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The Warped Tour: Is This the End?

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MISFITS: Where have all the punk kids gone? Warped Tour founder Kevin Lyman says tickets aren’t selling like they used to. Photo by Greg Ramar.

MISFITS: Where have all the punk kids gone? Warped Tour founder Kevin Lyman says tickets aren’t selling like they used to. Photo by Greg Ramar.

The last best summer ever is nearly here. The 2018 edition of the Vans Warped Tour marks the final round for the longest-running touring music festival in North America. The tour’s founder, Kevin Lyman, has announced that he’s hanging it up—citing, among other things, the increasingly cluttered summer music festival industry, a shrinking pool of bands and declining ticket sales, for his decision to make 2018 the final year that the tour will run from coast to coast, though it seems a smaller-scale tour is still planned for 2019.

Worse yet, in the wake of Hollywood’s sexual misconduct cases, the Warped Tour has a bevy of allegations of their own against performers, such as Blood on the Dance Floor lead singer Dahvie Vanity and Front Porch Step singer Jake McElfresh. This leaves fans of the Warped Tour wondering if the event is still the safe space it once was.

Lyman created the Vans Warped Tour in 1995 with the hope of catching on the energy of the Chicago-based alternative music festival Lollapalooza. A fan of multiple disjointed subgenres of punk—from hardcore, to pop-punk, to ska—Lyman saw an opportunity in bringing the entire punk party together under one, massive touring circus tent.

The Warped Tour has been making the trip to the Bay Area since 2000—inspiring mosh pits, crowd surfers and epic on-stage acrobatics at AT&T Park and piers 30 and 32 in San Francisco and at the Shoreline Amphitheatre in Mountain View.

A Warped Tour gig has meant so many things to so many bands. Since its inception, the tour has been a champion for punk scene staples like Green Day, Fall Out Boy, No Doubt and Blink-182 as well as emerging pop acts, such as Katy Perry, the Black Eyed Peas and rapper Eminem. Many bands started out on local bands stages and climbed their way to the top of the ticket over consecutive summers.

This may not be a goodbye forever—2019 marks the 25th anniversary of the tour and Lyman continues to tease his loyal following about welcoming back marquee names to end the beloved festival with a proper goodbye. Until we know for sure, here’s a look at several local Warped Tour alumni who benefitted from the Warped Tour’s draw.

No Use For A Name
When Lyman was putting together the bill for the Warped Tour’s inaugural year, he thought these San Jose punks would fit right in. “Back then it was wild,” No Use founding member and drummer Rory Koff says, fondly looking back at the chaos. “When I heard the news [of the tour’s ending] I was disappointed, but I’m glad I was able to be a part of it.” No Use became a mainstay at Warped Tour for a decade and recorded a trio of classics, including Making Friends, More Betterness! and Hard Rock Bottom that recently went collectively platinum. “All the props to Kevin [Lyman],” Koff says. “He’s one the hardest working guys I’ve been around.”

Lars Frederiksen and the Bastards
Campbell’s Lars Frederiksen and the Bastards, a Rancid side project, arrived at Warped Tour in 2004 at a critical point in the festival’s history. The tour had recently started booking artists outside punk—like hip-hop duo Atmosphere, speed metal heads Avenged Sevenfold and the proggy Coheed and Cambria. Lyman’s initial goal of bringing the punk community together evolved into bringing the subversive music community together, creating a three-headed Cerberus of metal, mohawks and hip-hop. The Bastards rode this tour with the summer release of their second album, Viking, which helped peak the record at No. 17 on the Billboard independent albums chart.

Warped Tour gave East Bay songwriter and producer Ricky Reed a chance to shine with his satirically forthright band Wallpaper. Reed, who had played in the proggy Oakland band Facing New York for years, first began using exaggerated Auto-Tune and simple, truck-rattling beats as a way to prove to himself and friends that he could write a radio hit. He eventually caught the production bug and began writing ridiculously catchy tunes that were almost indistinguishable from the artists he was aping. Since lighting up the 2013 tour with music from his major-label debut, Ricky Reed Is Real, he has gone on to co-write legitimate pop hits, like Halsey’s “Bad at Love,” Jason Derulo’s “Swalla” and produced a number of the singles on Twenty One Pilots’ Blurryface LP.

K Flay
The cerebral Kristine Flaherty, better known as K. Flay, first got a hold of a mic as a student at Stanford. When Flaherty’s not singing songs like “The President Has a Sex Tape,” she spends her time raising awareness as a political activist. Warped Tour 2013 put Flaherty in the spotlight just three years ago and she’s been trending upward ever since. Her sound is especially expansive. Too bold to be deemed an indie-rapper and too hip to be your run-of-the-mill pop talent, she’s caught between both as a post-genre chanteuse.

I The Mighty
Born in a garage in Fremont, alt-punk quartet I The Mighty got a serious boost from their stint on the Warped Tour. Their run-in with Sacramento favorites Dance Gavin Dance on Warped Tour 2014 led DGD’s singer Tilian Pearson to collab on the band’s single, “Silver Tongues.” ITM’s distinctive wailing and technical, energetic spark is making an impression on the West Coast Alternative Press-reading scene.

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