On Saturday, July 27, the scene at the Cruzan Amphitheatre in West Palm Beach, FL was right out of a movie.
A storm crept up on the grounds, looking like The Nothing from the film The NeverEnding Story, armed and ready to ruin our day. Florida storms on Warped Tour are pretty much expected, but they usually pass pretty quickly and the show resumes. This storm was a whole other animal.
I remember the sky cracking open and turning black. The winds kicked up, with huge gusts instantly taking out rows of merch tents across from the Acoustic Basement section where I work. A few seconds later, the downpour became a solid wall of water moving sideways and coming straight into the Acoustic Basement area.
“It was all happening so fast. All we could do was batten down the hatches and try and ride it out.”
My awesome stage crew, Ashley Parker and Adrian Medel, were quick to throw tarps over all the PA gear and strap things down. I vividly remember standing on the stage and pulling a tarp over the speakers when a huge gust of wind picked up Acoustic Basement's two massive 20’ x 30’ tents straight into the air and slammed them back down.
The tent poles were bending close to 45 degrees and the tent walls were now acting like giant kites. I frantically called for my set-up crew boys, Terry and Steve, for help securing one tent, while I held onto the other by myself to keep it from breaking away.
It was all happening so fast. All we could do was batten down the hatches and try and ride it out.
“Someone got struck by lightning…it’s Brian Marquis!”
Then I saw a flash and felt both my hands burn like they were on a stove. I was shot back a few feet from the pole I was securing. It felt like I was kicked in the chest by a horse. My hand began shaking and then went numb. Then I couldn't feel my arms. Then it felt like my chest was caving in.
I don’t remember this, but Steve later told me that watching me was like seeing someone literally shut down. He grabbed me and sat me in a chair; at this point I was shaking and couldn’t breathe. Steve calling on the radio to our staff medic, Minh Lucas. “Minh, someone got struck by lightning…it’s Brian Marquis!” As he said those words, I thought I was on my way out of this world.
All the while, the storm was destroying the Warped grounds. The rainfall rose above our ankles. Minh was somehow there almost instantly, checking on me and calling for an ambulance. Other friends rushed in. I remember trying not to look into anyone’s eyes because seeing all of their faces confirmed that I was in a bad way...and it also made it feel too perfect a way to go out, surrounded by these amazing people.
Once the ambulance arrived, I got in and was immediately hooked up to all kinds of things. One of the machines was a defibrillator.
Luckily, one zap was all I got that day and I didn’t need another from the medics. Looking through the foggy rear window of the ambulance as we drove through the melee that was the Warped grounds, I couldn’t help but feel bad that I was leaving my stage crew and the set-up crew guys and I just hoped that they were all going to be okay. The medic tried to calm me down by telling me that usually when he picks up people who were struck by lightning, their shoes are blown off and they smell like burnt hair and skin...thanks for that, dude.
Once I got to the hospital, the doctor immediately hooked me up to two large bags of saline fluid. He explained that I'd been literally fried – the lightening sucked all the water out of my system, so it needed to be replenished. They gave me some pills to protect my organs and began running all a whole gamut of tests.
“I just felt so lucky to be alive and surrounded by amazing and caring people. ”
Luckily, I was in safer hands than I expected if anything else went wrong. I was told that West Palm Beach has the most lightning strikes in America, so this facility was well versed in handling such cases.
As soon as I could pick it up my cell phone, I was flooded with so many texts, calls and emails from my fellow Warped family and friends that it was overwhelming and heart-warming at the same time. I couldn’t reach my mom at that moment so I posted a photo online to make sure she knew I was okay and didn’t hear what happened secondhand.
Mike Finn, who was tour managing The Used, took a cab to the hospital and stayed with me until I was released 6 hours later. We headed back to the Warped grounds where I was reunited with my beloved Bus 22 mates and all the production staff and set-up crew. It was an extremely emotional and exhausting situation and I just felt so lucky to be alive and surrounded by amazing and caring people.
Without them all, I don’t know how I would have made it through that whole ordeal and the rough days that would come after.
I tried to continue on with the tour, but it was clear that I needed some healing. The Warped road is no time or place for proper healing though, so I decided to head home a few days early. That broke my heart more than the lightning did, but it was the right decision.
A few key folks who got me through this (hopefully) once-in-a-lifetime experience:
Steve Schaeffer for literally catching me in his arms and calling for help
Terry Myers and Mike Holshue for standing watch over me as the medics came
Mike Farr for holding my hand and helping me keep it together and never leaving my side until help came
Minh Lucas for keeping me from totally losing it
Chris Holloway for literally running to my tent and getting the ambulance to me quickly
Mike Finn for being by my side in the hospital
The set-up crew boys for lending extra help to my stage in my absence
Ashley Parker and Adrian Medel for holding down the Acoustic Basement on their own for the last few dates (so proud)
Julie Grant for helping me find comfort in the days to come
Lisa Brownlee for giving me the advice to go home – that was hard to swallow, but man was she right
Kevin Lyman for helping me through this every step of the way and continuing to be one of my biggest inspirations
Kevin's lovely wife, Fran, for bringing me to doctor's appointments back home and providing me with much-needed advice and comfort
And to everyone who has expressed support since that fateful day in Florida – it is much appreciated and I am thankful I'm able to type this story out for you all today.
This experience was a heavy reminder to me that what I have, what we all have, out there on the road is so unique and so special. It goes way beyond just another concert. It’s family and I am damn proud to be a small part of it.