Is Warped Tour 2019 Worth It?
Vans Warped Tour, one of the most anticipated music events of the summer for the last two and half decades, announced the lineups for its three-city, multi-day festival last week, sparking controversy between fans of the punk-rock scene staple. With all the changes Warped Tour has undergone in the last couple of years, many people – myself included – are wondering if it’s even worth the trouble to go.
Warped Tour, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, was founded in the 90’s and featured notable rock acts such as Blink 182, No Doubt, Descendents, NOFX, and Sublime. While centering on music, the festival also catered to other aspects of counterculture, such as skating, mental health, and activism. As the tour grew more and more popular, it began adding attractions designed to appeal to a more mainstream crowd, like a parent babysitting tent, an acoustic tent, and in recent years, Youtuber and comedy showcases. It also picked up more pop and hip-hop acts for its nationwide, summer-long roster.
As expected, the changes and evolution of Warped Tour were loved by some, hated by others. On the positive side, more mainstream success meant consistently filled-out lineups, and enough hype to keep the tour well-funded and able to innovate new ideas, while still managing to bring dates to every corner of the country (one of Warped’s most unique and beloved features). It also ensured that the tour could keep booking larger headliners that crowds wanted to see. However, as time went on, lineups became less and less appealing to long-time fans, and an increasing number of Warped Tour veterans and current musicians were outed as abusers. Older acts who had cut their teeth on the beginnings of the ‘punk rock summer camp’ were often brought back as a gimmicky headliners or a ‘special guest’. For some, the experience just wasn’t what it used to be.
Despite all the changes, Warped continued to be known for one thing over all else- this was where new bands went to blow up. The smaller stages of the tour began featuring some relatively unknown bands playing sets in between the headliners, attracting new fans and spreading the gospel that was their music. It was every career musicians’ dream to get their act on the tour, and every local musician’s dream to play their ‘locals only’ date of Warped. Then there was the Ernie Ball ‘Battle of the Bands’ stage, which invited bands to compete against each other over the course of several months for a spot on Warped Tour. The tour offered aspiring musicians something to work for and embodied hope and ambition in a way that won’t easily be replaced.
All in all, Warped Tour was a meaningful experience for myriads of show-goers, bands, and musicians across the country. Despite the slight downward incline (according to some) of the half-tour, half-festival, Warped always felt like such a sure thing. Hearts broke across the world when founder and operator of Warped Tour, Kevin Lyman, announced that 2018 would be the last cross-country run- no one had expected the end, no one had thought it was possible.
And now, present day: “three” dates of Warped Tour have been announced (I use quotations because the first day features only a select few bands performing in the Rock N Roll Hall of Fame, and the date sold out faster than you can say “selling out”). The second date is set to take place in Atlantic City, New Jersey, and the other is set to take place in Mountain View, California – with not even an acoustic coffee shop set in between. Besides that, very few, if any, lesser known acts have been slated to play amongst the giants of alt-culture, like The Used, Taking Back Sunday, the All American Rejects, and Dance Gavin Dance. I say this with all the love and reverence in my heart for these bands that I grew up with, but stuffing the lineup with bands that hit their hayday 10 years ago seems like a thinly veiled attempt at manipulating the nostalgia of the core demographic of Warped Tour – people that were attending when Warped was also in its hayday. No new acts, no local stages, nobody new taking a shot at ‘making it’ by playing to crowds of 20 people or less for eight straight weeks.
So fans of the music festival are left wondering – Is it Warped Tour 2019 worth it? Should I be booking a flight to Atlantic City right now? Should I buy my ticket right now in case they sell out- do I even want to go? The Warped of today has lost two of its core elements: travelling to fans nationwide, and lifting up newbies in the scene. There’s still time for the lineups to shift, more bands will be announced soon, and even in years to come, it’s possible that the tour will build up into something similar to how it used to be, or continue to grow in a different direction, or become better. But for right now, this seems like the cheap money-grab of an industry giant that knows its worth to its followers, and is shelling out a sliver of what it formerly was to get massive returns. (Did I mention tickets are only available for both days sold together? Expect to pay about $150 for your ticket, not including the travel and accommodations you’ll need.) So why would anyone support this ‘warped’ (get it?) version of what was once the best part of the summer?
The answer, I think, is because there is another core element to Warped Tour, and that is how it makes you feel to be there. Some of the best memories of my, and many others’, middle-high school ages were from Warped Tour. The friends you went with, the food you overpaid for, the sunburns, the meticulous planning of the day’s schedule to make sure you saw as many of your favorite bands as possible. Walking through massive parking lots and fields, stopping at merch booths and hoping – hoping – that a member from your favorite band would be hanging out. Avoiding at all costs the port-a-potties. Warped Tour holds a special place in most people’s hearts, from times when things were better, or maybe worse, or you were younger and the world was a different, less severe place. If that’s the core of Warped Tour, maybe it doesn’t matter if you shell out a little more to get to it, or that the lineup isn’t as good, or that it’s not what it used to be. Maybe it’s worth it to sell out a little bit if it makes you happy.
So if you choose not to go or you find that you can’t afford to go – good. Warped Tour is shit. If you do choose to go – good. Warped Tour is awesome. And no matter how you feel about the way things worked out, you should keep in mind that things are always changing – better tour packages during the summer from bands who are no longer tied up in the Warped schedule means more opportunities for you to go out and see great music, and without the narrow goal of getting on Warped, maybe some lesser known bands or local bands will do something else crazy to get people’s attention. For all the good Warped Tour did when it was around, maybe it’ll do even more good now that it’s gone.
Or maybe it won’t, and our summers are all just going to suck forever now. Who knows.
If you want to find out more information about Warped Tour 2019 or view the lineups for each date, click here to be directed to Warped Tour’s website.