Why Kevin Lyman's Dismissal of Sexual Assault Matters

(Image credit: Vans Off the Wall)

The Vans Warped Tour has always been an accidental hotbed for people in the music scene with the worst intentions. Being a full US  tour that started in 1995 to support ska and punk bands, the tour was started when the scene that was much less welcoming and much more edgy-for-the-sake-of-it. Women were seen as “coat racks,” groped, spoken of in a crude manner, and so on. Eventually, as we all know, it devolved into a primarily metalcore/pop punk-based event. With these genres comes women and girls in a wide variety of age ranges, but mostly (using  a visual estimate) in the 14- to 25-year-old range.

The problem with having a tour that is all-ages, full of musicians that young teens glamorize that oftentimes haven’t been on a tour that size, is that it gives them a huge opportunity to take advantage of young teens. There’s no easier place to surround yourself with teenage girls that make you feel like you’re important than Vans Warped Tour. These young girls will put any broke 23-year-old guy with swoopy hair and a guitar on a pedestal, and don’t you think for a second that some musicians don’t take advantage of that.

Many Warped vets have been accused of sexual assault as of late. Pierce the Veil’s drummer, Mike Fuentes, was accused of having a relationship with a 16-year-old girl at the age of 24. Jonny Craig, ex-Dance Gavin Dance vocalist and current solo artist/vocalist of Slaves, was accused of domestic violence, sexual assault, and sexual conduct with a minor. We Came as Romans vocalist, Kyle Pavone, was accused of assaulting a woman after she revoked consent during an encounter. And, of course, Front Porch Step, also known as Jake McElfresh, was accused of sexual relationships with at least 6 underage girls.

Yet, Kevin Lyman allowed him to play a show as a “second chance” in 2015, which Lyman alleged was “not a real story,” saying this on the matter: “The kid got himself in a little trouble. No charges, no court appearance, no restraining orders, nothing, it was a 'stupidity of the road' kind of thing. We stepped in and got him into counseling right away in Nashville.”

As many women begin to feel comfortable with coming out about their experiences, such as the newly-revealed three assaults I described above, many people have turned to become skeptics, instead of seeing the obvious “strength in numbers” correlation. Billboard asked Lyman how he felt about dealing with the sexual assault allegations in a recent interview, and he replied with this:

“Well, that sexual harassment didn't happen on Warped Tour. If you go through every one of those stories, it didn't happen on Warped Tour. The Jonny Craig thing did happen on Warped Tour, and I addressed it the same way. We sent him away. And then all of a sudden, I've gotta have town hall meetings with it. But if you really go through all that stuff, things happen prior to the tour or things… it's part of the culture.

Warped Tour, the thing is, it's funny because the way we used to deal with any problem was if we found out an artist was disrespecting a woman, they were usually brought back behind a tour bus by some people on the tour, and given a few options in life. Your life was not being threatened, but you were educated out there.

There's artists that come to me and go, ‘You know what? I was young. I didn't know I was offending the women... I didn't know that until one of the bands that I respected growing up pulled me aside and told me this is unacceptable.”

So, essentially; according to Lyman, if you’ve been assaulted in the music scene, it’s “part of the culture,” because the guys just didn’t know. If your scene doesn’t have someone getting casually assaulted constantly, then I guess your culture is out of whack.

Let me describe the power you hold that you are taking for granted, Mr. Lyman.

When someone is choosing not to support a brand, tour, what have you; they use a boycott. Boycotts can either hurt the sales of whatever you protest, or at least send a message that whatever is happening is not okay. Even if sales are not hurt, most business owners will listen once they realize that an audience that they get a large amount of their support from is unhappy. It’s not caving to "sensitive snowflakes," it's not weak, it’s not losing your "punk cred" - it’s simply having a heart, or, honestly, common business sense.

What is even more powerful than our right to protest is the business owner’s ability to act on injustice themselves. By dismissing this issue as “well, it didn’t happen on Warped Tour,” you are giving everyone who attends Warped Tour the message that you are willing to bring any person on the tour for clout, regardless of whether they make a large amount of your fanbase - women - feel uncomfortable or endangered.

Of course it’s “part of the culture” that musicians can be pieces of shit. Of course women watch out for themselves with this knowledge. What your responsibility is, Mr. Lyman, is to act to change that culture. Make the scene, and the world, a better place. This is a tour you’ve brought your young daughters on, and you’re dropping the ball.

Use your voice and your power to say people who assault women off the tour are not welcome on your tours. There are so many amazing bands that deserve the opportunity to play on a nationwide tour to thousands of people. Instead of researching and finding those bands, you are choosing to give the message that you are willing to choose artists that are a threat to your attendees, because it sells. You choose to take on shitty people because those bands line your pockets, and choosing not to book them might hurt your bottom line.

If “second chances” for abusers is what Warped Tour wants to represent, then good riddance.


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