Reel Big Fish
Photo: Recording Academy
Reel Big Fish To Wage War: The Lasting Legacy Of Warped Tour
Picture this. It's a sunny day and the temperature's pushing 90 degrees. Bands from around the world ready their sets for a growing crowd of enthusiastic fans against the backdrop of a cloudless blue sky, palm trees and distant California mountains. There couldn't be a better setting to kick off the first day of Vans Warped Tour's final summer.
When festival creator Kevin Lyman announced 2018 would be the final run for the popular touring summer festival, we knew it would be a big one. That's why we were onsite for the tour's kickoff day on June 21 in Pomona, Calif., where we had the chance to sit down with many of the bands performing this summer this year to find out why Warped Tour has been so influential during its 20-year run.
As one of the only all-female bands on this summer's Warped Tour lineup, Phoenix-based rockers Doll Skin have an empowering message to share, and Warped provides the perfect stage. When asked to sum up Warped Tour in one word, they each chose "wild," "exhilarating," "inclusive," and "amazing," a true reflection of the festival experience.
Dead Girls Academy singer Michael Vampire is no stranger to the Warped Stage. Vampire, who said he's "very grateful to be on the tour," revealed his very first Warped Tour experience as a fan.
"I don't remember the year, it was a long time ago. It was in Fort Lauderdale, Florida," he shares. "When I found out there was a festival you could go to and see these bands, I was there, all in one place in one day. It was surreal and the experience was amazing."
Not only did many of the bands we talked to share the unforgettable feeling of performing on the Warped tour stage, but they also acknowledged that in many ways the tour has been an influential vetting ground for new bands.
Metalcore band Issues, who planned on playing a song they've never performed live for the first time on the 2018 tour stage, point out how Warped Tour has created a venue that can make or break artists.
"Warped Tour is a very interesting phenomenon because it takes everyone who would be interested in this music and shoves every single person in the same area," observe Issues. "So if you can make a name for yourself on Warped tour, then you will. If you suck then you won't. Someone called it the great equalizer."
When we sat down with Australian band Tonight Alive vocalist Jenna McDougall, she shared a poignant message she has learned throughout the her four rounds as a touring artist with Warped.
"I wish I knew when I was younger that I don't have to try. You just be," McDougall says. "It's just amazing we get to come back this many times. I'm just happy to be here and play the music we know people love now. We don't have to project anything."
While most bands we talked to took the time to reflect on the bittersweet closing of a 20-year chapter in music history, Reel Big Fish weren't convinced this is the end for Warped Tour. In fact, they have a solid plan for the festival's future — a cruise. Warped Tour already packs a community of like-minded fans and artists in a small space, but throw in free ice cream on the high seas, and Reel Big Fish will be there.
Florida-based band Wage War attended Warped Tour as fans when they were young. Like other musicians who first attended the festival for fun, there's a sense of giving back to the community that fostered their love of the very music they now perform onstage.
"I remember going and it felt like magic watching some of the bands," say Wage War. "To be the person giving that back to people who like our music, that's really sick, because I was that kid in the crowd at one point."
Heavy band the Amity Affliction are three-year veterans of Warped, and they share a sentiment about performing on the tour with many of the artists we spoke to. For everyone involved, from fans to artists, Warped Tour has created something really magical that will be hard to replace.
"It was like a dream come true for me to even be on it the first time, they say. "Doing the last one is special."