Road Rage: Vans Warped Tour turns 20
CINCINNATI – For 20 years now, the Vans Warped Tour has trekked across the USA, summer after summer. Its appeal is vast and the attendees are faithful. Warped Tour is known to be a veritable traveling city with its tents occupied by record labels, vendors, sponsors, charities, and artists, a slew of interactive activities, ten or more stages, and of course, dozens and dozens of bands and musical artists. The popular FUSE television show, “Warped Roadies,” has provided first-hand accounts of the building and tearing down, night after night. Seeing it all unfold on TV is one thing, but actually attending and trying to fathom the sheer amount of manpower that it would have to require in order to pull off such a feat is an entirely different concept to comprehend. At the same time, you get a glimpse into the lives of all of the individuals on the tour, both talent and crew, and how strong bonds are formed and a sense of family develops.
Kevin Lyman, the traveling festival’s creator, has his hands full with Warped Tour, though he has also created and developed several other popular mobile music festivals, including the uber popular Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Festival. The Warped Tour’s beginning was simple enough: Lyman selected a few bands he’d known about and they all traveled across the country as just another tour. The positive energy it created and the interesting variety of the lineup made the tour an instant success, and as a result, Vans has been the key sponsor every year since.
The original Warped Tour boasted a lineup that would prove to be attractive, and a few rock bands were able to introduce their music to wider audiences and became much larger because of that. Deftones, Sick Of It All, L7, Sublime, and No Doubt were among the tour’s first lineup. Year after year since then, Vans Warped Tour has been a huge springboard for countless bands, whether the purpose was to help strengthen an upstarting group’s fan base or accomplish artists having the chance to play to the next generation of future fans. Artists like Creed, Ice Cube, AFI, Rob Zombie, Avenged Sevenfold, the Black Eyed Peas, Mushroomhead, Bad Religion, The Misfits, Billy Idol, Dropkick Murphys, Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, The Offspring, are all Warped Tour alumni. The festival is ideal for newer, up and coming bands to bolster their followings.
Many of the bands on the tour work the crowd just as hard off stage as they do on the stage. Their tents are stocked with merchandise and music. If a group is a lesser known name on the bill, different members can always be spotted interacting with passers-by, often by roaming around with their recorded music on music players to let people sample their sounds. What’s more, there a good number of groups handing out free posters, wearable merchandise, and CDs. Fans always seem to appreciate the attention given to them by the artists and are usually quite susceptive.
This year’s Vans Warped Tour marks its 20th anniversary. To help celebrate, the amount of musical talent was increased from a usual 50-60 to well over a hundred different acts. In addition to the music, this year there were some of the country’s most popular teen Internet stars, like Damon Fizzy and Bryan Stars, which proved to be just as popular as any of the performing artists. It’s all a part of Kevin Lyman’s objective of evolving the tour and keeping it fresh. “It’s all about trying to bring something cool to the kids each summer,” he explains. Lyman believes that the tour now belongs to this generation, but he also sees parents accompanying their kids who were once themselves attendees. There is a common thread that has existed from the start. Lyman says, “The bands are still speaking in the same way to this generation that bands like Rise Against, Pennywise, or NOFX were speaking to our generation. That’s why I like doing the ‘parents get in free’ thing.”
When you actually look at everything and everyone involved, this whole experience brings all involved together and creates a sense of family. Both of Lyman’s daughters are out on the road with him this year, as it gives him the opportunity to spend the summertime with them and it provides them with opportunities and experiences to take with them out into the world.
If the television show “Warped Roadies” had a star, one of them would most definitely be the colorful and vivacious Beebs, of Beebs and Her Money Makers. Kevin Lyman happened to see the band in Florida and immediately invited them to be a part of 2013’s Warped Tour. “Kevin came up to me after our set and said ‘Hi. I’m Kevin Lyman,'” Beebs says of their initial meeting, “I said ‘I know exactly who you are!’ He asked me if we wanted to go out on the whole tour and I said ‘Yes!'” she continues while laughing.
Anyone who is familiar with them knows that Beebs is a very animated individual, almost like a cartoon character. This is the second year on Warped Tour for them. When they hit the stage the crowd goes insane. The band is a kaleidoscopic sight and they perform with complete energy from beginning to end. Their brand of ska is both traditional and modern. Beebs’ voice is surprisingly mature and sounds much bigger than she is, standing at only about 5′ 3″. Her onstage sprightliness is infectious, as she gets the crowd moving all throughout the set. When they play, they are all about the show: constant firing of confetti canons, vibrant stage outfits, a “jam-bot,” and a lady in a hot dog mascot suit.
There’s always so much going on during the day, sometimes you have to choose which groups you would rather see more than some of the others. The tour has a pretty strong cache of newer acts this year that are bound to become Warped Tour favorites, like newcomers, Survive This!, who were signed recently by Epitaph Records. Even though there are always exceptions to any rule, they epitomize the majority of what Vans Warped Tour looks and sounds like in 2014. Blending multiple subcultural genres both musically and vocally, they are turning out to be a huge hit on this year’s tour. Vocalist, Shawn Zyvoloski, clearly gets excited when talking about their performances and the fans. “We get scared that no one’s going to be there, but the kids always come. There’s always someone there singing along,” he explains, “I hope that’s a testament to something we’re doing right. We’re busting our butts, but we know that nothing comes easy.”
Other veterans of the tour were also on this year’s roster. Falling In Reverse came out fiercely to be greeted by a huge audience that was ultimately not disappointed. Ronnie Radke worked the crowd, commanding audience participation during choruses, and the kids ate it up. Rising stars Echosmith turned out an energetic performance, as did other Warped Tour favorites Of Mice & Men, Motionless In White, Mayday Parade, and The Summer Set, who all packed their respective stage venues. A pleasant surprise was the turn out and adoration for modern ska icons, Less Than Jake, who had no problem stirring the surprisingly huge crowd, and making them dance for almost an entire hour.
By the end of the evening, the tents are coming down, vendors are packing up, but the kids still had energy to burn. Simply walking along the rows seemed especially arduous as rowdy teenagers in crowds were monkeying around causing relatively harmless mischief. That’s all part of the Warped Tour experience and really its essence; youthful energy, togetherness, rebellion, and testing boundaries. It’s not lost on Kevin Lyman, the standard that was set this year, and according to him, the Vans Warped Tour will only push harder next year.