Canada, Air Horns, and the Beermuda Triangle: #MerchMaddieGetsGooey Week 2

Canada, Air Horns, and the Beermuda Triangle: #MerchMaddieGetsGooey Week 2

When I last left you, we were headed across the border to Toronto, our first of two shows in Canada. If you’ve ever traveled, you understand that border crossings can be tedious and exaggerated, but let me tell you, crossing a border with a band is a whole ‘nother animal.

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#MerchMaddieGetsGooey: On The Road With Glass Animals

It’s Saturday night in a drizzly Ithaca, NY, and I’m the only person sitting on our Prevost bus, waiting for the rest of the crew to return from a bar before we make our way north into Canada for a show in Toronto. Today marks show 7 of the Glass Animals Fall North American Tour, and what a whirlwind seven days it’s been! It feels like we’ve been out forever, but it’s hardly been a week.

It’s been a hot minute since I last hit the road. This last year has been hectic in terms of my personal life, between big life moments happening with family and lots of inner struggle trying to decide which professional path to continue to down. I took some time to really step aside and let the necessary things happen, and now I’m finally hopping back in and doing so gingerly; making strides to focus my attention on answering some “what ifs” that have been haunting me for far too long. One of those questions was if I should reset my focus on trying to tour consistently, and I think this tour is the universe’s way of giving me the time I need to figure that out. 

Prior to this tour, I spent the week in Baltimore working a brand event, so Sunday the 25th I popped on a train from Baltimore to D.C. and made my way south to meet up with the crew who’d had their first show the night prior in North Carolina. Working with a new group for the first time is like your first day at a new school: it’s up to you to figure out the existing dynamic and see where you fit alongside the other characters. For some tours, this can take days, or weeks to really find your place, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. 

When I arrived at the Echostage that afternoon, there was a church service being held inside the room (that’s new?), so I wandered through a venue full of little kids and elderly women in their Sunday best to find our bus parked out in back. I was immediately welcomed by a mix of band and crew, shown to my bunk, and introduced to everyone. The first day could not have gone smoother, and it’s only continued that way since. This crew function like a family unit, and they’ve welcomed me to the pack without blinking an eye. By the end of night one I’d been properly introduced to the game of “bummy”, been made a cup of tea, and included in the band’s pre-show ritual. Everything felt seamless and awesome and perfect. There are three “new kids” this tour: one light tech, one guitar tech, and me - the only three Americans (everyone else is English). It’s been fun to see how we’ve all fallen into place, and been neat getting to know everyone a day at a time. I’ve honestly never felt more quickly comfortable and just…at home in a setting as I do with this bunch (except possibly when I first started at Apple). These are my people, I’m good to be myself in every way around them, and take pride in this band and their work like I would a band I’ve been with for years. Tour family is a very real thing, and it’s humbling to feel that in such a massive way so quickly. 

Our first chunk of tour went from D.C. to Philly, followed by a day off and two back-to-back sold out shows in New York City. I’ve never really spent time enjoying NYC, but these shows gave me a new perspective on the city, and made for a hilariously perfect three days including dinner dates with good friends, getting to know the crew over drinks at bars, and an incredible art installation from our frontman complete with palm trees, purple lighting, and a super nintendo with Super Mario World rigged to play a chiptune version of the band’s radio single “Life Itself.” 

After New York, we headed north for a chilly day in Boston, which happened to be a show where the venue was selling the merch, so I had my first opportunity to photograph the show. Our lighting designer, Louisa, has done an incredible job with this show! It's full of fun fills, color combos, silhouettes, and textures all being displayed across giant Tetris-esque arches hanging on either side of the stage with three giant cacti dispersed in between. I won’t be able to photograph the show again until Chicago, but I can’t wait. I’m lucky to be out with a crew that not only has an awesome stage show, but is giving me the opportunity to create my own art from theirs. 

The band is currently touring in support of their new record, How to be a Human Being, which was just released last month. It’s been exciting to see songs coming to life for the first time, and watch the audience react to new music. Their fan base is a mix of die-hards who come dressed as one of the album cover’s characters, to fans who’ve been newly introduced through friends or classmates. The crowds are usually pretty young, and all very excited - for some it’s even been their first concert ever. I’m working really hard to reciprocate that passion by getting to know them, and build on that joy through their time with me at merch. The kids are loving the show and we’ve been flying through merchandise, so it’s been a bit of a whirlwind to keep up with orders and shipments, but I’m enjoying the “hecticity.” 

