Is the Pomona Stop on the Vans Warped Tour Mosh Ado About Nothing?

Warped Tour founder Kevin Lyman: "Get in the Vans!"
Lisa Johnson

These Shoes Say Punk's Not Dead
Could the Vans Warped Tour Be Mosh Ado About Nothing?

Is God dead? Don't care. Is punk dead? Now that's a real question.

Or maybe not.

Yes, obviously. Punk is dead—has been since the '90s, or the late '80s, or the early '80s. Did a degenerative-on-purpose genre ever exist?

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And yet, no, punk lives, with renewed intent and energy courtesy of the same kinds of angry, anti-establishment kids as those who were there first, albeit in vastly different contexts.

And yet! What remains is that the issue itself is boring and definitely anti-punk in its heavy-handed, rules-based constructions. There remains a punk continuum, populated by all manner of still-at-it oldsters, Euro crusties, metal hybrids, the earnestly and explicitly political, the self-important fashion monsters, and, somehow, Pete Wentz. It exists, yeah, but the kinds of values and the kinds of rebellion inherent in the music that most kids consider "punk" (and "most kids" is a big and important proposition) are in no way marginalized, outsider or anti-authority values. That fact feels fucked-up and defeating, but we like the Germs more than we like democracy. And maybe we're getting used to how punk's changed purpose is less about disparaging teenagers and more about accepting the overwhelming culture of hybridity that rejects the essentialism that punk fell asleep on. Or it could be that Against Me! and Angels and Airwaves basically suck.

The avatar of this uncomfortably composed genre is the Warped Tour (hosting both Against Me! and Angels and Airwaves, plus sundry other bands of punk and non-punk flavors), the summertime manifestation of all that is thought to be right and wrong in American punk rock. In addition to defying the basic gestalt of what punk is and means, the biggest insult to critical punk fans by the tour is the unquestionably wild commercialization. It is, of course, the Vans Warped Tour.

Does tour founder Kevin Lyman give a shit? "I turn down a lot of sponsors that are trying to pull the wool over people's eyes," he says. "The military used to recruit at the Warped Tour. I thought that the military could be a good option for a kid, until they started using video games to recruit. I believe in honesty. If you show people they're going to die, then that's okay."

Considering the precise opposition of military recruitment and punk rock, what kinds of values does Lyman think are elemental to current punk, the kind that ostensibly provides the bulk of the Warped Tour's live content? He half-answers and half-muses, "Hopefully they start standing for something. I hope they are also learning to work hard."

What about politics? "I'm standing for Obama," Lyman says. "I'm standing for him because we need some change. We're going to see Rock the Vote out there [on the tour]; we're going to see Declare Yourself. It's going to be a time, I hope, when music is going to stand for something again. I used to ask the [emo and screamo] bands, 'Do you stand for something? Other than free food?'"

Lyman's general thesis, that the intent of punk for him is about productivity and participation, is a valuable argument, one that attempts to answer questions about the changes (unrelated to fashion) that punk has wrought. Though he has a daddy vibe (the 47-year-old Lyman points out that "cussing is sometimes an issue in some cities. I may have to make sure that all the 'F' bands are done by 5 or 6 o'clock,"), Lyman is enthusiastic about the bands he's booked. "I'm excited about this year's tour," he says. "I also listen to Stiff Little Fingers, blues and jazz. I'm like a kid in a candy store now that I can use the computer."

He's also excited to share his 12-year-old daughter's Pennywise fandom.

"Some people have said I took the danger out of punk rock," Lyman says. Whether that's an admirable (or acceptable) quality probably depends on how deep in the pit you're standing.

The Vans Warped Tour featuring Pennywise, Aggrolites, Say Anything, Street Dogs, From First to Last, Against Me! and many others at Fairplex Park, 1101 W. McKinley Ave., Pomona; Fri., noon. $30.

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