2006 marks the twelfth year of the Vans Warped Tour. Started in 1994, the tour, which gained sponsorship from the Vans Shoe company in its second year, now stops in over 50 North American cities plus European, Asian and Australian venues, and features approximately 100 bands at each venue.
Kevin Lyman got the idea for the tour in 1994 while working on skateboarding demonstration/competition shows that featured live music during the competitions. In the beginning, the majority of the bands booked to play the tour were punk or ska bands but in recent years the tour has branched out to include emo-core, heavy metal and even rap on as many as ten stages per venue. Highlights on this year’s tour include tour veterans NOFX and Less than Jake, AFI and Thursday will be promoting their new albums at several stops on the tour and audiences can also look forward to tour newcomers like the goth punk I am Ghost, emo rockers Pink Spyders and rock legends Joan Jett and the Blackhearts. According to WarpedTour.com, 92 bands have been confirmed for this year’s tour; some will be on the tour for the duration, others will join the tour on selected dates.
The Vans Warped Tour is more than just music. Skateboarding and BMX bicycle demonstrations and competitions dot each venue; the All Girl Skate Jam is one competition scheduled for the entirety of the North American tour and is just exactly what it sounds like, a skateboarding competition exclusively for girls. Vendors set up tents around the venues, creating a kind of flea market-esque atmosphere and charities and non-profit organizations are given their time in the sun, as it were.
Some of the charities benefiting from this year’s tour are The National Hopeline Network 1-800-Suicide and other teen suicide hotlines, the American Red Cross, and Leukemia, Cancer and AIDS research. Support for the suicide hotlines comes from Girlz Garage, a tent where fans can design their own souvenir tee shirts as well as bid on Vans shoes designed by bands on the tour, proceeds from both going to the hotlines.
The American Red Cross will host a blood drive at Southern California venues and through the month of May, the T. J. Martell Foundation will be auctioning two tickets to the tour and the opportunity for the highest bidder to watch their favorite band from the stage, the proceeds from the auction going to Leukemia, Cancer and AIDS research.
MySpace Music will be sponsoring a 30×30 area with a small stage for meet and greets with bands, impromptu performances and networking for aspiring stars. Non-profit organizations can sign up at their hometown venue to pick up recyclables and deliver them to local facilities, keeping all compensation for their group. There will also be an area of each venue dedicated to showcasing local “fanzines,” independently published, not-for-profit magazines dedicated to the tour or to bands on the tour.
The Vans Warped Tour is more than just a concert series. In its twelve year lifespan, which doesn’t look to be ending anytime soon, as it has out sold events as big as Ozzfest in recent years, the tour has become a full fledged, single day festival of music, attractions, local commerce and community outreach.