Highlights so far include: bummy in Washington D.C. behind the venue where we hit one too many cars yet managed to not break any windows, my new fanny pack (thanks, Shawn G!), getting tacos for lunch with the whole band in Philly, dinner with the legendary Amanda Lynn Kim in New York followed by walking from Chelsea back to my hotel on the Lower East Side with no directions (like a boss), my massive, crazy, egg-shaped bathtub in NYC, bar escapades and tequila shots after NYC show 1, photographing in Boston after a miserably cold day, and waking up with our bus immediately next to a street fair in Ithaca this morning. 

Tomorrow we’re off to Toronto for our first Canada show, followed by a week in the midwest and then an adventure driving across Montana for one show in Missoula en route to the west coast.

More updates to come soon, but for now, enjoy some photos from along the way :) 
x
-M

A Season of Change

Howdy, blog! 

It's been awhile since I last checked in. While in Australia I mentioned that I didn't want that big adventure to be my last major "leap of faith" to happen in 2016. Where here I am, eight months later, and things are happening. Since we last talked I've changed jobs, lost my last two grandparents, stood by her side as my best friend since kindergarten said "I Do," and had a few minor freakouts that led to my favorite band's lead singer's handwriting being permanently outlined on my skin. It's a season of change, people, and in the last month, there's been a few more additions to that list. 

After six years, countless concerts, thousands of photographs, and a whole lot of fun, another major change has been deciding it’s time to say goodbye to Ultra5280. As someone who’s first passion was writing and later assumed I’d go to school for photography, Ultra5280 became my treasured creative outlet when I chose to academically focus on music instead. Even while watching Blink-182 recently, I found myself analyzing the show, taking mental notes like I was going to go home and write – it’s pretty clear my love for celebrating music through words and photographs will never die. The Ultra team has been family to me, and I’m excited to watch them continue to grow from the sidelines. I'm so thankful that Robert Castro took a chance on a wily college freshmann, giving me a platform to grow my skills and share my passion while having adventures I could have only dreamed of. Saying I’m thankful is an understatement.

I couldn’t stay away from music journalism if I tried, (insert Arnold’s “I’ll be baaackk” quote) so this isn’t my finale, but it’s time I re-learn how to prioritize “me” while exploring what I want my next chapter of life to look like.

Speaking of next chapters…I’m heading back out on the road. I’m thrilled to get back to tour life, and honored to get to do so with a spectacularly talented group of Brits. I really hope this time out will be clarifying, mind opening, and answer some offers I've been looking for.

For the better part of the last year and a half, I've struggled internally trying to understand if my passion for tour is something I needed to chase more intently, or if that season of life had passed. I needed to be home for the last year. For me, for family, for that wedding, to truly work through some major life moments. But now the dust has settled, and the things that were holding me in Denver have slowly dissipated – it's time for me to get back to my quest of working to find my next path. Do I stay on the road? Do I move to LA? Do I stay in Denver and work to find new ways to pursue my passions in this city? No more wondering "if", it's time for me to explore these questions, make a decision, and just go. 

In the past I’ve blogged while on tour and will try to keep up this round as well. Regardless, this website will host any writing or photos I create while on my editorial sabbatical, so hopefully you'll see more updates more often on this here little page. 

To celebrate my time at Ultra5280, I've compiled a few of my favorite things I've written for the blog, and photographs I've taken. 

- FIRST SHOW COVERED FOR ULTRA5280: Yeah, Great, Fine with Mr. Right and Popcult at Moe's BBQ. "What's a Popcult?" This is the first time my byline appeared on the Ultra5280 site. 

FAVORITE "ULTRA5280 SESSIONS": I Fight Dragons. Once upon a time we did a video interview series called "Ultra5280 Sessions," hosted by yours truly. This is one of my favorites because it was my first time seeing the boys live, and I went on to then tour the country with them - twice! 

FAVORITE SXSW INTERVIEW: Kris Orlowski sitting on a street corner after playing phone tag all day. We laughed. We joked. It was the most fun I've ever had interviewing someone. 

WHAT I CONSIDER MY FIRST "LEGIT" REVIEW: I may have loved writing, but it definitely took me awhile to figure out how to do more than just re-tell what happened at a show. Mat Kearney at The Black Sheep still does a lot of that, but goes deeper into his story as an artists as well. 

FAVORITE "I SAW THEM BACK WHEN..." STORY: Seeing AWOLNATION play two sold out shows at The Summit Music Hall felt like a big deal back then, but what hadn't been totally realized yet was that their little opener, Imagine Dragons, would go on to become one of the biggest pop acts in the world over the next two years. 

