Waves of Change: Why Warped Tour Still Matters


It’s that special time of year again. As winter turns to spring, lineup announcements for Warped Tour, the country’s largest traveling music festival, begin to trickle in. With these announcements comes a tradition unlike any other – bellyaching about how much Warped Tour sucks.

If you haven’t heard yet, “this is the worst lineup in years – Warped Tour has officially sold out. No one would ever pay money to see these bands. The lineup used to be so much better.”

As a longtime supporter of this scene, and more specifically, Warped Tour itself, I can’t remember a time when comment threads and timelines weren’t filled with similar proclamations. At this point, complaints are an almost obligatory part of the process.

The irony of these “the sky is falling” declarations lies in the tour’s success. Even when the late-2000s economic crisis threatened to cripple ticket sales for tours of all shapes and sizes, Warped Tour weathered the storm. In fact, all signs point to consistently high attendance across all dates, with recent expansions into Europe and Australia

So what’s the big deal? While Warped Tour has generally been considered as a proving ground for the punk scene through the years, it’s really much more than that – there’s a little something for everyone at Warped Tour. Even so, there’s no denying the tour’s continual evolution in sound.

Recent years have reflected the rise of metalcore, resulting in the compulsory guffaws from the hardcore elite. Before that, it was the influx of dance and electronica. Before that, it was the infiltration of hip hop. Before that it was the pop punk takeover. Before that…you get the idea.

One thing Warped Tour has excelled at over the past 21 years is having a finger on the pulse of the underground music scene, which means that change is inevitable. Not only have countless amounts of unknowns risen to success on the Warped Tour circuit, but the festival itself has been a catalyst for new movements in the scene and has empowered bands and fans alike in turning the tides. Warped Tour has consistently honored its past, but more importantly, it represents right now.

It’s easy to overstate the cultural relevancy of Warped Tour, but what can’t be stressed enough is the value of the community it represents. Everyone has a voice at Warped Tour, and it goes far beyond the music. One thing that has never changed is tour founder Kevin Lyman’s insistence on open doors for expression. This isn’t a place for bigotry or elitism, but instead a platform for positive change.

It’s hard to walk the grounds of Warped Tour and not find a group or movement or organization you can get behind – someone who shares the same voice and passions that you do. Likewise, it’s hard to not find a band or artist you can jam to. Maybe this is why so many of the grumpy detractors still come out, even if it really is for the “last time.”

Yes, it’s true that there always seems to be someone on the bill to scoff at – even this year (we’re looking at you, Attila). But for every flavor-of-the-month joker in the lineup, there are always countless more bands that embody the spirit of the festival.

Even with the 2015 lineup not fully announced, there’s already a ton of great acts. This year features veterans like August Burns Red, Motion City Soundtrack and Silverstein. There are scene stars like The Wonder Years, Hands Like Houses and blessthefall. Not to mention up and comers like PVRIS, This Wild Life and Moose Blood. As always, you’ll be hard-pressed to not find at least a handful of bands to make the $40 entry fee worth it.

Warped Tour isn’t going anywhere, and as sure as the sun rises, neither are the people who complain about it. That’s okay. The rest of us have found a home there and can’t wait for summer. We’ll see you there.

by Kiel Hauck

kiel_hauckKiel Hauck is the editor in chief at It’s All Dead. Over the past decade, he has been a contributor for multiple online and print publications and was most recently an editor at PopMatters. Kiel currently resides in Indianapolis, IN with his wife and their imaginary pet, Hand Dog. You can follow him on Twitter.


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