Cargo Bay Tetris: The Ultimate Game for Musicians

I know we’ve all taken our turn on little camping trips with family being the one trying to fit the unimaginable amount of gear into the trunk, squeezing bags and pillows into tiny little nooks and crannies all over the trunk (and the rest of the car) until it all works. Let me be the first to tell you, Cargo Bay Tetris is a whole nother ball game all its own. 

Cargo Bay Tetris is like the most extreme packing system I have ever seen, let alone been a part of, and unfortunately this is something we will be doing every single day this summer. Because the band is traveling in it’s entirety in our one van with our merch, we have to find ways to fit both the merchandise and all of our luggage into the cargo bay of our sprinter van each day. During the beginning of the tour, this was literally impossible because of the sheer amount of merch we had! But as our levels fluctuate, shrink, grow, and expand again, it’s going to be up to us each and every day to find a way to know exactly how much merch will fit into the van while having room for our luggage. Not only do we have to be able to fit all of our stuff into the van, but to keep our merch bins stocked for each different day on the road, so we have to re-stock every night, meaning we’ll be pulling each box out each night to load bins and then condense down what we have. All you all thought being on tour would be fun, right? Most bands don’t have to do things like this because they have actual merch trailers strictly to keep this stuff in: they have the space to have huge bins they take out with them daily that only need to be stocked once a week. We don’t have that luxury because of our space limitations. This is a bit of a burden for the band, it’s not fun, nor is it easy, but it’s the cheapest and surprisingly best way for us to be able to travel, keep merch well in stock, and still travel somewhat “light”. We’ll be spending a lot of time nightly stocking, loading, and re-loading all these boxes in and out of the cargo bay, but I think within a week or so we’ll be able to really work out a good system to help make it easier. 

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try taking ALL of this...

Packy has been our acting “Tetris Master”, conducting load-outs and load-ins from standing inside the bay. On the bands original drive from Chicago through Denver to Salt Lake, there was barely enough room for all of the bands backline (I’ll explain industry terms in my next post, for now, google it!) in the cargo bay. That being said, we had no other choice but to ship all of our merchandise out to Salt Lake to meet us. Yesterday when we arrived in the city, we dropped off the backline to our stage managers, and went to UPS to pick up all the merch waiting. We had NO idea there would be that much, it’s insane! The amount of boxes we had was so great that even with all the backline out of the cargo bay, there was still no room for any luggage to live anywhere other than the backseat of the van: taking up almost two full seats we needed for people! 

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...and turning it into this.

The past two days have been mainly focused around this ridiculous practice of loading and unloading: finding the few (if not only) ways all of our gear can successfully fit in the Sprinter Van, while leaving room for all of us to comfortably (and legally) fit in the van. This morning when we checked out of the hotel, we still had two suitcases living on the back seat, which is used as a bed more or less, something we desperately needed for our all-night drive back to Denver this evening. Our only goal for today was to be able to sell enough merch that we could re-pack the boxes, condense, and be able to fit all of the luggage into the cargo bay so people would be able to sleep on the bench seat before it was their turn to drive. 

The band played a great set to a fairly large crowd today: a great showing for our first show of tour! Thanks to this, and by the grace of the Gods we were able to sell enough merch to magically fit all the little odds and ends that had been living in the van back into the Cargo Bay! After the guys were done with signings, press, and interviews for the night we broke our tent down, and spent an hour or so eating dinner while unloading the van, and re-packing all the merch bins, cardboard boxes, and the bay itself. Tonight’s breakdown took around two or so hours tonight, so I think that when we finally get a good system established I think I’ll be able to get this down to a 1-hr thing every day...at least, that’s what I’m hoping! 

Welcome to Cargo Bay Tetris, one and all. May the best band survive the summer without giving up and leaving all their merch (or a drummer or two) on the side of the road, or strapped to the roof of their van. 

And here..we..GO. Warped: Day 1

WHEW.

We’re all finally back on the bus and Chuck (my usual pal/awesome all-purpose assistant guy) is driving us out of Salt Lake as the sun is setting behind us. Our first day of tour is finally over, and all I have to say is “holy SHIT that was long.” After a crazy start to the day, we all seemed to fair our first day out in the battle zone well, and I’m excited to tell you guys all about it.

