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Punks, politics and perspiration

They came to Vinoy Park for the music and the activism and got something extra: dehydrating heat.

By CATHERINE E. SHOICHET
Published July 31, 2004


[Times photos: Cherie Diez]
Some overheated fans get a ride atop the crowd to escape the heat during the Vans Warped Tour at Vinoy Park on Friday. Security staff members lifted them over the barrier in front of the stage and led them away from the crowd. More than 100 fans suffering from heat exhaustion needed medical attention, city officials said.

From left, Gianna Ramos, 18, of Kissimmee and Paul Rose, 16, and his girlfriend, Shannon Foster, 18, both of St. Petersburg, sing along with the band All-American Rejects during the Vans Warped Tour on Friday.
Fans suffering from heat exhaustion are assisted by security personnel on Friday. Temperatures in the 90s sent about two dozen fans to the hospital, and about 100 were treated at the park.
View related 10 News video:
Heat overcomes attendees at outdoor concert

ST. PETERSBURG - Fans sporting mohawks, tattoos and piercings flocked to the city's waterfront Friday for the hottest punk concert in town, literally.

With temperatures peaking at 91 degrees, more than a dozen members of the mostly teenage crowd at the Vans Warped Tour went from the mosh pit to the emergency room by 4 p.m. At least 25 more were treated for heat exhaustion by paramedics on the scene and then released, St. Petersburg Fire Rescue Chief James Wimberly said.

"They're in there dancing, and there's just no air moving," he said. "It's just extremely hot."

All the dehydrated patients sent to Bayfront Medical Center Friday afternoon were in good condition, spokeswoman Marcey Stone said, and none of the cases were serious.

Most punk enthusiasts were willing to brave the heat at Vinoy Park for a chance to hear some of their favorite bands perform on one of eight stages.

But music wasn't the only thing on the minds of many of the concert tour's fans.

Not far from the paramedic station, Kevin Higgins was facing a different sort of heated exchange.

One passer-by was angry about the "Stop Bush" T-shirts and the Rock Against Bush CD on sale at the Punkvoter booth Higgins was staffing.

Higgins said those sorts of responses are nothing new for him.

"I do what any punk rocker would do," said Higgins, a special education teacher in Chicago who has spent his summer staffing the booth in all the cities on the Warped Tour. "I ask them why, politely."

The nonprofit group, which counts nearly 100 punk bands as members, was started by NOFX lead singer "Fat Mike" Burkett after the 2000 election. He appeared at the booth Friday evening to pass out free copies of the DVD Uncovered: The Whole Truth About the Iraq War.

Lilly Hammersley, 17, of Tampa, registered to vote at the Punkvoter booth while her sister Dory forked over $12 for a T-shirt that featured President Bush's picture beside the phrase "not my president."

"It's important to say you don't agree with what he's saying," said Lilly Hammersley, who will turn 18 on Sept. 11. She said she plans to vote for John Kerry because he is the "lesser of two evils."

The Warped Tour has long been a scene of political activism, both in the bands that perform and the vendors that fill its seemingly endless booths. But in an election year, registering voters was a top item on the docket for many.

"It's a really good demographic. It's young kids that have their own ideas. If you can get these kids involved in the system, it can only be good," said Duncan Hinkle, 22, a summer employee of the Florida Consumer Action Network who spent Friday afternoon registering voters for the Rock the Vote campaign.

Cassandra Birdsall, 35, and Raymond Lawrason, 34, of Largo made sure to stop by the Rock the Vote booth to show their support, even though they've both been registered to vote for 14 years. Political activism is an important part of punk, they said.

"I like bands that have political views that are similar to mine, and I like others that just make noise," Lawrason said. He pointed to his "I'm not a nugget" sticker he picked up at the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals booth.

"I'm wearing it on a leather vest," he said. "It sort of mocks itself."

Of course, not every punk fan is ready to cast a vote for John Kerry. In response to the Punkvoter.com Web site, several Pro-Republican sites have sprung up, including one called conservativepunk.com.

But they were nowhere to be found at Friday's concert. And vocal Republicans were few and far between.

Rick Charles, 13, of Brooksville said he planned to steer clear of the numerous political booths in the park.

"I'm not old enough to vote yet, so I'm not really worried about it that much," said Charles, who took refuge from the heat in a lawn chair beside an electric fan tucked inside the Sony Playstation tent.

At 3:30 p.m., just when the day's temperature was at its highest with a heat index of 100 degrees, the band Anti-Flag took the stage.

"We will fight everyone who wants to keep gay marriage illegal. We will fight everyone who wants to stop a woman's right to choose," one band member yelled to the crowd. "Tampa, we've got the numbers, let's see everyone raise their fists."

Hundreds standing in front of the stage pumped their fists in the air.

"Pretty much every song is political," Courtney Smith, 22, of Tampa, said shortly after the band finished its set. "It's the only music where people actually care about what they're saying."

But on the fringes of the crowd, a group of teenagers kicked around a hacky-sack, seemingly unaware of the rage beside them.

Catherine E. Shoichet can be reached at 727 893-8215 or cshoichet@sptimes.com

[Last modified July 31, 2004, 00:29:11]


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