Warped Tour fans flashing the 3OH3! hand sign during kick-off in Dallas.

Story and Photos by Kathleen Gasperini and Tom Wallace

We Are Warped is the theme to the Vans Warped Tour’s 17th summer on the road, meaning, as Kevin Lyman, founder and producer explained, “It’s the collective -not just one single sound or band or fan or sponsor, but all of us working together -the team on the road, that makes the Warped Tour special.”

And that’s exactly what the Warped Tour is -special and unique -even to an entirely new generation of 16-17-year-olds experiencing it for the first time. The kick-off to the world’s longest running and perhaps most challenging festival in the world took place June 24, 2011, in Dallas, TX in 97-degree heat with an incredible crowd of fans eager to check out the scene. The Warped Tour, as anyone in the music industry can tell you, has become and a rite-of-passage for American youth culture, attracting around 650,000 13-24-year-olds per summer as the tour touches down with 40-45 shows from June 24 and wrapping up in Hillsboro, OR August 14th. Between 850 to 1,000 people are on the road in this traveling circus including over 35 tour buses which run on biodiesel thanks the Kevin and his team creating a strong eco-initiative, semi-trucks, and a slew of vans carrying merch or hosting smaller bands hoping to play in the parking lots before doors open each day of the tour.

3OH3! played at 3 on the Teggert Main Stage at the kick-off of the Warped Tour.

Kevin’s opening statement to the sponsors, tour managers, and bands was upbeat and yet serious as he laid-down the ground rules for those on the road, but also turning a corner and stating that he is not anyone’s peer any longer. “I’m 50 this year and I’ve been on the road each summer for more than 20 years -Lollapalooza before this. I’m either a mentor or a disciplinary. I’m here, every day of the show, some come talk to me if you need anything.”

The philosophy behind what makes Warped so special and successful may just stem from Kevin’s mentor, Bill Graham. “He once said, to create a great experience for the fans, you have to think, “What would they want?” and always keep that in mind,” continued Kevin. Warped has been successful for many reasons and is known for breaking new bands. Blink 182, Fallout Boy, 3OH3!, Paramore, No Doubt, Ice-T, My Chemical Romance, Katy Perry, are just some of the bands that popped thanks to a summer on the tour.

Attack! Attack! opened the show on the Teggert main stage launching the tour off in the right direction.

Unlike stationary, multi-day festivals, which continue to move in the direction of booking big, often well-known (and older) acts, Warped continues to evolve, introducing new brands on the brink of fame many of which are hand-picked by Kevin Lyman and his team from 4 Fini who scour the music scene from underground no-age clubs to international tours throughout the year. In turn, as Warped acts as the entry point platform, it leaves it up to the musicians and ultimately the fans, to determine who’s going to break-out on any given summer. The rolling thunder effect is remarkable, which is another reason why any young band hoping to make it in the incredibly saturated world of music today, hopes for a chance to play Warped.

This is what the blow-up schedule looks like. It’s always a secret about what the line-up will be and which stage bands are playing on for every date. This assures people come early just in case so they don’t miss their favorite band. Kevin Lyman said he got this idea from another tour before Warped where he got sick of great acts like Henry Rollins playing their hearts out to a small crowd just because of poor timing of the tour line-up.

This year it’s another eclectic line-up of music ranging from punk, rock, hip-hop and rap, metal, indie rock, electronic, alt-country, folk-punk, dubstep, reggae and pop on 8 different stages running from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. The band line-up is already attracting attention among young people as one of the top festivals to attend this summer (not to mention the lowest ticket prices unmatched against any other music festival once again) ranging from Less Than Jake, 3OH3!, Paramore, Bad Rabbits, Go Radio, Attack! Attack!, BD & The Kids Table, Lionize, Blood on the Dance Floor, A Day to Remember, Asking Alexandria, Miss May, Against Me!, Gym Class Heroes, Jack’s Mannequin, Big Chocolate, Yelawolf, The Devil Wears Prada, Lucero, The Aggrolites, Unwritten Law, Pepper, We Came As Romans, Foxy Shazam, Go Radio, Grieves with Budo, The Ready Set, The Wonder Years and scores of others.

Mosh pits and crowd-surfing happen throughout the day on Warped.

In Dallas, fans dressed in their favorite summer festival gear including a variety of creative DIY T-shirts with band lyrics, neon colors, colorful beaded and rubber bracelets, denim cut-offs, and of course, Converse or Vans sneakers. Warped is a key location for discovering which brands are moving up the ladder in terms of preferences and how changes in style will be dictated especially as the viral nature of the Warped Tour and it’s social media components (including its iPhone and Android apps) perpetuate new trends (more stories coming soon).

Dressed in their favorite merch shirts or graphic T’s–guys with skinny denim, and animal hats.

This is also why sponsors often want to attach themselves to the Warped Tour. Not only does youth culture anticipate Warped for months, many driving for hours to attend a show, but it’s more than just a concert to them. They plan to do as many activities as possible while running from stage to stage. It’s one of the most interactive platforms out there, and sponsors that participate are expected to step-up and create a memorable experience and literally, take the heat.

In the many presentations that Label Networks has done for the music, fashion, sports, and technology industries, we’ve often had to explain the difference between young people and adult generations which is parallel in nature to Warped: Young people can take the heat, dust, noise, sweat of an experience like Warped, barely noticing such things, and if anything, relishing in the mosh pit of chaos. Older people melt. They know “boundaries” and often can’t see past them.

Warped shows are just as likely to take place in the parking lot next to the arena as actually being in an arena. They are often in parking lots renovated into an enormous pop-up festival for 24 hours in places that require some tenacity to get to, but it’s also the trade-off for being able to keep ticket prices so low. This in turn, gives Warped an advantage to attracting more young people -most of whom are underage. If parents do come, kids can drop them off in “Reverse Daycare” -another brilliant move on the part of the tour to give parents a sense of comfort if they’re not yet willing to let their kid attend alone, yet providing freedom for the kids who simply check back at Reverse Daycare throughout the day, assuring parents that yes, they’re having a great time and “don’t bug me I gotta go%u2026”

Non-Toxic Revolution, part of Keep A Breast in the Girls Garage is among the new non-profits on tour this summer.

Warped also has an entire non-profit area which hosts several national and local non-profits. It’s known for its nature of giving back, and thousands of kids participate and enjoy this area, including organizations such as Keep A Breast Girls Garage, MusicCares, Klean Kanteen, Feed Our Children Now, Unite the United, Boarding for Breast Cancer, and Warped’s own Eco-Initiatives including plastic bottle pick-ups on site to enter the chance to win an eco-trip to Mexico later in the fall.

To Write Love on Her Arms is a popular non-profit that deals with teen depression and cutting. Their merch graphics are always a big hit with young people.

Here’s more from the festival village including key sponsor integration found on Warped this summer, and stay tuned for more news as the tour gets underway:

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