Coming of Age

The Warped Tour approaches its teen years.

The Vans Warped Tour, the original punk-rock summer camp, celebrates its 12th birthday this summer. That's a dozen years — as long as many Warped fans have been alive. When the tour debuted in 1994, punk's incursion into the mainstream was just starting; most thought it'd be a passing trend. No one could have imagined that the Warped Tour would be going strong more than a decade later — certainly not tour founder Kevin Lyman. If you ask him, this shouldn't even be happening.

"We should never talk in the present," Lyman tells New Times. "We should be talking in the past tense like this is history. For this to still be around 12 years later... I can't believe it."

For the past 11 years, the Warped Tour has been making its South Florida stop at the Pompano Beach Amphitheatre. But this year, it hits Miami's Bicentennial Park. "Pompano got crazy last year, fences were getting torn down — it just became too small," Lyman says. "We're moving it to Bicentennial this year. Hopefully, it can absorb the crowd more."

The Buzzcocks show the kids how it's done.
Paul Madden
The Buzzcocks show the kids how it's done.

This year's tour incarnation includes 56 acts performing on ten stages. To name a few: NOFX, Against Me, Less Than Jake, Everytime I Die, Anti-Flag, Thursday, Underoath, the Academy Is..., Helmet, the Casualties, Saves the Day, Gym Class Heroes, Aiden, Cartel, June, Over It, Plain White T's, Rise Against, the Bled, the Smashup, We Are the Fury, Catch 22, the Bouncing Souls, and the Warped debut of legendary Brit punks the Buzzcocks.

The Bouncing Souls' latest effort, The Gold Album, launched June 6 with a sold-out multinight showcase at the Knitting Factory in New York City (see Outtakes). Vocalist Greg Attonito sees the Warped Tour as a way to keep that momentum going.

"I have a huge appreciation to be able to go out and do the Warped Tour and play in front of thousands of people," Attonito says. "I enjoy whatever surprises the Warped Tour brings. Hopefully, it won't be an awful lot of really hot weather."

The intense Florida summer is about all the Buzzcocks' Pete Shelley remembers of Miami: "I just remember it being very hot," he says. "Last time I was over there, it was the last day of our tour in 2003. We all went to a party until very late and ended up on the beach around breakfast time."

Shelley founded the Buzzcocks in Manchester, England, in 1976. While the band hit the splits in the early '80s, Shelley and original bassist-turned-guitarist/vocalist Steve Diggle re-formed for a reunion tour in 1989. What was supposed to be a one-time thing became permanent. The band has cranked out five albums' worth of original material since 1993. The latest, Flat-Pack Philosophy, is straight-up punk-pop that should please any right-thinking punk fans, no matter how old. So far, it seems to be doing the trick.

"Every time we play a festival in America, there are always bands on the side of the stage, and they tell us after the set, 'If it wasn't for you, we wouldn't have started a band,'" Shelley says. "I don't recognize most of them, to be honest, but it's always nice that people liked us enough for us to be an influence on them."

Other Warped Tour bands like Anti-Flag and Thursday have paid homage to the Buzzcocks by covering their songs.

"There's this band called Thursday — they did a cover of 'Ever Fallen in Love' off the 1978 album Love Bites," Shelley says. "It will be interesting meeting them. I'll tell them 'Thank you' for doing a good version." (You can assume it won't sound like the Fine Young Cannibals version.)

Lyman hopes that younger fans not familiar with the Buzzcocks will be surprised that, indeed, these old guys rock. In fact, that's why many bands play Warped Tour — the blinding sun rays aren't the only thing they're exposed to.

"Kids will go to see bands like Motion City Soundtrack or Underoath and end up catching [the Buzzcocks]," Lyman says. "I feel like people will walk away and find they're still very relevant."

And they're not alone in the over-40 department. Though screamo crowd pleasers AFI and retro-popsters Pink Spiders are skipping this leg of the tour, a surprise addition — Joan Jett and the Blackhearts — rounds out the Miami lineup.

"I always have kids coming up to me and saying stuff like, 'Wow, I didn't know that band would be here,'" Lyman says. "You and your friends could all go to the same show but end up having completely different experiences — that's what I hope for."

Along with the dozens of bands on stage, the All Girl Skate Jam makes its debut, along with a "Skip the Line" perk offered by sponsor Cingular Wireless for its customers. Returning to the tour is the ever-popular Reverse Daycare, where kids can drop off their parents at an air-conditioned tent with movies, massages, and soundproof headphones.

"The Warped Tour is like being in the circus," Attonito says.

But this is one circus with a social conscience. This year's tour includes the involvement of Take Action, an organization that encourages social awareness and activism, with its main cause being the fight against teen depression and suicide. It is also securing recycling organizations to help at all 50 stops on the tour. Meanwhile, nonprofit organizations like PETA and other environmental groups set up shop with booths and information stands.

Of course, one of the greatest things about the 56-band tour is the price. Lyman has made sure that for all the big names on the bill, the admission is still less than $30. Kids need merch money, you know? They can only make so many trips to the Reverse Day Care tent before Mom's checkbook closes for good.

"Some people say [the Warped Tour is] awful with lots of kids running around," Shelley says. "To be honest, I don't know what to expect, and I try not to let any other people's opinions influence my thoughts. But honestly, I'm very excited."

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