Tour Blog #8: Portland, ME

I awoke in Maine to the word “donuts,” and rolled out of bed (sofa) to find donuts, eggs, and oatmeal in Chad’s apartment. I’ve only cried a few times on this tour, but that morning was one of them. He made us all breakfast, truly going above and beyond any expectations. 

Because we had driven through the night, we had quite a bit of time before we had to load in. We slept in until 9 or 10, and three of the guys went to work out. Michael and I stayed behind to do some work, and because exercising is gross.

By “do some work,” I mean a variety of things. For me, it’s finishing up editing, getting the files to the guys, writing/publishing these tour blogs, organizing the massive amounts of content I get every day, and keeping my social media updated. For the guys, it can be anything– settling invoices from the previous nights, bookkeeping, planning for upcoming details of the trip, booking more shows and organizing future tours, tending to personal business, or planning out the details of that night’s set. Wifi is truly a treasured commodity on tour, so a lot of work is done in coffee places.

Portland is JTD’s hometown, so we entrusted him to show us all the cool local places, and he didn’t disappoint. We visited the world’s most photographed lighthouse (you can bet I jumped on that bandwagon), a state park with incredible rock formations, and some of the local food places. Maine is breathtakingly beautiful, and I would consider living here if it were warmer.

I took quite a few promotional photos, and I’m very happy with the way they turned out. The guys are super easy to shoot portraits for—I think they’re so comfortable with each other that they just fall into natural positions.

We loaded in, and the guys claimed it was a great sound check. I’ve taken to setting up merch while they’re checking, then coming in at the end to film if I’m low on b-roll for the day. The staff at One Longfellow Square was super accommodating, always asking if I needed anything or offering to help. This isn’t to say the staff elsewhere were unhelpful, but the friendliness in Maine was very much appreciated.

The show itself probably ran the most smoothly out of all of them so far. The sound was great, and all the technology and humans performed exactly as desired. The guys walked away feeling awesome about the cleanliness of what they put out, which is always fun to leave the venue with. 

The shooting situation was almost boringly easy. There are situations in which I would pray for all white light with no changes, but it actually made it kind of difficult to create variety in the shots. Nevertheless, TNS were very happy with my content for the day. 

I can kind of feel the tour winding down (even though we still have four more dates left), which is pretty heartbreaking. I’ve loved the time I’ve been able to spend with these guys, so the idea of leaving and resuming “normal life” isn’t something that really appeals to me. We’ve been discussing options for our summers, so that’s providing some hope for me to cling to. It’s hard for me to even picture spending time apart from everyone after we’ve spend the last 336 consecutive hours together, but I’m doing my best to channel that premature nostalgia into working harder to crank stuff out

We’re heading up to Canada next! It’ll be my first trip up there, hopefully customs will go okay! Make sure you keep up with my social media to see my work in a more real-time format.

Tour Blog #7: Boston, MA

The good weather did, indeed, follow us to Boston, which was something I desperately needed. We woke up super early in New York so we could meet an old friend of Cory’s in Boston, and the gray drizzle of the NYC morning did not help my struggle to get out of bed. Nevertheless, we made it out relatively on time and I ate my leftover cookie dough for breakfast.

It was only a two-hour drive to Boston, but some of us took the opportunity to nap. Boston was one of the few places on the tour I’d already been, so I was okay with not taking a lot of time to explore. We stopped in a café I’d been to on my last trip and met with a guy who was in a band with Cory when they were in high school and his wife. After we ate, Cory went with them to see some of the MIT facilities and other sights of Boston, but the rest of us stayed in Flour to get some work done. 

As part of that time, I edited the photos for the openers from the NYC show and sent them off, which is something I’d procrastinated on. They were all extremely gracious and had nothing but kind words. One of the vocalists told me she felt inspired by my story after we chatted, which is an incredible feeling. I kind of thought the only inspiring thing I’d ever done was sleep for 29 consecutive hours, so it was a very cool thing to hear.

Boston was another Sofar show, so my expectations for the lighting were extremely low. It was a pleasant surprise then, to see a population of small stage lights and Christmas lights. It made the shoot very doable, and I was actually able to get a lot edited before we even left the venue.

If NYC night #2 was the best show of the tour, Boston was the best Sofar show… so far (don’t worry, I hate myself too). TNS went first, which we’ve grown to enjoy—or at least I do. We have more opportunities to sell merch, more time to load out (so we can leave earlier), and less stress in general.

The guys described it as “clicking”—after weeks and weeks of rehearsals and a few shows on the road the past few days, their dynamic and process are a finely tuned machine. This isn’t to say they were a hot mess before, but it really seems like things are kind of at that next level in terms of performance energy.

