The festival defined noughties pop-punk and united Americas outcasts but as it shuts for ever, we ask: did it fail to champion diversity?
The sun is blazing mercilessly in Columbia, Maryland, on a Sunday in July. It is not yet noon, and the nasal singer of a jet-black metalcore band is crying out: Will you miss me when Im gooone? Already this weekend, I have seen hair-dye jobs in impossibly electric hues of bubblegum pink and highlighter-pen lime. I have seen ripped fishnets and Tim Burton mini-backpacks and earlobes stretched as big as the rims of drinking glasses. I have perused the wares of outfitters called Mall Goth Trash and Sad Boys Club. I can confirm that the campaigns to Stay Positive and Hail Satan and ensure that Skas Not Dead! have endured in some corners of America.
I am on my third consecutive day inside the misfit carnival that is Vans Warped tour, which, after 24 years, finished its final run as a national touring festival last week. While American festivals such as Lollapalooza have long retired their caravans and turned into annual fixed-site weekenders, Warped persevered as a roving punk-themed circus. The brand will probably continue with abbreviated tours, says Kevin Lyman, its founder. An exhibition about Warpeds history will open next year at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio. But it is the end of an era for the generation who invented mall punk.