It was early afternoon during the opening week of this year’s Vans Warped Tour when tour founder and organizer Kevin Lyman called in for an interview.
By that point, he had already been up and at work for upward of eight hours, saying he had awakened around 4 a.m. — an hour or so earlier than usual — to answer some emails from the tour bus. With luck, he would be able to fit in a late afternoon nap, but otherwise Lyman figured to be up until midnight or so, trying to keep things running smoothly at this tour stop in Phoenix.
The tour stops at Providence Medical Center Amphitheater in Bonner Springs on Thursday, July 27.
Back in Phoenix, gates were set to open in about 45 minutes, and Lyman found himself fielding so many questions from his staff and crew that he didn’t have time to answer more from a journalist.
So we agreed to try to do the interview later in the day, after some of the opening chaos had passed.
Welcome to Lyman’s world on the Warped Tour, where day after day he takes the concept of hands-on management at each venue to a level that would probably cause most concert promoters/tour managers to shudder in admiration, fear or both.
But that’s the way Lyman has been rolling ever since he founded the tour in 1995. Twenty-two years later, he has seen Ozzfest, H.O.R.D.E., Lilith Fair and every other touring festival bite the dust, leaving Warped the only true festival tour each summer.
Over the years, the tour has adjusted to the evolving tastes of Warped’s mostly teenage/early 20s audience. Some of the punk bands that were standard-bearers during the first decade of Warped — such as Bad Religion, Pennywise and NOFX — no longer fit the bill. Their audiences are now in their 40s, and those fans don’t really want to spend nine hours at an outdoor venue during the peak of summer.
Punk remains a key part of the mix, but in recent years modern metal/hardcore has gained a prominent place on Warped as it also appeals to the tour’s teen/early 20s core demographic.
And after expanding the scope of the lineup a few years ago to include newer genres and trends such as EDM and acoustic music, Lyman last year scaled back Warped to refocus on various forms of alternative-leaning rock, punk and metal. The 2016 lineup was also notable for featuring the return of several second-generation pop-punk acts such as New Found Glory, Yellowcard, Less Than Jake, Sum 41 and Reel Big Fish — bands whose stints on Warped a decade earlier had helped fuel their popularity.
This year, though, Lyman wasn’t able to duplicate the 2016 mix of bands. The Adolescents are essentially the only band playing the entire tour that’s in the ballpark of a Sum 41 or Less Than Jake. The established acts instead come from metal, with Hatebreed, GWAR and Sick of It All being among the biggest names on the bulk of the dates. And the range of styles is a bit more diverse, according to Lyman.
Lyman is nevertheless pleased with the lineup and thinks some of younger acts will make an impact on the early dates of Warped and fuel a buzz for the tour as it continues; it ends Aug. 6 in California
Lyman is also already looking ahead and hoping to make Warped better and more marketable next year. He noted that the costs of going on the road are increasing, and he has already told record labels, band managers and other industry pros he needs some bigger names next summer if Warped is going to remain viable.
“I’ve told them we’re going to sit in August this year, and we’re going to figure out these main stages,” Lyman said. “We’re going to figure out who is going to help anchor this tour, because I need some support from the scene of music that I’ve supported for so long, because I can’t be the guy that has to develop every band.
“I want to keep doing this, but this will be the third year that we’ve been financially challenged out here. Everyone knows it’s not (all) about finances to me. But it is still part of a business.”
Vans Warped Tour
Providence Medical Center Amphitheater, Bonner Springs. 12:30 p.m. Thursday, July 27. $41.50. vanswarpedtour.com