I was able to shoot for some of the other bands at the show, and they all seemed to like what I came up with. Sofar really does bring some of the best underground music out.

We made some great connections with fans and industry professionals alike, both of which are almost equally important at this point in the band’s career. We also did really well in merch sales, which is a huge relief for them. We use merch cash for tolls and restaurants that don’t accept cards, so not having cash is a real problem. 

Rather than staying in Boston, we went to stay with a friend of JTD’s in Portland. Unfortunately, when we left on the way to Maine, I had an ovarian cyst rupture in the car. I’m feeling much better this morning, but I was in quite a bit of pain that night. The guys pulled over and got me some Aleeve at a gas station, and that’s been helping. I’m going to be just fine (this has happened a few times before), but it really wasn’t on my agenda for the day.

I feel like I can’t express enough how nice everyone is. A few people have asked me if it’s hard to be on the road with so many guys for so long, but it really isn’t. We got past the dynamic of a-girl-traveling-with-four-guys-let’s-all-be-super-polite and moved into a more comfortable almost family-like dynamic within like the first two days. It really feels like I have four more big brothers than anything else.

I’m excited for Maine—I’ve heard so many great things about it. Hopefully we’ll be able to do some cute promos before we have to load in for the night. You’ll want to stay tuned– we’re in JTD’s home turf, so this could get interesting. 

Tour Blog #6: NYC (still)

I’m not sure what kind of alternate universe I’ve stumbled into where sleeping until 10 a.m. is considered sleeping in, but I was thankful for the extra hour and a half during our second day in NYC nonetheless. More than that, I was thankful to find my daisy hat tucked in my backpack. For those of you who may not know, I’ve worn that hat to almost every concert I’ve shot for the last two years. I’ve forgotten it for only two or three shows, and those photos have turned out terribly. I’m very superstitious about it, so I was not coping well with not having it. But I’m saying it’s not a coincidence that my photos turned out better after I found it.

My phone charger is still gone though. Like that’s just gone.

We went to Brooklyn Bridge Park to take some photos and look around, which was absolutely beautiful. We also took that opportunity to film an unplugged session of a music video, which will probably be posted soon. 

The guys also indulged me in driving around for a bit so I could see the Statue of Liberty. We couldn’t find parking, but we circled the block like twice, so it was basically the same thing. I’m a big fan of the city. I think there’s something calming in knowing you’re surrounded by people who, for the most part, also love the city. You already have at least one thing in common with every single person around you.

We had another rare opportunity for free time, so naturally, we watched Netflix for like two hours. I also took some of the time to edit the unplugged video, which is coming along swell.

We’re gradually getting faster and faster at loading in and out (the setup is different for each tour as the gear changes), so the shows are gradually becoming less stressful.

There were two openers and one band after TNS, and all of them were superbly talented. These guys just don’t ever play with bad bands. Olivia Castriota, Leah Rich, and Evan Nachimson all killed the game. It’s always a pleasure to work with people who have truly mastered their craft, and they were all incredibly kind. I got to talk about myself for like, a collective hour, which is basically my favorite pastime. 

 

I sincerely believe the second night of NYC has been the best of this tour, and it seems like the guys agree. My theory is that because we had two Sofar shows in a row (which are acoustic and generally calmer), the band had a lot of pent-up performance energy that they just let loose at the Bowery Electric. The room wasn’t all that full—honestly about the same headcount as Richmond—but everyone was incredibly engaged, which is really the best measure of success. The band earned high praises from the staff, which is exceedingly important in the process of booking future tours. All around, day #2 was a huge success.

The show was a breath of fresh air after two less-than-successful shoots in a row. I was worried about the amount of red light, which is notoriously difficult to shoot, but it turned out to be a very doable mix of magenta, purple, and red that created that color. I’m very happy with how the shots turned out.

Everyone loaded out and left in a great mood, and we went to a fairly famous Greek place for a late dinner. Filled with good food and having satisfied our quota for making fun of Michael’s eating habits, we headed back to our dwelling places and passed out.

It’s hard to explain why I love concert photography so much more than other types. Obviously, yes, it’s cool to get into shows for free and to be that close to my favorite artists, but my love runs deeper than that. I thought it was because I’m able to be more creative and play with the visual experience of the lights, motion, and pretty faces, but I realized last night that it’s because I have the opportunity to collaborate with other artists. Whether or not I’m successful, I try my best to adapt the feel of the music I’m shooting into the aesthetic of the photos to better match what the band is trying to advertise. This pushes my abilities as an artist, which is so important to growing as a creator and as a person. Working with such talented artists—even though they work with a COMPLETELY different medium—drives me to become better myself. I love what I do, really and truly.

