Uploaded by kat magic

Assessment 1 - Critical analysis of a Popular Music Event

Warped Tour
Katarina Mangone
Warped Tour, founded by Kevin Lyman in 1995, was an annual touring music festival that brought
together both ‘…eclectic alternative rock and the value of community’ (Vans Warped Tour: The Fest
That Forged A Punk Rock Community 2019). It was 2010 when I heard about this music festival called
Warped Tour. I was fourteen at the time and heavily into alternative rock music. I, unfortunately,
have never been to one of Warped Tour’s festivals however; I did enjoy watching my favourite bands
performing on the Warped Tour stage via YouTube. Warped Tour had a reign of 25 years before
ultimately ending in 2019. Still to this day, Warped Tour is considered ‘…the most successful touring
alternative and punk rock festival in the history of American music’ (Vans Warped Tour: The Fest
That Forged A Punk Rock Community 2019). With this in mind, I asked myself; why did Warped Tour
end? Was it because there were not many of us who still enjoyed alternative rock music? Or was it
because of something else entirely? By exploring the topics authenticity, music scenes and fandom
and identity, I will explain why the punk rock music festival ended.
Kevin Lyman says that Warped Tour was created ‘…for the other 90%. We made it close and
accessible. Sweat, crowds, down and dirty’ (Brown 2018). It was a festival ‘for millions of punk rock
fans across North America, and indeed the world…’ (Tomorrow: The True Story of Warped Tour’s
Rise and Fall, Told in Our Podcast 2019). It can be argued that ‘…no cultural event was more
important than Vans Warped Tour, the travelling punk rock circus that gave misfits everywhere a day
to feel less alone’ (Tomorrow: The True Story of Warped Tour’s Rise and Fall, Told in Our Podcast
2019). As someone who once was a fan of bands such as Bring Me The Horizon, Pierce The Veil,
Dance Gavin Dance and A Day To Remember, Warped Tours aesthetic and punk rock community was
something I wanted to be a part of.
‘The rock aesthetic depends, crucially, on an argument about authenticity’ (Leppert and McClary
1987, p. 136). The authentic punk rock music experience within Warped Tour comes down to the
bands Kevin Lyman brings with him on the tour. It is argued that ‘different genres of music have
become associated with and signify different images…’ (Negus 1992, p. 60). With Warped Tour being
an alternative rock dominated festival, the aesthetic and authentic punk rock image of the festival is
depicted as an event that heavily consisted of ‘… pop punk, skateboarding, vans shoes, eyeliner,
swoopy haircuts and the sweltering summer heat’ (Vans Warped Tour: The Fest That Forged A Punk
Rock Community 2019). Leppert and McClary (1987, p. 136) explain that ‘good music is the authentic
expression of something – a person, an idea, a feeling, a shared experience, a zeitgeist. Bad music is
unauthentic – it expresses nothing.’ In corroboration with this statement, Leppert and McClary also
state ‘…we enjoy popular music because of its use in answering questions of identity: we use pop
songs to create for ourselves a particular sort of self-definition, a particular place in society’ (1987, p.
140). I did find myself, in the past, using my music taste as a way of expressing my identity and
connecting with those who had a similar aesthetic. The punk rock music scene of Warped Tour is
another thing that we can explore and discuss.
‘The term “scene” was first widely used by journalists in the 1940s to characterise the marginal and
bohemian ways of life of those associated with the demiworld of jazz’ (Peterson and Bennett 2004,
p. 2). ‘In the years since, journalists have applied the term loosely to a wide range of situations –
…”goth scene,” “punk scene,” “hip hop scene,” and the like’ (Peterson and Bennett 2004, p. 2). ‘This
journalistic discourse not only has served to describe the music dress, and deportment appropriate
to a scene, but also has functioned as a cultural resource for fans of particular musical genres,
enabling then to forge collective expressions of “underground” or “alternative” identity their cultural
distinctiveness from the “mainstream”’ (Peterson and Bennett 2004, p. 2). As a teenager, I did in fact
want to extract myself from the “mainstream” music scene. With Warped Tour, it appeared to be
authentic and raw and did not appear to have the industrialised feel of pop music. Punk rock
musicians appeared much more authentic than pop artists. However, even though Warped Tour saw
success, it has been argued that rock music is not as raw as it once was.
Will Straw quotes in his article Systems of articulation, logics of change: Communities and scenes in
popular music that ‘‘in November 1990, Billboard magazine published a front-page ‘Special Report’
entitled ‘Rock losing grip as other genres gain’ (DiMartino and Duffy, 1980)’ (Straw 1991, pp. 37071). It is important to note that this source comes from 1990 and is not recent source. However, it is
argued that ‘[r]ock music is losing ground because there’s not an awful lot new that’s happened to
rock music since punk… Since then, what is generally seen as rock music has been so regenerative
stylistically and musically to the point where it’s generic [sic]… (DiMartino and Duffy, 1990:100)’
(Straw 1991, p.370).
By exploring authenticity, music scene and fandom and identity, and with my personal experience
with punk rock music and Warped Tour, it can be concluded that Warped Tour did not end because
the punk rock music scene has extinguished but because of a loss and disconnect within the punk
rock music community. As Kevin Lyman explains:
‘Ultimately when I started to think about winding this (Warped Tour) down after 25 years. It
was, I think, we’ve lost the sense of community. It took a community to make Warped Tour
go. [Redacted] I was challenged by, maybe, the fractured fan-base, the fractured band-base,
the sense of community, what I got myself involved in this for, and what got me into punk
rock that I said: ‘you know? If it’s changed- it’s maybe time I wind this thing down. 2017, no
matter who I put up, it was like ‘f that band, f that band, where’s this band!?’ It was just like
‘Oh what happened to the acceptance of music and that love of music?’ (Tomorrow: The
True Story of Warped Tour’s Rise and Fall, Told in Our Podcast 2019).
Bennett, A & Peterson R. A 2004, Music scenes; local, translocal & virtual, Vanderbilt University
Press, Nashville
Brown, A 2018, ‘End of the Warped Tour: What the loss of rock’s ‘cheap, scruffy’ roadshow means
for the concert biz,’ Los Angeles Times, 14 June, viewed 28 November 2019,
Leppert, R. D & McClary, S 1987, Music and Society; the Politics of Composition, Performance, and
Reception, Cambridge University Press, New York
Straw, W 1991, Systems of articulation, logics of change: Communities and scenes in popular music,
Cultural Studies, 5:3, pp. 368-388, DOI: 10.1080/09502389100490311
Tomorrow: The True Story of Warped Tour’s Rise and Fall, Told in Our Podcast 2019, viewed 28
November 2019, <https://www.kerrang.com/the-news/tomorrow-the-true-story-of-warped-toursrise-and-fall-told-in-our-podcast/>
Vans Warped Tour: The Fest That Forged A Punk Rock Community 2019, podcast on Spotify, Kerrang!
Inside Track, 8 November, <https://open.spotify.com/episode/0msgWcM1K63VyoJfFMRi5i>