The impact that Vans Warped Tour has had on music culture is undeniable. For almost a quarter century it has toured across the country, highlighting most cities’ summer concert lineups every step of the way. As most of us know by now, Warped Tour 2018 will be the last time the festival embarks on its ambitious cross-country journey, prompting a whirlwind of emotions from those who grew up benefiting from its impact. The decision to make this year the final run of the festival is surely one that will impact us all for years to come. Warped Tour creator Kevin Lyman has spent the last several decades synonymizing his legacy with Warped Tour’s and is finally ready to bring this chapter of his career to an end, citing that he is simply too “tired” to give this festival the attention it deserves.
For so many children of the 90’s and 2000’s, Warped Tour has been a tool that has been used to help discover musical tastes. With a consistently diverse lineup, there has always been something for everyone and much more, something that not everyone knew they would like. From Ska to Pop Punk, to Metalcore, to rock, every genre has always had a voice. From DIY garage bands to established Grammy winners, it has celebrated music at all levels as well. It has been known as the “Punk Rock Summer Camp” by bands and fans alike.
It has been a festival that epitomizes accessibility in every possible way. While ticket prices have been on the rise for most music festivals universally, Warped Tour has kept ticket prices relatively affordable across the board. Fans almost never need to take a long trip to get to Warped Tour as opposed to other stationary music festivals, as it comes to most every city in America. It has also made a point of not just making entry into the festival accessible but facilitating access the artists themselves. What has made this festival, so special throughout the years is that it has never just been a concert or music festival, it has always been an interactive experience. With every band hosting a meet and greet at some point throughout the day, any dedicated fan will have the chance to meet their favorite artists. With this legacy, it is clear why Northern California, in particular, showed up in droves to show their enthusiasm to be a part of this festival.
Mountain View played host to one day of Warped Tour this summer early on in this year’s tour. Bay Area fans came early and enthusiastic to see the tour on its final stop in Northern California. For any event to sell out the high capacity Shoreline Amphitheatre is an accomplishment, but the level of dedication the fans brought was all of its own as ticketholders came by the thousands to try and get inside the venue in time for the first band. The queue stretched blocks from the gates of the Shoreline Amphitheatre and well into the Silicon Valley as lines reached far from the venue, even passing distant Google-owned offices.
The first band to perform, Ice Nine Kills opened the day on the Mutant Red Dawn stage to an audience befitting the festival’s anticipation and hype. Delivering a high energy set that
Among the highlights showcasing their newest single “The American Nightmare” which they released just a few days prior in honor of the upcoming Warped Tour. As fans were slow to get past the bottleneck at the entrance gate, the general disorganization of the festival caught up to the performances. Shortly after starting their set, Ice Nine Kills frontman Spencer Charnas retreated to the side of the stage then returned to inform the audience that all bands had been asked to take an intermission by the festival organizers to allow more people to pass through the tightly congested line outside, a move Charnas called “A Warped Tour First.”
The heat and general discombobulation of the day took its toll on everyone in the first few hours and the day was not without a few little slip ups here and there. Notably, this was seen in Tonight Alive’s set when singer Jenna McDougal first addressed the crowd with an enthusiastic “San Diego… Is one hundred percent not where we are!” after realizing her mistake, which was answered with an eye roll from her guitarist. After the initial mix up, however, McDougal and Tonight Alive did go on to deliver a high energy set that elated the crowd at the amphitheater.
Throughout the day, bands took every opportunity to address the influence Warped Tour had has had on their musical tastes throughout the years and paid homage to the tour’s history in any way that they could. This culminated in the middle of the day toward the end of Mayday Parade’s set. After a long and heartfelt speech to the audience on how much Warped Tour has meant to them and the music industry as they’ve seen it, they gave a very lively cover of Blink-182’s hit “The Rock Show” where the audience could not help but scream along with those iconic lyrics ‘I couldn’t wait for the summer and the Warped Tour.”
Possibly the best example of Warped Tour’s ability to expose audiences to a wide variety of musical genres and tastes, Southern California Ska band Reel Big Fish performed to one of the fullest audiences to perform on the “Journey’s Left Foot” stage. They opened their set on an energetic note as they started with their well-known cover of A-Ha’s “Take On Me” with great approval from the crowd. Their high energy set came full with their brand of comedic banter that their fans have come to know so well.
For the festival’s final year, Kevin Lyman made a point of bringing back some of the bands who helped define the tour as we know it today. Montreal band Simple plan has long been associated with Warped Tour for countless reasons. The band famously had a presence on the tour for a six-year run (1999-2005) and appeared on it sporadically for several years following. Throughout this tenure, they helped define Warped Tour and Alternative Punk-Pop-Rock’s legacy. Performing as the sun began to set on Journey’s Right Foot and main stage, Simple Plan took the audience back to Warped Tour’s Alternative roots with their set. Lead singer Pierre Bouvier performed energetically, exciting the already enthusiastic crowd at the festival’s main stage. The feeling was somewhere between nostalgia and euphoria as they packed so much energy into the half hour they were allotted, starting with their turn of the millennium hit “I’d Do Anything” up until closing with the much softer coming of age work “Perfect.”
One of the highlights of the day came late in the day on Journey’s Right Foot stage when We the Kings backing vocalist, guitarist, and keyboardist began the band’s set with a soulful and passionate cover of Celine Dion’s signature hit “My Heart Will Go On” which was performed to the overwhelming approval of the crowd. In so many ways, starting their set with this cover optimized what Warped tour has always represented, a fun-loving expression of art that can sometimes just border on silly; art for the sake of art.
So much of the charm of Warped Tour has always been its mission for helping evolve musical tastes and no act of the day better symbolized change and evolution than the late-day performance by UK Pop Punk band As It Is. Fans of the group have come to know them by the band members’ universally blonde hair and generally softer and uplifting sound in their music, but their set on the Owly.fm stage showcased a new era of their identity. Frontman Patty Walters emerged from backstage sporting a freshly dyed head of jet black hair, giving the band a classic Emo feel. Their music reflected this new look while debuting their newest single “The Stigma (Boys Don’t Cry)” which featured a much harder tone than the music they have been known for in the past.
The crowd flocked to Journey’s Right Foot stage to watch as All Time Low headlined the evening on the amphitheater platform under dim lighting, but the glow of a few thousand cell phones brightened up the venue starting during their performance of “Something’s Gotta Give.” It was a bittersweet moment to watch the final bows of the day because with it we all know what the music world is losing with it. The nostalgic feeling of the Myspace era becomes just a bit further removed as this curtain call prompts a generation to let go of another part of their youth, but through it all, we remain thankful for all it has done for us. For the friends, we have made, for the music we have learned to love, and for everything in between. Thank you, Warped Tour. We promise not to forget you.