That Post-Grad Life...Red Rocks style

Welcome back, friends! I've taken a little break since Warped Tour's end, but I thought why mess with a good thing? I might as well keep blogging while I have things to talk about (and while I still have people pretending to read my blog!). It's been almost two weeks since I got home from my summer on the road, and I've done a little bit of nothing, and a whole lot of somethings.

a perfect end to Warped Tour: celebrating my city with Bad Rabbits in full form. 

Coming home from tour was a little less "awkward"  for me this year than it was the first few times I hit the road. I remember coming home from my first summer out on Warped Tour, and feeling the way an ex-boyfriend had described feeling coming home from spending months in Army bootcamp. Now before anyone gets on my tail for comparing tour life to the military, all I mean is that you're tucked away from society for such an extended period of time, little do you realize that you slowly but surely become un-adjusted to normal society. You forget what it's like to have to plan your own day since someone isn't doing it for you. You forget how to sleep in, and you forget how to talk about topics other than what you just experienced. You get immersed and overwhelmed by the world you've been trapped in, so much so that when the "real world" comes back knocking at your door, you're a bit abashed and unsure of how to handle yourself. Coming home this time felt like putting on a pair of old shoes. This was the first time I'd returned from an extended trip away and really, properly had time to just settle back in on my own terms, and I think that helped in more ways than I had imagined. I wasn't moving anytime soon (thankfully), so my space was mine to really, fully settle back into unlike summer's past. I wasn't in school, so I didn't have classes or schedules or pre-req homework to worry about. I didn't even have a job to jump back into immediately, and although that was somewhat terrifying, it meant that I could spend time catching up with folks and settling in at my own pace. 

Let's take a second to backtrack to that last thought - I didn't have a job to return home to... um, WAT. This year, unlike Warped 2012, my retail job had changed their policies and cancelled the program I'd used before to work at different stores across the US during my time away. This May when my Warped opportunity presented itself, my managers and I all sat down, trying hard to find some kind of way around my seemingly inevitable decision: stay at work, or quit and do Warped. You all obviously know how that story ended: our efforts were unfortunately shot down by the corporate HR team, and I had to make the heartbreaking decision to leave a job I had loved immensely for four years. As much as I hated the choice I was making, I took it as a sign from the universe that it was my time to "launch" - really try to go and make use of that $80k piece of paper I'd just earned. My managers told me that as soon I was six weeks out from my return I could apply and be re-hired without question, but it appears the universe's plan for me wasn't to be trifled with. I received a phone call from the head of the merchandising team at Red Rocks the day I was supposed to call my old job and start the re-hire process. I was offered a job on their merch team, an old-boys club of sorts who ran the merch for every artist playing the most prestigious venue in the state. I couldn't say no. After a lot of thought and late-night calls with my mom, I said yes to Red Rocks, and called my old job to let them know my return would be delayed. 

So here I am, back in Colorado preparing myself to start my first new job in four years, and working at the only venue I've ever dreamed to work. This will be my first week on the team, and if I said I wasn't anxious i'd be lying through my teeth. The Beatles. Jack White. Queens of The Stoneage. Death Cab For Cutie. John Mayer. Paramore. The bands that have played this venue are the top of the top, the big boys, and they expect little ol' me to sling their cotton?!? I've vended some pretty crazy shows in my time, but this is entirely new. This would be me selling to 10,000 people in one night. Of course I won't be in this alone, but the sheer volume of merchandise I'll be helping handle each night terrifies me. I'm so excited to work with the team and learn from them, but it will definitely be a new experience unlike anything i've done before. I'll be working nearly every show from now until October, and hopefully I'll come out of it with stories to share. For now I'm feeling that awkward mix of nervous and excited where you can't tell if the butterflies in your stomach are trying to kill you, or tickle you. 

my office, as of this coming Wednesday.

