If kids have the internet and EDM, do they really need punk rock?
And here we have yet another article from VICE unnecessarily bashing an incredibly beloved institution. I’m starting to think VICE chose its name in how it loves to expose its writers’ vices.
The article begins with the writer, Mitchell Sunderland, presumably at the Beatport Stage describing what he sees. The intro paragraph is simply a description; it presents no opinion and no purpose. He then follows it with the age-old cliche that I think everyone is tired of hearing: how something is “no longer” what it used to be. Sunderland then begins to provide what seem like memories of what the tour used to be. He claims there were homophobic skateboarders in the audience. He claims only emo, pop punk, and scene kids attended. He’s starting to sound like a grumpy old man getting nostalgic when all of a sudden he hits you with this sentence:
"I never went to Warped Tour when I was teenager."
Wait. How can someone who has never even been to Warped Tour think he can accurately describe how Warped Tour has changed. VICE has sent in an outsider to report on a heavily community-oriented institution. That’s already a terrible idea and to make matters worse, the writer is also too narrow-minded to make any attempts to understand the community. Instead he ignorantly criticizes it from afar.
In doing so, his article is overflowing with errors. He says that once upon a time Warped “meant something to attend or play here.” If he had bothered to interview any of the bands playing Warped for the first time or more people who attended, I think he would have found out how much Warped Tour still means to people. He also claims that in the past, Warped meant “you belonged to a band that had a ridiculous name like Bowling for Soup or Cute Is What We Aim For.” Whatever “belonging to a band” is supposed to mean, here’s another case where Sunderland didn’t even do his most basic research because then he would’ve realized that both Bowling for Soup and Cute Is What We Aim For happen to be playing the tour this year.
But now he complains that all he sees is “EDM, rap, pop, hardcore, and pop-punk—a variety of genres encompassing, well, everything.” First of all, I’m not sure why that sentence is a negative thing. Second of all, since he doesn’t associate with the pop punk/hardcore community it doesn’t even make sense for him to spin that sentence negatively. Third of all, he’s once again foregone his basic research on Warped because he’s completely wrong in thinking that genre diversity is a new thing. Eminem played Warped in 1999. The Black Eyed Peas played in both 1999 and 2001. Katy Perry played in 2008. Warped Tour has never just been about punk music and 20 years later, people are still having trouble wrapping their head around that for some reason.
Into the next paragraph, Sunderland only further magnifies his ignorance by saying, “the biggest act I recognized on this year’s roster was Yellowcard—a one-hit wonder.” I guess he was too preoccupied by the testicular cancer tent to notice Yellowcard’s enormous crowd singing along to all their other songs besides just ”Ocean Avenue.” And due to his demonstrated lack of research in his previous paragraphs, I already know that he’s completely oblivious about the 4 full-lengths Yellowcard released after that song and how they still headline sold-out tours more than ten years after that song’s release. Once again, an unnecessary and false swipe at a hard-working, much-beloved band.
Sunderland then provides an anecdote of how his friends would wait through six hours of “terrible opening acts to see one good band.” So obviously everyone at Warped must feel the same way about opening acts right? Well even if that were somehow ever true, Sunderland also has no idea that Warped is unique in how the schedule changes at every single stop. Because of this, lineup hierarchy only exists through stage size and not time. It sounds like his friends only cared about who was playing the main stages but I guess none of them, and Sunderland, realized that headliners are playing throughout the day. Your favorite band might close out the main stage tonight, but tomorrow they could be playing at 11am. Also it’s a shame that Sunderland’s friends were too snobby to check out the incredible talent playing all the other stages and that those bands they waited six hours to see were probably on those smaller stages the few years before. Sunderland also says that now in replacement of his friends’ terrible waiting time, kids just like to sit against fences and text on their phones, with a photograph as proof. This is yet another example of how little he understands about Warped culture, or actually just music festival culture in general. Those kids in the photo are more likely taking a break because they just spent 5 hours jumping around in the sun, or are waiting to meet up with a friend because they went to go see different bands. I don’t think sitting down at a music festival is anything new or something to attack. Yeah kids may spend way too much time on their phones these days, but does Sunderland honestly think they buy a ticket to Warped so they can spend six hours sitting against a fence and text?
The next paragraph is the only real press work Sunderland seemed to do: an interview with The Maine that he relays to his readers in an incredibly inappropriate, uncomfortable fashion. I think the horrific journalism speaks for itself in this case.
