Featured || A Warped Tour Special

The bitter news of Warped Tour doing its final cross-country run in 2018 took fans by surprise. The iconic touring festival has hosted hundreds of bands in its 23 years of existence and achieved what was unimaginable a quarter-century ago; it created a subculture popular by exposing it to a broader audience. In this piece, we will attempt to rewind how Warped tour rose to be a household name of worldwide recognition while bringing together two generations of music lovers.

Neck Deep © Ashley Kalinoski photography

Created by Kevin Lyman in 1995, Warped Tour is the largest traveling festival in the United States. Originally associated with the skate punk movement, it wasn't long until the annual line-ups started expanding to various genres, leading mainstream names such as 3OH!3 and Katy Perry, performing alongside punk rock and hardcore punk legends such as Sick Of It All and NOFX. But how did it all come to life? “My love of music, community and live events continued to grow into more connections including the opportunity to work with over 90 non-profits a year. This allowed for the expansion of other tours and travel across countries”. Lyman also comments, “I was able to raise a family doing something I loved”.

There's no denying that, over the years, Warped Tour became the catalyst that helped shape the careers of many artists. Kevin had always trusted his gut when it came to aspiring acts and he was proven right, even if they needed a few years to take off. We can only imagine how it felt to watch Paramore grow into who they became, or Katy Perry develop her live show. For other bands, however, success didn't come overnight; breaking through and rising to their current status was the combination and result of talent and hard work. Whether we're talking about Mayday Parade or Attila, all the bands had one thing in common; a person believed in their potential and gave them a chance. Fronz of Attila is renowned for being blunt, so when he recounts how Kevin Lyman gave his band a shot, his otherwise brutal honesty shines with gratitude; “I can count the people who have given Attila a chance on less than one hand and he is one of them, so I appreciate him putting us on and believing in us, ‘cause Kevin Lyman fucks with Attila and that’s awesome”. 

Bad Omens © Ashley Kalinoski photography
Growing and expanding is always a two-way road and the challenges that the tour posed helped Lyman explore his own capabilities and learn valuable lessons; “I was really not trained to do this, I learned everything by doing. Sometimes I made a mistake, but I learned from it and moved forward. I also learned that you must have confidence but not cockiness -and when you don’t know someone, get some help”. In the recent years, help to understand the audience's needs was provided by groups like A Voice For The Innocent and Hope For The Day. Every year, Warped Tour hosts numerous sponsors and non-profit organizations that aim to educate young people and to raise awareness on important issues, some of them stationary in tents while others will trade material goods for entry passes. Feed Our Children, for instance, accepts a donation of symbolic nature, canned food and used cell phones in order to grant fans early entrance, while the American Red Cross will exchange blood donations from young adults in exchange for VIP passes. Another relatively recent addition was the Think Entertainment Institute (TEI) workshops, presented by the School Of Music. This is an opportunity for industry professionals to connect interests and talents by offering free seminars to kids who are interested in working in the music industry. Our very own, Ashley Kalinoski, has participated in a photography workshop with acknowledged photographer Lisa Johnson. Ashley’s words; “it was a phenomenal experience to work alongside Lisa Johnson and learn some techniques from an acclaimed music photographer. The workshops and availability of artists and musicians to connect with fans creates a one of a kind music experience unlike other music festivals. Attending Vans Warped Tour has given me the opportunity to work with bands that I may not have been able to photograph otherwise. I appreciate the networking and music that takes place at the event”.

Enabling these groups to have their own platform to reach out to young people is of crucial importance and Kevin Lyman is once again very sincere in his words; “I always say 90% of the people are coming to have a good time and run themselves into a sweaty mess, but if you can reach the other 10% you have done a great job. With an average of 500,000 people per year that would mean we have turned on possibly over 1 million people to giving back in some way. Pretty stoked on that.. The other day I was at TRUTH and they told us by their calculation we have saved over 200,000 people’s lives through having a platform for them to educate people on smoking.”

Our Last Night © Ashley Kalinoski photography
As we move from behind the scenes to behind the stage, the bands that consider Warped Tour their home away from home have nothing but good memories to share. Buddy Nielsen of Senses Fail, who will be doing guest appearances in the festival this summer, approaches the fact rather realistically; “it is sad to see it go but I think it’s time”. Having done six runs already, he states that Warped was like a university experience because [he] grew up on the tour”. The years are filled with great memories too, like playing during a thunderstorm in Dallas in 2006. While on a quite similar page, Shane Told of Silverstein looks back on Warped Tour in a more nostalgic way; “It’s sad but all good things must come to an end. Maybe something else will come out of this generation’s Warped Tour and it will be the next thing that’s running for 25 years”. Told has his own achievements to take pride in. Silverstein created a supergroup with Beartooth in 2015, called Silvertooth, where the two bands would perform together on the stage. This, however, is only a small glimpse of the impact the festival had on one person. What matters the most, are the lifelong friendships created. “The shows, the stage, the fans, they’re great and that’s why we’re there but favorite memories include just hanging out with the other bands. Becoming friends with NOFX and those bands that I really looked up to, playing poker with them, forming those kinds of relationships was really cool; [I remember being] 16 years old, my friend stealing his mom’s car to cross the border to see NOFX, and then becoming friends with them… Warped tour made that possible”. 

Truth be told, many of the bands performing every year on the tour consist of kids who grew up going out to its dates religiously, and Attila is no exception. “I remember being thirteen-year-old Fronz going to Warped tour, getting a bunch of free condoms and watching Yellowcard and Coheed & Cambria… It was massive and I’m thankful that Attila got to be a part of it for 4 years”, Fronz muses. There’s a whole new generation of groups who will never get to experience what the summer camp of Warped Tour can offer in terms of exposure. Very likely one of the most frequently asked questions is how to make it in the industry. Kevin doesn’t falter; “the world has changed, you can’t sleep till noon and think everything will be done for you. Get out of bed and work on you craft or building your brand.  Two years ago, I had no idea what blockchain was and now think it will have a big influence on the future of music”.  Adapting to the world around us, let alone in an ever-changing environment like the music industry, is very important and the mastermind behind the tour is full aware of the fact. 
New Years Day © Ashley Kalinoski photography
As the first date of the final cross-country run draws nearer, the people involved look back acknowledging the legacy they are leaving behind. “It looks like I might be going into what my original plan was 24 years ago. I said I would do Warped one year and be a teacher. It looks like I might be moving in that direction”, Kevin Lyman comments. At the end of the day, What did the tour mean to him? “Running into all the people out there that are leaders in the music business, as well as traditional business, that say they worked on the Warped Tour at one point and it taught them the values of hard work and community. I have gotten so many nice notes from people who have said “thank you for giving me the chance.”  That’s really what it has been about; giving bands, crews and brands a chance”.

Warped tour kicks off on June 21st in Pomona, CA.
For info and tickets, visit vanswarpedtour.com
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