Vans Warped Tour Main Stage, June 28, 2009

Story by Kathleen Gasperini
Photos by Tom Wallace

In its record-breaking 15th year out on the road, the legendary Vans Warped Tour kicked-off its summer season June 26 in Pomona, CA, with a sold-out show of 20,000, young and old music fans. Many people account for the tour’s success to the founder and director, Kevin Lyman, who has an intuitive capability of selecting an incredible mix of up-and-coming bands, along with older bands for older fans, and others on the tip of creating new music genres altogether.

The mix of music seems to be the theme for this summer’s Vans Warped Tour. Constructed in a way to celebrate the fact that the tour is the longest running, and one of the most successful in the world, in celebration of its 15th anniversary, much effort went into showing its diversity in the line-up. With the addition of the Old School Stage on the West Coast dates at the beginning and end of the tour, for the first time for young fans and a flash-back for older fans, this stage represented some of the most pioneering punk rock bands still around, including Fear, T.S.O.L., the D.I.’s, Adolescents, and Guttermouth, among others.

Much-hyped band, 3OH!3 playing in Pomona on Vans Warped Tour 2009

The big hype of course by the average-age Warped fans ranging from 13-19 included those playing on the Main Stage, but even then, the selection included an excellent mix of late ’90’s punk, ska, and emo-punk ranging from Bad Religion, Less Than Jake, Big D and the Kids Table, NOFX, and Anti-Flag. However new, serious attention is coming from the crunk-core duo from Boulder called 3OH!3 (as in the area code). At the Pomona and Ventura shows, you could barely move up to the stage when 3OH!3 was on, indicating that this is clearly the top band of the summer. As we go to press, their single “Don’t Trust Me” just broke out as the #1 single among music fans. Think of them as the next Gen of Beastie Boys but with a huge dose of humor and choreographed dancing, which taps into youth culture’s craving for nu rave dance combined with punk/rap.

Post hardcore or melodic post hardcore and metalcore are still hot when it comes to music right now and this year’s Warped has a huge selection of bands in this subculture including Main Stage bands like Underoath, the Christian metalcore group now out on their 6th Warped tour, A Day to Remember, and The Devil Wears Prada, which was bumped up this summer to the Main Stage and a favorite among guys, including the popularity of their neon-colored, animated band merch T-shirts.


With 6 other stages of which Hurley sponsors 2, plus the Kevin Says KIA stage, Ernie Ball, Smartpunk, and new SkullCandy Stage (which was an excellent sponsorship score) and another 50 bands out on tour, for the ticket price of $25-27, Warped continues to deliver the biggest bang for the buck. And continuing on the streak of throwing in a few newbie genres into the mix, this time it’s coming from P.O.S., Attack Attack!, Brokencyde in terms of mainstream rap (perhaps taking over where Schwayze left off), all the way to the “visual kei” like band of the Millionaires or even transgender fave Jeffree Star.

Another new and emerging scene is the growing popularity of screamo and rap/dance sounds coming from bands like Breathe Carolina which blurs that line of rave, dance, and rap using the mask-singing technique of the auto-tune, which makes a singers’ voice sound like a computer-controlled robot -this is all the hype right now in rap. There’s also the growing influence of the music-mix guy in the sound booth doing a lot of the legwork as they mix live while the band plays such as InnerpartySystem (and Outernational). This is something to watch in the future.

Outernational at the SkullCandy Stage

Other bands to note include The Maine, also predicted to be a break-out band, Tat from London with a girl-lead guitar player and singer, Saosin, Scary Kids Scaring Kids (which has also hit it big via cool merch graphics), and sing-along punk-pop’s Forever the Sickest Kids. More melodic sounds also attract this new generation, which easily floats from metalcore to melodic to dance and screamo, including Meg and Dia, Hit the Lights, Sing It Loud, and TV/TV. Lights from Canada are also predicted to break-out as well as In This Moment, Dear and the Headlights, and VersaEmerge.

Heavy screamo is incredibly popular thanks to bands like Saosin, Dance Gavin Dance, Aiden, Black Tide (which is more metal), and especially I Set My Friends on Fire -but of course with a name like that what more would you expect.

