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Warped Tour’s Kevin Lyman Already Looking at New Bands for Next Year

Chris Epting

As the Vans Warped Tour 2011 prepared to wrap up the final week of yet another tumultuous, successful run across the country, the visionary behind the concept gave Noisecreep an exclusive look behind the scenes of one the biggest biggest pop culture phenomenons in music history – Warped.

It all started back in 1994 when Lyman, then a three year Lollapalooza veteran, put together a tour featuring No Doubt, Sublime and a handful of other punk and ska bands from around Southern California. The next year, Vans shoe company stepped up with an offer to blend the music tour with a skating fest and the Vans Warped Tour was born.

Now in its 17th season, the tour has grown into a lifestyle movement replete with socially aware causes and charities, along with tons of cutting-edge music – this year more than 70 bands scattered across 10 stages.

At the recent tour stop in Carson, Calif., Lyman guided Noisecreep backstage and beyond to get a sense of the inner workings.

In a giant circus tent located back near the dozens of tour buses, Lyman proudly talked about how, each day, the tour feeds upwards 800 people. “We have the best caterer in the business. I think she purchases about 2000 pounds of food per day from our supplier, and, look at all of the volunteers – young people that get a chance to come in and serve their favorite musicians. We like to provide lots of interesting opportunities for kids to come in, do some work, then have a good time.”

In numerous recent Noisecreep interviews, dozens of bands boasted how well taken care of they feel on the Warped tour. Many added that it was because of attending a Warped tour or two that they were actually inspired to start bands in the first place.

Did Lyman expect that happen at the beginning? “No, I mean, Warped was supposed to be a one-year thing, to be honest.”

After stopping to sign a few autographs for some fans near the press gate (“He’s like God!” one female gushed), we walked over to the The Advent stage.

Watch Miss May I at Warped Tour 2011

“The is what we call ‘Scream-U’, Lyman said. The main metalcore stage, which is a really important place in the tour today. today. Miss May I, Woe Is Me – those are the bands on this stage, among several others, that stand out as potential headliners. And in general, of course we want to always try and get it back to like it was at the beginning, to be as eclectic as possible. That’s the magic of Warped. And I’ve already started looking at new bands for next year. It’s a crazy process but I still really enjoy it.”

Beyond the music, Warped also features a major charitable component. “We’ve collected about 120,000 cans of food so far this tour,” Lyman explained. (There are a variety of ways for fans to obtain front-of-the-line access – one includes bringing cans of food.) “In our non-profit area we’ve collected about $60,000 for MusiCares – this isn’t just a music event – I call it a Lifestyle County Fair. So we create lots of opportunities for young fans to learn how to help without being too preachy. It’s fun here, it’s like a fair, but that creates our chance to educate. By the way, I grew up going to county fairs, I still go to them – and learn from them about what to offer at Warped.”

The father of two teenage daughters, Lyman loves the work ethic inherent at Warped.

“If every kid in the country cared and worked like these kids on the tour, the country would be better. Setting up booths and tents; the work ethic is crazy. It’s like a boot camp. The touring bands get better and smarter on this tour as do the crews. It’s a great calling card, making it through this tour – if you can survive Warped, you can do anything.”

Lyman shared that the only band he regrets not having on Warped was the Ramones. “I tried to get them on here as a reunion,” he lamented. “And Joe Strummer was supposed to come out on Warped the year he died – he was booked. Beyond that, I have no complaints.”

As far as bands looking to impress Lyman and perhaps earn an invite on the tour, the advice from the boss is simple. “Be patient, write good songs and stand out. Then when you’re really ready, shoot me an email.”

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