West Palm’s Warped Tour: 21 Years In The Making

By Diana Rodriguez

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Hardcore, deathcore, pop punk, emo, glam metal—these are some of the few genres that you may or may not have heard at the newly-renamed Perfect Vodka Amphitheatre on July 3, 2016.

Since its first ever date in 1995, Warped Tour has continuously offered a safe haven for people around the nation. With over 50 bands performing on over six stages from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., the South Florida Fairgrounds hosted the best festival of the year.

Real Friends played mainstage, singing songs like “Colder Quicker” and ”Skin Deep,” while the Japanese-based post-hardcore band, Coldrain, assaulted an ever-growing crowd with the heavy vocals to “The Revelation.”

Although Warped Tour is known to support up-and-coming bands, old bands that are legendary in our books continue to perform and amaze; Jacksonville-based Yellowcard, formed in 1997, hopped on tour yet again, announcing that their upcoming album would be their last before performing “Ocean Avenue.”

The Juno Award-winning Canadian band of Sum 41—who many of the other bands on tour have reminisced about going to see at Warped over a decade ago—brought back classics like “King of Contradiction” and “Fat Lip” with Deryck Whibley as vocalist for their twentieth year.

Some of the great aspects of Warped Tour, besides the overwhelmingly passionate music and heart-pounding performances, are also the little things. While waiting for the gates to open, less popular bands sold their CDs for a dollar or two, while volunteers collected donations for undernourished children of Africa as they gave out PETA bracelets.

Even the budding indie alternative band, The Heirs, endured the hot South Florida sun with everyone else and performed acoustic versions of some of their ethereal songs.

There was a “chill-out zone” with a dozen coolers filled with iced water available for anyone who wanted a cold drink. A water slide was set out with a small pool at the end if you wanted to wash off the sand, dust, and sweat.

Merchandise tents for every band on tour were attended by kind “merch guys” that were not only good to buy vinyls and tank tops and snapbacks from, but also to talk with about anything from your favorite bands to their stupidest memories on tour.

There were both meet and greets and photo sessions for most of the bands on tour: Tonight Alive, Issues, Sleeping with Sirens, Mayday Parade, Falling in Reverse, Waterparks.

Not even ten minutes had passed since I walked past the gates when I passed the merch tent of a favorite band of mine: The Story So Far. To my surprise—and frankly, amazement—the lead singer was already meeting and taking selfies with the few fans that had noticed he was there.

There were characteristics about this year’s Warped that, although few, were rather upsetting. First of all, tickets were an extra ten dollars. They have always been general admission, but were an agreeable amount of 40 dollars until this year. I paid another five dollars for an early entry pass, and I was anything but early. The employees who checked bags in my line were three times slower than the normal line for those who didn’t pay for early entrance.

It didn’t take long for me to notice that there were many more security guards than last year. I still suspect it has to do with Perfect Vodka management; the venue was called Cruzan before it was bought out by the liquor brand.

These guards only let in a set amount of people into the pit of the main stages before closing it off. If this happened, you could expect to stand in the crowded auditorium, watching a band you wanted to see perform from 50 feet away until they finished. Then you would have to shove and claw your way as far into the line as you could, so that you would be let into the pit, and then shove even more to reach the barricade in front of the stage two hours later.

In spite of Warped Tours’ flaws, I can still say time after time that it is my favorite day of the year. And that’s thanks to the man who created Warped Tour 20 years ago who was leaning against one of the stages I was attending.

When I recognized him—few people do since he is the man behind the scenes—I called to him and mouthed a “thank you.” Kevin Lyman looked over his shoulder to see who I was talking to, but when he looked back at me, his eyes opened wide and he bowed.

I was 13 when I first attended Warped Tour, when I first got bruises from moshing, when I first stood in 90 degree heat for six hours just so I could be at the very front of the crowd when my favorite bands performed, and I can honestly say that I hope to be much older before I stop attending the festival.

Warped Tour represents a universal language and a culture that I can never see myself growing out of.

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