All good things must come to an end. As cliché as that may sound, truer words have never been spoken. Often time long running events overstay their welcome and eventually become a shadow of their former self. Now, although many old school Warped Tour fans would like to say the tour was well past its prime, I would say that the tour was continuing to meet its purpose.
The Warped Tour was originally brought to fruition by Kevin Lyman in 1995, and received the official Vans sponsorship in 96. While folks will forever protest that the Vans Warped Tour has always been a “punk festival”, I’ve always viewed it as a celebration of alternative genres and a way for newer acts to reach an audience. While those early years focused on the punk genre there were also many notable acts from across the musical solar system. The “punk-rock summer camp” was more of a tag line than a focus on a singular form of music. Now, a history lesson on the Vans Warped Tour is a story for another day. All you need to know is that the Vans Warped Tour has been the launching pad for hundreds of bands and is a staple for music fans across the country.
My experience with the Vans Warped Tour actually happened a little later in life, my first show being the 2010 edition. The eclectic mix of punk and metal was, pun intended, music to my 18 year old ears. Why had it taken me this long to reach the “promise land”? Since that fateful day at Merriweather Post-Pavilion I’ve attended 6 out of the 8 tours that followed, alternating between the Columbia, Maryland and Camden, New Jersey shows. I’ve discovered countless bands throughout my years attending the tour, many of which have become favorites of mine. Bands/artists like Every Time I Die, Ballyhoo, Yelawolf, MC Lars, Vanna (RIP) and many others are bands I discovered on Warped Tour and bands that remain in constant rotation today. No matter the lineup, it was always important to make it out to the show as you never knew what you might discover. It was something to look forward to every summer.
On November 15th, 2017 Kevin Lyman announced that the 2018 Vans Warped Tour would be the final cross country tour of the brand’s lifetime. The reasoning behind this decision saw Lyman discussing falling ticket sales amongst the tours prime demographic (teenagers) and the fact that he’s just tired. This is completely understandable as the man has technically been doing cross-country tours for 26 years. The news was devastating. This incredible thing that I had discovered less than ten years prior, and others have been attending for over twenty years, was going away. It is truly the end of an era.
Fast forward to the summer of 2018. The bands, an eclectic mix of first timers and veterens, have all been announced. There was no way any sane person could miss this event. Even if you weren’t a fan of the lineup, the Vans Warped Tour had been a staple for all fans of alternative genres, how could you miss the LAST one. So, it was decided, I was adventuring out to where it all started for me. On July 29th, 2018 I attended the Final Vans Warped Tour at the Merriweather Post-Pavilion in Columbia, Maryland.
As stated earlier, I spent a few Warped years attending the Camden, NJ show as I found parking to be much easier and the overall aesthetic to be much more pleasing. However, with it being the last hooray I knew where I needed to go. As I pulled into the parking garage it was easy to see that today was going to be special. Thousands of “kids” were lined up to get into the venue, a number that honestly dwarfed the amount of patrons lined up in years prior. Sure, in years past the venue eventually filled out, but you could tell that this year no one wanted to miss a second. I quickly checked in, grabbed my photo pass/ticket, and retrieved a spot in line. For the first time that I can remember, the doors opened 30 minutes early. Now, at Warped Tour the doors are usually scheduled to open at 11:00. From my experience, this has always been true, not a minute before or minute after. I welcomed the 10:30 surprise and made my way into the venue.
I quickly realized just how different this show was going to be compared to last. According to multiple merch workers, the venue decided that it didn’t want anyone to use the “woods” area of Merriweather Post-Pavilion. This was mind blowing; they had always used the woods area and the field on the other side. This allowed for easy movement and 0 congestion amongst many of the stages. For those of you unfamiliar with the area, by removing this portion of the venue they’ve essentially halved the available space. It was noticeable. Overall many of the stages were cramped with the Monster Energy/Mutant Stages being placed on the parking lot, practically turning attendees into fried eggs. Listen, I understand these are small complaints, but I just can’t wrap my brain around why things worked a certain way every other year and were different this year. One attendee mentioned that it may have been a reaction based upon the pavilion collapse at the beginning of the year, however, the adjustments that were made were nowhere near where the accident had taken place. Nonetheless, these are all complaints about the venue itself and their handling of the event, not Warped Tour as a whole. So let’s move on.
For those of you unfamiliar with how the Vans Warped Tour works, let me explain. No one is aware of the set times until you arrive at the show. Once you enter the gates there is a big inflatable schedule in the center that displays the times. There are also multiple vendors selling schedules for about $2 each. It’s definitely a stressful method that always keeps me up the night prior. I always end up wide awake the night before, stressed I’m going to sleep through my alarm and miss that “one special band”. This has never happened, but I stressed out about it yearly.
