Thirty minutes. That is all. This is the allotted time each artist at Vans Warped Tour receives,regardless of name or success. It is very democratic and a philosophy perfected over the 25 years of the tour’s existence. Few music festivals share this brand of long running success, through shifts in both tastes and economy. While some have lamented the “old days” of the tour, we found the 25th and final lineup to be surprisingly diverse and exuberant. With many mainstay acts returning to bid farewell, there was still a good mix of old and new – something which the tour has always been exceptional at.
The democracy of Warped Tour plays out within it’s fanbase as well. Attenders would be hard-pressed to find another celebratory public space where prepubescent girls in complete punk regalia, stand next to the balding father of three, all in line to see meet the same band. Perhaps this is the secret sauce to the tour’s continued success. It is a rare thing to have, not only an equal fanbase, but a welcoming one as well. It was humbling to think a tent to help transgender teens could be next to one which wanted to simply talk about Jesus (but in a very Warped Tour way of course). With the current state of politics, this was beautiful. No judgment, only a safe space for the strange, the normal, and the overlooked. All had worth. All were accepted.
Another fan friendly element is band access. Every band is treated as equal and given a space to sell merch and meet fans old and new. This is one of the few fan and artist respecting avenues left in a space that often isolates or offends both. It is difficult to pull this ethos off on such a grand scale, but 25 years in, the tour has hit its sweet spot. With over 50 bands playing on 6 stages, this philosophy both hurries fans and gives them the opportunity to camp out for their favorite acts. Undoubtedly, spectators will find themselves smitten with at least one new act.
With this said, I have a confession. Wednesday, July 18th at Blossom Music Center in Cleveland, Ohio, I experienced both my first and last Warped Tour. It was not as if I was opposed to the tour or style of music. Perhaps I took it for granted. Always looking at the band lineup, I would ooh and ahh, but never commit. While being a poor decision not to attend earlier and more frequently, this year I was determined to take it all in like the aforementioned prepubescent girl. The sights (fishnet anyone?). The sounds (earplugs came in handy). The smells (pot. . . lots of pot). All of it enriched by my years of regrettable summer choices.
The weather is a huge factor in festivals like these. Strewn across long stretches of pavement, it is easy to become surrounded by a suffocating summer heat. In almost a un-Ohio like gift, the gentle midwestern breeze turned this into one of the most festival friendly days of the summer. Throughout, the conditions for the final tour were perfect. It was almost as if the punk gods were looking out for the huddled masses looking to mosh free. The democracy of the Warped Tour will live on within each band looking to break out of their garage and into the dingy basement bars throughout the plains and cities. The scene will never be the same, and for that, Vans Warped Tour will always be eternalized.
Since there were a buffet of acts on a plethora of stages with little time and tons of space to make up, we decided to give you some brief highlights:
Most Interesting Act: Nekrogoblikon: This band understands niche. The lead singer dresses in goblin attire and a Hawaiian shirt. They are also metal. Very metal. It is saying something when Twiztid isn’t the most bizarre act on your lineup.
Most Dangerous Object Thrown Into a Pit: This honor goes to Underoath who tossed an entire bass into a crowd. Over the photo pit. Around five feet in the air. I believe the ten people who caught it are still fighting over it.
Best Merch: Ice Nine Kills. We loved that they not only had the standard metal shirts but also sold an entire tab library for their entire catalog of songs. Finally, you can shred like the best. Also, they ingeniously sold cell phone pop sockets. Brilliant.
Most Surprising Crowd: Bowling for Soup. No really. Not only was their crowd the biggest for their stage, but it was also the most ready to crowd surf. Veterans to the tour always get returned loyalty.
Best Set: Underoath. I am bias but these guys are some of the best in the business. They’re hard enough for the metal audience, yet emo enough for a more subdued crowd. After playing the tour as their name was on the rise, they returned to play only a handful of dates with this one as their last.