As I've crawled on in age, my relationship with the Vans Warped Tour has changed. As a kid, going to Warped was an exciting adventure, and a chance to see a whole bunch of bands in one place. As an adult, since my interest in pop punk turned out to be indeed "just a phase" and the majority of the bands on tour cater to a very young audience, the Warped Tour is no longer a priority. In fact, of the 72 bands that played at the Montreal stop of the 2010 Warped Tour, I would have been interested in seeing exactly three: Andrew WK, Every Time I Die, and The Dillinger Escape Plan, all of which I've already seen before, and none of them worth the hefty price of admission to an all-day, outdoor show.
Nonetheless, I had hoped to see these three make an appearance in No Room For Rockstars, the documentary about the Warped Tour by director Parris Patton (who has directed and edited several documentaries about musicicians) and produced by Stacy Peralta (the legendary professional skateboarder and director of the acclaimed documentary Dogtown and Z-Boys). Since the three only make indirect appearances, one as a logo on a tent, another on a flag carried by a fan through the crowd, and the last via a frightened tour manager being yelled at by Warped Tour founder Kevin Lyman, I was ultimately disappointed.
I wasn't, however, let down by the film itself. Despite the fact that No Room For Rockstars focuses on a handful of musicians that I personally don't care for, the director's skill at subtly exposing his subjects instantly drew me in. In fact, the film benefits greatly from the mostly non-punk, pop or otherwise, musicians that it spotlights. Sure, a member of Pennywise appears just long enough to throw in a soundclip or two (one of which gives the film its name), but this is not a history of Warped Tour by any means. It is a snapshot of the megamillion dollar business that this tour represents, warts and all, and the 2010 tour (along with the subjects selected for this documentary) is the perfect embodiment of just that.
Through the perpetual breakdowns of Suicide Silence, the insufferable teenaged posing of Never Shout Never and the canny, focused positioning of Mike Posner, the film offers a very pointed lesson in what it takes to be in the music business today, and how taking part in a massive tour like Warped fits into all that. Lyman himself makes several appearances, living up to his punk/businessman duality, one day grilling a pile of meat for the tourbus drivers, and raking the Every Time I Die tour manager over hot coals on another. They all exemplify the many difficult layers of the music business, where in order to "make it", a young dad screams curse words at children not much older than his daughter 300 days a year, while a teenaged mouth casually drops the phrase "...and a year later, I was signed to Warner Bros."
The true heroes of the film, however, are the ragtag bunch of misfits from Forever Came Calling, a band from 29 Palms, CA (home of Dick Dale, King of the Surf Guitar!) who follow the tour from city to city, selling their CDs to the line in hopes of scraping together enough cash to make it to the next city. With more drama and charisma than the professional musicians profiled put together, Forever Came Calling bring the punk and DIY spirit back to the Warped Tour, and in the end, it is they who make the futility of being in a touring band feel good again.
If you've ever blown black snot into a tissue after a day in the dust at Parc Jean Drapeau, and been curious about how they shift that massive undertaking from city to city, you will want to see No Room For Rockstars. As for me, I enjoyed it so much that I'm hoping for a sequel, only I'd like the next one to spend even more time on the Fabio-meets-Rob-Zombie awesomeness of Kenny Leath, the Warped Tour stage manager.