FAVORITE CRAZY MOMENT AT A SHOW: I've seen Atlas Genius quite a few times at this point, but nothing will top their show at the Bluebird in 2013 because of the on-stage proposal I caught on camera. 

FAVORITE SHOW REVIEW: I've reviewed a lot of shows, but I always come back to this piece about Lorde at the 1stBank Center. I just love it, and really did love that show. Much yes.

- FAVORITE FEATURE: It's neat to see this band continuing to work their way into alternative relevance, but even as they grow, I don't think I'll ever write a better piece about Night Riots. This combined a show review, album review, and interview all in one. 

THAT TIME I GOT TO COVER MY FAVORITE BAND: Technically I've photographed or reviewed Jimmy Eat World four times now, but you know your life has come full-circle when you're able to review the show where your favorite band of all time plays your favorite album of all time front to back. It's even better when you're professional enough to eloquently fangirl through you're writing so you still seem legit.

- FAVORITE BAND TO SEE GROW: In 2013 an opening act asked me to come review them at the Bluebird, opening for some band I'd kind of heard of called Twenty One Pilots. That show was the start of it all. Since then, I've watched them grow into headlining Red Rocks three times, and become arguably the most popular band in the world in 2016. That show at the Bluebird is still my favorite. This review is about my second favorite show, their first performance at Red Rocks, and their first tour supporting the now Platinum-selling record Blurryface

FAVORITE PHOTOS

Californiaah: San Fran and Ventura

Finally some new territory for me, Warped days four and five were the two dates in California I’ve been most excited about! I’ve never been farther north in California than Santa Barbara before, so I was super excited to get up to San Francisco and see what NorCal was all about! Ventura was a stop we were playing right on the ocean, which I thought would be a super super cool venue, so I couldn’t wait for these two stops to come already!

We left Pomona about 8:00pm that night, and began our drive north. Since we were driving at night, I didn’t really get much of a chance to watch the scenery change, but when we arrived at the hotel that night around 3am, I could already feel a huge difference in the climate. The next morning when I left the hotel in pants, I was prepared to kick myself: it had been days upon days of 80/90 degree heat, and I was having a really hard time that the weather in the city could be that much different...boy was I in for a surprise. That day was by far the coldest day of the entire tour, and it was very welcome change in climate in retrospect. That day we were playing in one of the parking lots at AT&T Park, the huge MLB Baseball stadium in town, which is right on the bay! It was a gorgeous venue, and gave me a good way to be able to see a little bit of the city. We were set up right in a parking lot alongside the bay, it was BEAUTIFUL - but also freezing because of the breeze! Even in my thickest, fluffiest hoodie, I was shivering in my tent all day long. What a crazy change to experience, I was floored! 

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a view of the baseball field across the water

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a slightly blurry view of SanFran from the freeway

The architecture and landscape of San Francisco is something I could have never imagined, it was truly gorgeous! Danny is going there in October for the Audio Engineering Convention for a week, and I have a free plane ticket to use, we talked on the phone that night and I think I’m going to go with him and we’re gonna go explore the city on a mini-vacation! I can’t wait to go back and see more of the city than just the parking lot and the view from the highway. I’ve always been a fan or SoCal, I never thought I’d love San Francisco the way I do! I’m really excited to start exploring California more :) 

a little chunk of the massive, sold out SanFran crowd.

The San Fran date felt like a fairly small venue compared to what we’re used to, but the crazy thing was that our day in San Fran was SOLD OUT! 21,000 people were lined up that morning to come in and watch bands play - I had no idea how they’d all fit! The line for the gates went out and around the show in the rest of the parking lot, across a bridge over the water, and down and around the WHOLE baseball field! It was insane! I tried to take some photos for reference, but I don’t know if anything will do it justice to the sheer mass of people there were waiting to get into the show that day. Even though there were tons and tons and tons of people, it was a really fun day. The band played a great set, and much to all of our surprise, we had a HUGE crowd, and a surprisingly large fanbase! The kids really loved the music, and Packy played one of the craziest guitar solos I think I’ve ever seen live, it was a super fun, great day all around, and I have to admit I was a little sad to leave that night, but not too much, since we were headed for our beachside day in Ventura! 

