Season 1: Done | Looking back at Red Rocks

I cannot believe it's already October - WHERE DID SEPTEMBER GO?!? Oh, that's right, I spent all of September lurking beneath a giant, orange colored tent called the clamshell. Apparently my life is now strictly spent living under the cover of vinyl tents, and to be honest? I really don't mind. If a tent means me slinging cotton, I'll stand out there all day, any day...and that's kind of what I've done for the past five months. As I mentioned in my first post-Warped blog, I've spent September and October working at Red Rocks Amphitheater, selling merchandise for all of the artists that have come through to play the venue from August through the end of the season, which was October 4th. I've worked twenty-six shows (if I counted right), spent countless hours on the sacred, music-filled grounds in Morrison, spent a few nights shooting pool until 2a.m., and I've learned more about merchandising than I can put into words.

If you read my blog post prior to me starting this gig, you know that I was just a little nervous about this new opportunity. New job, new co-workers, new things that I've never done...oh, and did I mention that I'd be helping sell on some nights upwards of $100,000 in merch?! The most I'd ever done myself was maaaybe $5,000, so the idea of doing upwards of even just $50,000 was horrifying. The other scary realization was that I would be the new kid on the team in a big way. All the folks at Red Rocks have been there for at least seven years, if not longer. I'd always heard that it was an "old boys club" running this venue, and here I was somehow smack in the middle of it - I wasn't about to mess this one up. I came into this job wide-eyed, ready for anything, and prepared to have my world rocked. It was definitely not as scary as I thought, but I've still been steam-rolled by the amount of knowledge I've gained...who ever thought selling t-shirts could really have so much to it?! Three-quarter length sleeves are Raglans, no matter the material. There is a proper way to bin your shirts, item number goes left and price goes right, and no matter what anyone says, you will count the trinkets. All of them. Somehow $50,000 doesn't sound intimidating anymore, and 15 boxes of unorganized fabric good isn't as outrageous as it could be. This team has given me tools I didn't even imagine existed, taught me tricks that have been passed down merchie-to-merchie for years, and more than anything, they've given me confidence. If i want to keep moving up in the world of merch and eventually into tour management, I really, truly needed this. No one on the team except me has ever toured (which blew my mind) so there was plenty for me to teach them about being a road dog, but learning how to handle bulk to this extreme has prepared me for every and any situation, regardless of venue, band, or number of shirts for sale...even if it's Drake and Lil' Wayne and we have nearly 50 different designs. (no joke).

Just last month, I did a one-off vend for the merch company that I work for on the side (they're called Sandbag LTD., and I love them. I get to work all sorts of cool shows for them), and I was surprised with a "hey I need you to inventory everything we have" 12hrs prior to the show. I did an inventory on 10 boxes of untouched merch, organized the remaining stuff in the trailer, and still sold $2000 by myself in a matter of 10 hours. It was madness, but the only reason I could do what I did was because of the stuff i'd been handling for the past two months. Red Rocks has prepared me for what I hope will be a tremendous next few years of adventures in touring with bands. I couldn't have ever fathomed how much this job would benefit me, but man am I thankful I took a risk on the gig and joined the team. My co-workers are fantastic, and have been so kind and helpful to me. I didn't think that I could find another work family where I could really be myself the way I was at my last job, but these kids accept me even though i'm the only one who doesn't smoke weed, and put up with my incessant snacking and question asking. As much as I really want to hit the road pretty continually next year, part of me hopes that for the summer, I'll be able to be home and work most of the season with them. If anything, I'll definitely be lonely at my merch booth from here on out no matter where I go.

goal: get to work for a band who's name is in this hallowed hallway. (and sign my name too) 

I am incredibly thankful for the chance I've been given to come up and join this group of pirates. The chance to learn from folks who've seen so many amazing things has been truly a one-of-a-kind experience, and to be learning all of this at such a sacred and magical venue is just surreal. I got to see some amazing bands, meet some amazing road crews, and shake a LOT of hands I wouldn't have otherwise. Apparently taking chances is paying off, and I hope that I can continue to be daring enough to let these experiences keep coming my way. As of now I have no touring plans for the fall (sad face), but I'm getting close. I've had two big chances come my way, but due to some upper management conflicts, I've been caught in the fallout and missed out. I'm hanging on tight to the hope that something will come my way before the year's end, but if not, at least I know now that I'm prepared for whatever it is that I get to do next. I've always known I felt "at home" at Red Rocks, but after the past two months, that statement has an entirely new meaning. I'm just thankful that the magic hasn't warn off yet, and that every time I walk down that ramp and into the venue, the glorious view still takes my breath away. 

