Van’s Warped Tour kicked off its 2014 run on June 13 in Houston, Texas marking the nineteenth year of the alternative music juggernaut. The tour was created in 1993 by Kevin Lyman who was inspired while working on skateboarding exhibitions. Two years later the tour gained sponsorship from skate shoe company Vans and has been the Van’s Warped Tour ever since. The tour has crossed the nation every summer at outdoor venues across the country. In 1998 Warped Tour began to feature international dates including Japan, Australia, and the UK. Each year the tour has grown considerably larger and more inclusive.
At each stop several stages are set up in an outdoor venue or parking lot and up to 100 bands play throughout the day. multiple bands play at once for 30 minutes each, allowing the maximum number of sets each day, but also forcing fans to sometimes choose who they want to see most. In the earlier years Warped Tour featured primarily skate punk acts and ska bands, but as the tour grows so does the list of genres the stages feature. Over the past twenty years the Warped Tour has brought many now well-known bands and artists to worldwide success. In the first few years of the tour’s existence platinum selling band blink-182 made a name for themselves and later Warped Tour helped make household names out of bands like Avenged Sevenfold and Paramore.
As the tour gets more and more popular it has gathered detractors from its punk rock roots. Many older punk bands criticize the seemingly corporate nature of the event, saying that modern bands are just as manufactured as the pop artists on the radio. Despite this occasional criticism the tour still features many classic punk bands alongside more recent metalcore and pop-punk acts, even some of the tour’s former opponents. The 2014 Warped Tour has kicked off with classic ska band Less Than Jake mixed in with younger bands like Neck Deep and I Fight Dragons.
With Warped Tour becoming a more and more accepted and common summer destination parents are now admitted free of charge, with many venues indoor areas reserved for those merely bringing their children. However indoor space is often limited and each year organizers face problems with extreme heat. In 2012 a 19-year-old girl died in the front row while deathcore band Chelsea Grin played. Dehydration is a serious problem at an outdoor event that lasts through the hottest months of the year. Free water is offered, but concert goers do not always take the opportunity to hydrate themselves as much as they should. Aside from heat problems Lyman has also discouraged bands from inciting mosh pits and “walls of death” from on stage to avoid any liability issues. Moshing and crowd surfing is still allowed, but the bands or tour cannot be said to be the ones responsible for the idea to start such actions.
Despite the apparent difficulties in producing and even attending such a show it remains one of the most popular and longest running summer music events. Aside from stages fans can visit tents hosted by organizations from PETA to Magic: The Gathering. In a rapidly changing music industry Warped Tour is playing host to a new generation of artists and musicians, fostering a new approach to music, concerts, and merchandise. Approaching its twenty-fifth anniversary Van’s Warped Tour has kicked of 2014 stronger than ever.
By Matt Isaacs