I Set My Friends on Fire

Some bands will hit the tour later in the summer such as The Bouncing Souls, which is always a favorite, Irish punkers Flogging Molly, and synth-screamo band Chiodos. The tour is just starting so it’s still a little early to determine the real break-out band of summer like Fall Out Boy, Paramore, or My Chemical Romance from the last few years, but odds are on 3OH!3 will break big. With only one Main Stage instead of 2 this summer, that means bands are playing longer which fans seem to be enjoying as well as the bands.

Other popular aspects include autograph signings as illustrated by the mega lines each day at the smart sponsor booths hosting their “bands” with fans often using the official Vans Warped Tour Program by AP magazine as their preferred signing item, free swag especially by Vans, “jump-the-line” programs that allow kids to skip up front of lines, tons of eco-initiatives, contests, the slip-n-slide, Rock Band video gaming area, the Truth’s orange bus and activities, Ernie Ball’s guitar set-up where you can play and test equipment, Monster Energy Drink’s chill lounge and water-in-a-can, Trojan’s blow-up space, and the ever popular Girlz Garage which also hosts the Keep-a-Breast area.

The Devil Wears Prada–One of several break-out bands from Ohio, their metalcore sound is popular, as well as their band merch designs

In the band merch area, some of the most popular booths are for favorite bands of course, but also apparel and accessories that have their own message, such as To Write Love on Her Arms and Glamour Kills, the cloth backpack booth, fedora hat area, and the sunglasses booth.

Overall, while the economy continues to struggle and music concerts and festivals continue to increase prices, the Vans Warped Tour remains the cheapest ticket in town. Running from 11 a.m. to about 8 p.m. each day, fans can see more than 60 bands in a day, not to mention visit various merch tents, activity tents, non-profit information tents in a village called Take Action, and check out skateboarding in a mini ramp provided by Vans. In a genius move, kids can also drop off their parents in a Reverse Day-Care tent (the only place that’s air conditioned).

Punk Goth Emo Lovers from the Vans Warped Tour 2009

The routine at the beginning of each show is to run to the oversized blow-up “schedule” sponsored by the presenting sponsor AT&T which is a 1-story red blowup of the day’s bands’ set lists and times which Kevin sets each night before the next day’s show. Immediately, fans text the line-up on their cell phones or write down who’s playing where (often on their skin) and sprint to the stage showcasing their favorite bands. This is how the festival frenzy of kids running from stage to stage begins -and honestly, it doesn’t let up until around 7:30 p.m.
It’s not just music trends that are launched at Warped each summer, but also fashion trends as young people check out what’s taking place at each location of the tour including who’s wearing what, which then gets recontextualized and modified via the Warped website, social networks, and personal blogs from city to city as the tour travels, to the point where trends get their start (and then often copied by designers). (Stay tuned for more fresh fashion styles and accessories.)

Underoath, the Christian metalcore unit from Florida, is very popular

In Ventura, the last date of the kick-off weekend in California before the 40-bus carnival sets off across the rest of the country, we asked Kevin what he thought of the shows so far. From our vantage point standing in front of the Hurley stage watching Bayside (another band on the verge) it was absolutely packed.

“I’m very excited it’s going so well,” said Kevin looking over the crowd. “People are coming out and buying tickets. I’m surprised, but I think we’ve put on a good show for the kids this summer.”

So far, all evidence shows he’s right.

Kevin Lyman, the Founder and Director of the Vans Warped Tour for the past 15 years

Tat out of London, England captured a lot of people%uFFFDs attention. Could be a break-out band.

Breathe Carolina


Dance Gavin Dance

Meg and Dia


Black Tide–metal-esque band did some interesting Metallica covers

Senses Fail

Anti Flag ruled on the Main Stage


Sing It Loud

Photo by Christina Ko–Stay tuned for more fresh fashion. High-waisted denim, floral tops, sandals, long hair, and ankle bracelets with beads are among top summer trends for 09.

Neon band merch from Devil Wears Prada is popular with guys. Ray-Ban inspired sunglasses in blue are also in, as well as angled-haircuts for an indie-punk look.