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Film: On Troma's Road

At the Warped Tour, a fringe studio reconnects with its fans

By Aaron J. Maier · August 14th, 2002 · Movies
  A mohawked Warped Tour patron makes a purchase at the Tromaville merchandise table.
David Wasinger

A mohawked Warped Tour patron makes a purchase at the Tromaville merchandise table.

"Toma's back! I thought that you guys were dead," an overly tattooed Warped Tour crewmember barks through his Radio Shack bullhorn. Preparing for a morning concert setup, he speaks through a bullhorn, even though his audience is just yards away.

"Didn't you guys get kicked off the tour after all that shit went down out in California?" James Lynch, the twentysomething production director for Tromaville-on-Tour, just chuckles. Basically, Lynch is used to the ribbing.

"We kind of have a reputation here on tour," Lynch says proudly, pulling at the stubborn leg of a folding table. Riverbend, Cincinnati's outdoor amphitheater, marks Tromaville-on-Tour's return to the Warped Tour since an unceremonious exit in July.

"Now here we are in Cincinnati. Everyone on the tour is real excited to see us back. They figured we either got kicked off or died." Actually, neither scenario is far from the truth.

Troma Films, an independent film studio based in New York's Hell's Kitchen, produces B-horror movies starring the Toxic Avenger and soft-core skin flicks tailor-made for a post-adolescent crowd who will stay up late to watch the boyfriend of a bikini-clad vixen get his head chopped off.

The Troma audience matches perfectly with the Warped Tour crowd, who have come to see Autopilot Off, Andrew W.K. and Mighty Mighty Bosstones. Troma Films President Lloyd Kauffman created Tromaville-on-Tour as a way to reach their target audience of angst-ridden teens. Troma's gospel for good movimaking revolves around independently produced slasher flicks. Theirs is a unique brand in a world populated by antiseptic multiplex theaters and trite video rental chains. Troma's pulpit is a dilapidated school bus emblazoned with the words "Tromaville School for the Very Special."

Instead of the Toxic Avenger, Jack "Tornado" Nerelli stomps off the bus. Nerelli is an electrician from Queens who has spent his summer traveling with the Tromaville bus. Lynch and his four-person Tromaville crew work the crowds by cutting up Blockbuster rental cards and praising the virtues of independent cinema. They promote these spectacles as expressions of anti-corporate angst. Yet, Lynch and company are really a marketing tool for Troma. A table is stocked full of Troma DVDs and Toxic Avenger T-shirts. The sales keep Spam and cheap vodka in their bellies. When funds run low, Lynch passes a collection plate among the loyal Troma fan base, and there are plenty of Troma fanatics.

Michael Murphy, a nurse from Brighton, Mich., is spending his vacation with his teen-age son to volunteer on the Tromaville tour. During much of the trip, Murphy sports a rubber Toxic Avenger mask and mop.

Tivoni Divor, a documentary filmmaker traveling with Lynch, recounts past stops and the beautiful "Tromette" groupies he's met along the tour. Divor is one part ardent Deadhead and two parts restless teen-ager. He says he's on tour for a first-person documentary, but many of his stories focus on girls and vodka.

It's 7 o'clock and Lynch is bringing the July 31 edition of the Warped Tour to a close. Over at the Tromaville bus, the table of Troma merchandise is put away. Lynch and his Troma gang are ready to head to Atlanta. Personally, I'm ready to head home for a shower. There is a flicker in their eyes when Lynch and his pals describe the vagabond spirit behind life on the Tromaville tour bus. For the time being, I'll stay at home and watch a Troma movie.

Editor's Note: Aaron Meier is an intern at CityBeat this summer.


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