Warped Tour Says Goodbye–And the Festival World Will Never Be the Same

Black Veil Brides at Warped Tour (Wikimedia Commons)

It’s official, the last of the traveling music carnivals is saying goodbye. The summer of 2018 will be the final chapter of Vans Warped Tour. Of all the festivals out there, Warped has always been more than music, it’s therapy for the masses. Even though we’re sad to see it go, we’re so happy for the memories it’s provided all of us.

Warped is one of the most successful ventures ever, it’s literally made some bands a household name. Bands like Blink 182 are one of those that were catapulted into the punkasphere as a result of their time on the Warped Tour. Even though Warped built its rep on a punk-rock summer camp atmosphere with bands like Bad Religion, Warped Organizer, Kevin Lyman, takes pride in being able to say they brought bands like Reel Big Fish, No Doubt, Sublime and Paramore to the masses.

To be able to appreciate Warped Tour, you gotta know its history. It’s been around since 1995, and it’s the largest traveling music festival in the United States. Warped was conceived by Lyman in connection with the short-lived Warped Magazine. These days, Lyman heads up 4fini, Inc. and a few other iterations of the company. Back in the day, Warped was best described as an eclectic alternative rock festival. In the following years, it focused more and more on punk rock and ska. Now it also includes other diverse genres such as pop, hip-hop, and metalcore. It’s become such a juggernaut that its lore includes being the place that launched countless bands.

On that note, Warped brought artists to the masses that in past years may not have been given the exposure that the national festival provided. Success stories include Limp BizkitMy Chemical RomanceFall Out Boy,  Machine Gun Kelly, and Yelawolf just to name a few. The festival is so essential, Will.i.am of the Black Eyed Peas said they were the first group not categorized as “punk” to play Warped.  That in itself speaks volumes of the quality of the non-punk or ska acts Lyman has exposed concertgoers to.

Lyman’s said on several occasions that he loves the fact that certain bands have found success over the years, and many of those bands continue to be in the limelight. Bands that Lyman takes pride in their accomplishments include Less Than Jake, Reel Big Fish, Big D & the Kids Table and more recently, The Interrupters. Truth-be-told, the list of bands that have blown up as a result of their Warped Tour experience is unreal. Don’t get me wrong, there are tons of successful groups who have been featured on Warped, but many do say Warped was a benchmark in their careers. A small sample of other bands that have played the Warped include: A Day To Remember, Adolescents, The Alarm, All-American Rejects, Anti-Flag, Aquabats, Asking Alexandrea, Atmosphere, Authority Zero, Avenged Sevenfold, Beck, Buck O Nine, Circle Jerks, Dead Sara, Deftones, The Dickies, Dropkick Murphys,  Face To Face, GBH, Green Day, Ice-T, Incubus, K.Flay, L7, Linkin Park, The Living End, M.I.A., Me First & the Gimme Gimme’s, MxPx, NOFX, Save Ferris, Social Distortion, Suicidal Tendencies, Unwritten Law, The Used, and Weezer. Again, this is just a very small sample of the insane lineups featured over the last two decades.

Pennywise at Warped Tour (Wikimedia Commons)

Circling back to those early days, the first Tour took place in 1995; it didn’t get its namesake sponsor “Vans” until the following year. From that point on, it was known as the Vans Warped Tour. On the business end, although Vans has been the primary name associated with the Tour, other sponsors like Journey’s have made significant contributions. These other sponsors have participated with stages or other aspects of the festival; sometimes being named after them. The first ever show took place in Boise, Idaho, and since then it’s been featured from coast-to-coast and around the world. Aside from the U.S., Warped became a staple in Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, and Canada.

