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An eventful day at the Vans Warped Tour stop Wednesday in Nashville at the Fairgrounds saw storms force two evacuations, plus another storm of controversy over the performance of Jake Mcelfresh, who performs as Front Porch Step.
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Mcelfresh was accused of sexual misconduct earlier this year, and his unbilled appearance at Warped in Nashville, where he now resides, was a surprise to many, including bands booked on the tour. Several artists, including Hayley Williams of onetime Warped band Paramore, took to social media to slam the move, and Mcelfresh was heckled during his afternoon performance on the tour's basement stage.
Warped Tour producer Kevin Lyman was seen in deep conversation with Mcelfresh outside of catering after that performance. A day later, with the tour in Atlanta, Lyman says the whole incident is "not a real story" and that media -- both social and music and mainstream press -- blew it out of proportion.
"The kid got himself in a little trouble," Lyman tells Billboard. "No charges, no court appearance, no restraining orders, nothing, it was a 'stupidity of the road' kind of thing. We stepped in and got him into counseling right away in Nashville."
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Mcelfresh's prescribed counseling plan was "designed by some of the best therapists in the country that work with us, and MusiCares was aware and helped guide this thing a little bit," Lyman says. "They felt that assimilating him back into music after eight months of therapy would be a good thing."
Lyman, who personally puts the daily Warped schedule together each morning, says the decision to add Mcelfresh to the Nashville show was not about selling tickets on a day when rain hampered walkup sales by about 1,000. "I'm here to help," he says. "Half of these people in this parking lot, if they didn't get a second chance in life, they wouldn't be here on tour."
Asked if putting Mcelfresh on stage was difficult, Lyman admits, "It was tough, but these [counselors] are people I trust that are professionals," he says. "I was like, 'OK, if this is gonna help him get back on track with his life, under a supervised situation, I'm willing to do it.' If there was any speck of danger to anyone out there, it wouldn't have happened."
That it became such an issue at all Lyman considers a sign of the times. "What I've got now is a world of lightning rods," he says. "People find their issue, they get around it for a minute, and then they're onto something else."
Next up, Warped Tour -- headlined by Black Veil Brides, Asking Alexandria and Riff Raff -- heads to St. Petersburg, Florida's Vinoy Park on Friday night and West Palm Beach's Coral Sky Amphitheatre on Saturday.
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