By Kris Kielich
The Vans Warped Tour is synonymous with bringing the latest from the punk and metalcore scene to kids and young adults all across America. It’s also a well known fact that Kevin Lyman’s tour is responsible for providing a place for non-profits to educate attendees and help them build a foundation for advocating admirable and necessary causes. Warped Tour is a safe haven for young people of all faiths, genders, sexualities, and races. It’s a place for kids to escape the stresses and struggles of the world around them and allows them to feel at home. Nobody knows that better than Steph Mirsky.
Steph started off our interview telling me how she handles a lot of digital marketing for Kevin Lyman’s company, 4fini, and works with the non-profits during the tour. She is certainly a jack of all trades, which wasn’t surprising. What I didn’t expect was how much insight she had to offer on Warped Tour’s emotional impact on the kids every year, and how her life experiences allowed her to empathize so deeply. “Warped Tour is an individual experience,” Mirsky elaborates. “On that day your identity or anything going on in your life doesn’t matter. You have twelve hours to make new friends and listen to music that you relate to so deeply. That’s a cathartic experience in itself.”
It turns out that Steph had her own eye-opening experiences at Warped Tour and other music festivals growing up. “I first saw a lesbian couple at Bamboozle and I remember thinking ‘Wow there are people out there like me.’ I saw tattoos for the first time when I went to Warped Tour. These events showed me a different world.” I could tell that she was leading up to something, and her love for Kevin and the Warped Tour was evident, but her next statement summarized her thoughts on the festivals.
“It’s good to expose kids in the scene to other types of people. The scene is full of wonderful people and acceptance and love, but sometimes there’s a lot of negativity and hate. It can be a double edged sword, but I think people need to be exposed to that.”
Her remarks certainly make sense. Why would a microcosm like the tour be any different than the world at large? She made sure to stress that though some people are obviously spreading negativity, Warped Tour is still a place you can be proud to be yourself no matter who you are. It's not just up to the tour though. Mirsky adds, “I think less up to Warped Tour as a brand and more up the bands that play. For those that speak out, they’re making change. We can’t force anyone to see things in any particular way, but for example, especially in harder genres, it’s important to speak up and be a good influence on young men and redefine how we see masculinity.”
By the end of the interview I think I understood. Steph posed that Warped Tour is about a collaboration between individuals and the collective spirit of what the tour has always been for years. It’s the way that we choose how we feel and how we interact that makes the Tour a special event. It’s up to each and every one of us, band and attendee alike, to create the change that Warped Tour works so hard to promote. “At the end of the day, I just want to see kids turn any negative emotion they may have at the stage, and not at strangers or friends or family or themselves. I’d love to keep providing that experience for people 10 years from now.”
But surely there was one particular moment that made her proud to be a part of Kevin’s team? I think there was no better way to end than on what she said next.
“When I told my bosses at 4fini that I was gender non-conforming, it was nothing but open arms. That made me proud. When I’m out there on the tour checking in people, I may be the first gender non-conforming person some of these kids have ever met, and either way, I want to do my job and be kind and the best human being I can be. That’s what matters the most when the walk away. I hope they remember regardless of who I am, how I treated them. That’s what makes me proud to be a part of this.”
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