Vans Warped lives, breathes its ‘Best Day Ever’ tagline
By Jessi Virtusio Gig of the Weekfirstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @JessiVirtusio July 18, 2013 9:19PM
VANS WARPED TOUR ’13
♦ 11 a.m. July 20
♦ First Midwest Bank Amphitheatre, 19100 S. Ridgeland Ave., Tinley Park
♦ Tickets, $37.50
♦ (800) 745-3000;
Updated: July 20, 2013 8:27AM
What started as a whim has turned into the longest-running annual tour in North America.
“It was going to be one summer with my friends, going out and doing this before I went on to a real job,” founder Kevin Lyman said about Warped Tour’s launch in 1994.
“Nineteen years ago I was thinking about going and being a schoolteacher, and maybe I have built the largest classroom I could possibly have.”
Vans Warped Tour will return to First Midwest Bank Amphitheatre in Tinley Park on July 20.
What was originally a showcase for punk and ska music has grown to include Chicago singer-songwriters like William Beckett and United Kingdom metal acts such as Bring Me the Horizon to hardcore performers and a stage dedicated to electronic dance music.
“I believe that the diversity is the cool thing,” said Lyman while taking a break from the pouring rain in Camden, N.J.
“There’s 17 bands that I need to have to draw the core audience. It allows me to expose kids to a wide variety of music with the other 60 bands.
“It also makes everything sound that much more special if it doesn’t sound the same.”
In addition to an expanded Acoustic Basement tent and the EDM stage, Warped Tour is letting parents in for no charge this year.
Lyman said the latter was to combat competition from other big summer concerts like shows by boy band One Direction (which performed at FMBA on July 13-14).
The Warped Tour bill is on the younger side for 2013.
“This lineup is extremely young. It’s a developing lineup,” he said. “You may as well go down there and see them first.”
Past Warped Tour performers who broke after appearing on the summer package include Black Eyed Peas, blink-182, the Deftones, Eminem, Kid Rock, My Chemical Romance, No Doubt, Katy Perry and Sublime.
“The one that I’m really excited about is Echosmith,” Lyman said of the young indie rock act featuring four Sierota siblings: Sydney, Jamie, Noah and Graham.
“In two years one thing I hope is they are back on the main stage. I can’t see them not going on to great things.”
“I’ve really enjoyed watching some of these young bands. The Story So Far, their audiences are continuing to grow every day.”
Lyman also offers opportunities on the Kevin Says Stage.
“It’s very eclectic. The bands, a lot of them are unsigned,” he said of booking that stage.
Some have been critical of the musical diversity on Warped Tour and even charge that it has hurt the punk scene, but Lyman disputes that notion.
“The punk scene hurt itself. I grew up with NOFX and Rancid. They’re all my friends,” he said.
“Kids need to embrace young punk rock, and I still bring it out here with bands like Middle Finger Salute and Strawberry Blondes.
Despite the changing landscape of live music, Lyman said Warped Tour remains at the forefront when it comes to the touring experience.
“It’s still the same feeling. The fans feel part of it,” he said. “We have learned how to engage with them through social media.
“Warped still has that organic feel whether you’re a band or a brand.”
It’s not only about business, though, as Lyman encourages attendees to give back whenever possible. For example, attendees can skip the line if they bring three cans of food or donate $5, which goes to local food banks or helps youngsters to start their first bank accounts depending on which Warped Tour market it is.
“While we do well, we should try to do well and do well together,” Lyman said. “It’s an age-old adage that I wish more people in the music industry would follow. I think you can do it every day. I’m trying to teach these young bands so it becomes part of their mind-set and their souls.”
Meanwhile, the Warped Eco Initiatives to keep the tour green have continued. This year, 100,000 reusable shopping bags will be passed out.
“I think those are more of a direct impact. (Kids can use the) shopping bags to go to the local grocery store for the whole year,” Lyman said.
“These 100,000 bags will be a reminder of their day at Warped Tour.”
Lyman also has kept ticket prices affordable.
“Giving value is important,” he said.
“I guess I could make more money personally if I would charge more, but we’re turning these kids on to be lifelong music fans.”
Someone who grew up on going to Warped Tour is William Beckett, who lives in the Barrington area and spent his formative years in the region including in Schaumburg and Elk Grove Village.
