Vans Warped Tour - Chicago & Milwaukee

In a way, it sort of felt like graduation, a celebration of all that was despite an underlying sadness that it was ending at all. Warped Tour is so much more than a traveling tour; whether you had the chance to experience it firsthand or not there's no doubt that it has its own community and has been for years. In a world where it can feel like our differences tear us apart, there's something to be said about the way music and art can bring so many together despite all of that.

The Chicago and Milwaukee dates rolled through the Midwest with stark contrast as the Windy City sold out even with stormy skies and the other was a needed sunny Monday right on Lake Michigan. For a few bands on the tour, it was a full circle welcome home playing to new listeners and those that had watched them get their start in basements or bowling alleys. Bands such as Knuckle Puck, Sleep On It, and Real Friends. RF used their time on stage as a platform to talk about mental health, a subject matter they explore without hesitation in their lyrics. The band works with Hope For The Day, a Chicago based non-profit which achieves proactive suicide prevention through outreach and mental health education. Thankfully mental health is often talked about openly within this music scene but the next step in offering resources and guidance to fans that connect with those issues is an important next step. It's ok not to be ok.

Grayscale has that east coast work ethic on and off stage. They push the boundaries and notions of their genre, connecting very strongly with their fan base with deeply personal and honest songwriting while catching the attention of passersby with practiced musicianship. Their merch tent is truly a shopping experience they've invested a lot of time and effort into; essentially a traveling pop up shop that showcases the value they place on what they put out into the world. It's bands like this and many others on the Owly stage that are going to creatively adapt to a post-world scene and make new ways to meaningfully connect with their supporters. Another newer and exciting band to the warped scene is Movements, still riding on their emotional debut album Feel Something full of vivid storytelling that has touched so many. The bands possibly most popular song “Daylily” features the memorable line “ I think it's time you had a pink cloud summer” and fans now come with their own colorful production methods for this closing song like balloons and streamers or powder. With the quickness of Warped there's little time for visuals so something about this small moment of warmth really feels magical.

There are two bands in particular that are warped veterans but even with an established fan base treat every date and crowd as an opportunity to reach more people. Mayday Parade and The Maine can be found walking around before and after promoting to the line right alongside local bands, taking pictures and selling CDs. This is an important mentality I hope young musicians learn from: never be satisfied. Not in the sense of being successful because both these bands have impressive catalogs of work they should be proud of; they always strive to be better and reach more people because they truly believe in their art. It's important to have goals but that constant desire to compete with yourself exemplifies hard work and it shows. Both bands sets were a mix of youthful nostalgia along with newer more mature tracks and how lucky are some of us to grow up with this music as a soundtrack.

One unique aspect of warped is the space for collaboration and friendships to grow between artists that might not have met otherwise. Ryan and Derek of State Champs joined Simple Plan on stage to get the energy even more up for “I’m Just A Kid”; a song the SC guys themselves probably grew up listening to on MTV. Warped is full of full circle moments like this for bands and attendees alike. Bands and crew who grew up attending the tour now helping it be possible; parents who bring their own kids out; friends reconnecting after years; the list goes on and on but I bet we all have our own memories and moments from Warped tour over the years we will never forget. It's hard to say what the future of warped tour as we know it is but there's always going to be that sense of community with anyone that ever chose to attend and be apart of something bigger than themselves. No matter what, stay Warped.


Words by Hannah Hines

Pictures by Kaitlyn Johnston