ATLANTIC CITY — Country music and rock oldies boomed from speakers along the beachfront Friday morning, over giant stages and a half-pipe, stagehands unloading gearboxes and a giant cannon on the sand set to fire off a human.

On Saturday and Sunday, punk and emo mainstays will blare from those same speakers over the heads of some 30,000 concert attendees per day from 50 states and multiple countries.

Earth movers and stage hands with walkie talkies navigated around it all, handling final preparations and readying the beach for the two-day Vans Warped Tour festival. It’s the second leg of a three-part 25th anniversary run this summer, putting a bow on the legendary summer concert series. And by all accounts, the organizers are making it count.

Geoff Gordon, regional president for Live Nation in Philadelphia, spoke on a tower above the preparations, as parasailers and boats flowed by just offshore.

“You don’t get a lot of backdrops like this, obviously,” Gordon said. “You don’t get this kind of opportunity to do shows like this on the beach. In our sixth year of doing it, it’s nice to bring a festival here.”

Prep started almost two weeks ago.

Stephen Biebel, 26, a stagehand from Queens, New York, worked on setup last week, building towers for signage. Compared to other concert venues he’s built in the past, this weekend’s is a behemoth.

“It’s huge,” Biebel said. “It started out with a pretty decent (amount) of guys, and then once they started getting going, they were like, ‘OK, we really need to call in a lot more.’”

Warped tour site layout

Kevin Lyman, the tour’s founder, said on previous tours, they could swoop in and have the concert’s infrastructure up in three or four hours. They put on 40 shows in 56 days last summer, he said.

The work was winding down Friday. Palettes piled high with bags of ice were wheeled to vendor tents. Cabanas were ready to greet their VIP guests. Work would be done by 7 or 8 p.m., he said, ready for a kickoff party at Bally’s Wild Wild West.

“Now it’s kind of the final touches and the finessing of everything,” Lyman said.

Atlantic City makes sense as a host for one of the final events — Cleveland hosted the first, and Mountain View, California will host the third — because it has different levels of accommodations, Lyman said, and shows between Virginia Beach and Boston last year moved 175,000 tickets.

“I was saying, ‘This could be a great central gathering point,’” Lyman said. “It definitely worked.”

Gordon, too, sees it as a way for the city to advertise itself.

“This is an opportunity for Atlantic City to shine in a way only Atlantic City can shine,” Gordon said, “as one of the best places on the Eastern Seaboard with one of the most picturesque beaches on the ocean.”

After all, 98% of the ticket sales were sold to people from outside Atlantic County, said Ike Richman, a spokesman for Live Nation. Sixty-seven bands — including the likes of blink-182, The Offspring and Good Charlotte — and their fans will descend on the beach. When the doors open at noon Saturday, they’ll see Warped Tour classics — a museum of memorabilia and art from the tour’s history, a human cannonball and dirt bikes on a half-pipe.

“I’ve been getting tweets from people that are coming in from Mexico, Brazil,” Richman said. “They’re all kids who love Warped Tour and want to come say goodbye.”

Contact: 609-272-7260 Twitter @ACPressColtShaw

Staff Writer

I cover breaking news on the digital desk. I graduated from Temple University in Dec. 2017 and joined the Press in the fall of 2018. Previously, I freelanced, covering Pennsylvania state politics and criminal justice reform.

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