The Warped Tour Acoustic Basement took us all by surprise this year, so we thought it’d be a great idea to speak to Brian Marquis, the man behind the stage, for a fantastic new interview. Brian and I discussed all the details behind the new stage, planning for it, and the excitement surrounding it, among so many other things. Check out the interview below and make sure you pick up Warped presale tickets this Friday here!
This Warped Tour Acoustic Basement stage took a lot of fans by major surprise in the best way possible. Can you start out by talking about how it came together, who’s idea it was, and how you ended up doing it?
Yeah. It was back in October. I had just moved out to Los Angeles. I had been living in Boston and then in Connecticut and I needed a big change. The band broke up last year, I moved out to LA, and I have started doing some solo music and put out a solo EP in the fall. I met with Kevin, who I knew from being on Warped Tour in 2009, and wanted to talk to him about some ideas I had. I asked him if he had ever thought of doing a legit acoustic stage. He said, “Yeah, we’ve tried a few different ways and it never really worked too well.” I let him know that there are a lot of guys now, like myself, that have been in bands in the punk scene, indie scene, and hardcore scene that are doing different genre stuff in the same spirit and the same kind of scene as the other stuff. It’s not all of the sudden they’re in the adult-contemporary scene. Still punk rock attitudes in the way they carry themselves and the way they write and put out music. I told him there are lots of guys out there doing this, like Anthony from Bayside, Vinnie Caruana [I Am The Avalanche], and guys like Chuck Ragan. Guys like that are all doing living room tours and they are doing different stuff, but still within our scene. There are a lot of great people doing some great stuff and it would be cool to get them all together and offer something different for everyone’s Warped Tour experience. I’ve been on the tour myself in 2009 and I’ve been to it a ton of times over the years. There was never really a place for that, for indie-folk acoustic punk music. I pitched him my idea and he loved it. I started contacting people that I thought might be interested in the idea. Everybody was really stoked on the idea as well and I went from there. I just started booking people and everybody that is on board so far has been really cool and really stoked on the idea. I think it’s going to be really cool. It will bring something different to Warped Tour but also it’s going to be different vibes for a stage. It’s going to be a large tent stage with three walls where people can hang out and sit down on the ground. They can also get as close to the performers as they want. There is no barricade, no high stage like the other stages at Warped, and it’s going to be a real intimate setting. That’s why I called it the “Acoustic Basement.” It was to get the feeling as much as possible of an intimate basement show.
It is surprising that this hasn’t happened before even though, like you said, Kevin had tried it a few times. Was he hesitant even though he was excited at first?
No, he wasn’t hesitant because I was telling him and reminded him of some guys that he knew from other bands that were doing this kind of stuff; doing acoustic music. I thought right now was as best a time as any. A lot of these guys on the stage, they do acoustic tours in between their full band tours in order to make a living and in order to do something a little more stripped down. It’s a lot easier to travel with just a guitar, a bag, and some merch then it is with five guys, a crew and a band, a trailer, and hotel rooms. So I think with the economy and with the music industry the way it is, he also saw that there is a need for this kind of thing. A lot of musicians prefer to go lighter weight these days.
This year’s lineup has the core Warped Tour fan base more excited than it’s been in a long time. Do you think it was also the perfect year to bring the acoustic stage to life?
Yeah, I think that was a big part of being the right time for it. When I saw what the lineup was going to be after we had decided to do this, I was like, “This year’s going to be amazing.” There are so many great bands from past Warped Tours and so many great bands from the early to mid-2000s that are coming back. It’s a great time for real, honest, raw music. I think there is a lot of that on this year’s Warped Tour. I think it will go well. There are a lot of artists that will appeal to that crowd that are going to be at the Acoustic Basement stage. I’m very excited for it.
As far as I’ve seen, all the artists on the stage are really stoked, but I assume getting them to agree to do two shows in one day, when it can be one hundred and five degrees for each of their sets, might have been a little hard. Was that an issue to work through with anyone?
It actually wasn’t. The guys we have doing double duty are Anthony Raneri from Bayside and Transit and A Loss For Words are going to be doing double duty as well. Then Vinnie Caruana is going to be doing double duty when he is out with I Am The Avalanche. But no, everybody was really cool and really excited. Anthony is really excited about his new solo venture. He’s got an EP that just came out. He’s really excited about getting that going. So he was fired up, and Transit and A Loss For Words were really stoked. To be able to play twice at Warped Tour gives bands at that level that much more exposure time to people. What’s cool about Warped Tour is that every day is like a lottery for your time slot. So when you go to Warped Tour, you might miss a band like A Loss For Words, but then if they’ve got the acoustic performance in the afternoon, or after you have already arrived, you’ve got a second chance to see them and you’ve also got another intimate chance to see a band like that. None of the bands that were doing double duty had any objection to the weather or too much work, they are all really excited to do it. I think it will work out well for them. It’s going to be tough work. I’m sure some days they are going to have to run from one stage to the other, but we’re going to try to make the schedule so that it makes sense and we don’t tire them out too quick.
