I thought my coolness portfolio was pretty solid. My Facebook Likes page has bands like TSOL, Black Flag and Minor Threat in it, and as of last winter, I could still bomb drop off the hood of a car (post-skateboarding Ben Gay application notwithstanding). While all those things weren't cool when I was in high school, I figured those were investments in my future. "They'll be cool when I'm 41," I used to assure myself.
Earlier this summer I turned 41, and around the same time, Kia invited Fury and me to check out the Vans Warped Tour and also drive a Kia around for the weekend. This was a blog post I couldn't refuse. And that's pretty much my disclosure statement right there: me, Fury, Vans Warped Tour, a Kia to review, no financial compensation, but a priceless experience with my kid. Totally worth it. What I missed, however, was the fine print: you will realize how old and uncool you are.
Before I get into it, here's a brief history of Kia and me. For years, I thought of the brand as a low cost alternative to Japanese cars, since Japanese brands have risen from resignational to aspirational in the past three decades. Our family had a Honda CVCC in the 70s, and the only thing aspirational about that was hoping you didn't fall through the rusted floorboards on the way to school. A few years ago, a car ad caught my eye as I was watching a show on my DVR. I thought it was a Luxus or Infiniti. When the ad flashed a Kia logo, I rewound and watched that ad three more times because it made no sense that this was a Kia. This was an ad for the redesigned Kia Optima. What? Around that time, I also went to the LA Auto Show. My favorite car of the show? A Kia (I even wrote that on the Flickr caption). This is the picture I took from that show (a concept Kia GT, I believe). Undeniably slick.
So yes, I was double excited to not only drive a Kia for the weekend, but to also check out the Vans Warped Tour with Fury. Although I didn't get to drive the Optima of my dreams ("dads with grey hair" isn't their target demo, I suppose), I did get to try out the Sorento, their heftier, more dad-appropriate SUV. So this post will be part car review, part Vans Warped Tour adventure. To make it easier for both me and you, the rest of this post will proceed in two tracks, clearly labeled. This facilitates your reading only the parts you want, and my laziness when it comes to formulating clever transitions.
The Kia Sorento is a solid-looking SUV. It's not as beefy as a Chevy or Ford, but it can hold its head up high and share the road with them. It doesn't try to look space-aged or cross-over-ish. That's good, because I don't like that at all. Are you noticing that I am not a professional car reviewer? Me too. Also, Fury is not a professional car ad model. That's him, falling off the curb as I tried to take an establishing shot. Well, you pretty much know how the rest of this post will go. Buckle up.
The Vans Warped Tour is all about youth, expression, angst, constructive aggression, sweat and adrenaline. I'm sure glad Kia tempered it by putting us up at the W Hotel. True gentleman make sure to catch up with local and world happenings over poached eggs prior to crowdsurfing the pit.
The Kia has push-button start. I have never driven a car with push-button start. So my first observation with the Kia was "wow, this car is as quiet as my sister's Prius!" You know why? Because the car wasn't actually on when I made that observation. You apparently need to step on the brake while pushing the button to start a push-button starting car. I did not know this until I put the car in reverse to back out of my driveway. It rolled a little, due to gravity and then the steering wheel locked up due to "Jim you are an idiot, this car isn't even on." Conclusions: the Kia Sorento isn't actually as quiet as an electric car. Also, it is important that you know how to properly start a car before you review it.
Once I did figure out how to start it, I found the drive to be quite pleasant. Great sound system, and a really really huge sunroof that extends from the front seat to the back. Also, this vehicle has an Eco Mode if you want to save gas. Disclosure: when Kia is paying for the gas, screw that. Disclosure: I like the environment, but I like overtaking cars on the freeway more. Disclosure: the picture below is merely a re-enactment of me driving, as portrayed by my son.
When I got the invite for this trip, the first thing I did was go to the Warped Tour website to check out the bands on the roster (Kia is the main tour sponsor, BTW). I really shouldn't have done that. There are literally dozens of bands on the Warped Tour. I only recognized one: The Aquabats. Know why? Because they performed on Yo Gabba Gabba. These guys below were also performing. That's the band We Came As Romans, and we got to hang out with them prior to the show.
I hope these guys make it big because they are genuinely nice guys, and the autographed picture they gave us will be worth some good money in the future, and Fury will be able to hang this picture in his office when he's an executive, or running a small country or something.
It's really hard to be 41 and sound cool when conversing with an up and coming rock band. First, I tried to play up my Vans cred by explaining to them that I had to mail order Vans from the back of a Thrasher magazine back in my day. I may as well have added that I did this uphill in the snow both ways. Then I told them that I was really into hardcore when I was their age and rattled off a bunch of bands I was into, like Minor Threat, Adolescents, Government Issue, Decendents, etc. In the nicest of ways, they were like "yeah, the kids aren't into punk stuff anymore, the Warped Tour kind of evolved with with the times." I always pictured the day I could bust out the hardcore punk card as an adult and bask in coolness. I'm now filing that card away, next to "Super Sounds of the 70's"
I've never had a back-up camera before, so using with this was really fun. I think it actually saved a life as well. I live in a cul-de-sac, so no random people ever traverse the sidewalk in front of my house. One day, I was backing the Sorento out of the driveway and did my usual check-over-the-shoulder for neighborhood kids. The coast was clear. I started backing up. Just then a random guy walking a German Shepherd appeared smack dab in the viewfinder, out of nowhere. I slammed on the brakes. After he passed, I stopped and observed him out my rearview. He made a circle around the cul-de-sac and then walked out. Really odd. Kia, if you planted him there so I'd talk about how great the backup camera is, I must say that was indeed well played.
Perhaps the best thing about being at the Warped Tour was the fact that Fury and I got wristbands that gave us all access with "no escort required." The picture below is Fury taking full advantage of that and watching a band play the arena, from the stage. My favorite part of that was being able to enjoy free gyros and lemonade backstage. Super Sounds of the 70's.
We also checked out a number of the smaller stages, where I realized that screaming at the top of your lungs is now a musical genre, and apparently the big thing with kids these days. I think it's called Screamo (hyperlink to wikipedia for you). Get off my lawn so I can listen to my Samhain and sip my iced tea in peace!
Lucky for me, Fury isn't too into the Screamo stuff, but here's a big flashing neon sign of the times for you: his favorite band of the day? It consisted of nothing more than a kid with a Mac.
As far as father-son bonding experiences go, you couldn't really top this. This was a concert and a car review, but what I'll remember from this was that it was a moment in time for me to share stories of my "rebellious youth" with my son. While the music itself will forever change, the fact that it is loud and grownups can't understand it will always remain constant. You can't be cool in the eyes of the next generation. Just like the gap that's required for two electrodes to make a spark, healthy mockery between kids and parents is simply a part of movement. So with that, I'm proudly passing the cool torch to my son. And not a moment too soon. I'm going to a Hall and Oates concert tonight.