When Kevin Lyman assembled Warped Tour in 1995, it was only meant to be a one-off. Of course, it didn't quite pan out like that - Warped Tour became a central component in a lot of peoples' lives, a chance for at first punk bands and eventually all manner of alternative artists to hit the road for the summer and play to a big crowd of enthusiastic, open minded folks, and a cultural lifeline to armies of fans in parts of the US where major bands often didn't usually tour.
People were shocked, then, when Lyman announced in November last year that 2018’s edition of Warped would be travelling festivals last cross-country run across the USA. As he explains, he has his reasons for making his decision, but it also doesn’t mean that Warped is entirely dead and gone – the future may have some surprises in store, and its quarter century legacy will certainly remain in the minds and memories of anyone who ever went to it and every band who ever played it. We spoke to Kevin about the past, present and future of the tour.
How is this last ever cross-country Warped Tour run going?
Well, it might be our second biggest tour ever. Ticket sales have been crushing, basically. We’ve had shows that are up to 19,000 to 23,000 – you know, everyone’s coming out to say goodbye to Warped Tour.
Is that a bit bittersweet? Does it make you want to reconsider your decision?
No. There’s no reconsidering. We’ll do some stuff for the 25th anniversary next year – I’m working on those plans now – but this is definitely going to be the last cross-country tour.
Why did you decide to stop the cross-country tour?
Do you want all 21 reasons?! There are so many reasons. One if that I think I’ve done everything in the format that I can with this. I used to tour Warped Tour and, to be honest, it was fun to be out on the road for me. I’ve always run my shows 100% all-in. I’m not someone who sits around and lets everyone else do the work, so physically, it’s definitely kicking my ass in certain ways now to do this tour. Two, the changing landscape of the whole thing. This was built on a community. This was built when everyone co-operated, and bands and everyone worked hard to keep the scene strong, and I just feel like since the era of social media, things get fractured so quickly. People pass judgment online instead of meeting them face to face.
In the punk rock community that I was in, you met people and it’s amazing how much you can find you have in common with people if you take the time to talk to someone. So the community seems a little fractured at this point and, to be honest, I’m 100% tired of trying to be the guy who holds it together. And you start throwing in how in America we have new transportation laws, in the UK we’re all going through this whole new security process – and I don’t mind each individual piece of it, but combined, when you start putting it all together, the burden of putting together a cross-country, travelling festival on the road, it’s really, really tricky.
Luckily, we’re selling as many tickets as we are now, because now, out of the ticket price, you have to take out your Ticketmaster fees, your parking fees, the taxes – so you’re trying to make these tours run on less and less of the ticket price. Luckily, we’re having a great summer and the finances are shaking themselves all out for me. It’s good, and that definitely comes into consideration – you have to run a sound business.
Did you ever expect Warped to get as big as it got when you first started it?
No. It was supposed to be one year and done. Really, it was going to be some friends of mine – skateboarders and musicians – and we were going have a good summer and then I was going to go get a job. I’d already worked 13 years in the business, I was running 320 shows a years, so I had almost 13 years before I started the Warped Tour. It was going to be a one-time ‘Let’s go out and have some fun’ thing that turned into 24 years. Many of them were years I’ve been having fun and doing business and now the last few have been a lot of hard work.