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 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

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