Warped Tour kicks off its 20th year tomorrow in Houston. Over those years, the tour has brought countless people amazing memories, and just as you'll never forget the first album you bought or the first music video you saw, you'll never forget your first Warped!
Check out some Warped memories from our editorial team and share your own!
I've written about my first Warped Tour experience at length before, but my feelings on that day virtually never change. At 15, I had barely been to local shows, but my older brother got a postcard in the mail courtesy of some band's mailing list that advertised the Warped Tour, and we thought it sounded incredible so we convinced our mom to drive us into Chicago, where we were dropped off at the United Center. Of course, the show wasn't inside; it was outside, in Parking Lot J. (The random shit you remember, right?) I remember being in awe of the spectacle of it all, while also hungrily consuming whatever information (and merch) I could find at every booth. I met Blink-182 at their tent and told them I was looking forward to seeing them play later that day, but it wasn't meant to be: A gnarly thunderstorm swooped in and dumped what felt like thousands of gallons of rain on top of us from about 2 p.m. until about 8 p.m., causing all the side stages to shut down after only a few bands played. (This was a safety precaution, due to the side stages not having roof coverings, something Sugar Ray's Mark McGrath learned the hard way, as a bolt of lightning stuck their stage during their set—and I saw it happen.)
My brother and I then took cover under an abandoned merch tent to avoid the bad weather for the next few hours as a string of bands I was less-than-interested in played on the main stage. We lamented not being able to see the almighty Descendents, as they were initially scheduled for the second stage until their set was scrubbed. We weren't alone; a lot of people had driven from all over the Midwest to see Descendents, since they were only on a small portion of the tour, and, if memory serves correctly, Chicago was going to be their last day. Many audience members griped to staff, but what could be done? Then, about 20 minutes into Pennywise's main stage set, we heard something unusual: Black Flag. My brother and I darted out from under the tent and witnessed all four members of the Descendents onstage hammering through a handful of Flag classics using Pennywise's gear. (My memory tells me that Bill was on vocals and Milo was on drums, which seems impossible as I type it—maybe I just invented that part of the story to make it sound even more insane.) Then, Bill and Milo switched spots back (I think; again, I could be making that part up, but it is vividly in my memory) and the Descendents plowed through a handful of originals, including “I'm The One,” before wishing the crowd well and getting the hell out of that torrential downpour. I wouldn't believe it if I hadn't seen it with my own eyes—nor had the Chicago Tribune not reported about it. That 10-minute experience told me all I needed to know about Warped Tour: This is a family, and everyone here is on the same team. I've never missed a year of Warped since, and I absolutely love attending, but I will never, ever forget my first. —Scott Heisel
Former staffers Todd Hutlock, Anne Steiner and I traveled to Pittsburgh to man the AP booth at what was then called the IC Light Amphitheatre. (Now known as the Trib Total Media Amphitheatre —corporate-identity history ed.) What I remember vividly about that day was how someone thought setting up a mini-record store in 99-degree heat was a good idea (Brave New World Records, represent!) and how we had back-to-back signings with AFI and MxPx at our booth. Less than 100 people showed up to have their stuff signed and press the flesh with Messrs. Burgan, Carson, Havok and Puget. However, Bremerton, Washington's finest punk trio were signing an hour after AFI, and the line started real early. After their fans came in, AFI sat in the booth for seven more minutes doing nothing while a several-hundred-strong crowd of ardent Magnified Plaid fans gathered in front of the AP booth, five feet away from the table. It looked positively uncomfortable—not because the MxPx horde were particularly scary or brandishing torches and pitchforks—but because this mass of humanity looked positively blasé in front of the band, like a silent press conference run solely by telepathy. To lighten the mood, I wisecrackingly sang the crucial line from “Smells Like Teen Spirit” (“Here we are now/Entertain us…”) at the band, and Havok laughed the loudest. He smiled and said, “Bad luck has always been the best luck for our band,” prior to leaving the tent. —Jason Pettigrew
Warped Tour 2005. Oh man. I was 13 years old, and it was my first time going. I was, of course, so stoked to finally be going, but what made it even more badass was Travis Barker was going to be there with the Transplants. Blink-182 were, are and will always be my favorite band, and this Warped Tour show came about five months after Blink announced their indefinite hiatus. I was completely hooked on the Transplants’ latest release at the time, Haunted Cities, so it only made my excitement grow to finally see them perform. This was before most kids that age had fancy phones or cameras so I was armed with my yellow Kodak disposable camera (I’m pretty sure I used the entire roll of film on the band). A few minutes after the set, realizing I may never get the chance to meet one of my idols again, I crawled under a tent and snuck backstage. I ran up to Travis and had a quick chat with him before turning into a teenage fanboy and asking for an autograph and picture. After getting the autograph, I was so bummed to find out my camera was all out of film, but that still ended up being one of the best memories of my life. —Nick Major
Following five hours and several huge headliners (Fall Out Boy, the Starting Line, Underoath and Senses Fail), I had been jostled and wedged firmly into the second row of a sun-and-dirt covered anthill of humans in front of Warped’s main stage. Without the benefits of having a barricade to steady yourself, I learned that day, second row is the worst position you can be in in a rowdy crowd. It’s like drowning in arms while wearing a straightjacket. As my favorite band My Chemical Romance played and I saw them up-close for the first time, my heart could barely take not being able to flail without constriction. Perhaps that’s why, when their set ended and I asked a security guard to remove me from the crowd, he said, “Oh, no. You’re going to first aid,” and swept me under the stage where I nearly collapsed in front of My Chemical Romance’s post-set cigarette circle. I watched them at a miserable distance with an icy towel around my shoulders at the first-aid tent where the medic declared I had a heat stroke. My first Warped ended abruptly after that when the medics, convinced I wouldn’t survive the rest of the day, forced me onto a golf cart back to the parking lot to meet my mom and go home. Miraculously, though, I was able to meet Gerard and Mikey Way (while the Transplants played nearby) before I left the medics’ care. I didn’t mind being kicked out so much after that. —Cassie Whitt
In the above fan-made YouTube video, the storm starts at about 1:39, but at the three-minute mark is when pure pandemonium ensues. You can see the surrounding buildings literally disappear. (My favorite part is the defiant pair of rock hands at about 3:30.) At about 4:21, you can also see that the side screen at main stage is simply gone. —TJ Horansky
AP #312, our 2014 Warped Tour issue celebrates 20 years with stories like this from many of your favorite artists! Pick it up now.