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Interview: Warped Tour's Kevin Lyman says 2012 is for the ladies
Founder talks fest history, Warped doc 'No Room for Rock Stars,' stupid punk dance moves
Recent documentary “No Room For Rock Stars” makes and twists evidence that, during Warped Tour, everybody and nobody during the fest are rock stars.
If there’s anybody who would be, it’s Kevin Lyman, at least in his field. The festival founder has experienced the ups and downs of an all-ages roving festival during the pre- and post-internet music business wipe-out. He’s adjusted his lineups and caps from year to year, emphasizing that success is in the ability to adapt to tastes and costs; he’s followed that demand into other touring festival sectors, with events like Taste of Chaos, Country Throwdown and Mayhem tours.
“No Room For Rock Stars,” in following 2010 Warped acts from rising radio star Mike Posner to deafening Suicide Silence to PLUR-like-harbinger heartthrob NeverShoutNever, outline how some Warped lineups have been more pop than others, some more hardcore or hip-hop. In the last five years, especially, it’s been a bit of everything to every kid who couldn’t otherwise be able to see their favorite band in their hometown club.
But that’s the thing. Kids who went to Warped when they were kids… now have kids. Its success has wavered and depended on all brands and demos, particularly finding a balance between male and female attendance.
So this year, Lyman has lined a little something up for the ladies, for the kids-now-women. Taking Back Sunday has been announced as the fest headliner, and bigger bands like New Found Glory, the Used and Yellowcard have been added, all of which will appeal to a particular concert-goer, aside from the regular crew of teenagers expected.
“This year will be a pretty female-heavy crowd, a decision we consciously made. The 23-to-27-year-old female is out of college, starting a new job… when she was 13 to 19, Warped was a rite of passage,” Lyman explained. “When kids are 19 to 23, I’m gonna lose them, to Electric Daisy or Coachella. Three-day festivals are where college kids go, as they should. But when you’re around 23 or 24, money gets tight again and Warped might appeal to them again, because all those bands had hits during their teens.
“And guys are going to go where the girls are, because that’s how that works. If I was a dude that age, I’d go [to Warped] because there’s a lot of cute girls that are going to be there.”
Other acts like Falling in Reverse, Pierce the Veil, the Used, Anti-Flag, All Time Low, We the Kings, Senses Fail and others round out the bill; this year seems to lack some of the “otherness” luster that other years has boasted, with recent past performers like Katy Perry and 3OH!3. But, especially in its more formative years, Warped took chances on breakout artists and trends before they were famous, like during the third wave of ska, or on Eminem and the Black Eyed Peas in 1999, or amping up the visibility of acts like Green Day or Fall Out Boy. But who’s to say the next radio break-out band isn’t already in this crop?
“It’s all about not getting locked into something… to change and evolve,” said Lyman, who pointed at repeat Warped bands like vets Bad Religion and NOFX who have learned to adapt along with it. For 2012, Lyman pointed to small changes like lowering the cost of bottled water, going back to two main stages, adding a silent disco (a la Bonnaroo) and bringing down the number of performing bands 70. “We’re making sure that every spot on the Warped Tour is very important.”
I told Lyman about my first Warped tour experience in 1997. I couldn’t even drive, let alone see any bands but in basements. In the middle of flat land and parking lots, there was a miniature skate park and three stages. My friends and I came because of names like Sugar Ray and Blink-182 (hey, I was 15), but that was still an entry point for me for bands like Social Distortion and Descendents.
“See?” he said. “And we’re still the cheapest festival.”
“And you’re still one of the few that will stop off in places like crap-holes outside of Kansas City.”
“And just like that, there’s punks everywhere. Punk angst is still out there, like it was early on. It’s just coming out in different ways now. There’s less violence, no punk rock gangs,” Lyman continues. “Now, there’s the flailing, and more of the kicking of things. It’s pretty stupid actually.”
Ah, adolescence, the stupid, stupid bridge between childhood and adulthood. For it and Warped Tour in a nutshell, check out “No Room For Rockstars,” directed by Parris Patton (“Dogtown and Z-Boys”). The film will be available for download exclusively on iTunes starting on April 2 and on DVD and VOD starting May 15.
Vans Warped Tour tickets go up for pre-sale on Friday (March 30), with all 41 dates of tour stops listed here.