Reflections on Warped Tour as It Comes to an End This Weekend

Long live Warped Tour.
Long live Warped Tour. Mike Brooks
It’s hard to imagine a summer without a Warped Tour. After this year, the cross-country tour will end. Founder Kevin Lyman has branched off to a cruise and overseas shows, but there will be a void for fans in America who grew up on it.

Originally meant to be a marriage between extreme sports demonstrations and punk rock, ska and hip-hop in the mid-1990s, the tour changed with the times and its paying audience. That meant embracing pop, electronic music and metalcore in the 2000s. It gave artists such as Katy Perry, Eminem, Deftones and My Chemical Romance an eager and hungry audience before even larger ones embraced them.

For thousands of young adults, the Warped Tour was a place to fit in, no matter your background. The punk purists who thought it was a bad thing for punk rock's legacy stayed at home. The ones who bought tickets were game, even if it meant standing in a parking lot in the worst kind of heat with 360 degrees of marketing around them. The attendees felt welcome. They had a chance to meet their heroes walking around or during autograph signings. And they might make new friends there, too.

Although its sponsorship name changes every few years, what many dub the old Starplex has been the site of many Warped Tour dates in Dallas, the tour utilizing most of the venue and most of its parking lot to house a half-dozen stages. This final Dallas date will also be at the venue now known as Dos Equis Pavilion.

Many active local musicians in North Texas went to the Warped Tour growing up, and they had plenty to share about their times.

Chris Cutler, who co-fronts Fat By the Gallon, will play the Korner Stage this year at the Dallas show with fellow locals From Parts Unknown, as well as other Texas-based bands such as Madaline, Dead Horse Creek, the Butts and Dead Weight. He went to his first Warped Tour in 2000. He remembers losing his shoes while crowd surfing and telling Dicky Barrett of the Mighty Mighty Bosstones where the bathroom was.

“I think I ended up going the next five or six summers in a row after that,” Culter says.

Chris Spurrier of Stealers had started a job right after graduating high school when a friend hit him up about going to Warped. His boss said it was OK to go, and he’s never forgotten what it was like. From seeing Snapcase, Hot Water Music and Avail on a small stage to meeting Ice T, he had a goal after that date.

“I promised I'd never miss another Warped Tour,” Spurrier says. “I think I went to one other one after that.”

It's common for attendees to grow out of the tour. The afternoon and evening heat got old after a while. Plus, artists like 3OH!3, Brokencyde and Jeffree Star were like a pile of excrement in the middle of a swimming pool to many long-timers. The tour always focused on what the young people wanted, for better or worse.

And not everybody wanted to mosh all day in a parking lot.

Stephen O’Sicky of Caterpillars went only once when he lived in New Jersey.

“While the Bled were playing, some asshole decided to punch me in the back of the head,” he says. “Let’s just say that’s all I remember. It was a miserable experience.”

Dallas Observer contributor and musician Jacob Vaughn lost his glasses in a pit during his first time at Warped Tour. He went with his sister and cousin to try to be cool.

“I was more worried about my family being mad about my glasses than I was about not being able to see,” Vaughn says. “That was my introduction to Warped.”

From Parts Unknown frontman Ben McCracken remembers a time when he brought his sister to her first Warped Tour. Although he was all about bands like NOFX, Lagwagon and Strung Out, he met up with her to see her favorite band, My Chemical Romance. 

"A few songs in, teenage girls started dropping like flies from the heat." – Ben McCracken

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"A few songs in, teenage girls started dropping like flies from the heat," McCracken says. "Gerard Way would stop the show and part the crowded sea of kids, much like an emo Moses, and then the unconscious would be passed over the barriers like deflated pool floats. I was taken aback with how they looked like corpses. I was also feeling validated from having survived my puke pit experience without fainting."

The Starplex wasn't the only local place that benefited from hosting the tour, especially when the sun went down. The Double Wide hosted a few post-Warped parties, including one during a wedding reception. But probably one of the best experiences the venue had was the day before the Warped date in 2011.

Billed as a free show with Mike Herrera from MxPx, Ben Nichols from Lucero and local band Missile, the party ended with a surprise Against Me set. Double Wide was filled to the brim with people going nuts, like an old-school Against Me show at a time when it played arenas.

But as the Warped Tour comes to a close, one can’t help but wonder if anything can fill the void it will leave. Some of the musicians we spoke to think destination festivals will, especially the Fest in Gainesville, Florida.

“It’s not a touring festival, but I would love to see the fest get more recognition,” O’Sicky says.

“Luckily, there are a ton of great festivals throughout the country like the Fest, Punk Rock Bowling, Riot Fest and so many more,” Cutler says. “I’m sure without the success of Warped Tour paving the way, a good portion of the other festivals we look forward to wouldn’t exist.”

But for now, there's one more Dallas Warped date.

"I just hope I don’t puke next Friday," McCracken says.

The Vans Warped Tour is Friday, July 6, at Dos Equis Pavilion.
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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