What has this been like behind the scenes for you? It’s a total switch from your old band. What’s it been like shifting gears and setting all of this up?
It’s been real exciting for me. It’s new for me playing solo and also playing acoustic indie-folk acoustic kind of stuff. Working on this has been great because I love the work. I love the work that goes into putting things together and I love bringing people together. With this, I get to do all of those things and on top of it I get to play my new music that I’ve been really working hard on. It’s exciting. It’s a lot of work, but it’s so worth it and I think it’s all going to pay off this summer. I’m really fortunate to be given this opportunity and to work with these kind of guys. And to put together a kind of community, you know? It’s the only stage on warped tour that’s being staged where if you like one of the guys, you are probably going to enjoy all of them. We don’t have the disparity on my stage of Of Mice & Men playing and then Every Time I Die and then Breathe Carolina and then a pop-punk band. Here, everyone on the stage plays a little bit different styles. There’s pop-punk, there’s indie-folk, there’s reggae twist kind of guys.
You could almost see someone just going and sitting at that stage all day.
Yeah, exactly. It’s been really fun for me because I’ve been really fired up about all the artists I’ve been getting for this. Some of them friends of mine that I’ve known for years just playing music and some of them I’ve toured with. I’m really excited to get out there and it will be the most solo playing time I will have had thus far. So I’m looking forward to there being a growing experience in it and a new experience for me for sure.
Has this side of the industry always been of interest to you or did this just fall into place?
It’s always been something I’ve been into. I’ve always been into a lot of different music. It really goes back to what I grew up on. I grew up with my father playing folk and blues ever since I can remember. Just being exposed to the music that he listened to and my mom listened to, like James Taylor, Jackson Brown, and people like Van Morrison. Really great singer-songwriters of the seventies and eighties and a lot of acoustic music. That’s kind of where I got exposed to music and my father playing guitar is the reason I got into playing guitar. I guess for me, this kind of music is actually where my roots are, if you will. Before I got into Nirvana and Guns ‘N Roses and Metallica, I grew up with music like that. So, it’s really cool. It’s something I haven’t been engulfed in for the past fifteen years as much as I have the hardcore, punk and rock scene, but it’s kind of nice to revisit it. I’ve been listening to a lot of records that I used to listen to with my parents and it’s cool. It’s a whole new world but it’s exciting for me too. I’ve been playing music so long that some things feeling new again is really exciting. I mean it’s terrifying. It’s definitely a lot different than being loud as hell and sweating on stage and flailing around like an idiot with four other guys doing the same thing. It’s a lot more subtle and intimate and vulnerable as far as performance and recording goes. But I kind of welcome that challenge. It’s cool, I’m really into it.
Is this whole summer on a “one step at a time” kind of basis? Meaning if it’s a success, is the plan to bring it back? Is anything concrete yet?
No, there’s nothing concrete yet for next year. Tickets haven’t even gone on sale yet. Presale tickets will start going on sale on March 30th. We’ve got the Warped Kickoff Party on March 29th. I guess we’ll just take it as it comes. I would hope that it will be successful enough to do it next year. But like anything new, you’ve got to see how it goes first and take it from there. I’m pretty confident that people, just from the responses I’ve seen from a lot of people, I think it’s really going to be a good success. I think a lot of people have a new reason to come out to Warped Tour. All those people that were on the fence about coming to Warped Tour because of this artist or that artist or not enough of the bands they want to see…I’ve seen a lot of people comment that this pushed them over that edge to make them come out. I’d like to see that it could be a huge success. Especially since it’s such a lo-fi setup. It’s going to have a full PA system, but it’s going to be me running the stage and a sound guy and all the bands are going to be selling their merch on their own in the tent. It’s a pretty simple setup, so it’s not like we have a real expensive eighteen wheeler foldout transformer stage to pay for and a huge crew that needs to run it. As far as production goes, it’s a lower cost production. I guess we’ll have to wait and see. I’d like to hope that it can be something that we can do again next year. I’d love to do it.
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