Initially known for his decade in the Academy Is..., he has pursued a career as a solo artist since that group disbanded in late 2011.
“It really comes down to expression and getting my experiences out to others,” he said minutes before rushing to the other side of the Susquehanna Bank Center in New Jersey to guest perform with indie pop band Never Shout Never.
“After the song is written, the other part that inspires me is the performance because that’s when it comes full circle. A song doesn’t mean much to me unless I can show it to someone, unless I can perform it for someone.
“That’s what it’s really about — sharing a message, sharing a story and hopefully relating to people.”
Beckett chalked up Warped Tour’s success to the musical diversity offered.
“Year in and year out, it’s the tour you can count on to see a bunch of different styles of music from different artists from different genres,” he said.
“I know it’s punk this year, it’s hardcore and heavier bands, but there’s also hip-hop artists, EDM guys. There’s also Brit pop, there’s what I do. There’s a country guy out here. There’s something for everyone.
“I feel like Kevin Lyman, who runs Warped — it’s his brainchild, is just getting more and more diverse every year, and I think it’s for the benefit of the audience.”
After a trio of solo EPs, Beckett is looking forward to the release of “Genuine & Counterfeit,” his debut full-length album featuring lead single “Benny & Joon.”
Due on Aug. 20 via New York-based independent label Equal Vision Records, the album was recorded with Marc McClusky, who’s worked with Weezer.
“To put it bluntly, in my belief, it’s by far the best thing I’ve ever done including my work with the band,” Beckett said of the new album. “It really encompasses what I’ve gone through over the past two or three years, and I think it’s pretty epic and it’s sweepingly dynamic.”
Although being on Warped Tour separates Beckett from his 5-year-old daughter, Genevieve, he said it’s an opportunity to play a big festival with a dedicated stage slot.
“What we’re doing at the Acoustic Basement Stage is really unique,” he said. “It’s definitely different from a lot of the other bands. It’s a change of pace in my opinion. “I’ve never been part of a stage that had as much concentrated talent as the Acoustic Basement Stage does, and also that kind of diversity I was talking about.”
BRING ME THE HORIZON
Some people might envy Europe for its festival scene, but Bring Me the Horizon bassist Matt Kean has a different take.
“We don’t have anything like this,” he said of Warped Tour.
“The shows in Europe tend to be like weekend shows with huge bands. They’ll have really big headliners like Metallica and Iron Maiden. This one is a little bit smaller but there’s so many bands. It’s just one day. It travels everywhere. I think we’re missing out a little bit on festivals like this in Europe.”
Bring Me the Horizon is no stranger to Warped Tour, having played the package in 2008 and headlined Alexandra Palace in London in November for a Warped Tour date there.
“It’s kinda crazy. We’ve done it three times and each time it has gotten bigger and bigger, and each time we’re blown away by it,” Kean said after coming off stage at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum in New York. “You get to hang out with a bunch of different bands you wouldn’t normally hang with and play in front of crowds you wouldn’t normally play to. It’s awesome. It’s one of our favorite tours to do.”
Bring Me the Horizon is in the midst of promoting “Sempiternal,” which was released in April by RCA Records and was produced by Terry Date who’s worked with Pantera and Linkin Park.
“If you’ve heard anything by us before and you didn’t like it, this CD could change your mind,” Kean said. “If you liked us before, you’d also like this CD. It has elements of the past but also a bunch of new stuff as well. It’s got a little bit more commercial sound but it’s still quite heavy at points.”
The mix of crunching guitars with ethereal passages help Bring Me the Horizon to stand out from bands that just scream and shout.
“It just keeps everything fresh. If every band sounds the same and every CD you do also sounds the same, it’s going to eventually become really stale,” Kean said.
“We take influences from a bunch of different kinds of music.”
Not surprisingly, Kean has been checking out metalcore band the Architects and hardcore and metal act While She Sleeps, which are both from England, while on Warped Tour.
The veteran also had some tips for Warped Tour newbies.
“Drink plenty of water because it’s normally quite hot during the day,” Kean said.
“When you first get in, go and decide which bands you want to see and make a schedule to make sure you don’t miss your favorite bands, and just have fun.”
Jessi Virtusio blogs about everything you need to know about First Midwest Bank Amphitheatre at blogs.southtownstar.com/fmba, where you can read more about Vans Warped Tour ’13.