In 2012, the Vans Warped Tour expanded their musical offerings, establishing an all-acoustic tent called the Acoustic Basement. Former Therefore I Am guitarist, Brian Marquis, was charged with heading it up. This is his Warped roadie story.
Armed to the teeth with months of preparedness, or so I thought, I was about to embark on one hell of a baptism-by-fire summer. The Warped Tour gave me the task of producing a brand new, all-acoustic stage. We'd named it the Acoustic Basement for its stripped down, up-close-and-personal setup. Not only was I producing the stage, booking artists and coordinating the logistics, I was also the stage manager and a performer. I began to worry that I might have bitten off more than I could chew, but I was up for the challenge.
The week leading up to the start of Warped I barely slept. Putting together an all acoustic stage at a raucous outdoor festival made my head spin: What if people don’t come to my stage? What if I’ve lost touch and don’t know what the kids want anymore? What if nobody can hear the acoustic artists in the sea of noise? What if I booked the wrong acts? What if people don’t dig my solo music after years of being in bands? What if the whole thing sucks!?
I arrived on rehearsal day to see the big white Acoustic Basement branded tent go up for the first time, met my two-man crew (Ryan & Jake) and I started seeing old friends and familiar faces. Before we knew it the gates were open and kids were spilling onto the fairgrounds amped for the first date of Warped. After the first couple acts played and the day-one kinks were worked out, I finally had a minute to stop and take in what was going on. My stage had been packed with people all day. People were coming to watch and hang in the shade of the tent. It was working!
The first few weeks weren’t all that easy for a new stage and a new stage manager. The production manager and the setup crew leader weren’t quite sure how to place my stage -- all the other stages and tents were either screaming promotions or blasting dubstep. I had to prove myself out on the field and show everyone what I was trying to accomplish, and the situation improved as the tour progressed.
By the time we hit Chicago -- half way through the tour -- the stage did so well that the Tour Producer, Kevin Lyman, gave me a second tent to accommodate the crowds. Not only did attendees become familiar with the stage and seek it out at each Warped date, but other bands also took note and got involved. Main stage bands like Anti-Flag, Yellowcard, and other notable acts such as John Nolan of Taking Back Sunday, Sleeping With Sirens and Make Do and Mend all made appearances on the Acoustic Basement stage. It made each day new and different for Warped-goers and gave future attendees some surprises to look forward to. Each day was better and better right up until the end in Portland, OR.
This stage didn't just work because of what I put into it, it worked because everyone involved did their part to make the experience awesome for everyone. From Ryan and Jake running sound and helping with tent and stage setup, to the artists all pitching in to help pack and unpack trucks, watch each other’s merch and generally just help everyone make it through each 100+ degree day in the sun -- the Acoustic Basement crew had become a gang. The camaraderie that grew in creating this stage was hands down my favorite part of the whole experience and made it worth all the work I put into making it happen.