Why Are So Many Bands Leaving The Warped Tour?

Some acts cite legit reasons for leaving, but members of NOFX, Thursday talk of tension between bands.

For most bands, landing a coveted slot on the Warped Tour is like finding a golden ticket. But this year, bands have been dropping off the annual summer tour’s 11th installment like flies.

From First to Last bolted just three weeks into the festival so frontman Sonny Moore could undergo surgery to remove a nodule on his vocal cords (see “From First To Last Singer Dispels More Rumors, Reveals Why Band Left Warped” ).

Then, Gatsby’s American Dream dropped out. “There’s no juicy gossip to report, we just need a break to be with our families at this time,” the band said in a statement.

Next, it was Christian-leaning rockers Underoath, who bailed late in July, saying they needed to resolve some internal issues. “We’re deeply frustrated and sorry for any inconvenience this has caused,” the band said in a statement. “We felt it necessary to take some immediate time to focus on our friendship, as that’s more important than risking it for the sake of touring at this time.”

However, many have noted that the band was on the receiving end of a persistent string of gibes from NOFX frontman Fat Mike. Underoath did not grant MTV News’ requests for an interview.

Earlier this week, Mewithoutyou announced that they, too, were leaving Warped, citing much-needed tour-bus repairs — the bandmembers, who bring their families on tour, travel in a special vegetable-oil-fueled bus (see “Mewithoutyou: Not Your Average Christian, Vegetable-Oil-Fueled, Flower-Flinging Rockers” ) — as well as frontman Aaron Weiss’ lingering throat malaise.

“No bus, no touring — pretty simple math,” they reasoned in a statement. The band’s manager told MTV News that the band was playing on the SmartPunk stage (for which acts are not paid) and, after the bus issues, simply couldn’t afford to continue the tour.

And then there were Spitalfield, who on Wednesday — with just five dates remaining before Warped ’06′s Sunday finale in Montreal — dropped out as well. Frontman Mark Rose told MTV News that guitarist Dan Lowder will be leaving the band in the fall.

“With our new record slated for an October 3 release, we were forced to face [replacing Lowder] right when the record came out or canceling a string of shows to get home and begin rehearsing with a fill-in guitar player,” he said. The band chose the latter option.

“Spitalfield have been trying to get on the Warped Tour for four years,” he added. “It’s really disappointing to not be able to finish the dates on such a high-profile tour.”

Later that day, gypsy-punk act Gogol Bordello dropped off, citing drummer Eliot Ferguson’s need to seek medical treatment for cellulitis in his arm.

Those are all valid reasons for why Warped has had more bands drop out this year than in any other during its 11-year history.

Yet members of some bands say there is definitely a higher level of tension on this year’s trek. While some blame the summer’s sweltering temperatures and the pressures of spending two long, grueling months on the road, others say there’s an old-punks-vs.-new-punks battle that has resulted in tension between bands.

Fat Mike, who has spent eight of the last 11 summers on Warped with both NOFX and cover band Me First and the Gimme Gimmes, says the tension is due to all of the above.

“The thing is, a lot of bands sign up for this, and they have no idea what it’s about, and how difficult it is if you’re a smaller band,” he said. “If you have to do this tour in a van, it’s really, really difficult. Our whole goal on this tour is to have as much fun as we possibly can — that’s what it’s all about, so if you can [accomplish] that, it’s a really great tour.

“A lot of bands are here to further their careers,” he continued, “and that’s not going to happen. You think a band goes on the Warped Tour and suddenly they get big? It’s going to happen to somebody, but it doesn’t make your career. There are 100 bands on the tour — with so many choices, the only people who are going to watch you are the people who [already] like you.”

He went on to say that attitudes definitely have played a role. “From First to Last came on the tour like total rock stars, and everyone alienated them,” he said. “And they were gone in a week or two.”

Mike also admits that his constant mocking of Underoath got to them, but he doesn’t think it was a reason for them to pull out of Warped. He attended one of the band’s Bible-study sessions as a joke but claims he was nothing if not respectful.

“I didn’t help their cause at all, but I wasn’t the main reason either,” he said. “They’re a weird band. I was going to go after them as soon as I found out they were on the tour.”

The no-longer-so-fat Mike also says he witnessed several of the younger bands on the tour copping what he called “rock star” attitudes because “they have a hit record that sells a few hundred thousand copies and they think everyone’s there to see them. The older bands, we really don’t care. We’re just happy to still be around.”

