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Tips from My First & Last Vans Warped Tour

Canadian Musician Editorial Assistant Shanine Cook (pictured above with The Maine) was out for the last-ever Toronto stop on the infamous Vans Warped Tour. The iconic tour, lovingly dubbed “punk rock summer camp,” announced that the 2018 edition would be its last full cross-country run. Here are Shanine’s thoughts from the day, including some summer festival prep tips.

July 17th marked Toronto’s last-ever Warped Tour and I was extremely lucky to get the chance to attend. With the majority of the bands being ones I listened to and loved when I was in middle school and high school, and my ALL-TIME favourite band attending, it was a no-brainer; I just HAD to be there.

Warped Tour has been a dream experience for many concertgoers over the years, allowing fans and bands to connect on all kinds of levels. The music, the merch, the signings, the photo opportunities… It makes Warped Tour a fun and exhilarating place to connect.

With this one being my first (and unfortunately last), I had no idea how to prepare. Spending an entire day in the July heat can be tasking and it’s so important to be prepared. I unfortunately wasn’t as prepared as I should have been, but live and learn. I put together a list of things that will benefit you for your next summer festival experience:

1. SUNSCREEN!

Please, please, PLEASE, bring sunscreen. I cannot stress enough how important it is to protect your skin during a long day in the sun. I applied before I went in but forgot to reapply through the day and I ended up paying for it with burnt shoulders, face, and calves. Make sure you reapply every few hours at least.

2. Water

It’s so important to keep hydrated. If you’re of age, you’ll probably be drinking alcohol, and with the hot sun, it’s so easy to get dehydrated and sick. Hydration is literally vital. Most festivals will let you bring in a sealed water bottle and the majority have refill stations throughout the festival grounds. You don’t need to spend money on purchasing water at the venue, so don’t let that stop you from staying hydrated.

3. Hat

Protect yourself. A hat will at least protect your face and keep you semi-covered.

4. Snacks

Most festivals want you to purchase their food at the venue but will allow you to bring sealed snacks. Bring granola bars, nuts, fruit – whatever will keep you full and provide a boost of energy throughout the day. Food can be pricey on festival grounds, so bringing snacks will prevent you from burning a hole in your wallet.

5. GOOD SHOES!

Ditch the flip flops, folks – especially if you’re planning on spending any time in the pit. My friend was wearing flip flops (the cheap ones) and I can tell you, her feet were killing her and her sandal actually broke near the end of the day. Running shoes or at least closed-toe shoes are important. They’ll be comfortable and protect your feet and ankles through the day. The sites tend to be big and you’re on your feet walking around for nearly 12 hours. There are thousands of people as well, so you probably will get stepped on.

6. Money

I can guarantee you will want to buy something, and it’s better to have enough and be able to grab some cool merch that catches your eye, and you’ll probably need to purchase dinner or lunch. Though you will have to keep it secure, bringing cash beats the huge lines and fees at the onsite ATMs, and it’s better to have it and not need it than the other way around.

Despite some lessons learned the hard way, I don’t regret doing Warped and ended up having a blast. I got to meet The Maine, I got to watch Sum 41, Simple Plan, and Mayday Parade. I was able to enjoy new bands I didn’t know well but now love and listen to on a daily basis. The way everyone comes together to enjoy the music and the passion shared between the fans and artists is truly inspiring and amazing.

Even though Warped Tour is now finished, there are plenty of great festivals across Canada for fans of pretty much any style of music. If Warped Tour was your scene, another festival to check out would be Rockfest in Montebello, QC. Many of the same artists attend and it can make for a fun road trip or mini vacation. I have gone twice and it’s an experience to remember.

The point of a music festival is to bring everyone together to enjoy and express themselves through music. Take the tips, be prepared, and you’re primed for a great summer festival experience.

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Mike Raine is the Senior editor of Canadian Musician.