What’s impressive about Warped are the dollars and cents; and, what Warped does with it. They don’t have to do this, but they do… Warped contributes 25 cents from every ticket sold to an organization called Hollywood Heart. In the past, Warped Tour has also given money to relief efforts such as  Hurricane Katrina. Warped Tour and the Taste of Chaos (another festival) worked together to contribute $500,000 to help victims. Warped has also helped feature causes. Organizations such as Invisible Children, Shirts for a Cure and Keep A Breast Foundation have been able advocate about their cause.  Other causes that are represented at Warped Tour are Music Saves Lives, and Earth Echo.  This year Warped is linked to over 90 non-profits including Voice for the Innocent; and an organization near and dear to the heart of the Warped team is an organization called We Are Fend (wearefend.org).  

Like everything in life, all things eventually come to an end. On November 15, 2017, Lyman announced that this would be Warped Tour’s final run. There are a variety of reasons why 2018 is it for Lyman. He has said that he’s done everything he set out to accomplish with the Tour. It’s seriously nuts to think that Warped has played in front of over 11 million concertgoers worldwide. There are a myriad of other factors that contributed to the decision. One big reason was that every summer for the last 26 years, he’s been on the road. Also, missing or celebrating birthdays and anniversaries while on the road adds up. That’s never officially been said, but anyone who’s spent any kind of time living out of their suitcase will tell you, it all adds up.

What many people don’t know is that before Warped, Lyman worked in clubs, and he also did three years on staff for  Lollapalooza. All this and some more recent health related issues, such as knee and ankle surgery has slowed him down just a tiny bit. On the business side, there are other factors including a hearty summer festival schedule from other great Promoters. There’s also a shrinking pool of bands, and declining ticket sales amongst its teenage demographic.


There’s truth to this; finances were down last year, but Warped isn’t ending because of that. Lyman has had plenty of offers over the years to sell the name for insane cartoon crazy money. For personal reasons that people with integrity get, he’s never succumbed to that temptation to sell the name. Clearly, Warped is not about dollars and cents for him and his team. In all fairness, many that go to Warped know you can make crazy money with t-shirt and swag sales. In the end, the diminishing return from smaller crowds does impact a few things. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to conclude that even though Warped is still the premiere Tour event, it isn’t what it once was.

Despite what people’s perceptions are, Lyman put on Warped for the best reason of all, he loves music and he loves turning people on to new bands. It’s always been about the music and the fans. For what it’s worth, the decision to call it in 2018 was made before the last summer’s tour. In the end, Lyman is happy to say other promoters are in the wings, and festivals and are in very capable hands.

As for the legacy, there are so many aspects of Warped that will live on well beyond 2018. Local promoter, Scott Tucker of Sellout production has witnessed Warped from a different perspective. Scott says what’s always amazed him about  Lyman and his staff has been how they are able to move a small city overnight, and have it ready to go by 7a.m. the next day. The move is always executed with military precision. That model is one that festival organizers have incorporated and will adapt in their logistics for years to come.

More on Lyman’s legacy comes from David McWane, lead singer of Big D & the Kids Table. McWane said that “Big D was always an orphan to the scene; we’re still not welcome to sit with anyone in the cafeteria. We’ve always held Kevin in high regard, because, he’s always let us sit with him.” That tells you a lot about a person’s character, and no matter who you are, there’s always great value in character.

When asked what Lyman will miss the most about Warped, he said it’s the comradery developed with the bands. He’ll miss the fishing trips, whitewater rafting and jumping out of planes. He did that once with Angelo Moore of Fishbone. Angelo did this, of course, while fully dressed in a suit, anyone who’s been on Warped knows this is what the insane good times were like.

In the end, 26 years on the road is a long time; and sometimes traveling around the country with large tours takes its toll on a person. Nobody can blame Lyman and his team for wanting to take a break.  Then again, since next year is the 25th anniversary of Warped Tour, who knows, you never can tell if there’ll be an encore; stay tuned for that.  As for this last run, don’t forget to bring your canned-food donations to the show, the charities will appreciate it. AND to Lyman and all those who have been part of Warped all these years, there are only two words that need to be said, THANK YOU!

Warped Tour comes to town for the last time Thursday, June 21 at the Pomona Fairplex. Come out and celebrate at the rock show one last time.

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