Earlier this week, the lineup for Warped Tour was announced. If that sentence makes you feel incredibly old, then you probably won’t like hearing that Warped Tour is now 20 years old. Spawned in 1995 by Kevin Lyman, the “largest traveling music tour in the United States” has been a boon to fans of punk, pop-punk, and ska when that was a thing. (Remember ska?!) Past years have found acts like Blink 182, NOFX, Rancid, Bouncing Souls, Bad Religion, Anti-Flag, Reel Big Fish, Alkaline Trio, and literally dozens of other seminal acts, as well as hundreds of other bands that were at least significant representatives of their specific subset at the time.
More than half of Warped Tour’s 20 summer-long jaunts have made stops in Milwaukee, usually at Henry Maier Festival Park…and one particularly ramshackle attempt at The Rave in the early 2000s. This summer is no different, as Milwaukee will play host to Warped Tour on July 28, one of the roving festival’s 42 stops. Whether you’ve outgrown the festival or you’ve never felt compelled to attend, it’s hard to dispute the massive musical undertaking’s ability to bring a wave of bands that best represent the under-sung genres that, before Warped Tour’s inception, could never be consistently booked at other summer festivals. At least that was the case.
Recent years have seen Warped Tour branching out to incorporate fringe acts from all corners of modern music, most notably Katy Perry’s perplexing presence on the tour in 2009. However, most bookings of the sort are nowhere near that magnitude. Spreading to more genres has essentially diluted the event and squeezed dynasty acts off the bill—leaving novelty acts residing well outside the realms of punk, pop-punk, hardcore, and ska to serve as unnecessary anchors to the sinking ship, with dozens of little-known cookie cutter bands to fill in the gaps. This week, Warped Tour announced what could very well be considered its worst lineup in its 20-year history. How bad is it? Beyond Riff Raff (a novelty rapper) and Kosha Dillz, along with semi-reputable acts like Senses Fail, Silversteen, Motion City Soundtrack, Matchbook Romance, and H20 (the last three and Kosha Dillz aren’t performing in Milwaukee, by the way) serving as default dynasty acts, the makeup of Warped Tour of today would be utterly unrecognizable if set beside lineups issued even five years ago. This year also offers a comedy tent with “YouTube stars” and a small batch of comedians who (with the exception of Beth Stelling—also not performing in Milwaukee) are a veritable who’s who of “Who’s That?”-level stand-ups.
In a Billboard piece run in accordance with this year’s Warped Tour announcement, Lyman—who is speaking in Milwaukee on Monday—seems well-aware of Warped’s rapidly plummeting reputation. Still, he doesn’t seem too concerned with public perception.
“If it sucks so bad, don’t go,” Lyman cracked. “Start your own festival. I’ve been saying it since 1997, there’s got to be a kid in a garage somewhere who’s gonna kick my ass one day and put me out of business.”
That’s unlikely to happen, at least at the scale Warped Tour has worked hard to reach in its two-decade run. But specifically speaking in regard to Milwaukee, the inaugural Dummerfest and even a handful of the acts included in the wave of Summerfest headliner announcements present a significantly better representation of what Warped Tour used to be—and what it should strive to be again—than what the actual Warped Tour is trotting out this summer. Until the philosophy changes, most formerly-interested parties will likely heed Lyman’s advice and choose not to go. However, if you choose to throw caution and Ticketmaster service charges to the wind and give this truly unsavory Warped tour rendition a chance, Milwaukee Record sifted through the July 28 lineup to assemble a handy guide.
Movie or TV show names/references
The Wonder Years
Set It Off
Youth In Revolt
Koo Koo Kanga Roo
The Bunny The Bear
Entirely male bands with a woman’s name or a direct reference to a woman
I Killed The Prom Queen
Miss May I
While She Sleeps
Family Force 5
Being As An Ocean
Sirens And Sailors
Acts we’ve heard of