By Molly Freeman
The Vans Warped Tour in Dallas, TX. Photo courtesy of giovanni.
Whether you were that kid, you knew that kid, or you hated that kid, everyone who grew up in the era of the Vans Warped Tour has an idea of the type of person who attends the touring rock festival. While there are many variations of how the attendees look, they all share the same passion for alternative music and above all, Warped Tour. If you require proof that I was that kid: I used to start saving up for my Warped Tour ticket around Thanksgiving. Warped Tours take place in the summer.
Since the first Warped Tour in 1995, it’s grown to include half a dozen stages, hundreds of bands and even more tents with merchandisers, sponsors, non-profit organizations, etc. As with most things in life, for every person who loves and attends Warped Tour, there are a fair amount of naysayers: people who complain about standing in the heat all day, overpaying for water/anything, and the other people who attend the tour.
Of course, there are always going to be those people who don’t like Warped Tour; it’s not for everyone. But more and more I’m noticing that people I know who used to go to Warped Tour have begun to complain about it. They say it’s changed too much in the past few years or it’s gone too mainstream. Or even the worst insult to throw at anything in the punk/rock music industry: it sold out (and I’m not talking about tickets.)
The other major complaint about Warped Tour that I’ve been hearing more and more from my friends, is that the bands and the music are so much worse than when we were in high school. But are they really? Looking at the lineup for this year, I see a lot of familiar names: Chiodos, Reel Big Fish, Forever the Sickest Kids, Motion City Soundtrack, The Early November, Hawthorne Heights, and the list goes on.
However, the one thing that hasn’t really changed about Warped Tour is the atmosphere. Now if you don’t want to spend a full day out in the sun—sometimes baking on black asphalt depending on the venue—with a bunch of punk rock, emo, or ‘whatever’ kids, then you’re not going to have a good time.
But for some people, Warped Tour is one of the few places where they feel like they can fit in, at least that’s what I enjoyed about it. Although there were violent crowds and mosh pits, at the end of the day no one wanted to see their fellow concertgoers get hurt. I always wondered if the bands and crew of the tour were as tight knit as the crowd.
To get a behind-the-scenes look, I spoke to BTR’s own DJ J Dayz, who is traveling around the country this summer with the Vans Warped Tour. He’s been on the tour since 2009, working with one of the sponsors, and playing music for the crowds.
“It is a huge family; over a thousand people travel with the tour every day, whether that’s production, sponsors, merchant vendors, or the bands, so it is a very tight knit group,” he explains “Now that it’s my fifth year on this tour, that family atmosphere is even bigger for me…We all keep each other safe; we all keep each other happy.”
That kind of friendly, familial atmosphere isn’t necessarily everywhere you look when attending Warped Tour, because not everyone entirely fits into the Warped Tour environment and that’s fine, but it’s there. On one trip to Warped Tour I joined in a circle pit during The Casualties’ set and I fell; someone who was behind me lifted me up and set me back on my feet before I could get hurt.
Although I don’t really listen to The Casualties as much as I did back then, I’ll always have that memory and that’s something that will never change about Warped Tour. As J Dayz points out, it appeals to so many people with different tastes in music because there’s so much to check out and something for everyone.
“It’s a festival, there’s seven different stages, there’s all kinds of little tents you can go under or free merch or samples of albums that you get, stickers, temporary tattoos,” he says. “Kids walk away with a backpack full of free gear and memories that are going to last a whole lifetime.”
I don’t think it is Warped Tour that has changed so much as the people who used to attend the festival; I certainly haven’t been back since I graduated high school. Although Warped tries to appeal to older generations—the Englishtown Raceway, where I attended Warped tour, would serve beer to concertgoers, or by including an air-conditioned tent for parents who chaperone their kids—it’s rare for someone to still enjoy Warped Tour once they’ve grown out of that phase of their life.
Unless, of course, you’re J Dayz and you manage to make the transition from that kid who attends Warped Tour every year to someone whose summer, even years later, is still owned by the touring rock festival.
“Every single summer, me and all my friends, that’s what we looked forward to. I was definitely that kid, 13 to 19 going out for the Vans Warped Tour every year, getting in the pits, crowd surfing, trying to get as much free swag and CDs as I could,” he says. “So now, flash forward, it’s really awesome… I was that kid at Warped Tour, now I’m featured on Warped Tour.”