The downtime I've had so far while home has been super relaxing, and exactly what I needed. Time with friends, time with roommates, and time with family. I've gone out, I've gone on a photo safari, and I've slept a ton. I'm ready to get back out there and get back to work, but it's weird thinking I won't be returning to my other job any time soon. I miss my team more than anyone could ever imagine, and I dread being the new kid again, but that's a part of growing up, right? Letting go, closing your eyes, taking a deep breath, and trying something new. You've only got one life, there's no point to all the time you have if you never try new things. So fingers crossed, wish me luck, and hope like mad that these little treats keep lining themselves up. Come October I want to keep going forward, continuing to prove to myself and everyone around me that that crazy piece of paper was worth all the struggle and the strife. Music Business or bust.

I leave you with my new favorite quote, something that to be honest, I really needed to hear right now. 

"There are far, far better things ahead than any we leave behind" - C.S. Lewis

Fond Fare-WARPED: Warped Update #8

my farewell sunrise from Denver the day i left for tour

Warped Tour started and ended with a sunrise. From the sunrise on my front porch the morning of my birthday, to this morning's warm orange salute, my cross-country adventures have come to a close once more. It's August 5th, and I just got home from an early morning run to drop off a friend off at the airport for his final flight home. Warped Tour is over and done, another summer on the books. These past eight weeks have been exhausting, but they have also been some of the most fun I have ever had. Since I last updated you, we've gone all the way from Virginia down through Atlanta, Florida, and skirted through the midwest (North Carolina, Nashville, Milwaukee, Kansas, Salt Lake City) and made it back to my beautiful and beloved state of Colorado. This past week was a rush to say the least, but I think it also led to some of the most fun I had all tour. 

Georgia was a hot mess - literally. It was a scorcher of nearly 100 degrees out, but by the middle of the day (as always, during our set) the rain began to come down and Warped suddenly went from hot and happy to shut down and under tornado warnings. IFD was on stage as all this took place, and although we got DRENCHED, no one was hurt for which I am sooo thankful. The kids eventually returned from the required waiting in Tornado shelters, but not in as huge crowds as they originally were. That's the bummer about weather and Warped: some days you win, and some days you lose, you just have to hope that the fans will stick it through with you and make the most of whatever comes your way. The rain followed us south to Florida and drenched us in Saint Petersburg before we could even open the doors for the day! Luckily the rain cleared for the rest of the afternoon, and after two disgusting days of unrelenting "wet" the rest of the week was warm and dry.

my view of the band trapped onstage in GA

the band's view of me trapped in tent in GA

Florida's shows are at some of my favorite venues of the whole tour. St. Petersburg's show takes place at Vinoy Park - a gorgeous grassy park that sits directly on the coastline. There were Protomen crab fishing, dolphins swimming next to We Are the In Crowd's merch tent, and our team went out for a big, delicious seafood dinner downtown to celebrate Hari's birthday! Miami the next day was just as fun as the whole crew was decked out in grey shirts made to celebrate Less Than Jake's 365th day of Warped Tour! The band has literally spent a year of their lives playing this tour, and so we all donned some custom-made shirts to help commemorate the occasion. Did I mention there was an Alligator pond behind my bus?! SCARY! Orlando led to more adventures as a friend of one of the bands brought a boat out on the lake just behind our bus parking, and spent his day driving artists around on the lake to relax. Orlando was one of the first times my whole stage family was all done for the day early with no rush to leave, and so we got to just sit on the dock and enjoy one another's was surreal to just have time to sit and relax, made even more special knowing it'd all be coming to a close so soon. The rest of the week was just as fun, with a special early screening of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in North Carolina, some fun old Warped Tour family reunions in Milwaukee, and a spectacular stage family BBQ courtesy of Teenage Bottlerocket on our last day off in Laramie, WY. 

dock hangs with my stage family in Orlando. Photo credit: Joel McDonald

Yes. We had a day off in Laramie, WY when we only had two shows left, and the tour ended in Denver. Sounds absolutely maddening, eh? I thought i'd be going crazy that whole day, being so close to home I could taste it while knowing I couldn't go back just quite yet. Thankfully our bus mates, Teenage Bottlerocket, are actually from Wyoming and their bassist Miguel opened his home to not only our bus but to all of our tour friends. We ended having a full-day barbecue complete with a horseshoe competition! Courage My Love brought their trusty Margarita machine, we grilled some dogs and veggie burgers, and to all of our surprise, Australian band The City Shakeup totally cleaned up shop and beat every last American at horsehoes. We played some card games and watched movies until it was time to go...the day was an absolute blast beginning to end. Over the past two months all of the bands on our stage had become very close, and to be able to just spend time with one another, relaxing and enjoying their company just before we all had to part ways was absolutely perfect - I couldn't have asked for any better. 

horseshoe tournament!

card games in WY.

