Many teens who will attend next summer's edition of the Warped Tour were probably more interested in Power Rangers than power chords when the punk-rooted festival started. Heck, many of the acts that will be on stage were not yet in their teens when the first Warped went on the road.
So while its core audience is learning to drive, Warped will be celebrating its 10th year in 2004 with some special things planned for the tour and an anniversary reunion concert slated for Boston at the end of the trek in August, with such tour veterans as Blink-182, Rancid, Good Charlotte, NOFX and Green Day among those being approached by founder Kevin Lyman.
"Our average age is 15 to 17, so when we started these kids were 5," Lyman says. "We're trying to go back into the history of the Warped tour. Now we're into the third generation of punks -- third and even fourth. Have to build a bigger parents' area. The tent we had was too small last year."
Warped becomes the only one of the original wave of '90s-founded rock festival tours to reach its 10th consecutive year. And while the recently revived Lollapalooza struggled this past summer, Warped thrived, breaking the half-million ticket mark for the first time with 45 dates. It continued to be a bargain with four stages going all day long and an admission price generally less than $25.
Meanwhile, the Warped universe continues to expand. The tour has made a couple of trips to Australia, Lyman has launched the rock en espanol sibling Wacha tour, and now is overseeing the inaugural Girlz Garage club tour featuring such female rockers as Lillix, Brassy and L.A.-based Start. He's also finalizing plans for Warped's first venture to Japan for next summer, with the Vandals, Thursday, Poison the Well and Andrew WK tentatively on board.
There's also a Warped-sponsored Battle of the Bands. After starting with 2,700 entrants last summer, it will end Dec. 10 with the four finalists competing at the Key Club in West Hollywood. And "Punk Rock Holocaust," a tongue-in-cheek teen slasher movie shot during the 2003 Warped tour (with band members as the victims), is in the editing stage.
And while the anniversary show provides a chance to look back, Lyman is more interested in looking ahead to new talent and trends. Where Warped served as a launching pad for many big acts in the '90s punk and ska revivals, now it's doing the same for a generation of emo and screamo (emo's louder cousin) bands that bring new musical and emotional twists.
"Bands like Thursday and Poison the Well are having certain levels of success as headliners now," he says. "There's been a whole turning of the guard in the scene. Alkaline Trio, Thrice, they all started on Warped, and the kids are so into that music now.
"You hear about the downfall of the music industry, but on the touring side at a certain level it's good. It's a time of managed expectations, but I was in New York with the Girlz Garage recently and there's a new energy," Lyman says. "There's a younger side of the business that's going to start emerging."
Lyman's band to watch for next year is among the new generation.
"Coheed & Cambria is my band to break," he says, selecting the young New York act. "We had them on a few shows this year. They're under-recognized in the industry, but they're going to break big."
Also on the rise, he notes, is a sense of activism among the Warped audience. Last summer he teamed with the Take Action organization to bring various issues and voter registration to the tour and also saw tremendous interest in the Amnesty International table at many tour stops.
"Amnesty International said that at the Milwaukee show alone they signed up 700 kids, which was more than they did at the U2 show there," he says. "Warped is a sounding board for the generation. I try to put all these things in and the kids can come and make choices all day long."
Kid Rockin' 'round the Christmas tree
What's at the top of Kid Rock's Christmas shopping list?
An old Bob Seger CD.
At least that's the way it is in the Kid's customized "12 Days of Christmas" for his seasonal VH1 special, airing Dec. 10. A disc by his fellow Detroit rocker fills the place traditionally taken by a partridge in a pear tree.
And that's about as traditional as it gets on a list that won't surprise anyone who knows anything about Kid Rock. Without giving everything away, his dirty dozen also sports a couple of stripper dwarfs, some beer, French maids, pimps and "11 Sheryls crowing" -- a tribute to his duet partner on last year's hit "Picture."
The show, "A Kid Rock Christmas," will also feature guests Carmen Electra (and the Pussycat Dolls burlesque troupe she sometimes performs with) and Hank Williams Jr.