"I don't even know how to explain it," Steven Bradley begins. "It's fun and it's insane and it's hot."
Well, that's a pretty good encapsulation of the Warped Tour, the annual punk rock-anchored summer festival, as voiced by the guitarist for hardcore-prog-metal schizoids Iwrestledabearonce, who played Warped in 2010 and are returning this year.
Now in its 18th incarnation, the tour has become an institution, with as many as 100 acts performing fat-free 35-minute sets on a maze of stages.
There's an egalitarian feel to it all, with rotating time slots among the bands every day so that there's no real headliners, even when big names such as Green Day, Bad Religion, Rancid, Blink-182 are a part of the lineup, as they all have been on numerous occasions.
With daylong shows that start in the early afternoon in suffocatingly high temperatures, Warped is also a serious endurance test for bands and fans alike.
With Warped returning to Vegas on Wednesday, we spoke to a handful of bands on the bill about their Warped memories and what it's like from the inside.
The tour vets in question: Keith Buckley, singer for self-aware, hard-swingin' metallers Every Time I Die; Cyrus Bolooki, drummer for pop punk favorites New Found Glory; Ronnie Radke, singer for Vegas-born rockers Falling in Reverse, and the aforementioned Bradley.
See the full band lineup at vanswarpedtour.com.
Did you go to the Warped Tour when you were a kid?
Buckley: "I definitely did. Snapcase from Buffalo was a huge influence when I was growing up. So when they were on the Warped Tour, it was like seeing your kid graduate from high school. It was just such a great moment. And then you'd go watch Eminem and Ice-T (laughs). It was always something that I was into when I was younger."
Bradley: "I'm from Shreveport, La., which is sort of near Dallas, it's like a three-hour drive, but we would always make the summertime trek over to see the Warped Tour, because where else are you going to see like 40 of your favorite bands in one place? So being on Warped is crazy, considering that I grew up being like, 'Oh my God, bands like Glassjaw, Thursday and Thrice are on this tour together?' It's cool to fast-forward 10 years and be doing this for the second time."
Bolooki: "I remember being at Warped Tour, I think it was '97, and I wasn't a member of New Found Glory, but they had just formed their band. I was waiting for Blink-182 or maybe MXPX, and all of a sudden these green stickers go flying from the stage. I grabbed one, and it was a New Found Glory sticker that our bass player had thrown out. I would become a member of the band about six months later."
Radke: "I remember seeing New Found Glory, the singer was like, 'If you dream big enough you can be up here, too. We're just normal people.' I never forgot that. And now, we're sharing the same stage as them this year, which is a big deal to me."
What kind of transition is it going from playing clubs at night to outdoors during the day?
Buckley: "You've got to get your sea legs. The first week or so is usually pretty rough. You have to learn how to pace yourself. When you're playing clubs, you have the whole day to sit around and do nothing. The Warped Tour is not like that. Sometimes you're waking up and playing first thing in the morning. It takes some getting used to, but that's what I love about it. It's always something new. Always."
Bolooki: "You sweat the second that you get outside. That's just what Warped Tour is. There's been years past where you're walking offstage and you almost start to lose awareness of where you are and the tunnel vision kind of happens and you've just got to get somewhere with shade and throw some water on you or something. It's not easy, but it's always fun."
Bradley: "You don't realize how much of you really loving a band live is just based on their light show and production. My band included. We have a ton of lights to hide behind. Like, we can suck all day, but we still look pretty awesome because we have strobe lights blinding everyone. You get on the Warped Tour, and there ain't no light show. It's just your band onstage, in the heat. You've got to bring it."
How are you preparing to deal with the grueling conditions, especially the heat?
Radke: "Two months ago I did this thing called the Insanity Challenge, and I just finished it yesterday. It's extreme conditioning for the body, so you can breathe longer and have more endurance. I've seen it work, because we've played some radio shows, and I'm not winded at all, ever. I'm really focused on being healthy."
Bradley: "We're stepping up our drinking, getting back in the groove. At the Warped Tour, laying outside and drinking is more intense than playing the sets. There's no real way to prepare for that other than to just dive right into it and be sweaty and miserable."
Bands that play Warped often comment on how there's a summer camp-like vibe about the tour. What's backstage like?
Buckley: "There's a lot of camaraderie. On the last Warped Tour we played, we made some of the best friends we ever had. When Alkaline Trio was on the tour, they were our brothers. We were with them every single minute of every day. Things like that develop and it's great, because normally that wouldn't happen. It's something that we're really grateful for, because you do get exposed to a lot of music as well as a lot of people getting exposed to you. It does feel like a camp, which makes you feel like a kid."
Bradley: "I don't know how many buses are on Warped Tour, but whatever insane number it is, over 100, when you get that many bands hanging out in a giant parking lot every night, there's gonna be some ignorant stuff that takes place on a daily basis. You're drinking all day in the heat, you don't even catch a buzz, and then nighttime hits and you're still pounding beers like water and it finally catches up to you. When you get that many people who are all goddamn insane on one tour, it turns into something magical."
Contact reporter Jason Bracelin at jbracelin@ reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0476.