For 24 summers, the Vans Warped Tour — the traveling alternative music festival beloved by fans and artists alike for its summer-camp atmosphere — has crossed the country and created a hallowed ground for punk, metalcore, ska and everything loud.
Every year since 1995, with around 70 bands and about 40 locations to hit in a matter of weeks, Warped has allowed hundreds of thousands of fans to be themselves, meet their idols and mosh together under the hot sun — all in the name of the of the music they love. In addition to attracting the biggest names in punk and alternative music as headlines, Warped Tour has also played an integral part in breaking young bands who would become staples in the scene, including New Found Glory, Senses Fail and Yellowcard.
As the Warped Tour prepares for its final show in West Palm Beach on Aug. 5, Billboard asked festival veterans and newbies alike to bid the tour adieu by looking back on their favorite memories and sharing what the festival has meant to them.
NEW FOUND GLORY
Cyrus Bolooki (drums): This year will mark the 12th year that I’ve played Warped Tour, and my 14th year attending as a fan. Whether it was our first Warped Tour on the local stage in Pompano Beach, Florida, in 1999, the first time we played a main stage in 2001, or our first time playing the full tour in 2002, I will never forget things like being able to meet and hang out with bands I loved like MxPx, Less Than Jake, Rancid, NOFX, Bad Religion, and Reel Big Fish. I’ll also never forget the random times that I actually got to fill in on drums for bands on Warped, starting in 2002 when I filled in for Good Charlotte for a few shows. I kept a bunch of the daily schedules throughout the years, because it’s awesome to grab one and glance over it, just to remind myself of how many cool bands were on the tour at the same time as us. [I’ve kept] all of the Warped backstage laminates. In recent years, they started including pictures of the passholder on the back of the laminate, so it’s funny for me to go back and see how I’ve changed.
The most important thing about Warped is the sense of community there is backstage throughout the tour. No one is allowed to put themselves above others on the tour. Everyone comes together each day to try and put on the best festival they can for all the attendees. There really is a family vibe that goes on every summer, no matter what the lineup looks like that year. We met so many of our idols and bands we looked up to on that tour and became friends with a lot of them, mainly because of how down to earth everyone is — and has to be. [Warped Tour founder] Kevin Lyman really did a great job of establishing that from the beginning, with no tolerance for any behavior that makes one band seem bigger or more powerful than any others on the tour. To me, Warped Tour was definitely punk-rock summer camp — and a huge part of how New Found Glory got to where we are today.
Aimee Interrupter (vocals): Between the four of us, it would be hard to count how many times we went to the Warped Tour growing up. We were so inspired by all of the punk-rock bands that would go out on the tour every year that it’s safe to say there would be no Interrupters if there was no Warped Tour.
Warped Tour can make or break an artist. After we did the whole thing in 2016, I felt like we could do anything. You find out your set time the morning of, you have to constantly be on your toes, there is dramatic weather conditions you need to adapt to — it really made us a lot stronger as a band.
At the Columbia, Maryland show in 2016, Kevin Lyman asked us to play at the nightly BBQ after the show. We ended up learning a bunch of punk rock covers and had members of all the other bands come up, sing, and play karaoke-style. The whole night ended with us playing “Bro Hymn” by Pennywise, and Kevin Lyman was crowd surfing and hanging from the rafters of the place. It was wild! We just feel lucky to be invited on to a tour that has played such a vital role in the music that shaped us. There’s no tour harder, but there’s no tour better. Warped Tour’s legacy will live on forever.
BOWLING FOR SOUP
Jaret Reddick (vocals/guitar): We have always been hustlers, but Warped makes you hustle. We’ve done a lot — we did almost all of [the shows] in 2003 and 2004, then we have been back every few years. The biggest change is that it all started with punk-rock icons like Bad Religion and Pennywise, then Fall Out Boy and My Chemical romance blew up. In 2010 it was almost all nu-metal. It has changed a lot over the years and almost come full circle in my experience. I also learned that staying up until 9 a.m. drinking isn’t the smartest thing to do when your time slot changes daily!
Pat Kirch (drums): Warped Tour feels like you’re in Disneyland, but for bands. As a band, it’s an opportunity to play in front of so many people, and those kinds of opportunities just don’t exist outside of this. As a fan, it’s a place to learn about new bands you’ve never heard of and see so many of your favorite bands in one show. The first time we played Warped was in 2008. That will always stick out to me, going from being a kid in the audience to then only four or five years later playing it. I was only 17 when we first played Warped Tour, and I was on the same stage as Katy Perry. It just felt like my dreams coming true.
[Warped Tour] means having a chance, you know? Kevin has given just so many bands an honest chance at trying to be heard by people, and it really built something great for us. Now I have a life where music is my career and the only thing I've done for the past decade, and I think a large part of that is because of this tour.
