Vans Warped Tour founder Kevin Lyman still strives to sustain punk-rock ethos

It’s no accident that the artists who received a major career boost by performing on the annual Vans Warped Tour reads like a Who’s Who of punk, indie, hip-hop, alternative-rock and more.

That list includes Green Day, Beck Katy Perry, No Doubt, Sublime, Ice-T, Paramore, Bad Religion, Jurassic 5 and such notable San Diego bands as Rocket From The Crypt, Unwritten Law, blink-182, Pepper and Pierce The Veil.

All of them have had one trait in common for Warped Tour promoter and mastermind Kevin Lyman, who has guided the festival since its inception in 1995.

“In the final analysis, they all have to be great live acts,” said Lyman, who personally vets all of the performers.

“But I would have never thought the tour would go on this long. I’m surprised every year. We don’t take anything for granted.”

This year’s 42-city North American Warped tour includes a Saturday date at the Qualcomm Stadium parking lot in San Diego, then concludes Aug. 6 in Lyman’s hometown of Pomona.

The 66-act lineup here includes The Acacia Strain, GWAR, Save Ferris, Stacked Like Pancakes, Valient Thorr and Bad Cop/Bad Cop. Lyman estimates that at least 20 of this year’s Warped Tour production and stage crews hail from San Diego County.

On July 27, the festival debuted in Toluca, marking its first-ever date in Mexico. Another south-of-the-border show will be held Oct. 27 in Mexico City. Clearly, Lyman shows no signs of slowing soon, although he does anticipate stepping down in the foreseeable future.

He chatted by phone last week from a Warped Tour stop in Missouri. Here are excerpts from that conversation.
PACIFIC: How well do you remember the backstage skateboard accident that Flogging Molly accordionist Matt Hensley had during the 2012 Vans Warped Tour?

KEVIN LYMAN: Yeah. He broke a bone, didn’t he?.

Is it unusual to have backstage accidents like that on the tour?

It’s not that unusual, because everyone tries to do stuff they’re not trained to do. Lately, we’ve had some basketball accidents and a bicycle accident. People have a good time backstage - and then they get hurt. Everyone is pushing themselves on the tour; were dealing with people from the age of 20 to 60.

Do you have a tour doctor?

No, but we do have a touring medic. He’s more like a military field doctor and he’s good at patching people up.

You said the age range on the tour this year is 20 to 60. Are you the 60-year-old?

I’m 56. But with bands like T.S.O.L. and The Adolescents, we’ve definitely got more gray hairs in the lineup this year.

The 2017 lineup has also included The Dickies, GWAR and The Alarm. Is it accurate that you have more old-school bands this year?

That’s accurate. It’s been a while since I had them and it’s good to bring them. Plus, these bands enjoy the young bands on the tour - they’re not judgmental old punk guys.

Do you also want to introduce young Warped Tour attendees to these older bands?

Yeah. I think it’s important to show the story of where we came from, and that was my intention this year. Because these guys have figured out how to make a career last 30 or more years. It isn’t just instant gratification. The Adolescents are still punks. They did this whole tour in a van!

How important is it for you to continue the punk-rock ethos you grew up with?

It’s always been the same for me. I think I’ve fought for what I believe in and given people a chance. But what’s punk anymore? We’re the punk tour that ran under the radar for years, but now we’re looked at as the establishment by a lot of people. I kind of laugh at that.

Will you do the Warped Tour indefinitely?

No. There’s no definite time frame, but I’ve been doing this a long time. My wife would like me to spend the summers with her, because I’ve done 24 Warped Tours, and - before that - four Lollapalooza tours. And my daughters are graduating from, or going into, college. Music is changing and there are so many festivals now. But if there is support for this music, it’s still a good place to be. This tour does a lot of good and it helps artists.

Vans Warped Tour

When: 11 a.m. Saturday

Where: Qualcomm Stadium parking lot, 9449 Friars Road, Mission Valley

Tickets: $40-$50 (plus service charges)

Phone: 800.745.3000