Recently, I was in Pomona to cover the Vans Warped Tour for a music publication.
If you're unaware, Warped is a pop culture phenomenon created in 1994 by Kevin Lyman. It's a punk rock caravan that travels across the country all summer and features 70-plus bands, an endless slew of autograph signings, freebies, food, energy drinks, skateboards and many other activities/opportunities throughout a punk rock tent city.
At the July 1 show in Pomona, 90-degree breezes blew across the dusty fairgrounds throughout the day. But that slowed nobody down. Warped is sort of like Woodstock on steroids and energy drinks, and though I planned on meeting and interviewing many bands, little did I know there would be a Huntington Beach connection.
The day before I headed out to Pomona, a friend of mine suggested I look for a relative of hers, a red-hot deejay/mix artist who goes by the name of Big Chocolate. This was his first Warped Tour, and he grew up in Huntington Harbour. How could I resist?
As it turned out, my day was packed with interviews, but as dusk approached, I passed by a crowded tent where fans had lined up to meet what looked like a personable young man with a reddish beard and backward baseball cap. He stood apart from the many other black-clad and heavily tattooed artists at other booths. This, I learned a moment later, was Cameron Argon, a.k.a. Big Chocolate.
About to turn 21, Argon has gotten lots of attention in the music business for his skills in music production and remixing. He's released four EPs and one full-length collection to date and, as I learned, he's thrilled to be on the Warped Tour. He's also fond of his hometown.
"I was in Huntington a few weeks ago, right before the tour started," Argon laughed. "I went to Harbour View School and saw my little cousin in a play — the same play I was in when I went there!"
Several shows into the Warped Tour, he sees the crowds for his sets grow more in each city.
"This is my first tour as Big Chocolate, which is just kind of a silly nickname I made up," he said. "I had no idea of what to think — I had never even been to a Warped Tour. I play this electronic stuff onstage, so I'm sort of a weird fit with all the punk and metal. I'm like a deejay up there, spinning the sounds I make.
"There's nobody else like me on tour, but it's been awesome. Killer crowds, lots of great kids. It's weird because a lot of fans don't know what I look like, they just know the music, and so watching them get to know me has been really funny. And I'm having fun sharing a tour bus with a couple of hip-hop groups — we'll be ritual blood brothers by the end of the tour."
And Argon is grateful that tour creator Lyman handpicked him to go on the road.
"Kevin, major props to that guy," he said. "I have more respect for him than he'll ever know. For me now, it's about getting the word out so that other fans around the country can come see what I am doing on Warped — up there playing electro house, metal-infused electronica, dub step — all the things I do."
The tour wraps back around in Southern California on Aug. 10 at Cal State Dominguez Hills in Carson.
Argon also told me he gets back here as often as he can.
"I have good friends and family there — it's home. I went to Golden West College, so I like it over there. It's a safe feeling in Huntington Beach. I get within city limits, and I'm home. There's nothing like it — the smell in the air — I love it."
As we got ready to leave the fairgrounds, Argon had taken up on one of the stages — showtime. All alone up there, he played the deejay, cranking his mixes, dancing and leading the crowd into a slow-burn frenzy.
Big Chocolate was in the house.
CHRIS EPTING is the author of 18 books, including the new "Hello, It's Me: Dispatches from a Pop Culture Junkie." You can write him at firstname.lastname@example.org.