It’s a summer day and the parking lot pavement is radiating an intense amount of heat. The air is thick, the vibes are good and the music is loud.
“I close my eyes and I see a traveling circus. I see hundreds of buses lined up and rows of merchandise booths,” Reel Big Fish guitarist Aaron Barrett said.
“I hear nonstop music from every direction and screaming fans trying to catch every live band they can and most importantly, I smell the port-o-potties.”
Barrett is at Vans Warped Tour.
The Man Behind it All
Kevin Lyman worked for the festival, Lollapalooza, for three years before the idea of Warped Tour hatched. The music enthusiast recognized how meaningful Lollapalooza was for fans and wanted to add more magic to the music industry. He then became the founder of Warped Tour.
“The first Warped Tour was a wild adventure to say the least. We just went out there and we did it,” Lyman said. “We emerged skateboarding and music, and took a stab at the unknown. Set times for the shows were written sporadically, promoters didn’t know what to expect and we barely sold any tickets that summer.”
Lyman teamed up with the skateboarding company Vans and founded Warped Tour in 1995. Vans Warped Tour is a rock music festival that has been traveling across the United States each summer since the tour was created. The annual festival has become a household name and opened doors for many organizations and up and coming musical groups for success. With a heavy heart, Lyman announced that summer 2018 will be the final cross country journey for Vans Warped Tour.
The first Warped Tour was in 1995, and now. 23 years later, the event is a summer hallmark. Well known groups such as Sublime, No Doubt, Deftones and L7 signed on for the first festival.
Lyman reflects on the start of the tour with gratitude and pride. “There is something indescribable about watching bands starting out in parking lots to performing at some of the world’s largest arenas, for crowds double the size,” Lyman said.
The Warped Tour Effect
The festival is the largest and longest-running musical tour in the United States. Throughout the years, the event has done a lot more for communities than just providing entertainment. Warped Tour has taken nonprofit organizations and budding bands and made them nationally known.
Up-and-coming rock bands have gained national recognition through Vans Warped Tour. Warped Tour alumni have even performed on the Super Bowl stage, such as Kid Rock and the Black Eyed Peas. From passing out CDs in the parking lot to badgering prospective fans to listen to their art, every emerging band knows the struggle to make a name. Large communities like Warped give budding musical groups more promise for attention.
Barrett said the tour has exposed Reel Big Fish to a crowd who would not have not noticed the band’s music otherwise.
Reel Big Fish has performed at the summer rock camp multiple times since 1997.
“We were so excited for our first Warped Tour. As a band, we were just barely starting to get attention,” Barrett said. “We had the chance to play the same show as bands like Blink 182 and Less than Jake. The feeling is just too hard to explain.”
The guitarist believes that Reel Big Fish may not have been still touring if Warped Tour was not in the picture all these years.
For many bands, Warped Tour was crucial for their music careers. “Warped helped us grow as a performing and touring band,” Barrett said. “You only have thirty minutes to go out there and wow people, so you really learn how to make the most out of a short amount of performance time.”
Organizations have also prospered from the tour. Nonprofits like To Write Love on Her Arms emerged from Warped Tour venues. The nonprofit movement aids in finding help for people who struggle with self-harm and suicide. Warped helped To Write Love on Her Arms gain revenue and attention from sunburned music fans. The tour allows other organizations like this to hand out merchandise to festival goers, promote the cause through booths and even work as one to encourage our communities to help one another. Other Warped Tour movements include Music Saves Lives, Take a Breast, Hope for the Day and Canvas Foundation.
The End of an Era
Warped Tour has been an ongoing event since the ‘90s and will be remembered by a wide range of people. “People in their 50s remember attending the punk rock festival since the beginning. They pass the nostalgia down to their children, and even show up with them to reminisce,” Lyman said.
The punk rock summer camp has inspired a lot of young people with it’s positive vibe for music. “I think Warped Tour really motivated a lot of young musicians to start playing music. Every summer, bands like us prove to them that it’s a realistic dream to chase,” Barrett said. “Overall, I think Warped Tour means a lot of different things to a lot of different people and will be missed by all.”
Lyman believes that the end of Warped Tour isn’t a goodbye, but an opportunity for other people to step up and do something great.
“It’s time for us to hand this magic off to our communities,” Lyman said. “My hope is that people put on their own tours and festivals instead of fighting on the internet.” Lyman hopes that the next festival the world creates will be even better than Warped Tour.
With a heavy heart and mixed emotions, Lyman puts the legacy of Warped Tour to rest. He remembers the times he had with various bands, fans and employees that turned into friends. Lyman emphasizes that the music always blends together, but the memories and accomplishments he has made is what he will take from this life altering experience.
“Warped Tour isn’t a perfect place, but it’s done a lot of good,” Lyman said. “That’s something I’ll always think about and be proud of.”