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For the 2016 Warped Tour, Less is More

Jul. 19, 2016
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Too much of a good thing: That’s an old saying that Kevin Lyman says applied to the Vans Warped Tour, at least when it came to last year’s edition of the tour. 

Describing what’s different about this summer’s installment, Lyman says “it’s not what we’ve added, it’s what we’ve taken away this year. I think we were trying to appeal to too many things. I think sometimes you can offer almost too much. I think we were getting to the point where we had too many stages. We had comedy tents. We had acoustic tents—all great things and great components, but when you put them all in one place it kind of maybe confuses what your message is about. I took this very back-to-the-basics approach with Warped tour this year.”

Lyman, who founded the Warped Tour in 1995 and continues to book and manage the traveling modern rock extravaganza, has indeed done away with the comedy, EDM and acoustic tents that were added in recent years.

Just as notably, he’s tweaked the mix of bands that will play this year. It’s still a huge lineup, with about 70 playing on each stop. But where last year’s tour focused almost entirely on newer acts, the 2016 lineup has a distinctly veteran presence, as Lyman has brought back several groups that were a major presence on Warped a decade ago. This year, long-established punk pop bands like New Found Glory, Yellowcard, Less Than Jake, Sum 41 and Reel Big Fish are among the bigger names on the bill. 

“It’s weird calling the bands like Good Charlotte, New Found Glory, Yellowcard, now the legacy or older bands, but they are,” Lyman said. “They’ve been around. They’re survivors in this business now. And Warped Tour always had that balance. If you go back in history, it was Pennywise, Bad Religion, NOFX, and the young bands were New Found Glory and Yellowcard and Good Charlotte. Now those bands are going to come out, a nice package of those, to hopefully mentor the younger bands that are out.”

This year’s lineup still has a strong representation of alt-metal/hardcore bands, a genre that Lyman said speaks to many of today’s teens and young adults the way punk bands did in the late 1990s. Acts on the tour that fall into that vein include Tonight Alive, Whitechapel, Crown The Empire, Every Time I Die and Veil of Maya. But the lineup doesn’t have as much of a presence of acts in genres like hip-hop, electronica, mainstream pop or folk, and instead leans very much toward alternative rock.

One thing that isn’t changing is the lifestyle component to the tour. The tour will continue to give fans opportunities to learn about and get involved with various non-profit organizations (some 25 such groups have a presence at this year’s tour) and to familiarize themselves with venders that offer products that are appropriate for the Warped audience.

Lyman is hoping the 2016 edition of Warped goes smoothly—something that is not assured considering the number of bands and support personnel that are part of the tour every year. Last year’s tour had its share of issues and drama. For one, Slaves (a band fronted by former Dance Gavin Dance/Emarosa frontman Jonny Craig) was kicked off of the tour after a town hall vote by Warped Tour performers after allegations that Craig sexually harassed a female crew member and been drunk and disorderly on the tour.

Lyman also took heat for allowing Jake Mcelfresh (who performs under the band name Front Porch Step) to do an unannounced acoustic set at the Nashville stop on the Warped Tour. Earlier in the summer, Mcelfresh canceled a number of Warped dates after allegations were made that he’d contacted a number of teenage girls, exchanging sexually explicit photos in some cases. 

Despite such issues, Lyman continues to believe in the concept of Warped. He remains invested in putting the tour together each year and being on site at the shows to do what he can to make sure the musicians and crews have a positive experience on Warped and can work through whatever problems arise during the tour.

 “Warped is just in my heart and soul,” Lyman said, explaining that unlike his Taste of Chaos tour, he attends each date of the Warped tour. “Warped is such a living, breathing animal, as we all know, that I still find it necessary to be right in the middle of it every day.” 

The 2016 Vans Warped Tour stops at Milwaukee’s Marcus Amphitheater on Tuesday, July 26. Doors open at 11 a.m.

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