Looking Back at The Best and Worst Lineups Seen In Warped Tour's 17 Years Of Existence

The Warped Tour has always had a lot of bands and a lot of different bands. Sure, you're not going to see these bands end up on any Pitchfork best-of, but the tour doesn't exactly play to people who decree most things in life as "meh," either.

Even in its first few years, you could see a hardcore act play after a punk act, a ska act following a metal act, a legendary band next to a band with only an EP out -- and all in a single day.

Indeed, this traveling circus has remained something that a lot of people look forward to every year. But not every year's lineup has been a slam dunk.

When the Warped Tour lineups are at their best, they boast a healthy mix of bands that are for "the kids" (teenagers who look only a little younger than the band members onstage) and bands for the parents and older siblings to enjoy.

So, in that vein, and with the 17th annual Warped Tour kicking off in Dallas at the Gexa Energy Pavilion in Fair Park on Friday, June 24, we decided to take a look back every lineup the festival's ever feature. After the jump, we present our findings for the best and worst Warped Tour lineups over the years.

Agree? disagree? Feel free to leave a comment below. Or just go off on Warped Tour founder Kevin Lyman if you see him at the event on Friday.

The Good

1996. When the tour had its inaugural year in 1995, you had bands like Face to Face, L7 and Quicksand performing around large-scale half-pipes filled with skaters and bikers galore. In its second year, this expanded -- both with the number of bands and with the "extreme sports" angle. Bands like NOFX, Beck, and Possum Dixon were on the 1996 bill. This was also the year that Pennywise played the tour for the first time, and they would continue to play the tour for many years after. Guitarist Fletcher Dragge once said that there's never a bad Pennywise show because the band always ends its sets with "Bro Hymn." Warped was always the perfect place to see that, too -- a large crowd of fans onstage singing their hearts out to one of the band's most poignant songs. Years later, the first handful of Warped Tours would be known more for their financial woes than much else, but the groundwork was still laid. And 1996 sure proved itself as a measuring stick for many years to come.

1998. Reverend Horton Heat, Bad Religion, The Aquabats, 22 Jacks, Deftones and Hatebreed -- and all in one day? You bet. Can't argue with that kind of diversity, given how popular ska, pop-punk and metal-tinged hardcore was at the time. The key to understanding why Warped felt more welcoming during these years is in how the majority of the acts appealed to such  broad age ranges. You didn't have to be 16 years old to get into Dance Hall Crashers or Rocket from the Crypt. Though pop-punk had become a mainstream identity in 1994 with Green Day's Dookie and The Offspring's Smash, there was still a very apparent punk aesthetic at this year's festival. When the pop aesthetic became more influential (especially in the wake of Blink-182's commercial success later in the '90s), things became more divided. It wasn't the Warped Tour's fault, necessarily. Personally, I blame all the teenagers who bought New Found Glory t-shirts instead of seeking out Social Distortion vinyl.

2005. This year actually featured a very good balance of bands that had been around (and weren't going anywhere) and bands on the cusp of breaking through. In many ways, it was a return to form. My Chemical Romance, Strung Out, The Dillinger Escape Plan, Thrice, The Dropkick Murphys and Circa Survive all together? Pretty cool.

2010. After a few years of up and down lineups in the 2000s (see below), 2010 had a lineup in the spirit of what drew a lot of different people to it in the first place. With Andrew W.K., Every Time I Die and Enter Shikari mixed with The All-American Rejects Alkaline Trio and so much more, this year proved a surprising treat.

The Really Bad

2009. Listen: When you have 3OH!3, Brokencyde and Millionaires all performing on the same day, you're asking for trouble. Warped Tour has never strictly been a pop-punk, ska or hardcore clubhouse (Kid Rock, Limp Bizkit, MIA, and Eminem all played it before they were huge), but when you get novelties like screamo and so-called "crunk" acts playing this thing en masse, people with refined tastes need not apply. And, very much so, 2009 showcased the major disconnect between generations of fans. Have bands like Pennywise, The Bouncing Souls and NOFX on a bill, and you're going to attract those who don't feel like they fit in with the mainstream culture. When you have bands clearly going for the brass ring of mainstream acceptance, like The All-American Rejects and My Chemical Romance, loyal attendees who used to go every year get turned off. To look at it another way, imagine if the Warped Tour took place in the '80s. Would you really want to see an all-day festival where DRI, Sham 69 and Youth of Today played with The Knack and Billy Idol? Cool in some aspects, but it's like all the jocks and preppies you hated at school showed up at your skate park. Even though a Warped ticket is still relatively inexpensive, the disconnect remains. Factoring a long day in the heat, do you really want to spend an entire day waiting for a couple of bands who can only play 30 to 40 minutes a day, when you could wait and see these bands come back to town and play longer -- and in a smaller venue, no less?

2011. Yes, it's great to have Against Me!, Lucero, Less Than Jake and Unwritten Law for the longtime attendees and the newcomers alike. But the number of polarizing acts greatly overshadows them all. Sure, there will be a number of acts who will draw very large crowds -- like 3OH!3, The Devil Wears Prada, and Attack Attack! But are these acts that have non-embarrassing futures in front of them? I doubt it.

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Eric Grubbs is a Dallas-based writer who has published two books, Post: A Look at the Influence of Post-Hardcore 1985-2007 and When We Were the Kids. His writing has been featured in Punk Planet, Popdose, Fort Worth Weekly, The Dentonite and LA Weekly. He supports Manchester City and will never root for Manchester United.
Contact: Eric Grubbs