Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to commemorate the end of an era, but we are not here to mourn. Let’s instead celebrate the life of Warped Tour, our sweet, summer child whom we lost too soon. Warped Tour’s amazing 24-year run has been the most successful touring festival since the Monsters of Rock tours in the 1980s and has been a springboard for some of the biggest rock bands of our generation.
Between Blink-182, My Chemical Romance, Paramore, Fall Out Boy, Katy Perry (Not rock, but possibly the biggest name on the alumni list) and an almost infinite list of other impressive names, it’s hard to deny Warped Tour’s immense cultural impact. That’s why the whole city showed up for Warped Tour’s final Atlanta stop, and it’s why even a massive rainstorm couldn’t dampen the fun.
Maybe it was a coincidence, or maybe Warped Tour officials checked the weather report before making the schedule, but many of the throwback, Warped Tour mainstays like The Maine, We the Kings and Mayday Parade were positioned on the front end of the schedule when it was sunny, hot and humid. Despite the sweltering heat and oppressive humidity, fans packed tightly into the Lakewood Amphitheatre, crowding the Journey’s Left and Right foot stages immediately to get a good spot for their favorite acts.
If you’ve never been to Warped Tour before, it may surprise you that each act from the “headliners” to the local acts only gets 25 - 30 minutes for their set, which is a practice that has two crucial purposes. First, even with six stages, it would be nearly impossible to give bands 45-minutes to an hour sets and finish the festival in one day, but it serves to create a feeling of equality and camaraderie between the bands. Rather than supporting a hierarchical lineup style, where the “biggest” and “best” bands are always late at night and always get longer sets, Warped Tour gives each band the same opportunity and spreads out big and small bands throughout the day.
Because of these short set times, fans are constantly on the move, quickly scrambling from one stage to the next to catch the next set, but no one ever seems to mind. Smiles are seen on everyone’s faces, and from 13-year-olds at their first Warped Tour to 50-year-olds at their 24th, the entire population seems genuinely happy to be there.
There’s something about Warped Tour that makes it feel like your festival, and that makes people proud to be apart of the tradition. Meeting your favorite artists and having them treat you like an old friend, making new friends in the circle pit at August Burns Red and taking shelter from the inevitable rain storm with a group of total strangers are things that are once-in-a-lifetime experiences anywhere else, but they’re an everyday occurrence at Warped Tour.
Speaking of rain, you know it wouldn’t be Warped in Atlanta without it. RIght before Simple Plan’s set, a torrential downpour let loose on an unsuspecting amphitheater crowd, sending folks sprinting for any cover they could find. Thunder, lightning and flash flooding forced a 30-minute delay to the festival proceedings, pushing back set times and condensing them by about two to five minutes as well. While this would be devastating at any other festival, at Warped it’s a chance to interact with your fellow festival-goers. Fortunately for me, my amazing friends in I the Victor gave me refuge under their merch tent, but for others, the bathrooms and the covered area in the amphitheater became safe spaces to ride out the storm.
Once the storm cleared, the rain still fell at a milder pace before ultimately clearing up, but fans didn’t wait until the rain had stopped to resume their fun. The second the festival officially reopened, a stampede barrelled through the rows of tents on their way to various stages in anticipation of the soon-starting sets. As the weather continued to improve, more people emerged from their shelters and made their way to the outdoor stages, but many stayed at the Left and Right Foot stages for heavy hitters like 3OH!3, State Champs, Reel Big Fish, Issues, Red Jumpsuit Apparatus and Falling in Reverse, who closed out the night.
The Vans Warped Tour has left a lasting legacy in the music world, and Kevin Lyman’s hard work and dedication in creating something that not only gets big bands to people that may not normally get to see them but also gives smaller bands an opportunity to grow their fan bases is something people won’t soon forget. His humble creation has touched the lives of countless bands and fans and has undoubtedly inspired thousands of kids to pick up an instrument.
The lasting legacy of Warped Tour will always be the respect they showed their fans and their artists. From set-time equality to always ensuring that water was affordable, Warped Tour has always stood above their peers as an example of what a fan-focused festival should look like.
Thank you, Kevin, Vans, Journeys, all of the staff and volunteers, the bands, the fans and anyone else who has ever been involved in making this tour happen year after year. Lyman has hinted at a 25th-anniversary celebration of some kind next year, but the touring show is over. Rest easy, Warped Tour. We’re all gonna miss you.
Photos by Sarah Htun for Bullet Music