top of page

5 Artists Who Played Vans Warped Tour Before They Hit Mainstream

Katy Perry performing on Warped Tour in Carson, CA, in 2008, Lisa Johnson.

The Vans Warped Tour was a cross-country music festival that visited roughly 40 cities and had about 80 acts playing on 6 stages a day. When it’s described like that, it sounds insane. And it was. It was a whirlwind of activity. But it was also a haven for thousands of kids who felt lost or for kids who loved punk and heavy music.

The founder, Kevin Lyman, worked tirelessly to make sure the lineup was full of amazing acts every year. Over time, the genres represented expanded to include metal, rap/hip-hop, and even acoustic acts. The legendary festival ran from 1995 to 2018 with a couple anniversary shows in 2019. With the tour becoming a tradition in the punk and heavy music scene for over 20 years, it’s no surprise that past acts made it big after playing on the tour. Here are a few surprising ones we’ve found.

1) Eminem

That’s right. The Real Slim Shady played Vans Warped Tour way back in 1999. The tour was still in its early years and Eminem was about to hit it big in the mainstream. Eminem said in an interview that it was a great chance for him to expand his horizons and get his music out to a diverse group of people. “It’s like my first non-hip tour...It’s like hip-hop/punk/rock/everything.” Below is a video of Eminem walked around the tour and introducing himself to attendants who had no idea how big he was going to get in the coming years.

2) Katy Perry

Much like Eminem, Katy Perry came onto the Warped Tour scene just as she was gaining traction with her debut album One of the Boys. Perry performed some of her early iconic hits such as “I Kissed A Girl” and “Hot N Cold” at the 2008 Warped Tour run. She would be heard on nearly every radio station through the country not long after finishing out the summer on the tour. Knowing she got her started on the punk tour has surprised a lot of newer age fans of the festival.

3) The Black Eyed Peas

Way before “Boom Boom Pow,” The Black Eyed Peas played The Vans Warped Tour in 1999. Much like Eminem, The Black Eyed Peas didn’t fit the punk persona associated with the tour but helped spread the tour’s scope to other genres. Just four years later, smash hit “Where Is the Love” would come into mainstream and propel them to massive popularity. You can see brief clips of them on the tour in the video below.

4) Fall Out Boy

Fall Out Boy was kind of a special case because, unlike the other artists listed, they had already started to blow up when they went out on the 2005 Vans Warped Tour. They had just released From Under the Cork Tree and their popularity began to grow. In fact, it grew so much that the crowds that they were bringing to the Warped dates were huge and difficult to handle in such a small space. On the Detroit date, they had to cut their set short because the speakers were falling into the crowd and too many people were shoved into one area, making it unsafe for fans.

5) Paramore

Similar to Fall Out Boy, it isn’t surprising that Paramore spent their early days on the road with the Vans Warped Tour given the genres both bands were playing at the time.

Yet unlike Fall Out Boy, Paramore hadn’t blown up yet. In fact, The Vans Warped Tour was one of their first ever tours. Their debut album All We Know Is Falling came out that same summer. It was after this exposure that the band blew up, being one of the big headliners for the tour just two years later.

There are many others that blew up not long after performing on The Vans Warped Tour including Blink 182, My Chemical Romance, Machine Gun Kelly, and Avenged Sevenfold.

Unfortunately, Kevin Lyman made the decision to halt the cross-country tour after its almost 25-year run. Although it has ended, it brought exposure to so many incredible artists and its legend will forever live on in the bands that found their break because of it.

Special thanks to this Kill the Music article that aided my research.


Written by Kristen Petronio


bottom of page