Yesterday was a complete and total whirlwind beginning to end. My amazing roommate Laurel agreed to pick up my favorite local breakfast burritos (Santiago's!) for all of my stage family. I saw countless familiar faces, family, and friends throughout the day, but most importantly, I was back a mile above sea level - finally breathing that crisp mountain air. The day came and went all too quickly with some goodbyes missed, and others just barely caught. I was so terribly sad to see everyone go, but like I keep saying, Tour family really is family, and I knew that the universe would have us all crossing paths again soon. I spent a good hour or so cleaning out the bus and getting all my belongings off. I arrived on Warped with one suitcase, and left on our last day with an entire hand-truck FULL of stuff. How does that even happen?! We barely fit it all in my car, and at nearly 11:00pm at night, I bid farewell to my final parking lot of the summer, my bus, and headed home. To my real home. 

This summer on Warped was honestly nothing like I expected. I'd done Warped before, and so I thought that there was no way this summer could be much different. To my shock and surprise, I feel like the two Warped Tour's I have gone on were unlike one another in more ways than they were similar. I was doing a lot of different jobs this summer that I wasn't last time, and although I wasn't expecting it, I was happy to take on new responsibilities and challenges. Although I feel like I got to spend less time with the band I was working for, I made many new, diverse friends compared to my first summer, probably because I was no longer afraid of being the "new kid on the block". My living situation was a huge upgrade and really helped keep my stamina up (not to mention my mental health), which for the record reallyyyy changes your perception of this entire tour. I've always been told that if you can do Warped Tour, you can do anything...the people who said that to me were talking about touring in particular, but every year I come back from this adventure feeling just a little bit more at peace with myself - a better, newer "me" more in line with my heart, my head and my thoughts. I feel more ready for what lies ahead, and more sure that I can handle just about anything because hell, I just got home from 2 months of Warped.

me. Roseburg, OR. photo cred: Brain Mazzaferri

I hope you all keep following along with me and this new chapter in my life, but for all of you who were here just for Warped, I'll see ya next summer :)


A Day in the Life of Warped: Mini Update #7

Ernie Ball Stage Family (bands, crew, stage crew) 2014.

Many of you who have been following along with this blog might have realized by now that there are TONS of people on this tour. Our little Dragon-fighting team is one of hundreds of bands out on this 50-day adventure, and we are amongst the smaller teams. Out of the ~1000 people working on Warped Tour (no exaggeration) nearly every person's job is entirely different, even if their titles are similar. I thought it might be time for me to do a small "Day In the Life" so that during this 10-day run without a day off (read: blogging) you guys won't miss me too much, and might be able to get a slightly better idea of what Warped life is truly like. Every person's day runs a little differently than the next out at Warped Tour. The way I see it, there are five different basic groups of people on Warped: production team, stage crew, artist team/merchies, non-profits, and artists themselves. 

Let's start with the production team, as they are some of the first up and out every day. The entire Warped Tour is planned and produced by a set team of about 20 people, all working for Kevin Lyman's 4Fini Production company. The show's production manager, tour manager, security team, crew chief, and Kevin himself are always out and about first thing in the morning as the stages and production vehicles begin to roll into the venue first thing in the morning (~6/7am). They're the ones who design the layout of our venue each day, get the stages in place, and keep the show running no matter what mother nature throws at us. They're usually accompanied by the Ta-Da! Catering Crew, the traveling food geniuses who cater 3 meals a day for nearly every single person on staff. If you thought remembering to eat each meal was hard, try planning food for thousands of people who all have different dietary needs. The meals are usually quick, delicious, and always nutritious (except on Churro night - YUM!). Without these tong-wielding pirates, we'd all be dead seven days into tour - I guarantee it.

this is sometimes how the production office looks. Yes, that Includes the grill.