WE THE KINGS
Travis Clark (vocals/guitars/keyboards): I snuck into my first one. I didn't have enough money to get in, so I made a fake tour pass at my middle school and laminated it with a lanyard and snuck right pass security. I don't recommend people do that, but I got on my cell phone and I was like, “The speakers need to be on stage. The speakers need to be on stage!” I walked right past security with this fake laminate dangling from my pocket and I got to see all my favorite bands.
Coley O’Toole (keyboards/guitar): In 2008 I watched Kevin Lyman himself help people sneak over the fence. It was the most amazing thing I've ever seen.
Clark: When he asked us to join the tour, I felt like I just had this monkey on my back. So I talked to him and was like, “I think that you should know that I snuck into my very first Warped Tour,” and he thought it was amazing. I was like, “I think I owe you 34 dollars or something,” and he was just like, “That's the best story ever!”
Clark: Do you remember the year that Paramore came? They had come up from Mexico and had this hot sauce. Bands had to sign a waiver for this hot sauce. People were taking the end of a toothpick and just dabbing it very lightly and putting it on their tongue and dying. And this band from Mexico was like, “We are Mexican, we can handle this.” This band chugged it and…
O’Toole: Pardon my French, but if you've ever seen anyone shit and puke at the same time, it's quite a mess. I have it on VHS — I was VHSing the whole thing with one of those big camcorders.
Clark: [Laughs] That tells you how long We The Kings has been around. But we saw that and we were just like “This is crazy.” And it wasn't any special night, it was just another night at Warped Tour.
O’Toole: Every night, you never know what you're going to get. It's a crapshoot.
Josh Bradford (guitar): Warped Tour definitely expanded my horizons. As a young concert-goer, this is maybe one of the first concerts you’ve been to — it just gives you a real taste of the sides [of life] that are out there, and I think it’s inspiring to see people being brave enough to live whatever their truth is. Tattoos, piercings, colored hair. You just get introduced to a lot of alternative lifestyles.
They had this tour water — it looks like a can of Monster Energy but it’s just canned water. In the earlier years, they did a specific branded can for each year, so it was like “Warped Tour 2005” and it would have a cool graphic and a little story. I've collected those over the years, so I have one of those from every year. And when they stopped doing that and just started doing generic branded tour water, I still kept one from every year and just wrote the date on the bottom. With Warped Tour going away I don't know how often I will get the opportunity to drink water from a can — one thing I'm going to strangely miss.
Cassadee Pope (vocals/guitar): Warped Tour means hard work to me. You really have to love what you do to get through Warped. It’s not easy, and if you’re not careful, you could run out of steam real quick. It really puts you through tour boot camp. It also gives you a good look at how hard the crew members work, day in and day out. Everyone’s parked in the same lot, so you see merch people, guitar techs, drum techs lugging gear from one side of the tour to the complete opposite. It makes you appreciate what keeps the whole thing running. Everyone’s on the same playing field — everyone has to wait in the catering line, you’ve gotta wait your turn to shower. It’s a very humbling experience that I’m so grateful I got to have.
I also learned how important connecting with your fans is on Warped. Those were some of the best signings because those fans are truly dedicated. They stand out in the blistering sun to see their favorite bands play. And they don’t just stand around — they rock out.
Buddy Nielsen (vocals): Warped Tour is my childhood and my adulthood. It's a coming of age. I met my wife on it, so it has been a really integral part of my life. Our daughter’s first time watching me play was at Warped Tour in Philly a couple weeks ago. She's 14 months old, so she's never been able to stay up late enough.
Senses Fail is in a bunch of weird Warped Tour time capsules — one of them is buried at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame that's going to be opened in 2025, I think. We owe a lot to Kevin and to all the fans who have come out. It's sort of the end of a generation. It's cool to be a part of. I wanted to be a part of the last one.
Jenna McDougall (vocals): Warped was like the gateway to a lot of other opportunities for us. I have always described it as an incubator, because for a band like us, we started on the Kevin Says stage — which actually doesn't exist anymore — but that stage was the upcoming “heavens giving us a chance” stage. We’ve played the main stage for two years now, so it’s the type of tour that can take you from a teenage rookie to a world-renowned internationally touring professional performer.
Whoever we met and toured with on Warped Tour that summer, we would often go out with the next fall or the next spring. This year Simple Plan is on the tour, and it's not the first time that we've toured together. They're really beautiful people, and it's just this really amazing experience to ride the same wavelength as the people who've influenced your musical career. We used to watch Simple Plan DVDs when we had band practice when I was 15 years old. These bands seeped into our bloodstreams, and now we are out here touring with them. We're still on completely different levels, but it is cool to be on the same lineup, eat together, and sit out on the back of the trailers every night.
