By Jared Allen
July 27, 2018
In 1995, Kevin Lyman set out on the road leading a traveling festival that blended skateboarding and music, predominately alt rock and punk. He dubbed it: Warped Tour. At the time it wasn’t the first of its sort, but what Lyman would build in the coming years became one of a kind.
“We were doing events similar to Warped Tour on the West Coast where we combined skateboarding and music and action sports,” said Lyman, who began working festivals like Lollapalooza in the early 1990s. “I just heard about the X Games being formed and thought maybe it’s time for us to go do this out on the road with a few friends. We were only going to do it for one year, and tour for myself because I’ve always worked for other people doing it.”
However, that one summer snowballed into the largest traveling music festival in the U.S. and the longest-running touring music festival in North America. And now 24 summers later, Warped Tour is saying goodbye. But not before one last hoorah.
“The lineup this year is perfect for the demographic that wants to come to Warped Tour,” Lyman said. “It’s an older crowd in the 20s and early 30s. And they are people that really appreciate 3OH!3, The Maine and Mayday Parade. They have had huge shows… Their lives have gone in a different direction but the tour was an important part of it and they came back for another year.”
Warped Tour built its brand on being the “punk-rock summer camp” in the late ‘90s and early 2000s, and never lost that novelty. The tour welcomed the likes of Sublime and No Doubt, but also brought out the superstars of the next year, like Blink-182, Eminem and Paramore. It was the platform to witness the rise of pop-punk with Sum 41 and Good Charlotte, and the birth of emo with Taking Back Sunday and Jimmy Eat World. The tour became known for its diversity, helping launch the careers of G-Eazy, Bebe Rexha and Katy Perry and giving the basement bands a substantial stage to shine on.
Warped Tour set up shop in parking lots across the country on the hottest days of the summer and created a family-like vibe between bands and festival goers, who rubbed elbows with artists they idolized while standing in the crowd. Tickets hovered around $50 and the Warped Tour soon became the go-to summer festival for the youth. No where else could you see over 80 live acts, sit in on music lessons taught by your favorite musicians and make lifetime memories with the money saved from three weeks of chores.
“We’ve done shows around the world. We camped across Australia. In the United States we took a show like Warped Tour to cities that didn’t really welcome this kind of music at some point. Those are the memories. Now I’m out here just working. We’re in the middle of it and I made the right decision,” Lyman said.
But despite all the memories and trips that Warped Tour has taken across the world, Lyman is even more proud of the nonprofits that the tour has developed. In its time, Warped Tour has hosted a solar powered stage, helped raise money for Hurricane Katrina and donated ticket proceeds to an organization called Hollywood Heart. The activism on the summer-long trek was never amiss.
“The nonprofits we’ve launched by far,” Lyman said when asked about what he’ll hang his hat on. “A Voice For The Innocent, Hope For A Day, To Write Love On Her Arms, Keep A Breast. We’re working with over 90 (nonprofits) this summer.”
And even in its final year, Warped Tour is still making an impact. Not only with the nonprofits, but also the annual canned food drive that grants early admission to anyone who donates. “Bring all the canned foods [for early admission],” he said. “We’ve seen record numbers of cans this year.”
There’s no question that Warped Tour provided a positive impression on anyone that ever dedicated at least one summer day to the festival. After 24 years, it’s the reason that its goodbye is so somber. Not only because of the memories it created and the belongingness it promoted, but also because it’s unlikely that it’ll ever be recreated in the same respect.
“I don’t know if I would’ve got a chance to put it out today,” Lyman said. “The timing for Warped Tour was perfect. It was the perfect time.”
Check out the remaining tour dates for the final Warped Tour.