Dear Vans Warped Tour,
I was pretty weird in high school. I wore a black bandana around my wrist, hung out with the theater kids and always had my earphones in. To be honest, I actually hated high school, but music helped me through the boy troubles, bullying, and overall adolescent drama that accompanied my teenage years.
I remember begging my parents to let me attend Warped Tour but they always said no. They were under the impression that it was just a bunch of punk-ass kids running around listening to loud music and partaking in satanic rituals. But at 22 years old, I finally had the chance to experience all it had to offer.
I believe there is a stigma that surrounds Warped Tour; people think it’s just a day full of loud music, teenage miscreants, drugs, mosh pits and any other punk rock stereotypes you can think of. But the reality is that Warped Tour isn’t that at all.
As I walked around, I saw many scarred wrists. I saw people who any other day probably weren’t nearly as happy as they were in that moment. It’s amazing to me that music is an outlet for someone’s everyday pain and Warped Tour understands that more than any other music festival I have had the pleasure of attending.
Warped Tour is a community. It’s thousands of people all coming together to see their favorite bands. It’s listening to the lead singer of your favorite band tell you that sometimes it’s okay to not be okay and that life isn’t about living up to other people’s expectations. It’s organizations dedicated to helping people who suffer from self injury, depression, and addiction spreading messages of hope and talking to individuals about their struggles.
This is why I am writing this love letter. Never before have I loved what a festival stands for as much as Warped Tour. It goes beyond the music and places an emphasis on the attendees. It’s like Warped Tour looked into the heart of an awkward, out of place teenager and asked, “What do they need? How can we help them?”
At age 22 I am no longer that weird kid in high school, instead I am that weird adult who still listens to pop punk music and struggles with some of the same insecurities I dealt with many years ago. While I may be a different person now, I was still incredibly impacted by Warped Tour, in some ways different than I would have been in high school but in many ways the same.
One of my favorite motivational speeches made on Tuesday from Jenna McDougall, the lead singer of Tonight Alive, sums up what Warped Tour stands for.
“Listen to yourself; trust your intuition; don’t waste your time catering to somebody else’s belief systems if is sacrifices your own; don’t waste your life living in fear of somebody else’s judgment; and never for a second waste your precious energy explaining yourself to people who are not equipped to understand.”
Thank you Jenna and thank you Warped Tour for giving the punk scene one day out of the year where we can celebrate our music, the punk culture and appreciate life just a little bit more.