It’s almost like being back in high school — the difference is that everyone's got the same goal. Everyone here has the same interest, everyone here is at some level able to relate to being an outcast, a rebel, and a black sheep — but put rebels, outcasts and black sheep all in the same place and it's a really interesting energy.
Rob Damiani (vocals): Being from England, we had never been to Warped Tour. But from watching videos of it as kids and hearing about legendary bands doing it, we very much felt a part of it despite being so far away. As soon as we started the band, this was the tour we wanted to do. It's just been the most magical few weeks, and the best way to spend the summer.
There's a lot of party bands on Warped Tour. The band Issues, they've got the reputation of having the best party bus. They've got these lights in their bus where it's just normal, ambient yellow lighting, then there's one button you press and it turns neon blue. You can all just be chilling, feeling tired, and then you press this one button and the blue lights come on and the music starts. There's been a few nights where we just had the bus jumping. The suspension is probably fucked by now, but it's a lot of fun.
It all just reconfirmed our love of just going hard at shows. That energy that comes from the music that we grew up on, that is what creates an awesome live show for me. Seeing that everywhere on Warped Tour kind of gives me faith in what we do.
Tyler Carter (vocals): I had only attended one Warped as a fan prior to playing — I could never afford it growing up. But I have played it five times including this year. I’ve seen the tour fluctuate, but I’ve definitely seen some of the most magical moments in the tour’s history, including a surprise performance with Linkin Park that I was blessed with the opportunity of joining on stage. Warped has given us opportunities of growth that I don’t think anyone outside of this world could understand. There aren’t really any other festival-style tours out there aside from this that would go extensively around the country. I also have had very many important life experiences out here. I found myself several times.
ALL TIME LOW
Alex Gaskarth (vocals/guitar): There have been a lot of bands who came up on the Warped Tour that tried to distance themselves from it for whatever reason, and we never looked at it that way. It’s something that we’ve always and respected and cherished just because it was a staple in the punk and alternative world. Warped Tour was such a big part of our band coming up — it really taught us a lot about how to be on the road and coexist with other bands, how to carry ourselves and put on a great show learning from all the other bands that were veterans there.
Warped Tour brings out the craziness a little bit. It inspires us to capture that energy and take that with us on the road whenever we’re separate of Warped Tour. And I think that’s something we’ve maintained from the first time we did it. The crowds, the energy, the moments we’re creating here — we need to translate that live everywhere else. There’s no excuse. Warped is a reminder that the energy never dies.
SET IT OFF
Cody Carson (vocals/piano/guitar): In school there wasn't really a clique that I fell into. I was never really a cool kid, I felt like an outcast. This is where all the outcasts go to feel at home. Everyone's a weirdo, everyone's having a good time, and that's how so many friendships form from shows. Everyone is so similar because obviously they have the thing in common: They love music.
The first mosh pit I was ever in was at Warped Tour. My guitarist, Dan, we went together when we were in high school. I think it was during Avenged Sevenfold's song “Chapter Four” — he just looks at me, grins, and pushes me in, and I was like “Alright, whatever!” There was guy in there with a lightsaber, not even kidding.
In 2004 or 2005, when Fall Out Boy was playing, I didn't have any money for merch, so I brought a white T-shirt and a sharpie and I wrote “FOB” on it in my terrible handwriting. I brought it up to them and they signed it. I was very thankful and grateful that they were willing to sign my shirt, I still have it. They didn't really say much about it, but they signed it and I kept it. It's cool to look back at that and be like, “I was the kid in that line, and now these kids are in line for us.”
Derek DiScanio (vocals): As a fan in 2005 I had no idea who the band The Starting Line was, but they eventually became one of my favorite bands of all time [because of Warped Tour]. They were the last band I saw, and I rolled up to their last song, and I'll just never forget it. It was the “Best of Me” and it just kind of implanted in me that this was Warped Tour — I love this band, and I need to know everything about them and everything about this scene.
The small bands look up to larger bands, but those larger bands will do everything they can to help the smaller ones. Everyone is here for the right reasons. Simple Plan, who I have loved forever, on the first day of the tour [this year] came right up to us saying, “Hey, we love your band, will you guys come on stage and sing with us tomorrow?” So now I'm singing “I'm Just A Kid” with Simple Plan during shows, and I'm like a kid in a candy store up there. There is no room for egos on this tour, and that's why it's going to be sad to see it go.
