Very soon, the end of an era begins: Warped Tour, America’s longest-running touring festival, commences its final cross-country campaign.

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To celebrate the tour’s last run, we asked respected Warped veterans to share in their own words, how Warped has impacted them personally.

Skyler Acord, bassist for Issues, recalls that crucial consciousness-building moment he experienced as a person of mixed heritage attending Warped Tour.

Warped Tour played a huge part in my growing up. The importance of the often mentioned sense of community around the festival in the mid/late 2000s could not be overstated. I was a weird one, however, even for Warped. I found difficulty finding bands under the emo and post-hardcore umbrella that I truly enjoyed, much less related to. I was the only black guy at Warped in sight who didn’t straighten his hair and wear girl jeans. (I wear them now, by the way.)

And if that wasn’t enough, I was the guy who strategized my day to hit all the HEAVIEST bands I could find on the bill. Which there were often few, since normal, well-balanced human beings don’t usually enjoy things that I, the complete opposite, can’t get enough of. This usually meant bands such as Parkway Drive, Whitechapel, Suicide Silence and, one time, the Dillinger Escape Plan. I’ll never forget that set. I was very excited to see them, Dillinger being the closest thing to what I’d listen to on my own time I’ve ever seen on the Warped bill. (I should preface that I was constantly listening to grindcore and being an annoying, elitist dickhead around this time.)

The set was predictably insane, Dillinger being Dillinger. But halfway through, they did something remarkable. They stopped their set, introduced a band called the Bots, got offstage and two lanky, dark-skinned kids who looked no older than 16 walked on and DESTROYED. The crowd, being a large group of DEP fans with no expectations, were floored. These kids OWNED it, and we were all eating out of their palms. After a couple songs, DEP came back on and finished their set, but I just couldn’t shake it. Remarkably, that was the first time I’d ever seen more than one black person onstage at a rock show—and NOT as a fill-in member.

Something about me, at 18 or 19, watching two black kids much younger than me show up to Warped and force us in the crowd to take them home in the form of a story we couldn’t dare forget to tell all our friends the next day was incredibly inspiring. Until that moment, I felt like a visitor in someone else’s scene. I realized that it all belonged to me too, as it does to everyone else, as their girl pants and emo swoops were as much a part of it as my baggy JNCO jeans and untamed afro. Because of my mixed heritage, I find it hard to feel at home anywhere, but I realized that being homeless together was what felt like community.

I’ve recently been seeing more and more tweets from Issues fans that mention the diversity of my band is just as encouraging an example to many other colored alternative weirdos like myself. I will always appreciate Warped Tour for sponsoring that cycle of inspiration. I have no doubt some of those watching me onstage and realizing they own the scene as much as I do—or the Bots do or DEP does—will far surpass me and inspire many more creatives in the future. As Warped enters its last year, I will remember it not as a part of the staff, but as a participant. Over the last 23 years, as we’ve all collected stories like this one, I’m sure it’s become impossible to tell the difference.