The Warped Tour started back in 1995 and has been a summer fixture since then, shaping music tastes and exposing fans to different genres of music and counterculture.
However, all good things must come to an end: On June 21, the Warped Tour began what is being billed as its final “full cross-country” run, in Pomona. With the Hootenanny defunct and FYF cancelled for 2018, the Warped Tour is a now almost-unheard-of festival that does not cost hundreds of dollars: For $45, you could gain admission. The Warped Tour was the Coachella for the common Joe or Jane.
One of the unique aspects of the Warped Tour is the schedule changes during each festival stop. I originally planned to see Throw the Goat, but when I messaged the lead guitarist the day before, Puke told me he did not know when the band would take the stage until they checked in; unfortunately, they were slotted for an 11 a.m. set, which made it impossible for me to get there to see them perform. I was able to catch them at their merch table after their show. In order to accommodate the flexible schedule, Warped Tour has an inflatable schedule board that fans photograph so they know the actual set times, or you can opt to pay $2 to get a paper schedule from a concession stand.
Fun fact: Ernie Ball, a leading manufacturer of musical strings and accessories, has sponsored the Warped Tour’s Battle of the Bands for more than 20 years—and has manufacturing facilities in Coachella.
The Pomona show featured veteran acts like Reel Big Fish, Shiragirl and The Used. Well-liked bands like Black Veil Brides, 3OH!3 and Tonight Alive pleased the younger fans in attendance.
I wandered over to the Mutant White Lightning stage to catch Nekrogoblikon, touring in support of new record Welcome to Bonkers. But the band’s 2:10 p.m. start time was delayed by technical difficulties, drastically cutting the goblin-loving metal band’s set—and foreshadowing many delays to band start times throughout the day.
The Shiragirl Stage was back again, featuring female artists. Shira Yevin, aka Shiragirl, was a treat, along with Turbulent Hearts, an L.A.-based band.
Doll Skin, an all-female band from Phoenix, showed why the Warped Tour is a favorite place to be for an up-and-coming band. The song “Family of Strangers” sped things up and got the crowd to mosh, pumped up with pop punk. When the band announced it was going to sing about lesbians, it got a big cheer from the crowd. Awesome song, but I missed the title.
Reel Big Fish offered the band’s usual over-the-top fun, starting the set with a cover of “Take on Me” by A-ha. Lead singer Aaron Barrett had to remind us that this would be the last one: “I am never going to go to another Warped Tour again.”
Tonight Alive followed and received an enthusiastic response for song “Crack My Heart”—but there was an apparent medical emergency in the middle of the crowd. Singer Jenna McDougall asked for healing hands and prayers, cutting the set short.
The Journeys stages right and left alternated bands—so if one band was delayed on the right, a delay occurred for the follow-up band on the left, and so on. 3OH!3 changed the tone at the Journeys Left Food stage with fun songs “My First Kiss” and “Starstrukk.” You can never go wrong with songs about kissing and Daisy Dukes.
The Maine, all dressed in red, was nostalgic, reminding everyone that this was the last Warped Tour stop in Pomona, and reaching back to charm the crowd with a cover of Blur’s “Woo Hoo.” Testing the musical knowledge of the crowd, lead singer John O’Callaghan asked, “How the heck are you? We are the Foo Fighters from Phoenix, Arizona. We are an old, band and this is an old song,” introducing “Am I Pretty?”
Waterparks was identified on the stage backdrop as “god’s favorite boy band.” I never knew The Almighty got involved in picking favorites, and God apparently had other plans, sending technical delays that resulted in a 23-minute delay and turning the set into an acoustic-only affair. Vocalist Awsten Knight went onstage with a guitar and played a few songs, including “We Need To Talk,” “Lucky People,” and “21 Questions.”
The Used headlined the Journeys Left Foot stage. The band was wearing tie-dye, and Bert McCracken was surrounded by smoke as he entered and started their set with “Take It Away.” The audience reacted positively to the short set, which also included “The Bird and the Worm” and “Listening.”
Echosmith killed it with “Cool Kids” from Talking Dreams—perhaps an anthem of the Warped Tour generation: “I wish that I could be like the cool kids, ’cause all the cool kids, they seem to fit in. I wish that I could be like the cool kids, like the cool kids.”
Black Veil Brides closed out the Journeys Left Foot stage with a set including “Rebel Love Song.”
Only time will tell if the Warped Tour organizers change their minds and decide not leave this iconic festival behind. Rumors are floating already that a 25-year tour is planned … but who knows?