The Annual Vans Warped tour came to an end last year, which many thought was caused by a dwindling audience. However, according to the festival’s co-founder Kevin Lyman, issues such as fan elitism and the loss of a community caused the festival to reach its breaking point, rather than financial problems.
“Everyone looked at me like ‘He stopped ‘Warped Tour” and in our business we always look at it as money. First thing they go to: money. ‘He’s not making any money.’ And that was not it. That was not it. ‘Warped Tour‘ was not feeding my soul and my heart as much as you put in,” Lyman explained in a recent interview. “Because ‘Warped Tour‘ was 90% about the community and 10% about the money, it really was. And some people I’m sure will say bullshit, but it’s true. I built that because I wanted to keep people coming to see live music. I wanted to build a community… And I’d lost that, that spirit was taken out of me for multiple reasons.”
He further elaborated that in the beginning, Lyman organized this tour and had a large community of peers such as the bands Bad Religion, Pennywise and Reel Big Fish. As the years progressed and he got older, the scene started to change changing his role as a peer to more of a mentor.
As Lyman explained:
“And then the bands changed. But I realized I was getting older too, my peers weren’t touring with me anymore—the Bad Religion‘s and those bands who were my friends… These younger bands looked at me like either a mentor or a disciplinarian. I didn’t have that relationship with maybe the artist. So all of a sudden I would wake up and they would voice their opinion on the tour that they’re being on without coming and talking to me first.”
With the changing music landscape caused by social media, bands and fans started judging other acts, which caused tensions between acts that were on the lineup. Lyman explained that groups such as Attila repelled acts from joining the festival due to their fan bases, and own personal beliefs (the band’s frontman has Chris Froznak caught controversy in 2014 for using homophobic slurs, but has repeatedly denied being homophobic).
“And then people would come up to me and say ‘Well I don’t wanna be on ‘Warped Tour‘ cause Attila‘s on ‘Warped Tour‘. And I’d say ‘have you met the guys on Attila‘ [and they’d say] ‘No, I just don’t like their music. ‘suck my fuck’, what the fuck is that?’ I’m going ‘look we’re not here to judge each others music,” Lyman elaborated, :The fans will judge each others music. Attila brings people. Do I personally run around singing ‘suck my fuck?’ No. Do you? No.’But you know what… They’re good musicians and they’re not bad people. I’ve never seen them do a bad thing to someone. Some of the stuff he [Attila‘s Chris Fronzak] says, maybe, is just more stupidity.”
While these issues has been boiling for years, Lyman explained that 2017 reached its breaking point:
“It got very frustrating around 2017. I was challenged by the fractured fan base, the fractured band base, the sense of community and what I got involved in this for, and what brought me into punk rock that I said ‘you know, if it’s changed this much, maybe it’s time for me to wind this thing down.’ 2017, no matter who I put up, it was like ‘F that band, F that band, where’s this band?’ It was just like, what happened to the acceptance of music and that love of music? And I realized that we had pushed the audience down to a young level—’Warped got known as a young [tour.] But I did that because I wanted to young people to get exposed to this music, to maybe support independent music for a longer time.”
While the tour is no longer travelling and as large as it used to be, the event continues in a more limited fashion. Froznak, who heard Lyman’s story responded on social media, and has stated that he is interested in meeting with the promoter to bring the festival back.