There was a palpable sense of community permeating the grounds of the Hollywood Casino Amphitheatre when Vans Warped Tour rolled through Tinley Park on July 22, 2017. The scalding hot temperatures had fans – and bands – checking in with each other to make sure that everyone was safe and hydrated. The event’s non-profit sponsors also offered a helping hand with a variety of resources on everything from quitting smoking to saving the oceans to treating depression.
Since the event took place just days after Linkin Park’s Chester Bennington ended his own life, suicide prevention and mental health education were at the forefront of everyone’s minds. “It’s a sad thing when mental illness and depression is brought to light when someone passes away,” said To Write Love on Her Arms (TWLOHA) music and event coordinator, Elizabeth Wilder. “It’s such a vital time because this is when people may be struggling even more because their idol is gone. It’s definitely a time to encourage each other and hold each other up. Suicide is preventable and we need you here.”
TWLOHA, which works to present hope and find help for people struggling with addiction, depression, self-injury and suicide, finds that music festivals are a great opportunity to connect with people. “We always say that music is a safe place. We want to be that bridge between the music and the health,” said Wilder.
The overriding theme of music being a safe place could be felt throughout Warped Tour Tinley Park. Attila encouraged fans to live their lives in a way that makes them feel comfortable and confident and Memphis May Fire inspired resilience with their set-closer “Legacy,” which Matty Mullins sang among the crowd. Elsewhere, War on Women preached of the inclusive aspects of punk rock and Beartooth welcomed fans to find a “bouncing partner” to let loose with – and protect – in their massive mosh pit.
A representative from the Chicago-based suicide prevention organization, Hope for the Day, introduced Neck Deep with a touching remembrance of Bennington’s impact on music and an impassioned plea for people everywhere to reach out for help if they need it. Ben Barlow and company went on to perform a lively set that brought fans together as one to sing along with their infectious pop punk hits like “Can’t Kick Up the Roots.”
Along with on-site foundations offering help in a variety of forms and supportive musicians pouring their hearts out from stage to stage, Vans Warped Tour also hosted intimate workshops during which fans could get in-depth advice from their favorite artists. New Year’s Day front woman, Ash Costello, shared tips on being confident and reaching goals while Hawthorne Heights gave advice on staying positive during dark times.
Vans Warped Tour 2017 was a welcome reminder of live music’s ability to bring all types of personalities together in one powerful – and safe – community.