By now, you’ve probably heard that the beloved Vans Warped Tour is in the midst of its grand finale. The traveling music festival has been one of the largest and longest running of its kind since its inception in 1995, but this summer will ultimately be its final full cross-country tour. Overwhelmingly known for being a premier punk-rock scene, Warped Tour has featured several mainstream artists over the years who do not necessarily fit into that musical sector. In fact, the tour’s lineups have managed to span an array of genres, ranging from pop to alternative to rap, even if it was crafted as a playground of sorts for punk rockers and their loyal fans. Check out 10 of the more surprising music stars to have performed at Warped Tour during its substantial lifespan.
No Doubt – 1995 & 2000
They might not have known it at the time, but those in attendance for the inaugural Warped Tour were treated to performances by one of the biggest bands of the late 1990s and early 2000s. No Doubt, led by pop-rock superstar Gwen Stefani, would soon blowup on the back of Tragic Kingdom. All in all, their third studio album would sell over 16 million copies, largely because of hit singles “Just a Girl” and “Don’t Speak.” With undeniable ska influences, Stefani and No Doubt became one of the best-selling bands of their time, and would later return to perform at Warped Tour in 2000 following their meteoric rise to prominence.
Beck – 1996
For some, he may be known for shocking the mainstream music world with his 2015 Grammy win for Album of the Year, but that shouldn’t take anything away from the success Beck has experienced since he first arrived on the music scene over 20 years ago. Alt-rock loyalists had likely known of Beck due to the 1994 release of “Loser” prior to his 1996 appearance on Warped Tour, but I’m sure very few thought he’d go on to produce acclaimed albums for the next two decades. Let’s just say the eccentric singer-songwriter doesn’t exactly fit the punk-rock style that has historically been the norm for the traveling music festival, but that doesn’t change the fact that the man that beat out Beyoncé and Sam Smith was one of the first Warped Tour artists to hit it big.
Limp Bizkit – 1997
These famous rap rockers wouldn’t become household names until a few years later, but they ultimately fit in well on the Warped Tour scene. They joined the cross-country tour hoping to draw attention to their debut album, Three Dollar Bill, Yall. However, most would consider their biggest success and true breakthrough to be “Nookie,” off of their second studio album. They managed to maintain a loyal group of listeners well into the 2000s, even if their hardcore rap rock style wasn’t for everyone.
Incubus – 1998
Incubus used Warped Tour 1998 as a means to support their second studio album, S.C.I.E.N.C.E. This ultimately set the stage for them to truly take off a year later, with the release of the hugely popular Make Yourself. The versatile performers would be considered alternative rockers by most, but actually integrate several different styles and influences into their music. Even though their big hits “Drive” and “Stellar” were not yet released, they’re sure to have put on a great show for those in attendance at Warped Tour.
Deftones – 1998
Following the theme set forth by the first few artists on this list, Deftones were still on the rise during their time with Warped Tour. The alternative metal group hit their peak a few years later, with White Pony. Highlighted by “Change (In the House of Flies)” and “Elite,” White Pony was the result of years of crafting their sound. While they didn’t have the name recognition at the time of their Warped Tour appearance, it acted as a critical moment early on in their career.
Ice T – 1999
Not many people realize that this rap pioneer additionally co-founded the heavy metal band Body Count. Ice T is the group’s lead vocalist as well as the primary songwriter, and although their lyrics have caused some controversy, Body Count undoubtedly found success in the rap metal sector. Not nearly as well known for his music as the others on this list, you’ve probably seen Ice T in his role as “Fin,” the badass sergeant on hit TV show Law & Order SVU, making it even more crazy that he performed at Warped Tour nearly 20 years ago.
Black Eyed Peas – 1999
At this point, the Black Eyed Peas were still trying to get noticed. They hadn’t yet added vital band member Fergie, and although they had released two albums, their music only achieved modest success. However, with the release of Elephunk in 2003, the group would finally take off. “Where Is The Love?” would end up being one of the most popular songs of its time, and the Black Eyed Peas would continue to churn out hits while seamlessly blending their dance pop and hip hop influenced musical styles.
Eminem – 1999
Warped Tour has been known to sprinkle in a rap artist or two to diversify their lineups and keep audience members on their toes, and Slim Shady is indeed an alumnus. 1999 was pre-The Marshall Mathers LP, which would feature hits ranging from “The Real Slim Shady” to “Stan.” It may have been too early to tell at the time, but Eminem was well on his way to cementing his status as a hip-hop legend. Clearly Warped Tour was onto something when they booked the young rapper.
N.E.R.D. – 2002
This is noteworthy, less for the hip hop/rock group itself, and more for one of its members and co-founders: Pharrell Williams. Pharrell has found success in nearly all of his endeavors: whether it be as a soloist, as part of N.E.R.D., or as half of the production duo The Neptunes. The esteemed rapper, songwriter and producer had yet to build his flawless reputation, but was still respected by others around the industry. Nonetheless, he embarked on Warped Tour and continued to connect to his peers and fans around the country.
Katy Perry – 2008
Katy Perry might have eventually become a full-fledge pop star, but early on in her career she certainly knew how to rock. Just as she released her breakthrough album, One of the Boys, she joined Warped Tour on the road. “I Kissed a Girl” and “Hot n Cold” put her on the fast track to superstardom, and gave her two hits to perform for fans that attended the traveling music fest. While she seemed to stray from her rocking roots during her more recent albums, there’s no denying that she is one of the biggest names to have ever performed at Warped Tour.