Since 1995, Vans Warped Tour has excelled in blending the demands of American boardrooms and corporate sponsorships with the shifting cultures of alternative lifestyles. While forging partnerships with Vans, Journeys, and Monster, Warped Tour was always the most DIY of festivals. Sure, it was held in venues such as Coral Sky Amphitheatre, where a beer may rob fans of $15, but across from the bar was the Korner Stage, which looked like it was Scotch-taped together for about that much money.
Just as important were the grassroots campaigns and nonprofit organizations that filled the tents between stages, many of them looking to make the world a better place, or, at the very least, to improve the world of Warped Tour.
This summer drew the most diverse crowd in years. Warped Tour has always been a melting pot of ethnicities, fashions, religions, and the like, but this was the last one, so a lot of fans returned to say goodbye. Everyone attending was there to live the teenage dream, regardless of the amount of gray in the hair.
Warped Tour is an all-day marathon that involves dressing up in your best black “Satan Is My Daddy” or “Deez Nuts” T-shirt, finding your sticky friends in the heat, surviving said heat, and then losing your fucking mind for the half-hour or so that your favorite band takes one of the six stages.
As always, there was no shortage of individuality, but the common element was how hard everyone drove themselves. Fans raged until darkness.
In fact, nearly every band mentioned the end of Warped Tour within seconds of stepping onstage. It was like losing a beloved family member, the end of an era. There was an inspired level of fun and excitement well beyond normal.
Most of the day’s bands were amped and incredibly entertaining, regardless of genre. Every Time I Die, 3OH3, the Maine, Movements, Twizted, Simple Plan, We the Kings, and so many more put on adrenaline-packed miniconcerts. Instead of a venti Frappuccino from Starbucks, these shows were insanely strong shots of Cuban coffee that surged straight to the heart and brain.
There was an urgency to partying — as if it was the end of the world, or at least the end of this Warped Tour world. When We the Kings prompted the audience to shout “We love you, Kevin!” in unison, fans may or may not have been aware that Kevin Lyman was the founder and driving force of the tour that for decades provided great memories for them as well as for the bands themselves.
Backstage, long-lasting bonds and friendships were forged among the artists who spend weeks together in close quarters. More than that, Warped Tour always served as a sort of finishing school for young acts. The rapid-fire setup and breakdown for the better part of a month is a great way to learn the key elements of being a successful band. Among them are a strong work ethic, smart organizational skills, crafting a winning stage presence, and honing the sound of one's music.
When Lyman announced the end to Warped Tour in November 2017, it would have been easy to assume the man was simply tired. Every summer for 24 years, he managed hundreds of employees, bands, tour buses, sponsors, and venues. Now he is turning his attention to a worthy and pressing issue, the opioid crisis. Teaming up with FEND — Full Energy, No Drugs, an opioid awareness
“This could be a model for the future of opioid education,” Lyman tells us of the app, which includes acoustic music from Waterparks and We the Kings. “This blend of gamification and education is the Warped Tour model; we turn everything into a game. Coming to the Warped Tour is kind of a game – what are you gonna do? What are you gonna see?"
As for his responsibilities as the “first ambassador for FEND,” Lyman is ready to help in any way possible. “For me that could be loading boxes, packing T-shirts, you know? Who knows? We’re all in on this. I’m a decent speaker now. I’m going to be a professor.”
That’s right. The founder of the most punk-rock festival ever is going back to college to teach. Several times a week, Professor Lyman will trade his shorts and walkie-talkies for a tweed jacket and podium at the University of Southern California. Students who sign up for any of his four classes will learn the ins and outs of “festival production, branding, social responsibility, and education.”
While this technically was the final, proper Warped Tour, Lyman and company are planning a number (“two or three”) of 25th-anniversary shows for the near future.
“It was a three-year decision in the coming. I thought about this three years ago, and it was always going to end with Pennywise ‘Bro Hymn,’ and that’s how we’re going to end tonight. And that’s how it should be,” Lyman said.
Those roots extend far back and dig deep into the soul of any artist or fan who attended Warped Tour. One of the final bands, Every Time I Die, exemplified the spirit of the fest.
As the sun set on West Palm Beach and on Warped Tour, the band gave
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