I woke up to the sound of my first alarm this morning, 6am on the dot. That was a little frightening since It usually takes at least 10 to get me to stir. I know I slept last night, but I don’t feel like I feel into too deep a sleep, I think I was far too excited, anxious, nervous...I was ready and waiting. I got up in bed and after a long mental argument about my showering situation, finally began to prepare for the day. My first big “learn” of tour? Straighten my hair FIRST THING each day! This morning I saved straightening for last like I usually do at home, forgetting the fact that I had to pack my flat iron back into a suitcase again, I wouldn’t be able to just leave it sitting out on the bathroom counter to cool. Straightener in hand (so it could keep cooling and not catch my luggage on fire), I scuttled out just in time for bus call, and today’s first round of life-size Tetris: band vs. cargo bay. I’ve written another huge blog entry explaining this crazy game we’ve been playing, and I’ll be sure to keep you updated, but just know that this is a topic you won’t see disappearing from conversation all summer long.

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home sweet merch tent for the next few months

After finally squeezing all of our stuff and our people back into the van, we headed for the venue and arrived close to 8:00am. To my surprise (and a little joy) there was already a huge line of kids waiting outside the venue, which was really cool to see. Unpacking and setting up took about two hours or so, and gates ended up opening early to the public at 10:30am. The rest of the day is a total blur, but felt like a decade. Me, Hari, and Bill all took a nice walk around out where the line was right as they began to let the crowd in. The guys have this amazing gimmick this summer of dressing up like “robots” in motorcycle helmets and coveralls and walking around with a big sign and our set time written on a white board. I took 100 of these cool little wrist bands we got (which I’m proud to say were my idea) and hooked up fans in line with our official Warped Tour website link, giving them access to a daily chat room to connect with other fans, meet up, and download some free tracks. From there on out I spent my day talking with fans, selling merch, and meeting some of the other tour members.

Catering is currently my favorite part of tour. The lines are INSANE no matter when you go, and what meal it’s for during the day, but even if you spend 45 minutes waiting in line for food (like I did today at lunch), you get to spend that time talking and meeting the people on either side of you in line. This time in line is probably the longest amount of time I’ll ever get to spend outside of the merch booth meeting people, shaking hands, trading names and stories. I’m such a people person that I LOVE that kind of interaction and will be reveling in any opportunity I get to spend time hanging out , making new friends. Aside from the social aspect, catering is really cool because it really makes Warped feel like one big, obnoxiously loud summer camp full of interesting people, and even more interesting hair styles. The catering on tour so far has been amazing! Each meal more delicious than the next with a wide variety of foods to choose from, and something for everyone regardless of dietary restrictions, preferences, or anything else you could come up with. With catering serving three meals a day to all gazillion of us on tour (more like 600-800 I believe...?), it’s the one time all of us can come together and really spend time together, tour-mate to tour-mate outside of the hustle and bustle of showtime. I love it love it love it! I’m sure this feeling will change those morning that I’m starving my way through a 40-minute cereal line, but for now? I think I can survive.

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day 1 meals: YUM!

Overall, today was a great day. I loved getting to meet new fans, see familiar faces, and enjoyed hearing so much great praise for the band and their show. I know that the guys are all really happy with their set for tour, and worked really hard on it for awhile. It was nice to see it pay off in such a visible way. My only concern with this tour was how the public would react to the band and their...well, their blatant difference in musical style. A good majority of bands on the tour this year are very very heavy groups. Metal, Hardcore, Thrash, screamo, and alternative punk, Nintendo Pop/Rock doesn’t really seem like it would fit that same demographic in any way. I was so pleasantly surprised at the amount of new fans we made today, as well as the different groups they were choosing to see besides us. It was really humbling, reassuring, and pretty great to see that everyone has a little bit of that “nerd” inside them, and I Fight Dragons gives them a great place to musically explore that side of their personality. I’m really excited to see how tomorrow goes in Denver, where they have such a huge fanbase. If today already felt great, I can only imagine what tomorrow holds.

On that note, the rest of the band is already passed out, and I feel dead tired. I’m awful at sleeping on road trips, but I know that if I don’t at least try to rest, I’ll sorely regret it in the morning. So sleep habits be damned, Its time for me to put the laptop away and call it a night. Good night, folks! I hope to see tons of friendly faces tomorrow in Denver - my home town! I’m SO excited to be back to the beautiful city and state that I love so much, finally working something that has been a staple of my summers since I was 12.

See you tomorrow, Denver!

Xoxo

-M