Dan Lambton (vocals): The first year we played, Motion City Soundtrack also played, and I remember I was waiting to watch them on the stage, and Jesse the keyboard player was like, “Do you guys wanna come up here, like have a beer, come chill with us?” And I was like “Whoa, damn. Okay sure.” I think a lot of it is about community, because it’s one of the places you can see a lot of these bands together. Whether or not there are cliques or people that don't like each other, everyone's still under one roof with one common goal — just get out there and play and hopefully have a good time. That’s really all it’s about.
TAKING BACK SUNDAY
Shaun Cooper (bass): I attended in 1995 as a fan. My old band Straylight Run played two weeks in 2007. Taking Back Sunday played the whole thing in 2012. We played our final Warped show in Ventura, California, a few weeks ago. Warped Tour offered us an opportunity to play in front of tens of thousands of people every day. Early, on we had to prove the hype behind our band was real. In 2012 we got to remind people who we are. We credit the tour with the resurgence our band has been enjoying to this very day. It means the world to us.
[My favorite memory is] hanging out with Bad Religion, specifically Brian Baker, in 2007. He was very kind when he didn’t have to be. We were a little Long Island piano-rock band. and he was a punk rock legend. He offered advice and great conversation simply because our busses were parked near each other.
Ryan Key (vocals/guitar): So much of Yellowcard’s success was due to the support we received from Kevin Lyman and the tour. If he believes in you, he really gets behind you and provides you with this incredible platform to play your music for thousands of people everyday, summer after summer. I truly believe that Warped Tour will be connected to everything I do as a musician going forward on my own because it was such an integral part of my development as an artist.
In 2004, I became an honorary member of Me First and the Gimme Gimmes. Their guitarist, Chris Shiflet, had to leave the tour for a few days to tend to Foo Fighters duties, so they gathered up friends on the tour to fill in on different songs. Being in a band made up of some of my childhood musical heroes and sharing the stage with them playing guitar was just insane. I still have my official Gimmes Hawaiian shirt.
Jeremy Lenzo (bass/vocals): One memory that stands out was going to my first Warped Tour as a fan and seeing Davey Havok from AFI walk out into the middle of the crowd on top of people’s hands holding him up. He made it look so easy and never stopped singing — lots of respect to him. Everyone is equal on Warped Tour. It doesn’t matter how old your band is, or how popular, we are all in the same boat out here. And most of the intimidating bands are actually softies.
Warped Tour is something that we have always loved playing, and I honestly don’t know if we would have had the same success without Warped Tour. Selling CDs in line back in 2005 helped kickstart our career. We owe so much to the Warped Tour and everyone involved. We are very sad to see it go, and grateful that we were asked to play the last one.
Sean Foreman: The first time I ever went, we played. They just threw us on a stage because we were kind of bubbling in Denver, and they took a recommendation from a radio station. It’s the lifeblood of our career. I literally have scars on my body — I have a gash on my leg from falling on a drum riser. But I look down fondly at that scar because it’s the hard work that we’ve put in and everyone puts in here.
Nat Motte: It’s really been an amazing tour because it really breaks down the walls between fans and bands, literally. It’s an incredible opportunity for us to see who’s allowing us to do what we want to do. Our music has always been geared and conducive to rocking a party, and I think it’s great to be able to do that out here and see a bunch of smiling faces.
Foreman: There was one special [show] for us, just because it was pretty surreal — when we toured that first full time, Katy Perry was on the same stage as us. She dove off the stage when we were playing “Don’t Trust Me” and got carried through the crowd.
Motte: I think a bunch of teenagers got handfuls of something that they shouldn’t.
Foreman: I don’t think she stage dove after that again.
MOTIONLESS IN WHITE
Chris Cerulli (vocals/keyboards/guitar): Warped Tour has always been known for being a tour that has had a wide array of genres, but as the years have gone on, the heavier music has gotten even heavier, and there's a lot more dance and pop and hip-hop now than I ever remember there being. I like that there's no fear of taking risks and putting bands out here. Warped Tour has always been a place that we can feel accepted and call home for an entire summer. Warped Tour represents an open arms, open-mind mentality, and I have always felt welcomed into this world. Getting to see that there are so many like-minded people made me feel a lot more comfortable and confident in with myself.
We've played about nine different Warped Tours in 13 years, and every year we've played in our hometown of Scranton, Pennsylvania. We just played it for the last time two days ago and got to say goodbye to Warped Tour in our hometown, where we got our start. We played our song that is dedicated to our area last, to all these hometown fans — that was probably one of the most powerful experiences of my entire life.
THE STORY UNTOLD
Jessy Bergy (lead guitar): I've become a better person in general just because the platform it gives you. You can be anywhere in the world and have the chance to play on stage, and you get to be yourself. The best thing I learned through Warped Tour was how to be myself. Going out there and sticking to your guns. You can be anyone and still have a chance to play and express yourself. So thank you, Kevin Lyman, for this. This is one of the best things in the world.