The lightless tent was packed with men and women, not so much seated as sunk in folding camp chairs. They sipped water and cold beer and stared vacantly at a television playing Blazing Saddles with closed captions.
With its crowd dodging the heat and an atmosphere of sheltered boredom, the place felt like a refugee camp. More or less, that's what it was.
This was the Reverse Daycare Tent at the 2012 Vans Warped Tour, an annual festival that came Sunday afternoon to Vinoy Park. At the sun-saturated homage to metal music and skater culture, the quiet, air-conditioned tent was an oasis for parent chaperones.
"It's like heaven," said Lutz resident Ray Bonn, 44, a dad who took his 16-year-old daughter and some of her friends to the event. "It's cool, it's dark and it's relaxing."
The need for respite became apparent to anybody over the age of 18 who passed through the gates at the Warped Tour. Vinoy Park teemed with teenagers sporting garish trucker caps and gauge-plug earrings, listening to live bands with names like Every Time I Die and I Fight Dragons.
At its most gentle, the music was a nasal braying faintly reminiscent, upon close listening, of a more august era of punk rock. More aggressive bands offered vocal stylings similar to those of Linda Blair's character in the final scenes of The Exorcist.
In all, the event resembled a large-scale incarnation of the sucrose-rich, 16-ounce energy drinks sold at gas stations. Sure enough, the beverage manufacturer Monster Energy was one of the sponsors.
"The only way I came this year is because this is here," said Tampa resident Rhonda Cosgrove, 51, who was sitting out the melee in Reverse Daycare. Cosgrove took her teenage daughter and friends to the event, but said she "doesn't enjoy that type of music anymore."
Tent manager Shilpa Hareesh, 26, said Reverse Daycare is usually busy on the tour, especially on hot days. The tent serves as a good meeting place for parents to touch base with their kids periodically during the festival.
Like every paradise, Reverse Daycare comes with its own inviolable laws of conduct and the potential for banishment. Adults can take food and beer inside. But they can't drink so much that they start to spoil the peace and quiet.
"That's my general rule," Hareesh said. "When they start acting like kids, they go back out there with the kids."
Inside Hareesh's tent, the men and women gazed at the television, docile. The mere threat of expulsion seemed to serve its purpose.
Peter Jamison can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 445-4157.