Written by Paige MacGregor
There’s no room for rock stars on the Vans Warped Tour, the longest running annual touring music festival in North America and the subject of director Parris Patton’s recently released documentary, No Room for Rockstars: The Vans Warped Tour. Compiled from more than 300 hours of film shot during the tour’s two-month run in the summer of 2010, No Room for Rockstars chronicles the often grueling experience of a handful of Warped performers that occupy various positions on the spectrum between heartrending obscurity and explosive mainstream music success. Rife with depictions of both desperation and exuberance from the tour’s artists and fans alike, No Room for Rockstars mirrors the manic character possessed by the majority of the personalities it follows, making the documentary a rollercoaster ride of emotion for anyone who has ever shared in the Warped Tour experience or dreamed of making it in the mainstream music industry.
Among the personalities featured in Patton’s film are then up-and-coming singer/songwriter Mike Posner, whose voice and appearance alike evoke images of former boy band crooner and Michael Jackson-wannabe Justin Timberlake; the increasingly disillusioned teen pop singer Christofer Drew (picture a barefoot Justin Bieber with gauged ears and a few more tattoos) of the band Never Shout Never; and death metal band Suicide Silence’s frontman, Mitch Lucker. The on-tour personalities are juxtaposed with the members of pop-punk band Forever Came Calling, who follow the tour cross-country in a decrepit van selling copies of their demo for gas money and trying to catch the eye of Warped Tour founder Kevin Lyman in the hopes of grasping their own fifteen minutes of fame.
Like anyone else who listened to popular radio in 2010, I had heard of Posner prior to watching Patton’s documentary (I even found a couple of his singles in my iTunes music library), but it wasn’t until I watched his Warped Tour experience unfold in No Room for Rockstars that I purchased a copy of his album, 31 Minutes to Takeoff. Chris Drew’s laments about the commercial nature of the music industry, and consequently of Warped Tour as well, obviously are well founded. Even a documentary about a group of performers playing Warped two years ago has helped Posner sell at least one more album, and I doubt I’ll be the only sucker logging into the iTunes music store not long after the credits begin to roll.
Of course, No Room for Rockstars is aimed at my generation: music fans that remember when MTV still played music videos and who grew up watching Behind the Music and Pop Up Video on VH1. The talent may be new, but the “rockumentary” style of Patton’s documentary will feel familiar to twenty- and thirty-somethings alike. Many of us are veterans of a Warped Tour show or two, and memories of our own experiences there are likely to make us more sympathetic viewers, willing to overlook the fact that No Room for Rockstars fails to address the true social and economic issues that underlie Warped Tour in favor of following a series of events reminiscent of years past when great punk rock and pop stars like Blink 182, No Doubt, and Katy Perry solidified their careers on the road with Warped, and viewers are given a small taste of what it looks like behind the scenes for a musician on the brink of true celebrity. “Posner, he brought his record onto the bus,” a fellow Warped performer tells the camera crew, “he put it on and like, we just turned it up really loud and everyone just sat there, just like… it’s so freaking awesome. This record, he’s going to be number one on so many different levels”.
Regardless of what its title may claim, No Room for Rockstars proves that there just might be room for a rock star or two on Warped Tour, at least if his name is Mike Posner.