Kevin Lyman is approaching this summer’s 24th edition of the Warped Tour
thinking about something that never needed to enter his thoughts during
most of the years he’s organized and overseen this tour. He’s thinking
about his life without the Warped Tour.
Last fall, Lyman announced that 2018 would be the last year for Warped as a
traveling festival visiting cities coast to coast.
It’s the end of an era in the concert world. Warped wasn’t the first
traveling festival — Lyman, before launching Warped, worked for three years
on Lollapalooza when it was breaking ground. But it is the last such tour,
having outlasted Ozzfest, Lollapalooza, H.O.R.D.E., Lilith Fair and every
other traveling festival tour.
Lyman suspects that the concept of the traveling festival has seen its day.
One reason is finances. The transportation costs of getting some 70 bands
to the venues have increased, as have band fees, insurance and other
expenses that go with the tour.
It’s also become a bigger challenge in recent years to book bands popular
enough to anchor the Warped stages and drive ticket sales. That wasn’t such
an issue in the first decade or so, when Warped was essentially the only
big summer tour going, for bands in the punk and alternative rock worlds
and managers and record labels clamored for one of the coveted slots. But
the music and touring businesses have changed in big ways.
Album sales have tanked in the eras of downloading and streaming services.
Without much revenue from album sales, bands have to make their money on
the road. Lyman said that Warped is simply not seen by some industry people
as the best summer touring option anymore.
“When I started Warped Tour, there wasn’t a full summer [of festivals] in
Europe that you could go to. Bands used to go over there in June, do a
couple of festivals in early June, and then they’d come back [do Warped]
and hopefully do a couple [European festivals] in August,” Lyman explained
in a late-May phone interview. “But now there’s a full three months of
festivals going on in Europe. So the economics have changed for a lot of
bands because of lack of payments from records and CDs, that type of thing.
It’s a time when a band can make their living going to Europe this time of
“It’s understandable. They only make their money from touring, so in the
short-term thinking, maybe they could go make more money [in Europe],” he
said. “Now, unfortunately, people are put in a situation where every
quarter you’ve got to stay solvent. So that was the problem.”
On a personal level, Lyman also found himself getting worn down from the
long hours he puts in, traveling with the tour and making sure things run
as smoothly as possible at each stop. Lyman typically starts work before
sunup and doesn’t finish until dark — some 16 hours later. It’s become a
challenge for Lyman, now 57, to maintain his hands-on approach to managing
the tour. And he has a knee replacement and a surgically rebuilt ankle to
testify to the wear and tear.
“Physically, it’s been a drag the last three summers. I go 100 percent on
everything I do,” Lyman said. “I’m always in the middle of it and I will
always be in the middle of everything I do. But the physical toll on me has
gotten too hard.”
So yes, Lyman sounds ready to leave behind the grind of Warped. But not
until he takes one last trip around the country this summer. And for
Warped’s final voyage, Lyman has assembled a diverse lineup of talent that
includes a number of veteran bands that have had multiple outings on the
tour (Less Than Jake, Reel Big Fish and Every Time I Die) as well as
emerging acts that touch on everything from pop-rock (Echosmith) to punk
(Doll Skin) to metal (Amity Affliction) and beyond. Lyman said he wasn’t
able to book all of the returning acts he wanted (although some groups that
helped put Warped on the map are making one-off guest appearances at
various tour stops). He likes what this year’s lineup offers and what he’s
seen with ticket sales so far.
“I have a very solid lineup and it’s all people who wanted to be there.
That’s really what it is. It’s a lineup of the bands that really wanted to
be there,” Lyman said. “I really think it’s going to be a celebration of
people who are true music fans, who remember those times [at Warped] and
are going to come out and have a great last summer with us.”
The absence of the tour figures to leave a void for some bands, especially
the newer alt-leaning acts that have used Warped to establish a buzz and
fan base. Lyman is more concerned, however, for the future of some of the
nonprofits that have been part of the Warped experience. Each year dozens
of organizations have traveled with Warped, and a good number of fledgling
groups grew into influential operations through the exposure generated on
the tour. (One benefactor this year will be the Preventum Initiative, which
educates the public about the dangers of opioid abuse.) These organizations
will have to find some way to replace the resources that came from Warped.
Lyman said he will do as much as he can, going forward, to help Warped’s
“One of the hardest things of ending this [tour] is trying to figure out
how to continue to help them with their missions. We’ve got some plans in
place,” he said. “We’re not walking away from them.”
Lyman plans to stay involved with some of the nonprofits and he will be
available to consult on certain festivals or other events. He has also
accepted a teaching position with the University of Southern California
starting this fall. And he has one other undertaking in mind for next
“Now I’m going to travel in a different way,” Lyman said. “I get to take my
wife on a summer vacation. It will be awesome. Yeah, next summer will be
our first summer vacation in 27 years, between Lollapalooza and Warped
The Warped Tour comes to the Ventura County Fairgrounds, 10 W. Harbor
Blvd., Ventura, on Sunday, June 24, 11 a.m.-8 p.m. For tickets and more
information, visit vanswarpedtour.com.