While kids are moshing, not a care in the world, some of the Warped Tour workers are dealing with serious issues. At the Keep A Breast tent, focused on breast cancer awareness, manager Andria Goodrow saw a different side of the tour. This is her Warped roadie story.
It’s 8AM and already 90 degrees with 80 percent humidity. The sweat is pouring from every crevice of my body while I set up the 30x30 Keep A Breast Girlz Garage tent.
We’re in Burgettstown, PA on an 11-day stretch of shows and this is day eight. I can tell from the blank stares, weird comments, and made-up songs (like, "banner time is my favorite time" and "It’s f--king hot out") that my team is ready for a day off.
On Warped Tour you judge the days by a "good day" under 100 degrees, or a "bad day" over 100 degrees. I take a look at my co-worker who's standing on our road cases dancing, clapping to the "banner time" song and I smile and say, "At least it’s cooler than yesterday"… And we agree knowing it’s going to be a good day. At this point, I had no idea my experiences that day would change my outlook on Warped Tour forever.
When you work on the Vans Warped Tour you don’t just do your job and sign out for the night. Working on the Vans Warped Tour is your life for two months and there is no escape. The traveling circus of 800-1,000 people becomes your new routine and time passes so fast you forget to call home. Your co-workers become your family, and your tour bus with its coffin-like bunks becomes your new home.
In a sense I gained two sisters and two brothers this past summer and just like my "real life friends" they helped me deal with a lot of personal issues, including my father's battle with lung cancer. If one person goes down in the family, it's up to the others to pick them back up. It’s a team of 1,000 that surround you every day like an army-sized family and for that reason alone I have joined the Warped Tour every summer since 2006.
My job with the Keep A Breast Foundation on the tour is a bit different than most gigs. It’s sensitive, draining, and takes a lot of personal energy to hear stories regarding cancer from event attendees at each date. The hardest part for me is keeping a smile on my face when kids are being obnoxious or trying to steal stuff from the tent -- it’s like working at a high school. Because all of my daily emotions are used on empathy, being tired, or hiding my anger, it can be hard for me to connect with individuals. It took me a long time to link my personal Warped Tour family experience with the experience of kids in the crowd.
Honestly, until this summer I didn’t think much about what goes on behind the scenes in the lives of each individual attendee. I set-up, work the show, break down, and repeat, and oh yeah... what day is it again? For me, that all changed in Burgettstown.
In between the masses of kids asking me, “How much is this? How much is that?” and my total disgust as they dig the sweat covered dollar bills out of their bras, shoes, and who knows where, I noticed a woman I'll call Anne.
She was pacing slowly in front of our tables and stopped at our “This Is My Story” book that showcase stories written by Warped Tour fans who have direct, or indirect, experiences with breast cancer. I watched her for a few moments before approaching, as she seemed to be enthralled in the stories that line the book.
I mentioned to Anne that she was able to participate in the book if she was interested, or had a personal story, and then I noticed the port that was located near her collarbone. (A port is a medical appliance that is installed beneath the skin where injections can be made -- like chemo -- on a more comfortable level). Anne replied with, “I have too many stories, they would fill up the entire book.” From there, I nodded and left her alone as she seemed sad and I could tell she was not ready to write in the book.
A few minutes passed and Anne approached me with one of the saddest stories I’ve heard since working with Keep A Breast. Her husband had gotten sick at the end of last year and passed away in January. Following his death Anne had found out she had breast cancer. She had two daughters, both under the legal driving age, and my mind raced with thoughts like, “Who will take you to the doctors? Who will cook you dinner, and run to the store to get your medication?” I grew sad for her, and her experiences, as I remembered how much my father (who was battling lung cancer at the time) relied on my mother to help him beat his battle.
It was then that her two daughters interrupted, running into the tent screaming about Blood on the Dance Floor and how “hot” they were and how excited they were to see them perform live. Anne’s face lit up for the first time since she had been there, and I knew that Warped Tour meant more to them than just a summer concert. They were at the show as a family, and that counted more than any solo chemo treatment or home cooked meal.
I call her Anne because she never actually shared her name with me, but with that one conversation in Burgettstown “Anne” has made me realize that the Vans Warped Tour is about family no matter where you look.