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Warped Tour Celebrates 20 Years by Carrying On

Jul. 23, 2014
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This summer marks the 20th anniversary of the Warped Tour, but you won’t see the tour making any kind of a big deal about it.

There’s barely a mention of the anniversary on the Warped website. There’s no special logo commemorating the occasion. The only real promotion is a 3D commemorative ticket that fans can buy as a keepsake for the occasion.

Otherwise, Warped 2014 looks a lot like the Warped Tours of the past 19 summers, as it offers a full day of music from more than 50 acts across multiple stages, plenty of opportunities to learn about the 20 or so charities and other organizations involved with the tour and how they benefit the communities the tour visits, and an array of vendors to visit over the course of the day.

“I don’t need to run a flag around that it’s 20 years,” tour founder Kevin Lyman said in an interview last month. “I’ve been getting a few notes from some people and some letters from people saying they worked on it in this year and they went on to do very well in life. And their experience on the Warped Tour trained them either to work hard or stay focused or gave them inspiration. That’s all you need.”

It’s not that Lyman didn’t have a big idea or two to mark the 20-year milestone. He wanted to put together a charity concert featuring bands that had played Warped from across its history. But that idea didn’t get off the ground, as he found that managers and agents weren’t keen on the project.

So for the most part it’s been business as usual for Lyman, which means lots of hours spent booking bands, figuring out the tour routing, hiring crews that move the equipment from venue to venue, arranging sponsors, choosing vendors—the list goes on.

“We work really hard to make it a special day for people,” Lyman said. “And it’s not just the music, it’s the atmosphere.”

This year’s lineup, Lyman said, seems similar in its makeup to the one he assembled last year. Once again, there are no blockbuster headliners on the bill, but a lot of emerging acts that seem ready to make a mark, as well as a good number of more established acts—such as Yellowcard, Saves The Day, Every Time I Die and The Devil Wears Prada—that have enjoyed some degree of decent popularity at some point in their careers.

Lyman has always loved seeing bands build a buzz on Warped and then go on to much bigger things on the heels of their stint on the tour.

This year, Lyman sees Echosmith, a group that was bubbling under the radar last summer when it also played Warped, as a candidate for a breakout.

“They were on ‘Conan,’ and they’re on all of the big TV shows,” Lyman said. “And they’re coming out on Warped Tour again and it will be interesting to see their [growth] this year.”

Bad Rabbits may be another band to watch.

“I think they’re going to be one where their crowds are going to be extremely larger than they were the first time they were out with us,” Lyman said.

Care for some more acts to watch? Lyman mentioned a few others he thinks could make waves.

“I think [rapper] Watsky—I think he’s a unique guy who’s going to make a big impact out here. He’s very entertaining,” Lyman said. “Air Dubai is going to be a band that will gain a lot of traction out here this year. And all of the kids are talking about this young band, Issues. I mean, this band Issues and Neck Deep from the U.K., in November I had them on the U.K. shows and they were fantastic. Their presence over here has grown… I hear this band Bear Tooth is great.”

So far, it appears that Warped will draw its usual number of ticket buyers this summer, about 500,000 for the entire tour. The early dates did OK, Lyman said, but he expects that as the tour rolls further into July and chatter about the acts playing the tour increases on the web, the dates will draw bigger numbers.

“Word of mouth carries the tour,” Lyman said. “Right now we’re starting out with a lot of kind of unknowns—not unknowns, but starting-out bands. Pretty soon you’re going to have all of the bands talking about each other and just how much they like being with each other. You can sit there and market all the things you do around a tour. But really, the kids have to vouch for it. And that’s what I saw last year.

“We’re out there, and I think for a lot of kids, this tour really still means something,” Lyman said. “And they come out and support us and they want us to be there.”

The 2014 Vans Warped Tour stops at Milwaukee’s Marcus Amphitheater on Wednesday, July 30, beginning at 11 a.m.


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