Interview with founder/promoter Kevin Lyman | By Logan Turner
The best day ever is right around the corner. People are gearing up for Warped Tour 2017: buying their tickets, packing their drawstring bags, putting on plenty of sunscreen, and getting ready to see an absolutely stacked lineup. With a great variety of bands including Hatebreed, American Authors, The Adolescents, and Andy Black, there’s going to be a little bit of something for everyone this year.
Often, festival-goers only focus on the bands onstage, the people they paid money to see—but what about the man who puts it all together? Kevin Lyman is a pioneer in the music industry, a man who has established himself as one of the biggest promoters in the alternative music scene. He has successfully helmed the largest-running North American festival tour for the past 23 years, bringing innumerable music fans many years of happiness and fond memories. Lyman is also the founder of the incredibly punk It’s Not Dead Fest, an all-day festival where punk bands from all over the world come to rock in Anaheim, California.
Obviously, booking and running Warped Tour is a job not many could handle. Add another festival on top of that, and any normal promoter would be driven insane. So, how does Lyman do it?
Warped Tour 2017 seems to have a variety of artists ranging from older bands like GWAR to new bands like American Authors. What was the reasoning behind going for such a diverse lineup this year?
Well, I feel like this is something we’ve tried to do every year. It’s something that the tour has always been about. Like last year, we got to bring out Good Charlotte to this new generation. This has been a thing we’ve done since we started in 1995. We’ve always tried to bring things that we think people haven’t seen before, whether that be old or new. Like with GWAR, I believe everyone should see them at least once in their life, so I just thought, “You know what? Let’s do it,” and we made it happen. It’s just something people should witness, and what other place can you really do [or] see something like that?
Versus previous years, how do you expect this year’s tour to go when it comes to the crowds, the bands you’re working with, and the overall tour?
When it comes to the crowd, we expect it to be pretty good, like previous years. When you bring people who just come out because of their love of music, it’s always a good, chill vibe. Well, actually, it’s not going to be chill, it’s gonna be hot as hell, but you know what I mean.
When it comes to the bands, there’s always great guys I get to work with. We have some bands from the U.K. that are really excited to be on the tour this year, and we’re really excited to have them. Bands like Sonic Boom Six are getting a chance to come over to the States and play for a loving crowd. That’s a big deal for bands like that who make the journey, so we’re really excited to have them. We also have some young bands like Knocked Loose who are making waves of their own, so to have them out is also an amazing opportunity for them and us.
As for the overall tour, it’ll be great.
You also host a festival called It’s Not Dead Fest, which is set to also feature more veteran bands. Was that something you set out to do this year—to book more throwback bands?
Well, it’s not something I did intentionally. Sometimes, it’s cool just to do things for yourself. With the festival, it’s nice to still claim my stake in my own backyard, kind of to say, “Hey, this is my turf. I was here first, and I’m still going.” So, when it comes down to it, it was just something I felt was important to do. The truth of it is that we don’t know how much longer these bands will keep going. Unfortunately, we’re going to more funerals than births now, so it’s nice to give veteran bands a place to showcase how it’s done.
What would you say is the major difference between putting together Warped Tour and It’s Not Dead Fest?
Obviously, the biggest difference for me has to be the time I have to spend on each project. With It’s Not Dead, I can basically have a grill out in my backyard. I go out, hangout for the whole day, pack up, and I can be home that night if I want to. With Warped, I’m on the road for a straight two months, you know? That’s not really easy for me anymore, and it’s something that keeps getting harder and harder. I wish it was as easy as it used to be, but I’m 56 years old now. I’m not a young man, and eventually, I’m just not gonna be able to do it anymore.
Both fests have incredible lineups this year, but which one were you were most excited to put together?
I would say I like them both for different reasons. With Warped, we obviously have some big drawing bands like Hatebreed, who we’re excited to bring out this year just to be able to show them to the next generation. We also have bands that normally can’t tour this part of the world that are getting a chance to. Bands like Sonic Boom Six who are really talented in their own right are having a chance to play extensively over here now.
When it comes to It’s Not Dead Fest, it’s cool to just do it on my own. Plus, this is another chance to show the next generation what punk is all about to these bands. It’s not an everyday thing to get these bands together anymore, so when I had the opportunity to do it, I had to jump on it.
Finally, why should people come out to Warped Tour or It’s Not Dead Fest this year?
Well, I think with both events, it’s always just a good time in general. Even if you come not knowing any bands, you’ll leave looking up several bands you saw that day. I’m sure there’s been cases where you had that experience. If you’re just a lover of music, I will always suggest to have people come out, listen to some great music, hangout with great people, and bake in the sun with us.
Top Five Bands to See at Warped Tour
1. Knocked Loose
From northern Kentucky, Knocked Loose have quickly become major players in the hardcore and metalcore scenes. They showed their aggression on Pop Culture—the 2014 EP that first flung them into the spotlight—then showcased their range on their first release for Pure Noise Records, 2016’s Laugh Tracks. The band have built a strong following extremely fast and have more than earned their spot on Warped.
2. Sonic Boom Six
Jumping over the pond from the U.K., Sonic Boom Six are set to travel the States this year for Warped. With a solid punk influence, they have consistently put out great music since the start of their musical careers. Taking on the entire tour—which is something to respect in itself—Sonic Boom Six are out to increase their American fan base. Oh, and they were recommended by Kevin Lyman himself. No big deal.
GWAR. What more is there to say? For years, they’ve put together the kind of stage show you can only get from GWAR, from innards getting thrown at you to Mt. Dew getting sprayed out into the crowd. Maybe it’s best to bring a poncho for their set? They are a band who everyone must see in their life. Go out and enjoy a killer show.
4. Sworn In
After recently releasing their independent single, “Endless Gray,” Sworn In are set to be the frontrunners in the metalcore scene. After their signing with Fearless Records, fans are waiting in anticipation to see what Sworn In have in store on this coming tour. Maybe new music? We’re all really hoping so!
What is one of the main reasons to go to Warped Tour? To have a good time! Fans are there to see new things and hear great music. What better way to have a ridiculously good time than to catch pirate metal band, Alestorm? Known for their pirate-themed shows and songs, Alestorm are guaranteed to be entertaining every time they play. If you’re tired of your typical music and need to spice things up, they’re a perfect band to catch this year.
Top Five Reasons to Attend It’s Not Dead Fest
1. Veteran Bands
With heavy-hitters who have been in the punk scene for years, It’s Not Dead is a great place to see veteran punk bands destroy the stage. It’s not too often you get to see bands like Rancid anymore, so why not take the day to go catch them and other bands who made the scene what it is today?
2. A Whole Day of Music
If you ever want to attend a major music festival, but just wanna spend time hearing good music without worrying about camping out for three days, It’s Not Dead is a great chance to just spend one day listening to great punk music. You can go without even feeling achy at work the next day!
3. A Punk-Lover’s Dream
As stated multiple times, this is a consistently punk festival. Not saying you have to be a huge fan of punk music to have fun, but it sure is going to help. If you love punk music, there is no doubt that you will have a fantastic time!
4. All Ages Welcome
What’s great about It’s Not Dead is that it stretches across generations. Not only do they feature great bands who have been at it for years, but also young punk bands ready to tear things up. There will be bands there ready to play to any living generation.
5. A Great Experience
At the end of the day, music is a universal language. It’s Not Dead is another chance to get together with other music-lovers and just have a chill good time. If you are looking for something fun to do this summer—punk fan or not—we highly suggest you grab tickets for It’s Not Dead Fest!