Convenience, surprises and expected elements—they all add up to a successful lifestyle festival, according to Warped Tour organizer Kevin Lyman.
“I think Warped Tour works because the kids can go and feel comfortable,” he says. “There’s always something different that catches their ears or eyes. That’s what we continue to do. Sometimes festivals lose their focus when they try to shift away too much from what they’re about.”
An Inland Empire native, Lyman graduated from Claremont High School and Cal Poly Pomona. He later worked with Lollapalooza and concert promoter Goldenvoice, before helping to launch the Warped Tour, which deftly combined skateboarding and alternative music, in 1995. It has been going strong ever since.
Although teens and pre-teens comprise the core Warped audience, the much-touted annual event also attracts adults who come to see their favorite old-school punk acts and those currently making waves on radio. No Doubt, Sublime and Face to Face served as the inaugural headliners, and Vans shoe and clothing brand signed on as corporate sponsor the following year, in 1996. Each subsequent edition has spotlighted established and upcoming groups on multiple stages and inside tents. Many—such as My Chemical Romance and Paramore, most recently—have gone from playing a small area in the corner of Warped to topping large venue bills on their own.
Lyman takes pride in watching that type of ascension happen. “It’s what I’ve probably done best—giving bands a little step up,” he says. “I love music and got into this business to help develop and break bands. I think I’ve done a pretty good job.”
Previous Warped tours staged enough acts to make your head spin, but Lyman says the 2008 line-up—anchored by Pennywise, All American Rejects, Angels & Airwaves, Gym Class Heroes, Cobra Starship and Against Me!—should be capped around 75.
“Sometimes ‘more isn’t better’ . . . when we were having over 100 bands a day, it was getting to be too much trying to park everyone and separate the sound.”
With sky-high gas prices, local Warped attendees can be relieved that the festival is still anchored at Pomona Fairplex. “There’s grass and some shade,” says Lyman. “The Fairgrounds has big parking. They help us get started and don’t charge us rent. We can go in there early to get ready to go. Everything like that goes into keeping the tour price [reasonable].”
An emphasis on diversity is evident by the lineup inclusion of Oreska Band (all female ska from Japan) and the Pinker Tones (electronica DJs via Spain). Lyman cites young pop/popsters We the Kings as being the breakout of the year.
Beat Union, a promising English new wave/punk/ska quartet that hails from Birmingham, is definitely another one to watch at this year’s Warped. Singer/guitarist Davey Warsop says they are psyched about the jaunt through America, especially after reading about it in local rock rags as teenagers.
“We’re completely over the moon to be playing—to finally be here doing it is an absolute honor,” he says. Disconnected, produced by Goldfinger’s John Feldmann, bears traces of late ’70s-era Jam, Clash, Elvis Costello, Joe Jackson, Squeeze and The Police. The sharp album is one of the best debuts of ’08 thus far. They should go down a storm on the Hurley.com stage. “We pride ourselves on an energetic and fun live show, for sure,” adds Warsop.
The Briggs’ guitarist/vocalist Jason LaRocca believes the best part of performing at Warped is “getting to experience all the other music that’s going on. To see all those bands separately would take several months. You get to do that all in the course of a day.” His punk band is doing the entire run for the first time. LaRocca—who splits guitar and vocal duties with brother Joey—agreed that a big part of Warped’s staying power can be attributed to Lyman’s refusal to gouge young concertgoers.
“Every year, [Lyman] manages to make a really strong package for the price. It is pretty unparalleled—there is no other tour with that many bands and that much to experience for thirty bucks.”
Singalong chants are important to The Briggs, whose rousing fourth release Come All You Madmen dropped this week. “This is LA,” a fiery ode to their hometown, was inspired “by the frustration of people thinking we were from Boston because of our sound and bands we’ve toured with,” explains LaRocca. “It was always coming up in interviews: ‘Boston this, Boston that’ . . . it kinda sucked. We have a sense of pride being from LA. It is home.”
Easily the group’s strongest to date, Madmen features politically-themed tunes (“Ship of Fools,” “Charge Into the Sun”) and acoustic slow burners. Several Mighty Mighty Bosstones members, Bad Religion guitarist Brian Baker and Dropkick Murphys singer Ken Casey also contributed to songs on the album.
“From top to bottom, I think it’s a really strong lineup and unique again,” notes Lyman. “I’m really excited about it . . . and I don’t say that every year.”
Vans Warped Tour, at the Pomona Fairplex, 1101 W. McKinley Ave., Pomona. 11AM-8PM, Friday, June 20; www.ticketmaster.com, For the full lineup, go to www.ieweekly.com
Vans Warped Tour 2008 lineup
The Academy Is . . .
A Day To Remember
The All-American Rejects
Angels and Airwaves
As I Lay Dying
August Burns Red
Between the Trees
The Color Fred
Devil Wears Prada
Every Time I Die
The Fabulous Rudies
Forever the Sickest Kids
From First to Last
Gym Class Heroes
Maylene and the Sons of Disaster
Pierce the Veil
The Pink Spiders
Protest the Hero
Reel Big Fish
Set Your Goals
Stick to Your Guns
Story of the Year
We the Kings
Your Highness Electric