I read an article today in which the writer apparently thinks it’s “time to end Vans Warped Tour”. Let me preface this by saying there’s been problems lately with not awesome people and musicians performing – Front Porch Step of particular note. As an attendee of 13 straight years, both as a fan and as a member of the press, I’ve seen some crazy (mostly good) things happen behind the scenes and in the crowds.
But at the end of the day, it’s still a festival where both young kids, teens, young adults, and even their parents (AKA me in 10 years) can see around a dozen of their favorite bands in one day – it’s perfect for people that don’t often get to attend shows. Yes, it’s hot. Yes, IMO the lineup were better around 10 years ago – but through the looking glass, nostalgia always looks more attractive. However, the up and coming talent on the tour is there every year – from PVRIS in 2015, to Limp Bizkit in the late 90’s. Yes, the latter was a real thing.
Ending the festival just because you don’t like it? Yeah, that’s not the best idea. But how can it be fixed? Warped may not actually need fixing, but here’s some ideas that might make it better, and other points as to why it’s still important.
#1: Warped Tour is actually incredibly diverse. Let’s keep it that way.
Where else can you get up and coming rappers alongside your favorite pop-punk/rock/metalcore bands? That’s Warped Tour. I highlighted 10 specific examples here of genre diversity that Warped has brought to the table over the last 20 years. Eminem got his start here, and Deftones and Limp Bizkit ripped apart stages on the tour before going global. Attendees of the tour still have that today – Katy Perry went from Warped highlight and almost unknown, to a global pop star who performed at halftime during the Super Bowl just 7 years later. Yelawolf? He was on Warped 2011. If you’re one of the people who think Warped Tour is “all about metalcore” now, you’re partially right – but you need only look at the electronic and hip-hop stages to see some rising talent. Hell, Juliet Simms was on the tour last year. Good times.
#2: Dozens of bands. One low price.
You really can’t beat the utility that Warped Tour offers – especially for younger teens and even kids who don’t have a lot of money. Until I was around 18-19 or so, I’d save up for Warped Tour and merch by mowing a few lawns during the summer, and helping my grandparents with stuff around the house. Without any transportation, how was I supposed to go to other shows? This was before show info was really spread around via the Internet.
Anyhow, though ticket prices have slightly risen over the years, it’s still a great deal. $40 or so to see a dozen bands you want, hang out with your friends, maybe meet musicians you grew up listening to? For the price, it’s a steal. As a 26 year old I can confidently say this.
#3: Being a Warped Tour attendee doesn’t mean you have to not support smaller venues and local shows. Do both.
Warped Tour gives bands a great opportunity to spread the word about their local scene as well. Is there a band you think deserves more attention? Are they really talented? Sell some CD’s, hand out some flyers. That’s punk rock, what isn’t is complaining about it just because you’re not into it anymore.
#4: Bring back the skateboarding and extreme sports!
Let me preface this by saying I’m not even sure if this would be feasible anymore, given the size and current nature of the tour. Growing up, I always associated Warped with skateboarding and other extreme sports – the X Games in particular. That said, I can’t remember the last time I saw a bunch of people skateboarding or biking right next to where I saw Bad Religion and Senses Fail – 2009, maybe?
If it is possible, bring this aspect of Warped Tour back. It’s a ton of fun. You’re on the clock, Kevin Lyman.
#5: Warped Tour is global. Keep shipping in bands from overseas.
The last 5 years especially have shown that Warped is a truly global event – Crossfaith from Japan, Parkway Drive/Amity Affliction from Australia, and Bring Me The Horizon/While She Sleeps/Architects from the UK, just to name a few. Most of the time, you’ll see bands on Warped that often tour during the year as well. But there’s also many bands from overseas that you’ll see few and far between – especially considering the touring difficulties they often have, why not go check out a band you’re not familiar with from Europe? Having an audience that’s unfamiliar with your music can often be a daunting thing, especially when there’s dozens of other bands competing for their attention.
#6: Warped is about discovering your new favorite bands.
Bands trying to make their mark at Warped Tour have been walking around the lines to get you to listen to their music since the beginning of time. It’s a great tactic. An even better addition to that would be adding a tent with AC, where a few dozen headphones are set up for people to listen to bands playing on Warped Tour. Great idea? We think so.
#7: Separate the wheat from the chaff – leave predators OUT.
The biggest problem I have with Warped Tour (one of very few, but it’s still an issue) are certain musicians who are allowed to tour on Warped. At the same time I realize not everything I love can be pure as snow, but a huge black mark last year came on the Nashville date last year, where Front Porch Step (AKA Jake McElfresh) was stunningly allowed to play (unpaid) in the Acoustic Basement tent. You probably know him best for allegedly soliciting underage girls with both sending and receiving nude photos, and his “apologies” sure didn’t win him any awards, being a “nice guy” and all.
Anyhow, the fact that he was allowed any involvement with the tour was appalling to both myself and almost everyone else on the tour. I don’t think I’ll ever forget that, even though it was only one date. Others, like Jonny Craig and Ronnie Radke, have less than stellar resumes. I’m not going to say who I think and don’t think should be playing Warped, as it’s not my place. But selecting the bands and musicians to play this tour, when there’s many young and impressionable kids attending, should be a privilege. At the very least, we can say Jake McElfresh didn’t deserve even playing one date – what kind of a message does that send? Not a good one. People like him need to be left out. Warped Tour always has positive organizations like HeartSupport that are changing lives – why give predators a chance to undermine that?
At the end of the day, Warped Tour has always been about seeing a dozen or so of my favorite bands, and discovering new ones. Hanging out with my friends and making some great memories. Warped doesn’t need to “end”, or even really be “fixed”. It just needs a few tweaks – but even as it is right now, it’s still a good way to spend your summer. I doubt I’ll ever stop going.