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Arizona band The Maine performed on the full 2016 Vans Warped Tour with a backdrop on stage that read: ‘You are watching a band called The Maine.’ (Selina Falcon/The Collegian)

Locals react to the end of Warped Tour

Kevin Lyman, founder of the Vans Warped Tour, announced in a public statement last month that summer 2018 would be the final full cross-country run of the tour.

Warped Tour, a traveling music festival that has been staged every summer since 1995, has been dubbed “punk-rock summer camp” by many and has given a stage to some of today’s biggest artists, including Katy Perry, G-Eazy, Fall Out Boy and Jimmy Eat World.

Lyman said in his statement that after spending four summers on the Lollapalooza tour, he had wanted to create his own show that mixed music and action sports.  

“With the support of so many people, I have now spent the last 23 summers bringing that show to a city near you,” he said on the Vans Warped Tour website. “We have brought that show to over 11 million people around the world and watched that same world change while doing so.”

One of those places Lyman brought Warped Tour to was Fresno, and while the tour has not made a stop in the Central Valley in eight years, many still remember when it did set up in the Save Mart Center parking lot.

Sean McElhinney, interim general manager at the Save Mart Center, said he was just starting out at the venue the last time Warped Tour was in Fresno.

“We did ours on an asphalt parking lot during the dead of summer, so that was a challenge,” he said. “And then by the time [the tour] got to California, they were looking at school starting because California typically started a lot earlier than the East Coast for school. I know the last time we did it was on the first day of school for pretty much everyone.”

McElhinney said one of the biggest reasons Warped Tour could be ending is due to the expenses.

“Right now, there’s a festival that’s basically popping up in every city,” he said. “Warped Tour was up there. Yes, it was a festival, but they had a lot of expense to get from city to city to city to city.”

In an interview with Billboard in November, Lyman said recent years had been tough financially, but the decision wasn’t solely based on finances.

“Despite what people’s perception is, I do [Warped Tour] because I love music and I love turning people onto new bands,” he said. “Last year, the finances weren’t good, and it was tough because you’re sitting there going, you worked this hard … So we’re not ending it because of that. We don’t mind running it to break even. But you’ve got to be smart in business, too.”

Debbie Speer, associate news editor at Pollstar, a trade publication based in Fresno that reports on the global concert industry, said Warped Tour has had a large impact on the concert industry.

“Vans Warped Tour has been a tremendous platform for emerging artists, and founder Kevin Lyman has been a real innovator in the festival space,” she said. “Gwen Stefani and No Doubt, and a ton of other bands that are household names now, got their starts on Warped.”

Speer said other things Lyman did included pricing the festival affordably, because he was aware that the Warped audience was young. He also provided a free ticket for parents and “an area where they could hang out while their kids watched the show, for those who felt a little skittish about dropping their 12-year-old off at a massive festival site and leaving them there.”

“They also brought in educational nonprofits alongside the sticker and food vendors, so they brought a socially responsible aspect to the festival as well,” Speer added.

As for the impact the end of Warped Tour will have on bands, Speer said it is “a big loss to those baby bands, whose first major exposure and experience on a big tour and lessons learned about cohabitating on the road with other bands, might have been Vans Warped Tour.”

Codie Collins, frontman, manager and booking agent for Fresno band Wee Beasties, said he attended the last Warped Tour date in Fresno in 2009.

“A few friends of mine performed, [I] got to see a ton of bands I loved, and overall had a great time,” Collins said.

“I believe that Warped Tour serves as an integral part of the live music culture and scene,” he said. “It’s something that most all bands look at as a goal to strive for. I personally always wanted to do the entire tour nationally in a band. It’s taken everyone by surprise that it’s finally ending.”

Collins said he was at a Hunny and Bad Suns concert with his bandmate, Giovann Mena, when he found out that the tour was ending. He said he sits in between seeing the end as a negative or a positive.

“On the negative side, smaller underground bands won’t get a chance to be put in front of those large audiences, who otherwise would never discover them,” he said. “On the positive side, it may open up the door of possibilities to a new and improved tour. It may also force listeners to now spend more time investing in bands who don’t get the opportunity to play Warped Tour. We’ll just have to wait and see how it all plays out.”

Also sitting in the middle is Fresno State animal science major Nikki Xiong.

“I think I’m more in between because I feel like now there’s not too many good bands going anymore,” she said.

Xiong said she has attended Warped Tour twice, the first time being in Fresno in 2009, and the most recent being in 2016 in Mountain View. She said on the first tour she saw bands like Breathe Carolina, The Devil Wears Prada, Lights and Cash Cash.

“I wanted to go because I really wanted to see the band Breathe Carolina, so my best friend and I went,” she said. “We were young. We were in high school, freshman year. We were like, ‘Let’s go, it’s fun.’”

When asked what bands she saw on the 2016 tour, Xiong said she only went for one.

“The Maine for sure, and that was pretty much it,” she said. “I only watched The Maine, I’m gonna be honest, that’s what [I] did.”

Xiong said she found out about Warped Tour ending via Twitter.

“I’m kind of sad, but I guess it’s OK,” she said. “More sad though because I think it’s something fun, and it’s something to do over summer that everyone can kind of go to. And then you get to meet bands and usually it’s free, you just pay to get in.”

Xiong said whether she attends the final Warped Tour will depend on the lineup, and there’s only one band the would convince her to go.

“Most likely [The Maine]. If they go, yes, I’ll go because they’re worth seeing,” she said.

The 2018 Vans Warped Tour will kick off on June 21 in Pomona and finish up on Aug. 5 in West Palm Beach, Fla.

This story was produced in Ron Orozco’s advanced reporting class, MCJ 102W.