The Vans Warped Tour Gets Older, but Its Fans Stay the Same Age

The Vans Warped Tour is 18 years old, which is just old enough for it to have second thoughts about going to the Warped Tour. That's the trouble with long-running festivals: Either the music stays the same and the people in attendance get older, or the music changes with its demographic's tastes, leaving every group of graduating teenagers convinced that their Warped Tour, the one they saw right after they got their driver's license, was the real one and everybody else's is a sad attempt at re-creating it.

By this reckoning, my own Warped Tour would have been 2000 or so — pre-"Green Album" Weezer, third-wave ska, the first generation of enormously successful skate-punk types, etc. Do I find the prospect of that show much more entertaining than the one that'll be coming through Mesa on June 27, with the likes of Allstar Weekend and Hawthorne Heights?

Well, yes. But if my Warped Tour were still touring the country, selling skate shoes, it would be a nostalgia-driven affair — the late-20s-white-guy equivalent of New Kids on the Block's endless touring, only with more receding hairlines and songs about anti-consumerism. I'd enjoy it, but I wouldn't want it to tour the country every year like a ghost ship filled with copies of Tony Hawk Pro Skater.

Revelers at the Vans Warped Tour
Revelers at the Vans Warped Tour

Which is why, eventually, you have to let it go — you have to understand that what defined your experience at the 2003 Warped Tour was as much "2003" as "Warped Tour."

This is somebody else's show, and this generation's vaguely alternative teenagers will probably have a good time there. Buzzy Arizonans The Summer Set will be along, as will a whole mess of bands with very long names and a striking number of surviving third-wave ska bands, including Big D and the Kids Table, Reel Big Fish, and The Aquabats, among other names that will matter mostly to people who weren't thinking about going to the Warped Tour.

Changing tastes aside, it's still the Warped Tour — lots of bands, lots of booths in which brands will try desperately to convince you that they understand the particular concerns of Your Generation, and all kinds of monuments to the peculiar alternative culture of the '90s, in which loud music, skateboarding, and goofy old-man hats were briefly conflated.

Warped Tour music is dancier — in the club sense, not the skanking sense — than it was at the Warped Tour you were thinking about, and the hair has gotten a little more anime and a little less swing-revival. That's what The Kids are listening to now, broadly speaking, and if it doesn't sound like a great time to you, it doesn't matter — that is, unless you find yourself having to shepherd a young son/daughter/niece/nephew to the show on your day off.

One local, extremely practical reason for the Warped Tour staying young: Old people like us are constitutionally unable to hang out all day in the middle of an Arizona summer, listening to bands for which jumping up and down is the appropriate response. Leave it to the kids with young legs and just hope that the bands from your Warped Tour will eventually follow the leads of Weezer and Sugar Ray and put together a nostalgia cruise of their own.

 
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