The Warped Tour is Punk Rock Daycare

Here’s a surprising update on the Warped Tour: it still exists.

Here’s a surprising update on the Tour of Warp: it still exists.

This might not seem all that shocking, but it actually came as news to me who—like most self-respecting fans of punk rock—has not been to the tour since Bill Clinton was in office. I think the last time I went was in 1999 when the featured acts included Anti-Flag,

Dropkick Murphys, Blink-182, Bouncing Souls, H2O, Less Than Jake, Pennywise, and a pre-toilet-era Black Eyed Peas (before Fergie came along and boom-boom-powed the band into a meaningless corporate existence of Super Bowls and Best Buy ads).

But that was 14 years ago and I’ll probably never go again unless VICE sends me to cover it this year, in which case, I’ll need a bottle of sunscreen, a pair of industrial-strength earplugs, and in case things get really dire, a revolver with one bullet. And I’m sure that’s fine with founder Kevin Lyman and the other Warped Tour organizers. They don’t care if my old ass would rather splatter my brains out than attend their shitty festival for shitheads, because the Warped Tour is not aimed at me. It’s aimed at high school kids and always has been.

The tour is in its 19th year now but doesn’t seem to have much interest in maturing. Its increasingly twee lineups over the last decade have proven that it wants to cater to the same gullible age group forever and ever. The Warped Tour is basically Matthew McConaughey in Dazed and Confused. That’s what the Warped Tour loves about punk kids: the tour gets older, but they stay the same age, yes they do, all right all right. So if the Warped Tour just wants to lean against the wall like a creepy old perv and cash in on allowance money from high school kids until the end of eternity, fine. But they are doing a much more embarrassing job of it than they used to.

Does your manager at Claire's know where you are?

Years ago, the tour had at least some vague semblance of actual punk rock. The lineups were a smorgasbord of punk bands picked from Epitaph and Fat Wreck Chords’ rosters like Lagwagon, Millencolin, and Strung Out, mixed with a few more diverse acts that you’d never pay to see but were worth checking out since you were there anyway. In ‘99, I got to see an up-and-coming rapper named Eminem who was actually great but was promptly booed by the crowd, and also Ice-T, who got on stage and told the police to suck his mothafuckin’ dick. For real, y’all. It was awesome. Then, a year later, he became a detective on Law & Order: SVU. Life is funny like that.

But if you look through the Warped Tour’s lineup for this year, you’ll get lost in an endless homogeneous blob of slanty-haired emo kids, Hot Topic goth punks, throat-tattooed 100lb wusses, androgynous eyeliner dudes, Christian metal nerds, lip-ringed leather jacket wearers, and neon-clad fashion dorks. The only thing close to diversity on it is that the tour still pays a hilariously superficial lip service to a handful of “classic” bands, which is about as prestigious as getting a lifetime achievement award—it’s a friendly pat-on-the-back way of saying your career is over. The winner of the dubious honor this year was Goldfinger, who played a week’s worth of dates on the tour. Not sure how to break this, but the neon kids don’t give a shit about Goldfinger. There’s also usually some poor token aging punk icon in the mix to add some authenticity. Last year, it was Hot Water Music’s Chuck Ragan. This year, it’s 7 Seconds frontman, Kevin Seconds. Please, if you see Kevin Seconds at this year’s Warped Tour (you’ll recognize him as the oldest person there), give him a hug. He’ll need it.

The Warped Tour is fully aware that they are basically running a punk rock daycare service. They pretty much flat-out admitted it this year when they announced their new policy: any kid who comes to the Warped Tour can bring a parent for free. A brilliant move on their part. No longer will miserable dads need to circle the parking lot until Bleed the Veil (or whatever crapcore band their kid is into that week) is finished playing. Instead, they can come inside, where they are in prime position to buy their spoiled kids $9 Monster Energy Drinks and t-shirts from their favorite band, Horizon on the Dance Floor, to replace the One Direction ones they were wearing last year because OMG that’s totally gay now, dad! GOD!

Mom and Dad supporting their favorite band, The Paramores

You’re probably thinking: “Who gives a shit? The Warped Tour is a joke.” And you’re right. The Warped Tour is a joke and I can laugh at it. I mean, I can really laugh at it. Like, oh man, one of the bands playing this year is called Black Veil Brides and they look like what would happen if Mötley Crüe fucked the cast of Cats. I can spend the entire day looking through their promo photos and bios and just laugh. But then it stops being funny when I start to wonder if these ridiculous clown-people are the future of the punk scene, because the tide has clearly shifted in their favor.

The older punk crowd has graduated to other things. The punks who have grown too old for the Warped Tour have moved on to newer festivals for older crowds, like Riot Fest and Punk Rock Bowling. These fests also know how to cater to their demo audiences and feature the popular Warped Tour bands of yesteryear. Bands like Swingin’ Utters and the Damned get to take the stage to a crowd of 30-somethings and still feel relevant, whereas at the Warped Tour, they’d be met with a sea full of bored teens checking Instagram. #WTFaretheseolddudeslol. Eventually, this punk rock nostalgia will wear thin and those bands will retire, leaving the slanty-haired dinguses to inherit the scene.

Maybe one day, I’ll have dumb teenagers of my own who will want to go to the Warped Tour. And honestly, I’ll be cool with it, because while there are a million awful things about the tour, in the grand scheme of things, it’s slightly better that they go to that than some date rapey dance club or worse, the Gathering of the Juggalos. I’ll even give them a ride to the Warped Tour. But no fucking way am I coming in.

Dan runs Jaded Punk and has no interest in creeping on your coon-tailed 15-year-old daughter. Follow him on Twitter - @danozzi