To some, Vans Warped Tour is a lifeless corpse but to Kevin Lyman, it’s an event that’s still accomplishing a lot. While located south of the border for one of the U.S. dates, the creator of the summer festival discussed the 2010 run so far and the possibility of bringing in veteran acts in the near future.
It’s been 13 days since the tour started. How has the stop in Pennsylvania been so far?
It’s hot! We’re close to 50 degrees right now. But the tour is going really good as we’re hitting a stride at the moment. This year, the lineup doesn’t have a big band with a radio hit. It’s just a large group of younger artists and as each day goes on, people are spreading the word saying the tour is back. We did hit some bad weather, but a few of the younger bands, like VersaEmerge, are seeing their popularity grow and the tour keeps getting better.
For those who don’t know, what’s your average day like?
Warped Tour is full of long drives as you’re on the road. I’m usually up by 6:30 A.M. and out making sure things, like parking, are going smoothly. Then I’m checking in on bands and organizing schedules. As the day goes on I help out on-site, look after Mayhem Festival as it just kicked off for the summer, and I’m also involved in a new mentoring program we have for this tour that talks about the business aspects of events.
Is the tour more chaotic now than it was five or ten years ago?
No, no, no. Overall, it’s very smooth. Everything’s organized and there are rarely any major problems. Like venues who know us have told us the past week that we seem to have everything down, as there are barely any conflicts.
The one great aspect of Vans Warped Tour is the opportunities it offers individuals in a crippled economy. But with a lack of successful nationwide tours, is Warped running on adrenaline or its last legs?
Warped Tour isn’t on its last legs. It’s in a point of transition. The younger audience we have today isn’t connecting with the older bands that were on the tour in the past two decades. But we’re still going strong as this year has been a big success. Look at the tour so far, have we had any cancellations? No, and that’s because music fans are connecting with the younger bands and a few other artists. Sum 41 is out this year and they’re not used to playing on such a smaller stage, but they’ve been a major hit on the tour because they’re re-connecting with people.
You mentioned before if people stopped coming you wouldn’t prolong the festival. If that was the case, would you do a final run to celebrate its significance?
I don’t think I would. The first few shows this year were kind of funky and we all thought that this would be the last year for Warped Tour. But we gained momentum as more people are coming out.
Before those same music fans were the ones who said Warped Tour used to be their thing. With their favourite bands aging as the years go by, what’s it going to take to win them back?
I don’t know if we can win them back. No one’s interested in going to a nine-hour festival anymore. Which draws the question: do I need to win them back? The most popular complaint we get is that the tour doesn’t have enough punk and isn’t punk anymore. If you look at our lineup this year, there is eight hours of punk. Like how much punk do you want to watch in a day?
Since people want to see older acts, have you given any thought on returning one year with a lineup full of tour veterans, like New Found Glory, Deftones, Paramore, and Thrice?
Everyone is welcome to be a part of it all summer long. Paramore loves the tour and it would be great to have them back, same with Thrice. New Found Glory played not too long ago, but in their case, they weren’t a big hit with the general audience. The problem with a band like that and Deftones is their financial needs are different now. They’re a band that plays a big venue with two or three other artists and a ticket to that costs the same as a ticket to Warped Tour.
What about bringing in an overseas act, like The Subways, or resurfacing artists, like My Chemical Romance or Blink-182?
It’s up to them. But are people still going to be into their music? If so, does that still give us room to add younger bands? The younger artists prefer to be on the road all summer and don’t care about the profit they make. They’re more focused on playing for the fans. The door is always open, it’s just up to bands like that and if they want to be a part of this.
There’s always that surprise artist on the tour, like Kid Rock or Katy Perry. This year, critics can’t wrap their heads around Taylor Momsen and The Pretty Reckless. Why did you choose her?
I really liked her demo tapes. I listened to her stuff and thought she was talented, especially for her age and the type of music her band plays. What do you think of her?
She is talented even if she is an actress on the show Gossip Girl.
Exactly. She’s on the tour because of her talent. All I keep hearing is critics saying this and critics saying that. To be honest, the critics can go do their own tour. If they don’t like ours and the artists we bring on, then they can go f*ck themselves. They’re not doing a tour like this and no one is, so they shouldn’t be quick to judge an artist.
Do you hope young entrepreneurs become inspired by your efforts with Warped Tour and create something similar in the near future?
Yes, definitely! There’s a video from 1997 where I talk about the tour and actually say I hope someone starts something similar when I’m old, takes over, and kicks my ass. The world needs tours like these because they help promote artists who care about their fans. That’s why the artists who are here want to be here.
What advice do you have for those entrepreneurs?
Start an idea that goes back to being more local. The big record label system isn’t working anymore. Like look at music these days, that system is finished. It can be hard to make a living, but learn what you can, even if it means barely making anything. Connect with people on a local scale and things will work out once you put the effort in.
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