Now it’s on and soon it will be gone: Warped Tour, America’s longest-running touring festival deemed by people on all sides of the stages as “punk-rock summer camp,” has begun its final cross-country campaign.
To celebrate the tour’s last run, we asked respected Warped veterans to share, in their own words, how the tour has impacted them personally.
If you’ve ever attended Warped, you realize Every Time I Die frontman Keith Buckley needs no introduction. Here he posits life in a post-Warped world and what that will mean to future generations not ready to surrender their joy.
I’m old, so I don’t know what it’s like to be excited about anything anymore. Using all of my powers of imagination, I can’t even begin to get a vague idea of what it must be like to look forward to something so much, with such pure, unironic enthusiasm that you color your hair for it.
I dry heave when I think of making plans with someone I actually like, so the notion that kids still voluntarily and excitedly coordinate schedules, rides, clothing, hair, makeup and meeting points just to stand out in the sun surrounded by people they barely know in the hopes of catching a distant glimpse of a band they haven’t even heard of is beyond my comprehension.
And it should be, because though Every Time I Die have had one of the longest-running stints on it, Warped Tour isn’t for me. Warped Tour isn’t for the bands who play it, though they may coincidentally enjoy being a part of it. It’s not for the people who run it, though they may take great pride in watching it move. It’s not for the people with families and three-quarter sleeve tattoos of koi fish who talk about how they used to like music “when it was good,” though they may have fond memories of it.
Warped Tour has always been for the kids. The punk kids. The ones who hate you but love each other. The kids who don’t give a fuck that you’re smirking at their mohawk or that you think the band they listen to are trash. Because you’re old, and you don’t know what it’s like to be excited about anything anymore.
You don’t know what it means to connect with something glorious for the very first time. You don’t know how it feels to see every day of the summer as another chance for a thousand different important things to happen. But these kids do, and that is why Warped Tour has existed for 23 years. Not because it caters to trends. Not because it sets trends. It exists because it houses the spirit of youth.
Not once in all my years of playing it have I felt like the kids were coming to see us. Instead, we were invited by them to perform. Court jesters. We made them feel young, and for that we were allowed entry into their world, a place apart from time. Band members tend to say that Warped was like “a summer camp.” They never say “a work retreat.” They never say “a spring break.” A summer camp. That place in the woods that changed your childhood forever.
I don’t have any idea what a post-Warped world will look like for my band. Being from Buffalo, New York, and recognizing how the closing of a steel mill can devastate an entire city that relied on it for its well-being does give me some comprehension of what it must feel like to live without direction. But by no means do I think that us or the members of Four Year Strong or New Found Glory or Pennywise will be lurking the horse tracks ruminating on our lost purpose. We’ll all tour, and we’ll be fine even though there’s a very good chance we will never occupy the same stage again. For that, we will be sad.
But it isn’t about us now. It never was. What concerns me is what a post-Warped world will look like for the kids. The gates to their summer camp will close. The lights will turn off. And they may forget what it’s like to be excited long before they should.