How A Death Metal Show Inspired Warped Tour
In 2019, Vans Warped Tour is synonymous with punk rock. Even though the legendary traveling festival hosted everyone from Katy Perry to Eminem to Attila, the Warped Tour legacy will always be tied to the energetic punk, ska, and alt-rock of the second half of the ‘90s and the early 2000s. But Warped Tour wasn’t conceived as simply a stacked punk line-up, but rather a coming together of music communities, which might explain why the fest’s founder was inspired to create the festival at, of all places, a death metal show.
In the latest episode of Inside Track, our podcast on which the insane true stories behind some of the greatest historical moments in music history are told by the people who lived them, Warped Tour founder Kevin Lyman explains that he came up with the concept for the festival working a gig after he ended a run with Lollapalooza.
“I’ll never forget, we finished Lollapalooza, everyone was so excited,” he recalls. “Some people were like, ‘I’m never working in a club again!’ And I went home and worked a Sepultura/Napalm Death show. Just to remind me where I’m from.
“And around that time, I really started noticing…like, why were the metal kids always paying more for their T‑shirts than the punk kids?” wonders Kevin. And why were the ticket prices more? And why did the metal bands haze the younger bands? They weren’t really supportive, they made them set their drum kits up in front of them, and then the third kit, until the singer was standing over the barricade singing because there was no room for the gear onstage. Punk bands were always about community in a sense. We got a pizza, you can share a couple slices. We got a case of beer? You can have a six pack. There was a sense of community.
“And I was looking at the fans, going, ‘They’re the same kid. They’re the same person,’” says Kevin. “Everyone was working in the clubs at that point, and the clubs were very crowded, and a lot of the younger bands were getting signed to record deals so they weren’t nurturing a community. Immediately they had agents and managers. They weren’t working on door deals…there was just a weird sense of disjointed community.”
Hear about how Kevin’s blastbeat-driven idea became one of rock music’s most important cultural landmarks in the full episode below:
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