Thursday’s Geoff Rickly, who is about to finish his third Warped, says the friction largely amounts to a battle between the old school and new school.

“The number of younger bands is much higher, and they seem to think they’re the sh– and all the older bands are has-beens or whatever,” he explained. “I think there’s an attitude of entitlement. Like, ‘All these old bands don’t even sell the amount of records we sell’ and ‘We should maybe be getting better slots’ and ‘We’re the new sh–.’ I kind of get that attitude from some of the younger bands, and that’s too bad, I think. They don’t even realize that when a band works hard for 10 years, there’s a reason why they get respect. Just because you write a few pop songs and maybe get on the radio, you’re not necessarily given the world.”

While he says he’s noticed tension between bands on every tour Thursday have ever done, the strain between some of this year’s Warped bands is much more intense.

“I think there’s, like, two sides to the tour, and those sides are tense with each other,” he said. “There are the young, scream-y bands and the old punk-rock bands, and there are only a few bands that can float through both worlds, like us and Rise Against and Anti-Flag. I think, in general, the old guys are like, ‘Dude, all these young punks think they know everything,’ and all the young bands are like, ‘Dude, all these old guys, all they care about is themselves, and they don’t want to support anything new.’ Each of them has a little bit of truth, and it’s also a little bit overblown in their own heads. It just makes it a little tenser than it needs to be, I guess.

“There’s been a lot of drama on the tour this year,” he added. “The Warped Tour is just a pressure cooker because it’s hot and long and seems like it never ends — it’s 50 shows in 60 days. I think it pushes bands to a point that they’re not quite ready to be at.”

Some of that drama took place between Less Than Jake and Every Time I Die, after the long-running ska band mocked the screaming singing style of ETID’s Keith Buckley — in ETID’s hometown of Buffalo, New York, no less. Buckley responded by calling the band “washed-up.”

“It’s not going to stress me out,” Buckley said. “I know they said something about us and we said something about them. When they found out we retaliated, they said, ‘We didn’t mean to upset anybody, we’re just joking around.’ And that’s fine, but it’s not like we know each other — I don’t know them well enough to be joking around like that. All I know is they’re making fun of us, and I had to say something back. But I guess once I said something back, they realized it was getting a little too out of control.”

The beef has become so widespread that some bands on the tour are even parodying it. Fans hit various punk message boards to discuss comments Silverstein and Motion City Soundtrack were trading onstage — but according to drummer Paul Koehler of three-time Warped act Silverstein, it was all a joke intended to get people to lighten up.

“We did it because, here’s all this other drama that’s real on the tour, which people seem to be obsessed with, and we wanted to blow this thing up,” Koehler said. “We’d make fun of each other’s bands onstage, and we even wore T-shirts that said ‘Motion Sh—y Soundtrack.’ We came clean about it and told the kids not to believe everything they read on the Internet. That was the point we were trying to make, that all the drama on Warped is nonsense. It should just be about seeing good bands and having a good time.”

Motion City frontman Justin Pierre said most of the bands on Warped need to loosen up, and should let barbs from the likes of Fat Mike roll off their backs.

“Fat Mike likes to f— with people, and I don’t really have a problem with that,” he said. “Underoath and NOFX had a pretty big thing going on back and forth. He would rip on them for saying that everything they do, they do for Christ. But you need to have a sense of humor about things.”

For his part, Kevin Lyman, Warped’s founder, says that on average he loses three bands each summer, but he hasn’t noticed any tension between any of the bands beyond the situation that unfolded between Fat Mike and Underoath.

“The thing with Mike and Underoath really got kind of blown up,” he said. “It was more like they both have very strong opinions, and most of it was done in good fun. But Fat Mike tortures everyone — he tortures me all day long. There are a lot of bands out here who are having trouble. I don’t like it, but it’s been a bizarre year. We’ve never had a year like this, but there have been reasons why these bands pulled out.”

A few years ago, Lyman noted, several bands got into an all-out brawl. “But there’s been nothing like that,” he said. “Where’s this tension? Come into the parking lot. Everyone’s having a great time. You have 900 people on the road, so obviously not everyone’s going to like each other. There are seven parties every night, and card games.

“Maybe there is tension,” he added, laughing. “I think it’s the sexual type.”