These Traveling Rock Tours Are Filling the Warped Void

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Atmosphere during the 2018 Vans Warped Tour at Shoreline Amphitheatre on June 23, 2018 in Mountain View, Calif. 

Sad Summer and Disrupt Festival discuss building new festivals to support the emo, punk and rock scenes.

This summer, touring festivals are making a strong return after the end of the Vans Warped Tour left a hole in the punk and emo scene. With only a handful of 25th anniversary dates scheduled for the Warped Tour, festivals including Live Nation and SGE’s Disrupt Festival and indie emo fest Sad Summer have stepped in to fill the void left by one of the last remaining touring festivals.

"Growing up, my summer was based around when the Warped Tour date was. It was the most exciting part of the summer,” says Bert McCracken of The Used, who will headline Disrupt Festival and perform at Warped’s 25th anniversary shows. "With the departure of Warped Tour last summer as a full summer tour, there has been a lot of talk about what’s gonna be the tour to replace it. I think it is going to be a lot of different things but Disrupt in particular is along the same lines of where that punk rock attitude came from."

SGE founder and CEO John Reese worked with Disrupt headliners The Used, Thrice and Circa Survive to build roaming rock festival that will hit 25 cities throughout the summer between June 18 and July 28. The festival will feature a varying lineup of rock and punk bands much like Warped, but with more of the amenities festivalgoers have come to expect in 2019.

“At Disrupt, they are going to see big video. They are going to be inside the amphitheaters and not in a parking lot,” says Reese. “No disrespect to Warped Tour. [Warped founder] Kevin Lyman’s a legend and the Warped tour was legendary. But this is a bit of a different take on that. These are all Warped Tour veteran bands, but now they are going to be able to play at night on a big stage with production and video.”

Sad Summer promises to be a day full of music with a single stage with headliners State Champs, Mayday Parade, The Maine and The Wonder Years and a rotating roster of supporting bands.

“It will be one full stage of a full day of music instead of three or four stages of bands playing all over the place and that helps you cut down on costs like catering and local crew and stuff like that,” says Sad Summer co-founder Josh Terry, who explains that touring festivals can incur more traveling costs than one-off festivals.

Sad Summer’s 17-city trek will run from July 5 and close out on Aug. 3 at the City National Grove in Anaheim, Calif. 

“It was really advantageous what Warped Tour was able to do for all those years building out parking lots and having multiple stages,” adds Terry. “It definitely saves us on cost not to have to travel with multiple semis of staging.”

Both Disrupt and Sad Summer will take their tours to established venues from outdoor stages to amphitheaters.

“If you are doing a tour, you really need to go to already built venues. If you want something to play four or five or six days a week, you really need to go to already built venues,” says Reese. “Otherwise you’d have to have four production teams. That’s cost prohibitive on many levels.”

“Warped Tour had its amazing run, but I think what is cool about Disrupt is that we are putting it in atmospheres won’t create strenuous human conditions,” says McCracken. “It is in nice amphitheaters where everyone can kind of lounge out or you can kick it in the parking lot with the bands playing there. It is the best of both worlds.”

Stepping away from the DIY spirit of Warped, Sad Summer will feature various food trucks with curated options and Disrupt will welcome pop-up activations to keep kids busy for the day-long event.

“What we want to do at SGE is create these really immersive events that are at a fair price where people can go spend a day, see a bunch of great acts and do a bunch of fun things,” says Reese.

“Our intent is to build something that has lasting power and that bands want to do year after year,” says Terry. “We can find the next up and coming bands that we want to see emerge on the scene and get a stage to prop them up on.”

The niche touring festivals not only serve as a summer past time, but help grow a community of artists that are trying to bolster their fanbase.

“The headliners could go out and probably make more money on their own playing theaters or clubs, but together we thought if we do this right, it is going to create a new space for all these bands to have something that’s protected over the summer and also get them in front of more kids than they can get to on their own,” says Terry. “The intent was not to make this about money, but to make something good for the scene that can hopefully last year after year.”

“The Used could go and do a headlining tour that could be a lot more beneficial for the capital gains aspect of touring, but that has never really been our goal. We want to build something that is special and important to us,” says McCraken of Disrupt festival. “We want to be a part of something that is ongoing that creates a positive creative energy for kids to get to know themselves.”