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 :) 

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.