Most kids spend their summer vacation at camp making crafts, playing games, and running around having the time of their life. Growing up by the beach meant I always had a place to run around and play, so I never spent weeks hanging out in a cabin or swimming in a lake. That is until I was 14 years old and my parents FINALLY let me go to the only summer camp I have ever wanted to attend: The Vans Warped Tour. It was the ultimate punk rock summer camp that came to a town near you one day every summer with its loud music and kids running around wearing black skinny jeans on the hottest day of summer leaving a trail of rubber wristbands and stickers over the entire venue.
Each year you would wait to see which of your favorite bands would be on the Warped Tour lineup, and it was always a bunch of them. That meant being prepared for a day packed full of your favorite music, lots of meet and greets, and running from one stage to another that is ALL the way at the other end of the venue. And planning it out the night before? Think again. You and everyone else were running into that venue right to the inflatable schedule that told you who played where at what time, and that changed for every single city they stopped at. Every band played a 30-minute set, whether they opened the local stage or closed the main stage. But the time has come to end such an important era, and after 25 years Warped Tour finally called it quits.
Couldn’t wait for the summer and the Warped Tour
Such a staple in the current punk/rock music scene couldn’t end without one last hoorah. Warped Tour planned to celebrate 25 years with two mini-festivals, each spanning an entire weekend, on the beach in Atlantic City, NJ, and Mountain View, CA – with a show in Cleveland, Ohio to celebrate their exhibit in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. I was lucky enough to be one of those 60,000 people this weekend who ran onto the beach to the inflatable schedule to see when I would be seeing some of my favorite bands play Warped Tour for the last time.
In true Warped Tour fashion, the days were long and the water lines were even longer. The land breeze on the beach made the days hotter than they should’ve been and there was sand in places sand should never be, but I wouldn’t change even a second of the weekend. I watched bands play that I first saw and fell in love with at Warped Tour and I saw bands that I never, in my wildest dreams, thought I’d ever see playing this tour.
We will never grow out of this feeling that Warped Tour gives us.
I love that they took their normal setup and planted it on the beach. All of the bands had their merch tents and a bunch of organizations had tents to grab your attention to support a good cause. They kept the standard of having multiple stages, leaving the dreaded and all too familiar realization that two of your favorite bands may have overlapping set times or are playing back to back. Do you have time to run from the main stage to Full Sail University Stage? Or should I hear the first half of one set to make it to the end of another? It definitely can cause a stressful day, but it’s a type of stress that we’ve learned to strive for.
There was a halfpipe for skateboarders, people riding motocross, a lot of people wrestling (in an actual ring, not in a pit), and a guy shot himself out of a cannon. It was exactly what you would expect when you hear Vans was part of a punk rock music festival. The 25th anniversary not only kept the spirit of Warped Tour alive, but it gave an entirely new memory to people who have been going to this beloved festival year after year. Never before could I be floating in the ocean while hearing my favorite band play live.
Every summer camp has to come to an end
Attending my last Warped Tour was a bittersweet moment. The first time I went I didn’t think I would make it out alive. I finally got to tag along with my big sister to this punk rock show. I was still new to the scene and my main focus was to see my favorite band at the time. My sister kept telling me how I could meet them at this show. So we left early in hopes that I would be the first in line. But, five minutes from our house one of our car tires completely flew off. We had to call for help, wait for our mom to show up, and switch cars just so we could go. Of course, when we got there we were late, the m&g was at capacity, and my 14-year-old self was nearly in tears in a parking lot.
My sister calmed me down but after seeing my favorite band I wanted to go. I was hot, exhaustion was setting in and I couldn’t afford to buy a water bottle because I spent too much money on merch. Luckily, my sister said we couldn’t leave. She came to see Yellowcard and we weren’t leaving until they played. They just happened to be the last band to play the main stage that day. I waited as the sun started to set and everyone piled into the amphitheater to hear the last band of the day play.
There’s just no one that gets me like you do, Warped Tour
I remember, in the middle of the set, complaining to my sister that I couldn’t see, that there were so many people and I was too short. She helped me stand up on the armrests of the seats, quickly doing the same, right as they started playing “Only One”. Happy that I could see and that it finally cooled down, I sang along as loud as I possibly could but I couldn’t even hear myself, everyone was singing every word as loud as possible and it was in that moment that I knew surrounded by all these people, with this music playing, this is where I will always belong.
Thank you to all the big sisters and brothers, parents, friends, and cousins who have taken someone to their first punk rock summer camp. It may be coming to an end, but so many memories were created over the past 25 years on one tour. But most importantly, thank you Kevin Lyman and The Vans Warped Tour for giving me a place that I knew I would always fit in. It may be over, but we will always be Forever Warped.
Feature Image Vans Warped Tour