Stage Crew/Setup Crew are the next folks on the scene each day. Working directly with the production team, the stage crew are the folks who manage each stage, the gear trailer it's partnered with, as well as the Sound Engineers that make our crazy rock-and-roll circus really make some noise. Arriving usually around the same time as the production team (again, 6/7am), it's up to these folks to get the stage set up, the sound working, and prepare the bands for that day's schedule. Most people don't realize this, but Warped founder Kevin Lyman personally chooses each day's schedule first thing in the morning, guaranteeing a different show each day. This makes it much more fun for fans, as they have no choice but to show up all day, or they could risk missing the bands they want to see most. For crew, this means that you have no idea what your day looks like until the schedule is released around 9/9:30am. It's up to the Stage Crew and Stage Managers to make sure that they're ready to start on time, no matter what the schedule throws at them. Setup crew is in a similar position. Arriving on scene with Production crew, they are in charge of laying out all the tents (both merch and non-profit), as well as building any of the large iron tents needed on site each day. They don't know how or where they'll be building until we arrive, so they have to be on their game to get things up as quickly as possible at both the beginning and end of the day. 

pre-show setup. Can you believe Warped can look this...empty?

and after. That's a little more like it.

The artist's team and Merch people is the category that I fall into - my beloved people! We are the folks who are here to make sure that performance-wise, everything goes over perfect. An artist's team often varies on the band's size (both physical number of people and popularity), genre, and preferred needs. Some bands have enough guitars that they need a guitar tech, others are DJ's and drummers who can handle their own gear. Some bands prefer to travel with their own sound engineer, who can mix their set to sound just the way they like it. Some bands travel with photographers, some with "hype men", nearly all with Tour Managers, but the one constant of Warped is that nearly every band has a merch person. Warped Tour is known for being an opportunity to really connect with bands on an intimate level, and part of that is the readily available tent each band brings out to house their goods, and function as a home base throughout the day. The "mechies" arrive on site every morning around 8am, rolling onto the venue with hand trucks full of shirts, tents, coolers, and lawn chairs. We set up tent by 9, grab breakfast, and then settle in for what can sometimes be a 12hr day in our tent, peddling goods. Selling merch, setting up autograph sessions, interacting with fans, and being the physical representation of your group's presence at the tour - merch is not only your place to connect with existing fans, but your chance to lure new ones in based off what they see walking by. An artist's team is what gets them through the day and handles all business needs, but we all know we're there for the musicians themselves. 

some of America's favorite merchies all losing our minds in the merch village in VIRGINIAAAAAH.

Each band member handles the day-to-day of Warped Tour differently. Since you're not the headliner, and you don't know what time you'll be playing each and every day, Warped Tour for an artist is very different from any other tour they will do. It forces you to be awake, prepared, and available for longer than any other show - this manifests differently for every person. Some band members choose to use these extended days to write new material, or work on existing projects. Some cut hair or start up a parking lot coffee business (because that's their other passion), some choose to get on a consistent workout routine with others, some record in studios in different cities each day, some do interviews, and some will just enjoy their time, go out and partake in the festival. Every day is different, but having so much time to prep and plan allows for musicians to do more than they could ever normally accomplish while out on the road. 

It's insane how different each person's day can be for every single person, but the culmination of all of our different duties and day-to-day activities is what makes Warped Tour what it is. Our routines are as eclectic as the music at the show, and it's this ability for everyone to do what they need to do that makes Warped such a success. You can see why they call this "punk rock summer camp" - there's always something going on, it just depends on what you came to camp to do as to what your day is like. 




