RIP Punk Rock Summer Camp: Celebrating Warped Tour’s Last Touring Year

For bands in the alternative, metal or pop-punk music scene, playing Warped Tour is a big deal. For many teens and adults, including myself, Warped was the staple of every summer. My friends and I would track set times religiously, wait hours in lines for signings, mosh and try with no avail to not get sunburned. Warped Tour is the largest traveling music festival in the United States, and the longest-running touring musical festival in North America. But this year, Warped Tour ends its reign. After 24 years of music, celebration and fun in a category all its own, the tour is doing its last full cross-country run this summer. To celebrate Warped Tour’s last year, here’s a breakdown of the tour’s history, impact and legacy for bands and fans alike.

Warped Tour started in 1995 as an electric alternative rock festival. But then in 1996, the festival starting focusing on punk rock music.

Warped Tour’s array of music has widened and adjusted over the years, keeping the tour popular and musically up to date. Vans, the skate brand, became the tour’s main sponsor in 1996 and the name technically became “The Vans Warped Tour.” The tour doesn’t just have one way of being set up — every show in each venue has a different layout. Every summer thousands of fans come out to celebrate, some even traveling alongside the tour on their own roadtrip.

“No Room for Rockstars,” the Vans Warped Tour documentary, was released in 2012. The documentary tells the story of bands on the tour, as well as bands who follow the tour to pass out their EPs and albums to try to gain traction. Warped Tour was crucial to the punk rock scene in the summer for years. As Blink-182 famously says in their song The Rock Show, “I couldn’t wait for the summer and The Warped Tour.”

Warped Tour

Warped Tour has been a launching platform for many big musical artists.

At times when they were unknown, bands like Avenged Sevenfold and My Chemical Romance got their start at Warped Tour. In 1999, The Black Eyed Peas played the tour as the first “non-punk” band. Even Katy Perry got her start playing small stages on the tour. Bands that play huge stadiums now, like Paramore and Blink-182, can attribute their starting years to playing on Warped Tour.

I couldn’t wait for the summer and The Warped Tour

Warped Tour
A view from the main stage during We The Kings’ set at Warped Tour 2014
Warped Tour is by no means a perfect tour, but has worked to incorporate activism into its agenda.

The New York Times released an article this month featuring women playing and working on Warped Tour, and how the tour, even in recent years, is still mainly a boys club. However, the tour has always featured progressive non-profits such as Invisible Children, To Write Love on Her Arms, Earth Echo and the Keep A Breast Foundation, allowing them to advocate for their causes on the tour. In March 2016, the tour teamed up with A Voice for the Innocent, which works to address sex crimes in the music industry. Warped Tour also contributes 25 cents from every ticket sold to an organization called Hollywood Heart.

Warped Tour
The famous blow up Warped Tour schedule from 2015
Warped Tour was the highlight of my summer for nearly five years in a row.

In 2013, Kevin Lyman announced that all parents would get into the tour for free. As a young teenager, this allowed my dad to come to the tour with me. He would see bands that he liked and even get posters signed that are still hanging in my house! The tour allowed me to meet up with friends all over the tristate area, to see bands we mutually loved. We could crowd surf, meet our favorite band members and collect free stuff from all the tents. It was an experience crucial to my upbringing. Warped fans, don’t be too bummed, you may not have seen the end of Warped just yet. Kevin Lyman has hinted to a large celebration next year, to celebrate the 25th year of the tour.

Also published on Medium.