Over the past seven years, kiddie dance/rap band Koo Koo Kanga Roo have become Twin Cities favorites. When we heard they'd be playing 38 dates on the Vans Warped Tour — which is aimed mostly at pop-punk teens — we asked them to document the strange journey. Featuring more than 70 bands on nine stages, the Warped Tour is the largest traveling music festival in the United States. Here is the fourth installment of Neil Olstad and Bryan Atchison's tour diary.
Yesterday we finished the longest stretch of consecutive shows of the entire tour: 12 show days in a row. It’s also the longest run we’ve ever played in our seven-plus years of being in a band! While playing that many shows in a row was intense, it was also strangely efficient. Being away from family and friends in Minnesota can be tough. If we have to be away playing shows, at least we are covering as much ground as possible while we are away. Things continue to go well. We’re meeting so many new people in every city and converting them to the silly church of Koo Koo. Everything is flying by — I can’t believe we’re more than halfway finished with the tour!
In high school, my friends and I started a band. We looked up to and were inspired by bands like Blink 182, Bad Religion, NOFX, Rise Against, Saves the Day, Anti-Flag, and many, many more Warped Tour acts. The punk/ska/hardcore scene of the late-'90s and early-2000s was so full of energy and fun. There weren’t many other kids at our school who liked these bands, but for one day a year we found our people. It helped us feel less weird; it helped us feel less alone. This is why the Vans Warped Tour still matters and why it means so much to us to be a part of it. Ten years ago when I was in high school, Warped Tour had a pretty different stylistic slate of performers and attractions. Musically, the tour features more heavy-rock acts theses days; metal/hardcore bands like Black Veil Brides, Asking Alexandria, and Pierce the Veil are the biggest draws of the summer.
Also the skateboard element of the tour has been dialed down. In past years, pro skateboarders were listed alongside headlining bands in promoting the event, and an entire skate park was set up at each tour stop. Today it seems that the “YouTubers” — super-popular young YouTube stars like BryanStars — have taken the place of skating as a major non-music draw to the festival. The meet-and-greet line for the “YouTubers” is as long, if not longer than any line for any main stage artist. To keep a traveling music festival running for 21 straight years, continuing to evolve with the demographic is paramount. While he musical and cultural trends will ebb and flow, the bands on the tour speak to today’s youth, just like a different set of bands and experiences spoke to me a decade ago. Because of this, the Vans Warped Tour will remain an important and rare place for young weirdos and outcasts to see music and become a part of a community.