10 pop artists who played Warped Tour
During its 25-year run, Vans Warped Tour was the epicenter of alternative music and culture in North America. While the traveling festival was rooted in punk rock during its formative years, founder Kevin Lyman later bridged the gap between genres and diversified the lineups in progressive and innovative ways. Lyman, who booked seasoned acts in the punk, metal and emo world year after year, also placed his bets on emerging artists in the pop and hip-hop worlds, which certainly paid off. Warped Tour always seemed to have its finger on the pulse of music that was destined to become widely popular. While some of the most outspoken gatekeepers of the scene were quick to judge, the proof was there in that all of the cross-over acts who played the festival have now gone on to sell millions of records and eclipse the mainstream masses.
From Demi Lovato to Travis Mills, here are 10 of the most influential pop artists who played Warped Tour over the years.
Former Disney star, pop icon and current AP cover artist Demi Lovato is no stranger to punk and rock music. Long before the release of their latest guitar-driven album HOLY FVCK, Lovato made a special cameo appearance during scene legends We The Kings’ 2010 Warped Tour set to perform a stripped-down rendition of the group’s collaborative track “We’ll Be A Dream.” If time travel ever exists in our lifetime, we’d go back to 2010 and experience this monumental moment for the scene and Warped Tour in general.
Just as he was beginning to score top 10 hits but long before selling millions of records and taking pills in Ibiza, Mike Posner paid his dues on the 2010 Warped Tour alongside scene staples such as the All-American Rejects and Bring Me The Horizon. While Posner was beginning to experience massive mainstream success, he rose to the occasion and played his heart out for the entirety of the tour, all while juggling a busy schedule of media appearances, radio performances and navigating the major-label industry. His experience on Warped Tour was even captured in great detail for the exceptional documentary film No Room For Rockstars.
Warped Tour always had an impeccable ability to bring together a wide variety of genres and be on the forefront of breaking new artists long before they became household names.1999 was no exception when the tour featured a relatively small artist by the name of Marshall Mathers, aka Eminem. The hip-hop icon performed high intensity and bold sets across the tour and was signaling his imminent rise to fame each day. In the ensuing years, he would go on to become a legend in not only the hip-hop world but pop culture history as a whole.
By now, most know that pop sensation Katy Perry famously appeared on the 2008 Warped Tour. However, it’s not mentioned nearly enough when it comes to its cultural significance. 2008 was a time when Perry was on the cusp of stardom, due in large part to the infectious nature of her breakout single “I Kissed A Girl.” Shortly after her stint on the tour, she became a household name, with a host of No. 1 singles and platinum records. During this time, Perry was dating Travie McCoy of the genre-bending quartet Gym Class Heroes, who were also part of the historic 2008 lineup.
In 2002, N.E.R.D., the supergroup featuring successful music producer, singer and fashion mogul Pharrell Williams, made an appearance on Warped Tour, and they couldn’t have been more at home during this time. In fact, N.E.R.D. had just as many ties to the rock and punk scene as they did the hip-hop and pop scene, with genre-fluid tracks that incorporated everything from nü-metal to punk. They even featured Good Charlotte on their 2004 hit “Jump.”
Black Eyed Peas
In 1999, Eminem wasn’t the only major cross-over act who’d play Warped Tour, and in historic fashion, Black Eyed Peas made an appearance at the festival. This was a considerable time before the now pop superstar Fergie joined the group for their breakthrough album Elephunk, but the group played impactful sets and opened up audiences to new music in a traditionally punk-leaning atmosphere. In the following years, vocalists Will.i.am and Fergie would go on to become highly successful solo artists in their own right. However, both got to where they are today due to hard work and commitment, with Warped Tour being the perfect stepping stone for their fruitful careers.
MOD SUN has strong roots in the hardcore and screamo scenes, dating back to when he was barely out of high school. The singer-songwriter once played drums for the underrated Victory Records outfit Four Letter Lie and screamo legends Scary Kids Scaring Kids, but shortly after his stint playing drums for scene outfits, MOD SUN would shift gears to a more laid-back, hippie-rap sound as a solo artist. During his 2015 stint on Warped Tour, MOD SUN played upbeat hip-hop sing-alongs and was beginning to show his true strength as a performer. At present time, MOD SUN has adopted a more Warped Tour-ready sound that incorporates pop punk and alternative rock.
2015 also saw another rising pop star on the tour with Bebe Rexha. For those who don’t know, Rexha was part of a short-lived musical duo with the scene’s crown prince and Fall Out Boy bassist Pete Wentz called Black Cards, which foreshadowed her path to Warped Tour. In a heartwarming, full-circle moment, Rexha performed “The Monster” by past Warped Tour alum Eminem, with whom she co-wrote the Grammy-winning single. During her 2015 run on Warped Tour, Rexha performed with a full live band and juiced up her material with rock elements that blended perfectly with the festival’s distinct lineup. One year later, Rexha scored a major hit with her single “In the Name of Love” and has been enjoying continued success ever since.
Back in 2012, when he was performing under the stage name T. Mills, Travis Mills brought a hip-hop flair to the tour and began to make a name for himself as a performer. His presence at the festival showed an exciting convergence of genres coming together. In the following years, Mills, who is an outspoken fan of punk music, has now gone on to form his very own band girlfriends, which centers on a modern blend of pop punk and alternative rock for the next generation.
Yes, we know that No Doubt have roots in the punk and ska scenes of the ‘90s, but no one could have ever anticipated the mainstream cross-over success they would achieve in the ensuing years. Equally, their inimitable frontwoman Gwen Stefani achieved a monumental career as a pop artist. In true innovator fashion, No Doubt performed on the first-ever installment of Warped Tour in 1995 alongside acclaimed groups such as Sublime and Quicksand. Their appearance on the tour came during the time when the band were gaining significant radio airplay for their breakthrough single “Just A Girl.”