Once I received my schedule my first destination was decided. I made my way over to the Mutant Red Dawn stage to catch Australian metalcore band, The Amity Affliction. The band got their start in 2003 and first popped on my radar in 2012 with the release of “Chasing Ghosts”. I admit my knowledge of the Aussie trio is very limited. I came across the boys around the time I was stepping away from the metalcore genre as a whole. I felt it had become a bit oversaturated with countless bands sounding too similar to one another. Unfortunately I didn’t give The Amity Affliction a fair shot at the time, but I am thankful to say that that has changed in recent years. Being the first band of the day you’d think it would take Ahren Stringer and Joel Birch a minute to warm up, but to hell with that. As soon as they took the stage they busted out into a blistering rendition of the title track off their fifth album, “This Could Be Heartbreak”. The rest of the set contained tracks throughout the band’s career, closing with one of their larger songs, “Pittsburgh”. The Amity Affliction have a new album, Misery, dropping on the 24thof August and you won’t regret picking it up!
At this point I took off towards one of the main stages, the Journey Right Foot stage in order to catch The Maine. Having played the festival 6 times, the Arizona band is always one I try my best to catch. Their infectious pop rock grooves are catchy enough to get even the hardest of metal heads dancing. Honestly, it is crazy how these guys having completely blown up. They’ve got the skills to write pop hits for days and damn do they know how to put on a show. Lead singer, John O’Callaghan always has the audience in the palm of his hands. He says jump, the crowd screams, “how high?!”. The band called The Maine played songs across their decade long career. The highlight definitely being when O’Callaghan pulled an audience member on stage to join him in singing “Girls Do What They Want”. Unfortunately I’ve never seen The Maine outside of Warped Tour, and that definitely needs to change soon.
During the show there was another festival happening in Philadelphia known as “This is Hardcore”. Obviously I wasn’t able to be there so I had to figure out another way to get my hardcore fix. Enter, Kublai Khan. Kublai Khan is a band I hadn’t heard much of in the past, but I knew I wanted to check out. Their downtuned guitars and slow, but heavy grooves had me two-stepping all over the photo pit. If there is anything that annoys me about being in the photo pit, it’s that everyone in there just looks pissed off to be there. What’s there to be mad about? You’ve got a front row spot, you more than likely were able to get in for free, and your work is going to get posted and recognized by other music fans across the globe. Hey, why not have some fun while you’re doing it!? That’s what I did. Kublai Khan put out their latest record, “Nomad” last September. Check it out!
Next up was hands down the wild card of the festival. The night prior I had been researching a few artists on the lineup I had never heard before. I came across the artist known as Yungblud. I was completely enthralled within seconds. Between the visuals, the lyrics, and the varying genres that weave in and out of one another, I couldn’t help but be fascinated. I can happily say that this was increased tenfold when I witnessed it live. I would describe Yungblud, real name Dominic Harrison, as Twenty One Pilots meets MIA with a big glass of IDGAF attitude. While Dom played one of the smaller stages of the day, you’d never realize it. The crowd was packed into this stage like sardines. The place went wild as the 19 year old hit the stage and there wasn’t a body standing still in sight. Yungblud just released his debut album, “21stCentury Liability” on July 6th. If you take away anything from this write up it should be to go pick up that album!
We’re a few hours into the day, but there is no time to rest. Next up we have Warped Tour legends, and one of my favorite bands of all time: Less Than Jake! Honestly, what can I say about Less Than Jake that I haven’t said before? They’ve been going strong for 25+ years and show no signs of stopping. They opened the show with “All my Best Friends are Metal Heads” and that was all she wrote. What followed was 30 minutes of ska punk greatness that only Less Than Jake can provide.
At this point I headed over to the second main stage, the Journey’s Left Foot stage which was for some reason not next to the Right Foot stage like it had been in years past. When I arrived at the Left Foot stage a wave of fear crashed over me. This was not enough room for the amount of people who would be filling this space later (which we’ll get to). Regardless, the next band to take the stage were some high school favorites of mine, 3OH!3. 3OH!3 is an electropop duo that got their start in 2004. They hit it big with 2008’s “Want”, releasing hits Don’t Trust Me and Starstrukk (both tracks having remixes that feature Kid Cudi and Katy Perry respectively). When I felt that some of their later albums started having a jokey vibe in the vein of The Lonely Island I stopped listening. That being said, Sean and Nat absolutely killed it. Much of the setlist focused on the band’s early work which was right up my alley. 3OH!3’s latest release, “Night Sports” is available now from Fueled By Ramen.