Mid-WARPED in the Midwest: Warped Update #6

Hey friends, happy Monday! Today I write you from a bottom bunk on the bus of Denver friends Air Dubai. I've known (and occasionally worked for) this band over the past 7 years, so having them out on warped as well has been a true joy. Today is our second to last off-day of tour, and the IFD crew has chosen to head back to Chicago to enjoy a bit more downtime at home. Since I wouldn't have the same luxury of going home or spending time with friends and family like they all do, I chose to jump ship for the day to spend some time with these guys in Indianapolis, IN instead. Another chunk of the tour party is at The AP Awards tonight in Cleveland, OH since some acts are performing or presenting. Usually most of the tour lands in the same city on a day off, but today was truly a free-for-all. Come tomorrow morning we will all meet back up to begin our final stretch of shows in Columbia, MD. 

Dodgeball Trading cards: Brian

Dodgeball Trading cards: me

Dodgeball Trading cards: Packy

This past week in the Midwest has been tons of fun! After our adventurous attempt at dodgeball, we headed to Philadelphia, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Detroit, Chicago, and Shakopee, MN. Cincinnati's venue is directly on the Ohio River, the divider between Ohio and Kentucky. While the venue looks out directly into Kentucky, there's a water park on the Ohio side of things that all tour staff were allowed into - quickly making the day more fun. Cleveland's venue is a beautiful wooded area with an all wood amphitheater nestled at the bottom of a grassy hill, and Detroit takes place in the parking lot of The Palace at Auburn Hills, the basketball and hockey venue for the Detroit Red Wings and Pistons. All crazy different, huh? That's what makes me love Warped Tour: we bring the same bands and the same vendors to each show, yet the venue and the kids are so drastically different that no day is the same, making day-to-day monotony a non-issue. 

The beautiful amphitheater at the Blossom Music Center in Cleveland, OH. 

Since I Fight Dragons is from Chicago, this stretch of Midwest dates are some of our busiest of tour. Their fan base is much more dense in this part of the US, and the fans here tend to have been following the band for longer, which I think makes shows more fun. Detroit, Chicago, and Shakopee were by far the biggest shows of the entire tour, and how fun they were! Family, friends, and diehard fans made the sets spectacular for everyone. More fans knew words, had customized shirts, and we easily had more kids looking to be flag or shield bearer this past week compared to any other dates. It is so much more fun for me (and [i’d hopefully assume]) the band as well to have these much more excited crowds. Fans are fun every show, but when the majority of the audience is full of die-hards? It just makes things that much better. Chicago’s venue is out at Tinley Park, about an hour south of Chicago, but it’s HUGE. The venue is sprawling and we had about 20,000 kids there that day - it was sold out to the extreme. Our stage was in a place with great walkthrough traffic, and luckily the band’s set time didn’t conflict with the set of Warped surprise guest #2 - A Day To Remember. I'd always heard their Warped crowds were legendary, but I couldn't imagine the whole place shutting down like it did for Linkin Park on a daily basis. But sure enough, the venue got strangely quiet about 10minutes before they played, and stayed that way until they were done. They are certainly a great band live, but it was amazing to see that nearly every kid at the show enjoyed their music and were willing to watch. Fun how music can be so different, yet so connecting all at the same time. 

post-show jam session time with Jon from Air Dubai, and the lovely Camila from Wax/Watsky

Overall it was a fantastic day at home complete with traditional Chicago Deep Dish pizza, former Dragon-fighter Bill joining the band on stage, and the delivery of the test pressings of the album! THAT’S RIGHT, YA HEARD ME! We finally got our hands on some glorious neon, fluorescent green vinyl pressings of "The Near Future", and they look amazing...I got all giddy watching Brian unpackage the first one. It's been very surreal watching Project ATMA come to life this summer right before my eyes. This has been a long process for both the band and fans, but how worthwhile it is! I cannot wait to see fans react in September. Brian and Packy are listening to them on their home systems today to check and make sure there are no issues with the pressings, and as long as it's good, then they'll continue on with the rest of the orders. This adventure is finally nearing the end. I’m excited, and overwhelmingly proud of the band for seeing this through. 

Tomorrow we head into our last week of tour: a 10-day run down the east coast, back up the midwest, ending in our last day off before the grand finale shows in Salt Lake City, and Denver. 

I’ll update again soon, but for now, adios! 

