Episode 3 – User Illusion with SW Hammond

Music you're missing out on: Gardening, Not Architecture is Sarah Saturday's dreamy-reflective bedroom pop rock project that captivates and compels with earnest songwriting.

In Part 2, I talk about Warped Tour. I reflect on how much the tour meant to me as a teenager, and then what it was like to work and travel with the tour all summer long. Lots of great memories and so many influential people.



Part 1: Original Article: Gardening, Not Architecture

So, I wrote this article a while back but it’s still just as true today as it was then. Gardening, Not Architecture always finds a way into the rotation. I like being a fan of something—getting exciting about something that I like and supporting the people who created it.

Since I wrote this article, I’ve talked to Sarah a few times. She was so unbelievably kind to help me out with a mini-documentary / video essay that I created about the philosophy of art, namely artist intention. I was working under a deadline and she was supposed to be one of the central artists that I interviewed, however her video files became corrupted and the interview didn’t make it into the final product. It was a huge bummer, but her music did make it into the project. I’ll always be grateful of her willingness to help—she certainly didn’t have to and her music alone made the project so much better than I thought it’d be.

On the book I’m currently working on, The Ballad of Stevie Pearl, one of the characters is a fan of Sarah’s and wears GNA t-shirts. I love those little easter eggs.

But, one of the reasons for writing the article is that Sarah’s music has not received the attention it deserves. For her sake, I really wish that it had. I’m sure she would love the affirmation and acknowledgement—everyone likes when their work is recognized. I’m sure it would help her sanity by hearing her songs in movies or knowing her music was infesting everyone’s playlist—it would confirm her talent and justify a lifetime of labor. Or perhaps I’m just self-projecting…

For my sake, I love her music just as it is. It seems the more attention that is given to an artist—any artist—and the more people who interject themselves into the process—whether that’s writing, recording, managing, publishing, or promotion—the more disconnected the work becomes. With Sarah, there is no filter or layers between her music and us, the audience. It’s as pure and created in a way that’s just as she wanted us to experience it.

Anyway, word on the street is that she’s getting ready to release a new album. The first single has already dropped and she’s been playing some live shows. I encourage you to check out Gardening, Not Architecture — Sarah’s a bottom-up type of artist and that means that in order for her to survive she needs the support of the people. No one deserves it more.

Going through this article made me think back to my time in the music industry. Also, it’s the middle of summer and that always used to mean Warped Tour to me. What a crazy summers those were, both as a young kid waiting for the day that the tour came to my town and as someone who was lucky enough to live on a tour bus and travel all over North America with it.

Being a teenager in the middle of no-where Utah, Warped Tour was truly the happiest day of the year. We’d pile in the car with a bunch of friends and drive to Salt Lake City. Kids now just don’t understand—the internet wasn’t a thing back then. We had dial up internet connections—it was so slow, it took hours to download a single song. It was the late 90s and early 2000s, this was back when you actually bought music in real stores, and almost none of the stores sold the music that was being played at Warped. Sam Goody, Media Play, Hastings—none of these places sold independent punk music. You could occasionally find some good stuff at Gray Whale, but it was few and far between—and a long way away from where I lived. So that meant that Warped Tour was your one day of the year where you could get your hands on music, buy CD’s.

Yes, as I said, the internet existed, but very few punk bands had websites—even less where you could place physical mail order. So that meant that you’d save up your money, get a ticket to the show, see as many bands as you could all day long, and then crash the merch tents right before closing. Most of these bands never came through town without Warped, and if they did we were all too young to get into the clubs to see them. It was just such a special day—a little bit of culture in the religiously oppressed desert.

Looking back, Warped was the whole reason I got into the music industry. The feeling, the energy at a live is magical. It’s kind of like surfing—the force is powerful and unpredictable. It’s exhilarating with this constant gnawing at the back of your mind that it can erupt and you’ll be trampled.

I was working for Sony Music at the time and I hustled big time to get hired on that tour. I worked every connection, sent countless emails, met everyone I could. When I finally got hired and signed my paperwork it was this feeling of disbelief, like it was going to be taken away somehow. Nothing can prepare you for a summer long tour like that. It’s long, hard work and a total alien lifestyle that’s not for everyone, but ultimately it was awesome. It was exhausting, but awesome. Something I’ll always remember.

I did the tour for a few years but as I got older I started feeling the pressures of society. They were probably self imposed, but I started seeing friends getting good jobs, buying houses, getting married and having kids. It made question the kind of life I wanted to have and what I wanted to get out of music.

The thing is, I already had it. I got everything I ever wanted out of music. I got to help some great people and bands I really loved, I got to meet and hangout with the world’s biggest rock stars, I got to live on a tour bus and travel the country—I got to feel cool. The most important thing is that I got to work on Warped Tour. That’s all I ever wanted to do. I could look teenage-Sean in the eye and say that I did it. I didn’t need anything more than that.

It’s so hard to see things clearly in the moment. At the time, leaving music felt like a failure. Like I was a poser for turning my back on it. Maybe I was, but stepping back allowed me to become a fan again—which is all I ever really was. I was just a fan that wanted to help. I had no real talents other than passion. I wanted help spread the music that I loved and support the artists who made it. And I guess I’m still doing that today.

I had many, many great experiences during my decade in the industry and there’s an endless list of people to thank, but my amazing memories of Warped Tour wouldn’t have been the same without the Animo boys and setup crew, Lisa B, Julie Grant, and Kate Truscott. My eternal gratitude to Sarah Baer, the one who truly gave me my shot and looked out for me all summer long. Of course, Kevin Lyman who was so generous and truly knows the value of people. Lastly, the legend who befriended me and that I’m so proud and lucky to have spent as much time with, the late great Arturo Vega.

That’s it—all done! Maybe I’ll share a few stories from the road in a future episodes? Until then, I am SW Hammond, this is the User Illusion podcast. Tell me what music you’re listening to. Anyone I should check out? What’s your favorite Warped Tour memory?? I look forward to the comments!

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