing someone you really want to see?

Few things are as chaotic as Warped Tour, but summer weather in Houston ranks right up there. Most years it’s feast or famine: you’re either going be dealing with the heat beating you down or storms making everything a mess. This year, the final time the Warped Tour makes its way to Houston, it was the latter; around noon they had to pause the festival for a couple of hours due to lightning in the area.

Now, yes, I know I just spent a whole bunch of words talking about the chaos of Warped, but it is organized chaos. They know how to handle storms. The parking lots holding the festival were cleared, and fans were directed to head over to NRG Center to wait the storm out. It was a soggy walk across the street, full of comments about the tickets being “rain or shine” from annoyed music lovers. Soon they announced via social media that the gates would be reopening with an adjusted schedule and that all of the bands would get a chance to play.

I would not be there to see the show. With more storms in the forecast and an outfit completely soaked through, I called it an early day. In theory, there’s no one on this tour that I wanted to see that won’t be back in the next 18 months, and at 35 my body isn’t built for damp days that give way to afternoon sun.
click to enlarge To Whom It May was just as heavy as the rain falling down around them. - PHOTO BY CORY GARCIA
To Whom It May was just as heavy as the rain falling down around them.
Photo by Cory Garcia
That said, however limited it was, I enjoyed my final Warped Tour experience. I didn’t get to see Waterparks or scream out the lyrics to “From the Outside” or get a silly shirt I should, as a grown up, feel ashamed to wear, but taking in Warped, even in its rainy condition, gave me one last chance to get nostalgic for a festival I’ve been going to off and on since 1997. I’ll save you the overdone “all the things I’ve seen” montage, but as I wrote recently, some of the best days of my life took place on Warped Tour days.

And I even got to enjoy a band. It’s been a while since the Houston Press has written about Galveston’s To Whom It May, but they’re still great. I didn’t get to experience their full set, but their brand of metal works really well in the rain, and the band sounded really tight with a good stage presence. Would definitely check them out in less damp conditions.

There are things I’m not going to miss about the Warped Tour. I’m not going to miss that the lineups are still overwhelmingly male and still very white. I’m not going to miss having to grapple with my own complicated feelings about how the festival handles problematic artists. I’m not going to miss some of the more obnoxious, non-music parts of the festival.

But I will, at the end of the day, miss the Warped Tour, even if it stopped being for me long ago. Warped Tour, for all its faults, allowed fans to make their experience be whatever it is they wanted in a way that few other music events do. It was like a real-life Choose Your Own Adventure book, albeit one where you had a little more information about what was going on. I’ll miss following along online as the tour got closer, with people sharing setlists and merch lineups on social media and forums. Yes, Warped Tour could be a mess, but at the core there was comfort in the chaos.
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Cory Garcia is a Contributing Editor for the Houston Press. He once won an award for his writing, but he doesn't like to brag about it. If you're reading this sentence, odds are good it's because he wrote a concert review you don't like or he wanted to talk pro wrestling.
Contact: Cory Garcia