- Maddie

BRAIN-WARPED: Warped Update #5

Happy Monday, y’all! It’s currently towards the end of our day off and I’m sitting in our hotel day room in Scranton, PA. I just finished an amazing FaceTime call with my beautiful roommates back home, and had spent the rest of the day playing dodgeball against other Warped bands in the 3rd Annual Glamour Kills Dodgeball tournament (i’ll get to this later). These past 7 days has been a week of rain, fun, and beautiful lush green as we’ve been traveling through the northern part of the East coast and the New England states. 

the boys wearing their finest Canadian Tuxedos at our show in Montréal. 

The last I left you we had just returned stateside from our northern adventures into Canada, and since then we haven’t moved much; we’ve even managed to stay in the same time zone! Can you believe it? Our week started with New York and New Jersey shows, playing our first show back stateside in Holmdel, NJ, and our next in Buffalo, NY. Our date in Buffalo can only be described as a wet, muddy mess. The venue experienced a torrential downpour during the afternoon, which was conveniently in the middle of our set. The venue that day was spread out across a field, a grassy hill overlooking the amphitheater, and a small concourse towards the front of the amphitheater. By the end of the day, all of the grassy areas were essentially a mud pit! The fans couldn’t avoid the gross and ended up having mud fights/mud wrestling through a few sets throughout the afternoon, and the stages had to be constantly wiped off so performers didn’t slip. Luckily, our stage was on the cement concourse, which meant we didn’t have to deal with the mud issue, but playing while it rains like that certainly isn’t easy on performers or fans. The boys braved the elements and played a great set, but we were all dripping wet by the end of it. It was crazy and messy, but the venue was conveniently next to a theme park that gave all tour staff free admission, so no one could really say it was an entirely terrible day. 

me in my crazy weather getup. complete w/IFD poncho.

an Instagram from some fans at Buffalo. M-U-D-D-Y.

Our week continued on, rain-free in Scranton and Boston (both beautiful and wooded venues), and we made our way to Philadelphia, Long Island and Hartford to end the week. Boston was a hometown show for many bands, but we had a longer drive down to Long Island that night so we had to leave the venue much earlier than other nights. Usually hometown shows are where bands get to celebrate with family and friends, but because of this early drive time on the Boston date, the Camden/Philly show the next night became the scene of homecoming parties. Every night if we have time, the tour throws a post-show barbecue for staff and guests. When you think about our days, a fourth meal is pretty necessary since many of us don’t end our work until close to 10pm. Boston natives Bad Rabbits chose to make this barbecue their own and played a complimentary extended set that night. Complete with Michael Jackson AND Rage Against the Machine covers. The whole crew danced the night away at what will hopefully go down as one of the best barbecues in Warped Tour history - everyone’s been raving about it all week!

the sunset over the venue in Boston, MA.

The East coast is always really fun because things are all so close, and many of the bands on the tour are from one of the major cities in the area. This means that more friends, family, spouses, and industry types are out this week than most other times during tour (not more than in California, but close). Everyone is in chipper moods the drives are not very long, and the consistency of time zones really makes folks happy. Thanks to these short drives, the tour is able to do a few more fun things than usual during this stretch, including things like the Glamour Kills Dodgeball tournament that happened today. For the past three years, clothing company Glamour Kills has been hosting a dodgeball tournament on an East coast off-day. Bands from the tour come out to face off against one another in a hilarious showcase of brute force, and exceptional dodging skills. We were invited to partake this year, and although we were out in the first round, it was insane amounts of fun, and we all had a blast! Aussie band Parkway Drive took home the First Place Trophy, followed by We Are The In Crowd in second, and Crown The Empire in 3rd. We all had an amazing time, and I am so happy we were able to participate! I'm pretty proud of our little participation trophy we took home if i do say so myself.

The official 2014 I Fight Dragons Dodgeball team. (rom top to bottom, left to right: Chad (drums), Tony (TM), Packy (guitar), Brian (vocals), me, Ashlee(Chad's GF))

For now we're packing up and leaving Scranton, heading into our week of shows in the midwest. I promise more updates again as soon as possible, and for those of you following along, THANK YOU! This has been my most successful blogging attempt ever, and i'm so excited to be sharing such a fun summer with you all. Until next week,