The Reader‘s archive is vast and varied, going back to 1971. Every day in Archive Dive, we’ll dig through and bring up some finds.
Last week, the traveling mainstream punk festival slash outlet mall known as the Vans Warped Tour announced the lineup for its final cross-country tour, which begins June 21 and comes to the Chicago area July 21. This is Warped Tour’s 24th year, and the bill is the same as it ever was: bands that played the gathering during its halcyon days in the early and mid 2000s. Taking Back Sunday, the Used, and everyone else whose name became synonymous with the type of one-size-fits-all pop-punk Warped Tour came to represent (hello, Sum 41) are back to say goodbye. It’s easy to tut-tut such an event, but for punk fans of a certain age whose main sources of information for new music were corporate radio and MTV, Warped Tour was a rite of passage. And for them, or anyone who refused to come within a hundred miles of that roving circus, now is a perfect time to revisit what it all meant with Jessica Hopper’s 2004 exposé.
For a few weeks that fateful summer, Hopper traveled across the country with Warped Tour, and emerged with “Punk Is Dead! Long Live Punk!,” a feature that perfectly lays out how the beast functioned at its peak:
A day at Warped is about kids saying “I love you” to their favorite bands, with cash in hand—and on a scale that boggles the mind. We’re a long way from the Fireside Bowl, which is the kind of punk dive many Warped acts came up playing, sometimes to only 20 or 30 kids at a time. Selling a handful of seven-inches for gas money isn’t gonna cut it if you’re touring as part of an operation that requires a fleet of ten tractor-trailers, a hundred tour buses and vans, 11 sound systems, a full-time on-site doctor and massage therapist, and a catering service that can handle two hot meals a day for 650 to 800 people. On July 24, the day Warped stopped at the Tweeter Center in Tinley Park, the band Taking Back Sunday grossed $20,000 in T-shirt sales alone.
I’d quote more of the story, but at that point I’d more or less just copy the entire piece. Da Capo included the article in the 2005 version of its now-defunct Best Music Writing book series. The story also appears in Hopper’s excellent 2015 book, The First Collection of Criticism by a Living Female Rock Critic; if you haven’t read it, consider this a not-so-gentle call for you to buy it.