After almost a quarter of a century, and having showcased upwards of 1700 bands, Warped Tour as we know it will come to an end when summer 2018 does. For the most mainstream of Americans who never attended, the tour always looked like an outlier -- a noisy summertime day out for the same kids that shopped at Hot Topic, wore too much eyeliner, and learned HTML by editing their MySpace profiles. Truthfully though, Warped Tour's impact on mainstream pop culture was enormous.
Warped Tour started out scrappy. It was 1995, pop punk was just starting to explode out of the underground -- thanks to Green Day's major label debut, Dookie -- and founder Kevin Lyman, having spent three years working on the Lollapalooza tour, recognized a gap in the festival market. That first Warped was 25 dates -- a breeze for bands and crews who later got used to the jaunt going on for twice as long. No one could foresee back then just how big -- or long-running -- this juggernaut would become.
While Warped's biggest impact has been taking underground culture and smearing it across America in broad daylight every summer, what is so often forgotten is that this was also the venue used by the likes of Katy Perry and Eminem to launch their careers to wider audiences. It's where Sonny Moore started out (in a band named From First to Last) before he metamorphosed into EDM megastar, Skrillex. It's where No Doubt spent their summer the year before they exploded on a global scale.
Dominic Davi, Oakland-based bassist of Tsunami Bomb, has been attending Warped since 1995 and playing it since 2001. "It's so easy to forget now," he says, "but when it started, and for a long time into it, the bands Warped Tour was assembling did not get played on the radio. They were not featured on festival lineups. Kevin Lyman helped shine a light onto all these bands that were drawing various amounts on their own, but together could fill a festival. That took a lot of vision."
"In the end," Davi continues, "Warped launched all these careers and was directly responsible for the punk rock explosion that happened in the early 2000s. That's quite a feat."