Here’s What Really Caused The Downfall of Warped Tour
It’s always sad when a big yearly festival or event comes to an end, and such was certainly the case with Vans Warped Tour, the massive traveling punk rock event that took the world by storm for 25 years. Sadly, 2018 was the year’s last as a touring festival, with this year’s three fests across the country acting as its memorial. When the fest ended, rumors circulated about what ended the festival — most notably financial losses. But now, the man behind Warped Tour has stated that it was something much more human behind the festival’s downfall — the loss of punk rock community.
In the latest episode of Inside Track — our podcast in which the true stories behind rock’s most important moments are told by the people who lived them — Warped Tour founder Kevin Lyman explains what led to him winding down the traveling festival after 25 years.
“Ultimately, when I started to think about winding this down after 25 years, it was, ‘I think we’ve lost the sense of community,’” says Kevin. “It took a community to make Warped Tour go. Some of that was self-inflicted… I thought you addressed the fans that complain on Twitter! I was addressing everyone and tried to keep that conversation going, but you realize that you can’t really negotiate, debate, or educate on social media!”
Not only did Kevin find that the unity that built Warped Tour was no longer present, but preconceived notions about bands resulted in great musicians turning down the gig, lest they come off as a “Warped” act.
“This is what kind of pissed me off,” says Kevin. “Because in 1997, ‘98, Pennywise couldn’t judge a band until you met ‘em in the parking lot. You’d be in line at catering because of this community setting with no dressing rooms. You’d meet these people, and they were musicians too. Then I started watching this community tear itself apart from within, with this band — not even meeting these people, just disagreeing with them or with how they look — bashing that band online.
“People would come up to me on Warped Tour, and say, ‘Well, I don’t want to be on Warped Tour because Attila are on Warped Tour,’” he continues. “Have you met the guys in Attila? We’re not here to judge each other’s music. The fans will judge each other’s music.’ Atilla brings people. Do I personally run around screaming ‘Suck my fuck?’ No. Do you? No. But they’re good musicians and they’re not bad people. I’ve never seen them do a bad thing to someone.”
“Every year, I’d send offers, and just — ‘We don’t want to tour with those bands. We don’t wanna be a Warped-esque bands,’” sighs Lyman. And it’s like, dude, Warped-esque bands — you mean Bad Religion. A Day To Remember. Paramore… it got very frustrating.”
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Chris Demakes of ska band Less Than Jake recalls the ultimate punk rock bait-and-switch in the latest episode of our podcast, Inside Track.
According to the band’s Instagram, the exchange appears to be all in good humor.