On Nov. 15, it was announced that next year would be the last full cross-country run for the Vans Warped Tour. Kevin Lyman, the founder of the iconic tour, has pointed to declining ticket sales and a decrease in the number of bands booking the tour as reasons for the music festival’s retirement from the alternative music scene.
Having gone to the summer festival myself three times in high school leaves me with mixed feelings toward the tour’s demise. On one hand, I’m sad to see it go because of the memories I have of seeing some of my favorite performances and bands at Warped. On the other hand, in the last few years, controversy has followed the tour, which has partnered with questionable musicians and organizations, leading me to not really care about it ending. My fond memories don’t really take precedence over the festival providing a platform for despicable or irrelevant people.
I went to the Warped Tour during the summers of 2012-2014. For the most part, all three times were fun and memorable. I think what resonated with me during the time and probably with a lot of teenagers that are or were connected to the alternative music scene of the last 20 years is the community feel that Warped can bring to the day. You get a diverse lineup of bands, an amazing shopping experience because of all the merch booths, and you might run into band members throughout the day. So, all in all, a pretty good time. Honestly, nothing can beat the rush of seeing a number of your favorite bands play on the same day, which is what I got to experience with Warped.
Like I said, as fun as Warped has been for me, there are some controversies surrounding the festival that make me less sad about it leaving the scene. What really made me lose respect for the Warped Tour occurred in 2015 when they let Jake Mcelfresh, who performs under the name Front Porch Step, play at their Nashville stop. Earlier that year, Mcelfresh was accused of soliciting nudes from underage fans and admitted to having sexual conversations and exchanging sexual text messages with underage fans. Lyman, who took Mcelfresh off of the tour that summer, allowed him to play for the Nashville date because Lyman didn’t believe that Mcelfresh or his presence was “any speck of danger to anyone out there.” That makes total sense, considering that a large portion of the attendees for the tour are underage girls. No danger at all.
The same year, for some reason, Warped decided to let YouTubers on the music festival roster. One of the YouTubers, Austin Jones, was found guilty of soliciting twerking videos from underage girls. Lyman, while battling whether to remove him from the tour or not, said “the word ‘pedophile’ is a strong, strong term,” and claimed to conduct an investigation on him. This response is incredibly insensitive to victims of sexual harassment and assault and was very disappointing to hear from the founder of my favorite music festival. What’s even more disappointing is that this last summer Jones was found guilty on two counts of child pornography for events that took place in 2016 and 2017. I can’t help but think that if Lyman or the authorities took the twerking harassment that occurred in 2015 more seriously, maybe these girls could have been protected.
I stopped caring about the Vans Warped Tour in 2015 and it went beyond just growing out of it or the tour booking garbage bands. A music festival that has a large number of underage kids that attend it needs to take measures to ensure their safety. I didn’t see that in 2015 and I haven’t really seen that change in the last couple years, either.
So thnks fr th mmrs Warped Tour, but I’m not all that sad to see you go.