After that, you’re almost grateful that the article returns to completely misunderstanding what Warped Tour stands for. This time, he decides to sneer at Warped’s inability to “launch any of their songs to the top of the Billboard charts” and that press just consists of “teenagers with flip-cams who claim to run blogs.” The beautiful thing about Warped Tour is that it doesn’t care about big names or commercial success. It cares about serving a community. Kevin Lyman doesn’t care who’s on the top of the charts. He cares about what bands play great music and who kids want to see. He doesn’t care about having the biggest press outlets possible, but he loves providing kids a chance to try out what they are passionate about. Sunderland begins by complaining about the decline in Warped Tour’s punk rock reputation and yet here he insults how Warped Tour still exemplifies the punk ethos.
Sunderland continues, saying he only met one band with radio potential and that if they ever manage to blow up, it’s not thanks to Warped Tour. Because Sunderland never attended Warped Tour until now, he’s never witnessed how bands grow with the tour. I only started attending Warped four years ago, and since then I’ve already watched many bands, including We Are The In Crowd, The Wonder Years, and The Story So Far, work their way up the stages as they steadily grew their fan bases. Music festivals are incredibly useful growing a band’s career or even making them “blow up,” because they provide the perfect environment for music discovery. You bought a ticket and you’re at the festival all day, but chances are you don’t like a band playing every single second of the day, leading you to check out new ones. Warped’s method of releasing a different schedule at every stop makes it even more likely for you to decide to check out that one band you heard about online or just stumble randomly across an unknown band that you realize you really like. I’ve discovered countless bands through both scenarios these past few years.
It was nice of Sunderland to highlight the all-girl Shiragirl stage in his article, even if he concludes the section by throwing shade at its founder.
He also compares Warped Tour to a mall rather than a “punk rock event.” It’s true, Warped is like a mall and I love that, but it’s not like your regular mall in the suburb that you grew up in. It’s a line of tents where hard-working, independent businesses can sell their products and grow their brand. It’s where bands can actually sell their music in an economy where buying physical music has drastically declined. It’s where kids can buy exclusive items they can’t find anywhere else and avoid paying tax or shipping. Many of these tents are also charities trying to get kids involved early and using a cool platform to raise awareness about many causes. Essentially, the “mall” of tents is yet another example of punk ethics that Sunderland is too ignorant to notice.
He manages to find someone to support his earlier arguments, who apparently complains that, “now [there’s] no moshing because kids are coming.” It’s true, there are a lot of younger attendees, but Warped has always been geared towards a 13-18 demographic. Also I’m not sure what sets he saw, because at the Warped stops I attended this year, I still saw plenty of moshing, regardless if the band onstage was playing pop punk, metalcore, ska, or EDM. Maybe he was bothered by the new banners on each stage banning crowdsurfing and moshing, but they’re only there for legal reasons and haven’t really stopped anybody.
Sunderland returns to the marine veteran he interviewed outside the venue who says that hardcore and pop punk “was one of the few ways he could get through his difficult emotions both during and after the war,” and therefore he’s “[hardcore and pop punk] until I fucking die.” Although Sunderland didn’t bother to interview the other thousands of people out there who all felt just as passionate, it’s unbelievable to me that just from what the veteran told him, that he is still unable to grasp Warped Tour’s importance to its community.
If kids have the internet and EDM, do they really need punk rock? Yes. Yes they do. Because one, in what logical sense does internet replace punk rock? Two, does Sunderland realize kids, or just people in general, are different. That some people like EDM, some people like punk rock, some people like both, and some people like neither. I spent a weekend this summer attending two Warped Tour dates, while several of my friends spent the same weekend at EDC. We each had the time of our lives and respected each other’s decisions in how to spend that weekend because we realized how incredibly fortunate we are to have the ability to choose how we wish to spend our time. The same happens within just the context of Warped. Some people at Warped only see rock bands. Some decide to check out the EDM stage. Some might decide to spend all day at the EDM stage. And there’s nothing wrong with any of those decisions. Regardless of how people choose to spend their day, I think everyone at Warped still has an amazing time and would be devastated if the festival went away.
I’m not one to say that the press can never be negative, but it’s incredibly disappointing to see that the tour provided Sunderland with a press pass and several bands volunteered their time for him, and in return he slanders all of it with no logical backing.