All good things must come to an end, and Vans Warped Tour is no exception. Founded by Kevin Lyman in 1995, the festival is credited with propelling bands like Blink-182, Taking Back Sunday and My Chemical Romance to global success. This summer, the festival is taking its last trip across the country, bringing bands to even the most overlooked of middle American cities.
Like many in my generation, Warped Tour was my summer activity. It became a hallmark of my Midwestern childhood — the one time each year bands I actually liked listening to came to my corner of the states. Somehow the infernal heat that suffocates St. Louis in the summer made Warped Tour even more remarkable: We weren’t just hearing a concert, we were having an experience. Hundreds of sweaty kids — some with black hair teased into nests and secured with hairspray, others donning the most comfortable clothes to maximize their circle pit endurance — all joined in one space, all headbanging to the same songs.
I was lucky enough to be home in St. Louis for the last-ever Warped Tour, and I dragged my dad along just like old times. Although my musical tastes have blossomed dramatically since I was a freshman in high school, I was relieved to find a few of my adolescent favorites on the lineup. More than a few. A lot. In fact, my experience at this year’s Warped Tour was nearly indistinguishable from the first Warped Tour I went to in 2011, or the one I saw in 2012…
In his official online statement, Lyman thanked the bands who’ve graced Warped Tour stages over the years, as well as the nearly 11 million fans who’ve shown their support, but he didn’t give a concrete reason for announcing the festival’s demise. I don’t know why Kevin Lyman chose this summer to be its last, but I know why I’m glad that he did.
Walking back to our car after nearly 10 hours of heat, sweat, and ringing ears, I realized that even if this year wasn’t Warped Tour’s last, it would certainly be my last year attending. Not because I had a miserable time, or because I suddenly can’t stand the music or the people. I knew it would be my last because nothing much had changed. Even the bands I was excited to see, the bands I have grown up with, performed the same way they always have. Although the name of the venue has changed about seven times in the last 10 years, I felt a sense of deja vu walking around the grounds, seeing the same vendors, navigating the same layout.
There’s truth in that old adage, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” but growth and change are another thing entirely. Maybe that’s what Warped Tour, and many of the veteran bands who perform on it, have forgotten. As much as my inner 15-year-old loves Motionless in White, I would have loved more to see them put on a unique show and sell new merchandise (three of their nine shirts bore the same designs they did when I first saw them in 2011). The stagnant air surrounding Warped Tour is not unique to the festival, nor is it unique to the particular bands on the lineup this year. It surrounds entire genres of music, entire subsets, entire scenes.
The whole day felt like a time warp. It felt like being 15 again, like being a freshman in high school. I watched Ronnie Radke performing on stage with his new band, Falling in Reverse, and all I could think about was how devastated I’d been when he had to leave his former band. I thought I’d never be able to listen to a Falling in Reverse album in my life, and there I was, thinking the new music sounded the same as the old.
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Warped Tour was immeasurably important to me, and it’s more than a little sad that other kids won’t have the opportunity to enjoy it the way I did. But, for an aged scene queen like me, it seems like the right time to lay this piece of history to rest.
Vans Warped Tour will continue this summer through Aug. 5. Check out the date nearest to you, and indulge your inner angsty teen one last time.