Mosh pits, snake bites, snapbacks, bikini's, and a shirtless guy with the words "Free Hugs!" painted on his torso: these terms evoke an image of Warped Tour for fans of the hardcore, metal, and punk scene.
Three months ago, Kevin Lyman announced the end of a festival that impacted my life and so many others. Although the festival has primarily featured bands from the metalcore and punk scene, many times it has branched out to EDM, pop, and rap.
The festival has been evolving since its beginning in 1995 in terms of band diversity, attendance, and fan base. Lyman has chosen to end this tour for many reasons, but a dominating reason is that the attendance has declined, particularly with the younger teens. Lyman stated that "...this past summer, the 14 to 17-year-olds disappeared," "So then you’re sitting there at night on the bus going, “Where are the kids?”
Lyman has struggled with the younger fan base getting older, while also not seeing as many new young people at the tour. He also believes technology and Netflix has impacted young people to be less interested in the concept of a backyard party or even just concerts in general.
In addition to these factors, which have contributed to decreased ticket sales, Lyman has expressed the Warped Tour community is "not as unified as it used to be." He and his team have incorporated EDM music but ran into the issue some fans relate to: "Wait, this doesn't feel like a backyard party... it feels like Coachella. This isn't Warped Tour."
Here's another issue sprouting from this announcement: What will upcoming bands do now?
Warped Tour hasn't only been impacting for fans, but also for upcoming bands. Many bands who aspire to get signed to a record label attend Warped Tour for music exposure. Many bands will now be left with one less resource to get their music heard and establish relationships with other fans from the scene. The loss of Warped will be less opportunity for the aspiring musicians trying to break into the profession.
Warped Tour is not perfect, but it is a community of misfits screaming our guts out to the songs that made us feel less alone. Being reminded that there are thousands of other people next to us, who feel the same.
Yes, it's a backyard party; it's a party for the hurt, the oppressed, the broken, and anyone else. It's a place for those who struggle with mental illness who know they have bands verbally rooting for them, along with dozens of organizations in tents who want to talk to them.
For me, Warped Tour is home. It's peace. It's joy in community. It's breakdowns, water guns, crazy mosh pits that lead to the best bloody nose of my life.
When I think of Warped Tour, I think of being picked up by three men when I fell into a mosh pit. I think of throwing up in front of a merch tent with the kindest drunk lady putting her cold beer behind my neck to cool me down. I think of the biggest smile on my face. The physical, mental, and emotional freedom to be myself.
During this time as fans reflect on their Warped Tour experiences, I have a question for the fans:
Where do we go from here?
I don't have all the answers to that question, but I do have some. I think we need to be reminded that we should not give up on the community we love, the music, or the bands. We need to continue to attend concerts, buy merch, buy music, and meet other fans.
Warped Tour is not the end of Metalcore or Ska or Pop Punk or Hardcore or Emo or any other genre. This scene will die when we give up on the music that built us up and made us feel like we could be ourselves.
Why would we want to give that up? These bands still survive because we make it happen and we care. We might have lost a festival that meant a lot to us, but I believe there will be new eras and new festivals where we can be ourselves and see bands we love.
This music and community is ours. We need to own it.