Circumstances, logistics, finances and fastballs have combined to bring the Vans Warped Tour back to Oakland County for the first time in nearly a decade.
The modern music and extreme sports package, which began in 1995, has made its home in and around Comerica Park since 2006 after starting at the (then) Pine Knob Music Theatre and moving first to downtown Pontiac and then to the Pontiac Silverdome. Wherever it laid its hat, however, Warped, with its diverse bills of punk, heavy metal, hip-hop, ska and even mainstream acts -- the latter including the likes of Katy Perry and Joan Jet -- managed to establish new record attendances during many of its Detroit visits.
So it's no surprise tour founder Kevin Lyman isn't sweating, too much, about this year's location change to the Palace of Auburn Hills.
"We've had to move a few venues this year, and you get a little backlash," says Lyman, who's used Warped's success as the launch pad for other package tours such as the Rock Star Energy Drink Mayhem Festival and the Country Throwdown tour. "It requires a little education, and some people might be a little upset, but we've moved before, and it's not like we haven't done the show out that way before, either."
A set of collapsing domino factors led to the need for this year's Warped move. In an effort to keep expenses, particularly fuel costs, down, Lyman put together a firm routing for the tour that put its Detroit area stop on July 6 -- in the middle of a Tigers homestand at Comerica Park. With no wiggle room to change the date, the tour and it's more than nine dozen acts needed another place to call home.
Lyman says he initially considered returning to the Silverdome and also gave some thought to Joe Louis Arena. "Then, all of a sudden, someone mentioned the Palace of Auburn Hills, and I thought, 'That'll work,' " recalls Lyman, who knew Palace Sports & Entertainment CEO Dennis Mannion and Senior Vice-President of Events and Booking Adam Schneider from California. And while Lyman knew some fans would be upset with the move, others would likely embrace the change.
"I think we may draw a little more from that central part of (Michigan), that whole Grand Rapids area, where to be honest I heard some families weren't stoked about their kids coming downtown," Lyman explains. "Being at (the Palace) might bring back those kids who used to come when it was at the Silverdome."
Schneider says the Palace will set up Warped's eight stages and other attractions -- a Silent Disco tent, individual band merchandise booths, an All Girl Skate Jam, a display for the new film "Fat Kid Rules the World," an installment for Magic: The Gathering and skateboard and trail bike stunt shows -- in the expansive West parking lot, with parking for concert goers on the rest of the site as well as a drop-off/pick-up area for parents.
The Palace itself will also be open for those who want to escape the heat and use restrooms. Food will be sold in the arena as well as outside.
"We're obviously very excited to be hosting it," Schneider says. "There's something to be said for getting to experience a space you're familiar with in a new way. We think it's a perfect fit for the venue and we're sure that fans are going to be very pleased."
What hasn't changed, however, is the gleefully chaotic nature of Warped, with its litany of activities going on concurrently and sound emanating from every corner of the festival site.
"It's just a big party," notes David Schmitt of the Denver group Breathe Carolina, which is drawing big crowds thanks to three albums and hits such as "Blackout" and "Hit and Run." "The diversity keeps it going, I think...And also there are a lot of the same fans for the same bands, so they're just out there loving the music, and we get to feed off that."
Lyman, meanwhile, holds that the key to keeping Warped Tour alive is making sure each year brings something new each year in order to stay fresh, viable and vital -- and long-lived, with no sense of stopping any time soon.
"Sometimes it crosses my mind that some day the Warped Tour will end," Lyman notes. "But then I don't know if it ever has to end. I'm starting to see some people that maybe could keep the vision going.
"See, I don't do this tour for myself anymore; I do it, kind of, for these kids, especially now as the music business is evolving...Touring and playing live is very important, and reconnecting with fans on a constant basis is very important. This (tour) has always been a great vehicle for the bands and fans to really connect like that, so I think there's a place for Warped Tour now more than ever."
The Vans Warped Tour, featuring Rise Against, All Time Low, Taking Back Sunday, Anti-Flag, the Used, New Found Glory and others, takes place at 11 a.m. Friday, July 6, at the Palace of Auburn Hills, Lapeer Road at I-75. Tickets are $34 in advance, $40 (online) and $42 (at the door) day of show. Call 248-377-0100 or visit www.palacenet.com.
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