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 company...it 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 :)

-M

Livin' La Vida WARPED: Update #2 (Southwest and SoCal)

Howdy friends! Today i write you from a train car zipping down the Californian coast. This is hands down one of the most beautiful things I have ever experienced, and I am elated to be taking in the views. This past week since our last day off has been long and crazy, and our two days off have been much needed.

my view from the New Mexico Warped stop after the insane Sandstorm was done.

This week we completed what is generally the hottest dates of the entire tour. From Amarillo, we played in New Mexico, Arizona, Las Vegas, and then headed west to complete half of our California dates (Pomona, San Francisco, and Ventura). New Mexico is usually not too bad, but this year we changed venues and played Albuquerque for the first time. Aside from the GIGANTIC hill we all had to push our gear up and down all day, the venue seemed nice enough. The layout is very similar to that of Fiddler’s Green in Denver, and all of the merch tents were set up atop the lawn area of the amphitheater. I was super excited about my great view until right around 2:00pm, when a huge dust storm blew into the venue for about 30 minutes. I’ve never actually been caught in a dust storm before, it was impressively strong. At least ten merch tents “bit the dust” and were completely destroyed by the 40+mph winds hitting us - luckily mine was NOT among them! It took bungee cords, stakes, zip ties, and my entire body weight, but despite me being all alone holding down the fort, and the band being smack in the middle of their set, we all managed to fair alright through the weather. 

tour bus land Pomona

me, the Air Dubai boys, and the My Body Sings crew in Pomona - DENVER REPRESENT! 

The rest of the week was hot, but not even half as hot as it was the last time we did Warped Tour. Both Vegas and Arizona barely broke 100 degrees, a HUGE improvement from last tour’s record breaking heat of 130 degrees in Phoenix. As soon as we got to Pomona, I knew that the worst was behind us for the most part, and was elated to be in California. Pomona and Ventura’s are two of my favorites on the entire tour due to their settings. Pomona’s show is in the old Pomona Fairplex, which is filled with very classic “California-in-the-50’s” style buildings with pastel colors and huge neon lights, complimented by perfect rows of palm trees. I love wandering around and just soaking it in, letting my mind wander and imagine being there during it’s prime. Pomona Warped was a little extra special thanks to some Denver visitors. Denver band (and good friends) My Body Sings Electric was out touring California, and happened to be in the Pomona area that same day! It was amazing to have so many folks from Denver's music scene together in a different state, it made me proud to see that we are all getting out here and really "doing it". My other favorite spot, Ventura, needs no explanation. The Ventura fairgrounds are literally directly across the street from the beach! You wake up, walk off the bus, and the water is just right there. I took some time right after breakfast to go sit by the water and watch about half the tour surf the morning breaks. It was a beautiful moment to just be able to sit back and soak it all in. I am so very thankful to be spending my summer surrounded by these beautiful sights, and with such lovely friends at my side. 

the only crappy photo I could get of  Linkin Park thanks to how insane security got during their set. 

These past two days off I spent in both LA and San Diego. I caught a ride down with my manager and mentor JJ to Los Angeles and spent Monday eating at my favorite bakery (Porto’s) and catching dinner with my family. Today, i’m riding the train down (again, this is AMAZING!) back to San Diego to meet up with the rest of my crew. Hopefully I can enjoy some downtime at the pool, catch up on email, and hopefully get to go see “How To Train Your Dragon 2” (The Mazzaferri’s and I are very excited to see this). It feels great to have a few days to feel “human” and just enjoy some downtime. I’m excited for the rest of the tour, but leaving California is always bittersweet. I’ll check in again soon as I can, but for now, adios!

xoxo - M