It’s been exactly a decade since I last moshed with teenagers in a parking lot. I was a teenager myself back then, but even at the tender age of 19, I felt the winds of change blowing off the Cuyahoga River and onto the Vans Warped Tour. The pogo-pits and the power-pop that gave them life were quickly yielding to a rising “post-hardcore” scene that was too interested in haircuts, tight pants and wanton violence for my liking. My affinity for anthemic choruses and distorted power chords waned with age, and before I knew it I was sipping cocktails in seated theaters with the likes of Feist and Death Cab For Cutie boring me to tears. 

I took the van up to the Portland Expo Center on Sunday with a sense of morbid curiosity as to what I might find there. The Warped Tour seemed both familiar and alien at once. The amount of merch booths quadrupled since the last time I went, making the whole thing feel like a neon-colored dystopian mall of nightmares. Instead of carnies, there were heavily-tattooed man-children with straightened hair and iPhones glued to their heads. The music was predictably heavy as fuck, with only a few bands being described by the waves of kids descending upon the festival via school buses every 15 minutes as “pop” and “indie.” After pressing a few of them on what that they meant with the latter, I learned that “indie” is analogous with “boring” amongst fans of emotionally charged metal-hardcore hybrids like August Burns Red, We Came As Romans and Memphis May Fire. The angst and insecurity of youth can take decades to age out of, but if the near-empty beer garden at the Warped Tour was any indicator, the desire to take it out on strangers in a circle pit in the parking lot of a venue that also hosts gun shows and antique conventions has a much shorter shelf life. The haircuts and the riffs will continue to change, but the impulse to get in the pit and scream at the top of your lungs will remain forever. With NPR turned up a little louder than usual, I drove home satisfied knowing that the angry teenager in me will always have a home, even if that home is a parking lot.