Every summer, hundreds of thousands of kids flock to parking lots and fields all across the country to witness the traveling spectacle that is the Vans Warped Tour. The musical feast began in 1995 and now features over 80 bands and artists who share stages and spaces from mid-July to early August. Bands like Asking Alexandria and We Came As Romans were the top bands on the bill at this year’s soiree, and other headlining bands in the ever-evolving lineup include newer groups like The Wonder Years and PVRIS. Because of the new and diverse acts, many traditional punks lambaste the current Warped Tours as “not punk anymore” or “all the bands suck, ugh!” or even “Dude, Warped Tour is for scene kids who listen to the musical embodiment of Hot Topic,” which is true to some degree. But it’s a pretty terrible attitude to have, considering that many of Warped Tour’s critics haven’t even listened to most of the bands on the bill.
Let’s get something straight: I love the Vans Warped Tour. I’ve gone every year since 2012, and have discovered many bands and friends through my experiences there. The kinds of bands that I listen to most include such classic acts as Anti-Flag, NOFX, Reel Big Fish, and the like, so the tour for me is all about discovery. Sure, those kinds of bands occasionally come back to the tour, but nowadays it’s mostly “... Hmmm, let’s see what Lionize sounds like.” The truth is, you can’t say that all of the bands on Warped Tour suck unless you’ve listened to all of them, which is what I do every year prior to the tour. That sounds crazy, but stay with me for a bit. Starting in March of every year, four to six bands are announced weekly until early April. As they’re announced, I have a listen to the bands to see whether I like their sound. For example, I saw The Wonder Years at the 2013 Warped based on an initial listen, and they are now one of my favorite bands. It was the same case with MC Lars, Lionize, Streetlight Manifesto, Teenage Bottlerocket, and more. Had I not listened to them beforehand, I would not have gone to see them, and I’d be deprived of some good music. So, if you’re one of those people who believe that Warped Tour should have No Use For A Name and Sublime as the only bands on the bill forever and always, you need to 1) rethink your choices (too soon?) and 2) take some time to listen to the bands on the bill, for there’s always something for everyone. For the hardcore traditionalists, I’d recommend The Kenneths from this year’s Warped; they kick ass.