Mason Gainer isn’t even old enough to drive, and he’s in need of a bar of soap. Since June 24, his summer has been filled with about 20 concerts, Monster energy drinks, swelteringly hot weather and the smell of sunflower-scented flatulence. His days are mostly spent working while his nights contain endless hours of hanging out with friends. He’s just like any other 15-year-old.
Except his summer job isn’t scooping ice cream; it’s playing the Vans Warped Tour. And those friends of his? They’re his bandmates in the local rock outfit Bad Seed Rising. And that pesky absence of a daily cleansing routine? Well, even though that comes with the territory these days, he claims to have a rare remedy on this Saturday afternoon.
“My mom’s here, so she’s probably going to take me home, so I can go shower later,” Gainer explained Saturday backstage, before his band’s set at the Merriweather Post Pavilion stop of this year’s traveling punk rock circus.
“I haven’t showered in a week,” he added bashfully, “so I need to do that.”
It’s a small price to pay for one of the biggest breaks a Frederick-based band has achieved in quite some time. The band will be on the nationwide tour until July 27, when another local act, More To Monroe, will take its spot on the lineup for the remainder of the trek.
Talking to the quartet about the experience is exactly like you might think a group of teenagers would talk about an opportunity such as the one they’ve earned: scatterbrained, excited, a little fatigued, wide-eyed and unapologetically grateful. Even backstage, a Warped Tour official notes more than once how animated and spunky band members are whenever the official sees them enter an interview.
They are the endearingly young class clowns on a tour loaded with jesters. Lead singer Francheska Pastor is the oldest of the bunch, but she’s only 18. Drummer Aiden Marceron, meanwhile, comes in at a healthy 14 years, making him not only the youngest member of Bad Seed Rising, but also the youngest performer of any band on this year’s Warped Tour.
Ask them questions and they react swiftly, oftentimes without thinking, almost never realizing the charm in their youthful ignorance. For instance, what’s their favorite city so far?
“San Antonio was dope,” Pastor answered.
“Yesterday, Pittsburgh was awesome,” Gainer added. “They were singing the new song.”
“Yeah, it’s crazy to hear the fans sing the words to our songs,” bassist Louey Peraza relayed.
Anything they’d like to say to people back home?
“I love you guys so much,” Pastor said in a fake whine.
“Bring me pie,” Marceron asserted. “Apple pie would be nice.”
Ironically enough, if there were a member of the band who might be able to actually make that happen, it would be the drummer. His dad, Scott, who also runs Frederick’s Let There Be Rock School, has been out with the band all summer, serving as Bad Seed Rising’s de facto tour manager/band liaison/Man In Charge.
When he spoke about the experience, later in the afternoon, he lamented the success his son’s band has achieved in such a relatively short time. Since 2012, the band has recorded a handful of EPs, but it won’t be until September that its debut full-length set, to be released on Roadrunner Records, will hit stores. Plus, lest he forget, even if you added up all of the band members’ ages, you still wouldn’t hit a number old enough to collect a pension.
“They’ve been working their asses off, making me feel all 41 years of myself,” he noted under the hot Columbia sun. “It’s been amazing. Their publicist said to me the other day, ‘It’s finally happening. We’re starting to get calls about them, rather than us having to put calls out on their behalf for press.’”
His voice got lower and his long, graying beard morphed into a half-grin.
“It’s a big deal to be here,” he added earnestly. “It’s the opportunity of a lifetime and we aren’t resting on our laurels. These guys are starting to understand that they can actually make money out here.”
“Oh my God. This is the biggest crowd we’ve ever had just for us.”
Those are the words of Pastor seconds after the band ripped through its opening song. It was a little after 2:30 p.m. and the Full Sail Stage had a sizable crowd in front of it. Such is quite the feat, considering how more widely known acts as Yellowcard and State Champs were warming up stages not all that far from where the Bad Seed kids were performing.
The crowd only grew in girth as each song passed. A spectator explained to a friend how she made Pastor a video on Twitter with the explicit purpose of cheering the singer up. It turns out the band’s leader took to social media to explain how sad she was feeling recently and no matter how lonely a tour might feel sometimes, this is a band that can count on its fans to cheer them up.
Sadness is something about which Pastor is not bashful. Before launching into the anthemic “Carry On,” she addressed the issue without reservation, referencing her past struggles with depression.
“I do believe that I’m genuinely happy for the first time in my life,” she told the crowd, before adding, “on this stage.”
It’s clear that the connection felt between the band and its fans runs deeper than initial perception might suggest. When the singer asked everyone to put up their hands in unison, nary a spectator hesitated. The sea of fingers swayed from left to right and even after Pastor gave up on the gesture, those watching did not. It was an arena-sized moment in a tiny corner of an arena-sized festival.
Other shenanigans ensued. Aidan’s dad grabbed a giant inflated alien named Abraham and whipped it into the audience for the most innocent bout of crowd-surfing Warped Tour has most likely ever experienced. As the band’s set wound down, a mosh pit broke out in front of stage right, but before long, the fracas broke up and everyone involved actually shook hands. Countless cans of Monster were thrust into the masses with the intention of helping hydrate those who needed it.
But then something happened. The final notes of the final goodbye rang through the 100-degree air, and three of Bad Seed Rising’s four members exited the stage, visibly enthused with their showing. Pastor, though, stayed back. She crawled over the guard rail, microphone in hand, like a presidential candidate desperate to kiss one last baby or shake one last hand.
Before the crowd could even begin to dissipate, she yelled at her acolytes.
“Hey! Hey!” she shouted, drawing one final moment of attention. “Follow me! Follow me right now! Over to our merch table! Go!”
And like a bell ringing to signal the beginning of a Triple Crown horse race, almost each body in the crowd followed the singer as she burst out of the gate, sprinting toward her band’s merchandise tent. In a matter of seconds, all that’s left in front of the Full Sail stage was a cloud of dust. And somewhere backstage, Mason Gainer was hoping to find his mother.
For perhaps now more than ever, he still needed that shower.