When we got to Ventura that night around 2am, we arrived at a super rickety little motel in the middle of nowhere. Packy wrote a great poem (soon to be song?) about our experience, and you can read it on his blog here. After our short and hilarious stay, we headed towards our venue which was, like I said, right on the ocean! I was super excited to be playing such a beautiful spot, and wasn’t let down once we arrived. Parking literally across the street from the beach, the venue was a big parking lot/field, one of our bigger spots we’ve played so far. The guys were on a stage right by the front gates, and directly in front of the one open “shade” tent for the public, so we played to a fairly big crowd! It was a fun day, and when all was said and done, we packed down, and got ready for the barbecue!

The Warped Tour does a big barbecue almost every night after the show is done for all the bands and their guests, it’s incredible. It’s another production all it’s own, it almost feels like it takes as much planning as the show itself! Set up behind our stage that night, we got in line to grab grub as friends and other bands started piling in as well. That night was the night before our two days off in San Diego, so we had nowhere to be and no time schedule to meet that night, so we were finally able to stay - it was our first of the whole tour! The group was airing small clips of the new TV show Warped Roadies that will be airing on Fuse this fall, and that was fun to watch. It’ll be interesting to finally get home and off the road, and have the opportunity to watch it all over again on TV! I think I signed waivers saying they could film me, so I might be in the background of some shots on and off throughout the season - how funny! 

Overall, our two days oceanside were tons and tons of fun. They will probably be two of my favorites this whole trip to be honest. Between our close proximity to the water, and the gorgeous venues, I think they were great stops for the bands and the public. Our next two days were glorious, long days off in San Diego where I did absolutely nothing important (except laundry!) but it was definitely nice to take a big, long break where we didn’t change cities each day. Our next tour day is San Diego, followed by some HOT dates in Phoenix and Las Cruces, so be sure to stay tuned!

Xoxo

-M

Californiaah: Irvine and Pomona

The five Warped Tour stops in California were some of the stops I was most looking forward to outside of Denver. Partially because California is my home away from home and a familiar place, partially because of the weather, and partially because Warped is made for Cali! Vans’ headquarters is in Huntington Beach, and the tour originally started and ended there, so in my mind there’s no better place to experience it. Irvine and Pomona were two of our more southern stops, and the first two we played. Irvine was first, after a five hour drive in following our show in Vegas, the weather in Irvine was a welcome change.

Playing the Orange County Great Park, all of the stages and tents were set up on old runways; it was such a unique, different, but really cool feeling venue. The place even had a gigantic orange hot air balloon that people could ride up and down to overlook the park! Even though I really really wanted to go, we didn’t have enough time at the end of the day, but it was still really cool watching the giant orange globe float up and down in the sky throughout the day. The weather was MUCH better that day - so cool in the morning I had to wear a jacket! We were all super excited to be so much more cooled down after the insanely hot day in Vegas. The band played a great set that day. We played to a nice and big crowd, and had a big line after the set for the signing. Irvine was a nice and simple day, full of fun and an easy set time compared to our crazy time the day before. The one funny thing I noticed about Irvine was that they easily had the craziest colored/cut hair I’ve seen so far all tour! And that’s saying something! Warped Tour brings out the craziest and the most interesting looking people one could find in any given city, and it was interesting to see so many unique styles and coloring jobs in one particular place. 

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Next up, and only forty minutes away(!!) was Pomona, CA. For being so close in time, Pomona’s crowd was an entirely different group of people, a wholly different atmosphere, and most interestingly, a completely different landscape! I know from experience how vast and drastically California’s landscapes can change, but I really didn’t expect something so close to change so much! In Pomona we played at the old Fairplex, which features an old, run down horse racing track, and the tour was set up right in the infield of the track! It was such a cool venue to be in; I spent a good 30-minutes at the end of my day after packing up walking around and photographing the old buildings before we left. The venue felt a little cramped since all the stages were fairly close together, but the worst part of everything was all of the old hay from the grounds that was being blown around. We were set up on the grass field in the middle of the old track, but the wind was blowing all day, and blowing hay and grass right into the tent. Being the super-allergic, super-asthmatic person I am, I was wheezing and coughing the whole day through which wasn’t very fun!

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the old Pomona grandstands entrance

Despite the hay and the coughing, Pomona was still one of my more favorite stops on the whole tour. I LOVED the grounds we played, and the kids were all super nice, and super excited. Everything about that day was really enjoyable beginning to end (except that I missed tortalini, my favorite, at dinner!). That night we all loaded into the van, drove through the familiar part of California for me, and made our way north to San Fran! I’ve never been that far north before, and so I was really excited to see what NorCal was about, and see this crazy city I’ve heard so much about. 

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Tour Bus Land Pomona

Until tomorrow! 

Xoxo

-M