Warped Tour Warms Up

Sunday, 19 June 2011

The Vans Warped Tour is set to kick off its seventeenth run across North America. This year’s edition will feature one of the festival's most diverse lineups with a roster that includes a mix of metalcore, pop punk and hip hop in addition to hardcore and good old fashion punk rock.

Warped Tour founder Kevin Lyman recently took time to chat with Ground Control about how the renowned festival began, what he’s excited about for this year and where the he sees it heading in the future.  

Barry Taylor vs. Kevin Lyman, Warped Tour founder

Barry Taylor: Let’s go back to the beginning. Where did the concept  for the Warped Tour come from?

Kevin Lyman: The Warped Tour was an extension of the lifestyle we’ve been living down here in Southern California for a long time: having bands at skate contests and snowboarding contests.

I was sitting in the snow one day after an event and told a friend, ‘I think this whole lifestyle that we’ve lived is starting to spread across the country. Why not try something?’

So I went home the next day and decided I was going to start a tour –  one last tour before I went and became a school teacher.

BT: School teacher?

KL: Yeah I was getting pretty burnt out. I was working at least six nights a week at different venues so….

BT: So you decided to take on one of the biggest touring festivals on the planet.

KL: Yeah, at that point it was just a few of us traveling on the road trying to get from one city to the next and it developed into a pretty big festival. [laughs]

BT: Warped is clearly a massive undertaking. At what point do you begin planning the tour?

KL: As soon as we get off the road I start writing down things I can do better for the following year. So, other than the two weeks that we take for vacation, it’s year-round.

BT: Over the years, the tour has evolved in terms of the bands that you feature. How do you determine who’s going to be included on the tour?

KL: That’s one of the first things I do. Starting in September, I’ll start listening to music. This year I decided that I was just going to sit and listen to music myself and kind of get back to the roots of the tour. I think this year’s lineup is very reflective of that. It’s very eclectic, very mixed and people are responding well to it right now.

BT: Who’s a band that you’ve yet to have on the tour that you’d love to get?

KL: Unfortunately most of the bands have passed away that I would’ve loved to have on the tour. I would have loved a Ramones reunion. Joe Strummer was supposed to perform on the tour the year he passed away. Pretty much everyone’s played that I’ve wanted. I think…

BT: What excites you about this years tour?

KL: I always think of Warped Tour as eclectic and a big mix but I think this year it’s really dynamic. You’ll see a lot of acts that you may not expect or may not know but, three or four months after Warped, you’ll see them and think, ‘Holy crap, weren’t they the ones that played that small stage at Warped?’

And we’re really excited to come to Canada. There’s a lot more festivals up in Canada now than there used to be so the competition is a little more fierce, but we enjoy coming to Canada. We have a lot of friends up there and, if you book the right show, the kids are gonna come out.

BT: The Warped Tour focuses a lot of attention on being environmentally conscious. Any new Green features happening this year?

KL: We’ve built another solar stage so we’ll have two on this tour which is pretty cool. The new one doesn’t drop an AMP throughout the day, we’re excited about that. We still have our Eco Initiative. We’re expanding that to some of the products we’re moving and we’re going to be making some water filtration stations so kids will have more access to water.

BT: You’ve been doing this now for over a decade. What still excites you about Warped?

KL: It’s all about opening the doors on the first day. It’s exciting to get out there to show what we worked on all year long and ultimately you’ll know right away if the kids are having a good time. Nowadays with the Twitter and Facebook you know if you did a good job right after the first show. It’s a cool thing because Warped really only comes to your town one day of the year but a lot of kids tell us it’s their favorite day, which is great.

BT: You’re approaching your 17 th year of Warped which is rare for a touring festival. How long can you see this continuing?

KL: I think the Warped Tour is still very important and relevant to a scene, but I think now that we’re involved with so many non-profit and educational groups that it will be weird once it goes away. Bands will figure out something else to do [once it goes away], but a lot of the non-profit groups are so engrained in the culture of what Warped Tour is and it gives them a national outreach; that’s what I’ll miss the most.

And physically it’s harder. It’s a long, hot summer. I’ve turned fifty – I still have more energy than most – but I just had ankle surgery after last year's tour I’ll have knee surgery after this year's so, physically, it’s demanding.

BT: Is there anything left that you’d like to accomplish with the tour?

KL: I don’t know, I’m sure we’ll create something but, looking back, we’ve done a lot with this tour. But I don’t think we’re done – I think we’ll come up with something. Every year we come up with something. This year we’re all going to take a day off and go build a park in Baltimore, Maryland. We’re gonna show up with three or four hundred volunteers and build a park for the kids so they have somewhere to go more than one day of the summer.


The Vans Warped Tour kicks off June 24 in Dallas, Texas. Click here for a complete listing of shows.

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