Now it’s time for a band I never thought I’d see on Warped Tour. I’ve covered them multiple times before, and it’s always a pleasure. I’m talking about, of course, the demented duo TWIZTID. If you’re a usual visitor here at Icon Vs Icon then you know my history with this band. I went into a long tangent of my experience in the Juggalo world back when I covered Twiztid’s Psychomania tour, check it out because it’s a great read! A quick refresher: since leaving Psychopathic records Twiztid has been doing huge things! They’ve received opportunities they could only dream of in years prior. Not to mention they’ve started their own label with some of the best names in underground hip hop. Twiztid is going strong, and they’re definitely not stopping. Also, no surprise here, they absolutely killed it! I was truly curious as to what tracks they would choose for the setlist. While the crowd was filled with juggalos it was also filled with people whose curiosity led them to the Mutant Red Dawn stage this afternoon. I was happy to see that they played tracks that spanned their entire career. Anyone that thinks the demented duo is hurting in recent years either isn’t paying attention or is in serious denial. The crowd was packed and I can’t wait to see where they go from here.
A change of pace was needed so I made my way back to the main stage for some ska goodness. The next band to grace my ears was The Interrupters. I’ve had the pleasure of catching this group of fine folks three times, the last being in Ohio at “Punk In Drublic”. While the crowd was a bit lighter, it definitely filled in as the band took the stage. Aimee Interrupter has such an infectious smile that it is impossible to be upset when they’re playing. Leave your cares at the door and get ready to skank because by the end of their set we were all one big family! The Interrupters just released their newest album “Fight the Good Fight” on June 29thfrom Hellcat Records.
What happened next is what I was worried about in this small space. The night before Warped Tour, founder Kevin Lyman had tweeted about Maryland having a very special guest. Well this was it. Maryland was greeted by hometown heroes, Good Charlotte. GC is no stranger when it comes to Warped Tour having played the festival 3 times prior. No surprise, they came out and the crowd went absolutely nuts. We were definitely at capacity when it came to this area of the festival, and it was definitely poor planning on the venue’s part. Nevertheless, Good Charlotte ran through every hit they could in their short time set. Joel mentioned after playing the opener, “The Anthem”, that they wouldn’t be talking much as they wanted to get through as many tracks as possible. They achieved just that. These guys haven’t lost a step. Good Charlotte has a new album out on September 18th.
During the Good Charlotte set, my younger sister had gotten hurt in the crowd. We went and sat down a little bit, tired and hungry. Unfortunately the next band that played would be the last I would see on the Vans Warped Tour, but how appropriate that that band would be Reel Big Fish. Reel Big Fish is a band I’ve seen over 15 times. I grew up listening to them and I’ve been attending their shows ever since I was old enough to go. There is nothing in this world like a Reel Big Fish show. While Aaron Barrett may be the only original member left in the band his eye/ear for talent has kept the band going for 27 years. They tour nonstop but play every show like it’s going to be their last. Here’s the thing with an RBF show, you know what you’re going to hear, but that doesn’t make it any less fun. Reel Big Fish played all of their well-known tracks, well…well known to their fans. I cannot recommend checking out Reel Big Fish anymore than I already have in the past. If you want an incredible time, go see Reel Big Fish!
So that was the end of it. No one in my party felt well after spending all day in the heat so we decided to cut our day short. The only band I am really disappointed I missed was Every Time I Die. So here’s a hypothetical review of that show: it was great, they’re always great, go and see them.
Well there it is! That was the Final Vans Warped Tour. Life will never be the same without this cross-country tour being in my life every summer. Kevin Lyman announced that something will be done next year, for the tour’s 25thanniversary, but this is the FINAL cross-country tour. It’s bitter sweet really. It’s sad that it’s over, but it feels great to reminisce about all the incredible memories. I can’t wait to see what happens next!
The Phenomenal Dylan Lyles is an obsessive fan of cinema, pro wrestling, horror, vinyl, and comic books. Bursting from the womb in 1992, Dylan’s surrounded himself with all things geek culture. Earliest memories include Wrestlemania 11, ‘The Death of Superman,’ and Jason Voorhees emerging from the waters of Camp Crystal Lake. You may see him sharing his opinion on just about everything on the internet or maybe even working the crowds at pop culture events up and down the east coast. You love him and he loves you!