In 1994, Warped Tour started out as Kevin Lyman, a 3-year Lollapalooza veteran, took a handful of his favorite SoCal Punk & Ska bands, including Sublime and No Doubt, shoved them on a bus and embarked on what was inevitably a financially unsuccessful, but life-affirming tour. Debating calling the whole thing off for the upcoming 1995 summer, Lyman was approached by the Vans Shoe Company to put together a skating fest. Seeing the obvious connection, Kevin jumped on the chance to incorporate their idea into his Warped Tour, and the longest-running annual tour in North America was born: The Vans Warped Tour.
The Warped Tour lineup for 2012 will be announced soon. How do you feel about next year’s lineup compared to the past few years?
I sat back after the summer and thought about the tour and it being around 18 years and what a musical range and time frame that was. Where I was and music was then. Also realizing that Bad Religion was 12 years old or so and NOFX 7.
I also realized the average fan is still 17-18 years old and built a line-up reflective of that thought. I am sure there will be critics but I went with a gut feeling and you live and die by those so we will see.
In your opinion, what are the best/worst run venues from a production point of view?
There really are no worst ones; we stopped playing them years ago. Best are ones near water.
Are all the bands you invited on board to play next year? Any surprises?
Working on a few surprises and I guess most are since we have not announced the bands yet.
What’s one band you’ve always wanted on the tour that you couldn’t get?
Anyone who knows me would welcome anyone back if they wanted it to work; usually finances get in the way.
What do you wanna say to the critics who think that Warped is losing its “punk roots”?
"Punk roots,". I think that’s funny the first year of Warped had Seaweed, L7. Sublime, No Doubt, Civ, Orange 9mm, Quicksand, No Use For A Name, Fluf. I think the last few years the line-up has been as diverse as the first. Just saw a video of the tour in 1999;, Eminem interviewing and live clips of, Ice-T, Black Eyed Peas, blink 182, Sevendust, and Less Than Jake. I love punk and am involved with Goldenvoice’s 30th anniversary show, and that is about punk roots; Bad Religion, Social Distortion, The Descendents, Vandals, Dickies. TSOL. Wait, they have also played Warped. I think Warped is about music festival with its roots in punk but with branches that spread everywhere.
Would you ever take the tour overseas again?
Most likely; actually working on some ideas now.
How did you get involved with the companies that sponsor the stages?
Without sponsors, Warped would not happen. In all the years of the tour, it has only broke even on ticket sales in one year. The ticket price before any fees would have to be $40.00 which would make make it cost almost $60.00 to go. Right now before fees, it is about $27.00.
I know the venues have their own food/drinks/catering but have you ever thought of having places like Taco Bell or any other fast food place set up a tent on the tour?
We worked hard on water prices last year and the tour paid the promoters to bring them down, we also had the Kleen Canteen free water fill-up station that we provided. Another thing we got venues to do were pre-paid lunch vouchers so parents could pre-buy lunch so kids would eat, because they wouldn’t and would get sick after spending all their money on merchandise. However, the venues control what is sold and decide what venues sell. You should ask your local venue to bring in Taco Bell. I know a lot of the bands would buy it but man, would the vans and buses be stinky. I know the bean and cheese gives me the worst gas, x’s that by 1,000 people on the tour and that could cause spontaneous combustion.
Tell us about this “Radius Clause” (which all the bands sign) which states that the band cannot play within a certain mile radius of a city the fest is booked in, for a certain amount of time. Could you elaborate on this and explain to our readers why you make bands sign them?
Our radius clause is very fair for the business: on paper it is 120 days before and 30 days after the play, and we only start to enforce it at 90 days. For example, Mayhem is 120 days and 90 days. Lollapalooza in Chicago is 6 months and I hear others are like that too. People want freshness to their packages and when bands are advertised on more than one show in the same town it dilutes the excitement.
This is always a struggle to figure out and I am constantly working with bands on special requests. But, we have lots of facts that when bands over play a city their draws go down.
You’re a partner at SideOneDummy Records but have you ever considered starting your own label?
I love my relationship with SideOneDummy; I have brought bands to them and they work them day to day and when I can help I do, No real pressure.
Last question: do you have any advice for someone who would wanna do what you do?
Make sure to be patient, keep listening to music and to keep an open mind because when you stop, you will be emailing me that “warped is not punk enough.” And I will still be doing what I am doing!