Today's the day, folks. It's the first day of the final round of the legendary Vans Warped Tour, created by Kevin Lyman back in 1995. Lyman released a statement earlier this year, saying, "I have been a very lucky person to have traveled across the country and sometimes around the world as one of the founders and producers of the Vans Warped Tour. Today, with many mixed feelings, I am here to announce that next year will be the final, full cross-country run of the Vans Warped Tour." With such an incredible history and effect this tour alone has had on not only the artists who participate and perform for the Warped tour, but also the fans; every individual who has been able to come to a show or two, and all the experiences that have transpired in the past (almost) 25 years is surely something unforgettable. "I am so grateful to have worked with more than 1,700 bands over the last 23 summers. I wish I could thank every band that has played the tour.", Lyman says. You can read the full statement here.
To commemorate something that has had a major effect on me personally, and many of the friends I've met because of the music scene, here's an article for those who may be hitting up Vans Warped Tour for their first (or final) time. Not sure what to expect? Read on to find out some tips and tricks from my experience of a full day at one of the coolest tours around.
Over the years, I've been able to photograph the Warped tour a couple times whenever it came to the town closest to me. It's been one of the wildest yet awesome experiences I've had as an artist. My first year was 2014, and I learned a lot about what to try doing for the next time, which was in 2016. Whether you're going to be shooting Warped tour at a date near you, or you're just going for fun with friends (I'm doing that this year at the Ventura, CA date), here's some advice for what to expect from what will be one of the best days of your life.
Dress appropriately. First things first; you have to wear an outfit that you will not be dying in by the end of a 10+ hour day. Depending on where you live, make sure to check how the weather is going to be the day before you go. If you're traveling far from your hometown to a certain location, pack options just in case. For instance, I have a friend who's gone to Warped tour with me that came in from Washington to California. We may be on the West coast, but the weather can be drastically different. For me, a good go-to is shorts, a tee, an extra layer (i.e. flannel or hoodie - it gets cold when the sun goes down), fanny pack or back pack, a hat, sunglasses, and the most comfortable shoes you own is the way to go. I've seen some people get super dressed up (God only knows why) and they end up looking like a complete mess by the time headliners come on to play. Customize and play around with some options; it's Warped tour, you can basically get as wild with your fashion as you want! But please keep comfort in mind. Whether you're shooting all day or just with friends and going into the mosh pits, comfort is absolutely 100% necessary.
What should I bring with me? Make a checklist of what you need to bring for the event. Water and sunscreen will become your absolute best friend. With being in the sun all day and constantly on the go, you need to stay hydrated and take care of yourself. If you're shooting, pack your gear the night before and charge everything. Lenses, filters, charger, batteries, anything you might need for a successful day to get that magic caught in camera. I would recommend bringing a mobile charger while you're at it just in case you want to post any cool content throughout your experience! PSA bring enough cash (yes, cash) to bring for your spending needs like food, drinks, and of course merch! A tip to see exactly what you can and can not bring is to check out their website to confirm different policies as every venue and date varies on what you can bring. Make sure to have a sharpie or two in hand just in case for autographs and to keep track of set times! Which brings me to my next point...
Time. Time is never on your side when it comes to festival days. I highly recommend coming to the venue one to two hours before gates open. I know that might sound crazy, but I've been to shows where fans show up the morning of a concert that doesn't start until 8 pm! Two hours gives you plenty of time to check out parking, familiarize yourself with the venue and the layout, pick up tickets or passes, and hey, you might even meet some band members while in line! Some bands take the time to come out to eager fans outside, coast the lines, and share what time their set is. It's a cool opportunity to hang and talk with different artists, (maybe even network?) and snag a photo while you're at it!
How do I meet bands?! Something everyone wants to know. You'd be surprised how easy it can be to meet the artists and other celebrities at some point during your day. Like I mentioned earlier, it's easy to meet some band members when they're promoting their set times. They're just people; go say hi! Another great spot to look for artists is where else but their merch tents. They'll be everywhere, and usually, throughout the day they can be found meeting and selling merchandise when they're not performing. I've been able to meet and photograph people like John O'Callaghan of The Maine and Jenna McDougall of Tonight Alive this way. Another example is how my sister met Tyler Posey one year, known for MTV's Teen Wolf. He's known for being a big fan of the pop-punk scene, and was there with his friends of State Champs! He was just walking around like any other person, and she managed to strike up a conversation and take a quick photo. This is the type of event where anything is possible when exploring the grounds: you never know who you can meet and connect with!
Now for the music: Okay, you've made it inside, got your squad on backup, and you're ready to head to the stage - but wait, which one?! As soon as you get inside, it's the moment where you can find out the exact set times. Sadly, every day is different for the tour, and you don't find out when your favorite bands are playing until you get through the gates. But don't stress! There are signs everywhere stating where each stage is, who's playing where, and what time, which is where that sharpie can come into play. Sometimes they hand out actual copies of set times for the days, sometimes they don't. So if you can, try writing it down somewhere if you've got something to spare. If you try saving it in your phone and your phone ends up dying halfway through the day, you're screwed. Sadly technology isn't always our friend. When you do find the signs and figure out who's playing where and when that's when you want to plan your day out. It's good to have a schedule to stick with, and you can always switch things up if you want. I know for me personally, I've had friends where we have certain bands that we want to see but we sometimes don't want to see the same bands. Keep communication open with your group. For instance, say your friend wants to see We the Kings at 11:30 but you want to check out Beartooth at 11:25; pick a spot where you can meet up after their sets and go from there. Do whatever works for you and your friends!
Let's see, am I missing anything? Outfits, necessities, friendship, bands, music...oh yeah, don't forget to open this pit up!!!
How have you gotten through a festival day? Leave a comment below of anything I might have missed, which stop you're going to, who you're most excited to see, and don't forget to sign up for my newsletter for all things photography and music related, and follow me on Instagram and Twitter while you're at it!