I’m sad to leave NYC, but I have the whole rest of the tour to explore new places and meet new people. We’re off to Boston tomorrow, hopefully the good weather follows us!

Tour Blog #5: NYC

We awoke at the Weinstein’s to bagels and brownies, and I was such a fan. Again, I wish I could’ve spent more time with them, but we pretty much left Philly as soon as we ate. It was about a two-and-a-half-hour drive to New York City, so we wanted to leave early to see the city before we had to load in to the venue. 

 This was my first time in New York City, so I geeked out quite a bit as we city came into view. Cory turned on “Welcome to New York” by Taylor Swift, and as cheesy as it was, it definitely fit my mood. I’m not sure I could see myself living here because of the weather, but New York is super cool. I like the way something is always going on, whether it’s art, music, or a man peeing right on the street. 

 We grabbed street pizza (surprisingly good) and took some promo shots around the city, which was a cool way to explore. Because we’re spending two days in New York, we unpacked our overnight bags into the apartment we’re staying in, which was truly a beautiful feeling. This optimism prepared me for the next hour of crushing defeat. 

Ever since the band picked me up, Cory has been talking nonstop about a dessert place called DŌ. The band saw a video about it on Facebook awhile back, and it’s basically like an ice cream shop, but with cookie dough instead. They have a ton of different flavors, and they scoop it out into cones or bowls, or make it into sundaes. The apartment is fairly close to it, so we decided to brave the cold. JT, Shanan, and Michael all bailed after the found out the line was about an hour long, but Cory and I stuck it out. Outside. In the cold. For 50 minutes. I couldn’t actually feel my feet by the end of it, but it was still 100% worth it. Cory reports that he has fulfilled his purpose in life and can pretty much do whatever he wants now. 

 We then went back to the apartment and watched a Netflix special, although I ended up taking a nap. This was a strange moment of free time that we really don’t get a lot of. 

This first day in NYC was another Sofar show (check out my other blog posts if you don’t know what this means). Unfortunately, my photos didn’t turn out very well. I was basically completely unable to move from my spot selling merch because the room was so crowded, and the lights were super dim. I’m lucky to be with a band that’s so understanding—I could easily see that it would be frustrating for your PHOTOGRAPHER to not get good PHOTOS. I do think, however, I likely got some good video for the documentary/music videos.

 Shanan and Michael stayed at Shanan’s aunt’s for the night, so we dropped them off and grabbed some food before heading back to the apartment to crash. 

 It’s such a rush to see New York City, but even more than that, it’s a rush to know that I brought myself here. Obviously not literally, I haven’t even driven the van, but in a big-picture sense. A ton of my friends have been to NYC on vacations or with friends or family (and there’s nothing wrong with that), but to be taken to this place I’ve always wanted to go on business at 18 years old is an amazing feeling. I’m reminded of how lucky I am to be able to follow my dreams every time I look out the window. 

 This isn’t to say I haven’t taken my fair share of L’s. Right now I’m standing at a cracked lens filter, missing phone charger, and missing daisy hat. And if I don’t find that hat by the end of tour, there will be hell to pay. 

 I truly couldn’t think of a better way to spend my spring break other than, again, maybe a west coast tour. I’m out here living (and freezing)—stay tuned for more!

    Tour Blog #4: Philadelphia, PA

    Host families are already going above and beyond by providing a place for us to crash, so you can imagine how surprised we were to see a breakfast buffet lined up before us when we woke up at Whitney’s in Richmond. Personally, I can’t think of a better way to wake up than in front of fresh fruit and breakfast tacos. It certainly put springs in our steps as we loaded up the van and headed out to Philly. 

     I don’t know if anyone is aware, but Philly is actually very, very cold. I’ve converted from my leather jacket to my winter coat, and I don’t think I’ve taken it off. I’m already dreading Canada. 

     We began the three-hour trek to the city of brotherly love, planning our quest for the best Philly cheese steaks. From what I heard, they were pretty bomb, but it was so cold outside that we all scarfed down our food and high-tailed it back to the van. 

     We had about two hours before the show, so I started harping on the guys about getting the interviews for the documentary done—we were three days behind at that point. Unable to find a location that was quiet enough, we decided to do them in the van. Hopefully we’ll be able to do them in more attractive locations in the future, but I kind of like the scruffiness. The guys gave me great answers that really give insight to everything that had happened before I got there. I’m just hoping I have enough b-roll to go under all the audio! 

    Philadelphia was our first Sofar show. For those of you that may not know, Sofar is an organization that puts on intimate concerts for small but superbly talented bands. Attendees have to apply to be able to get tickets. They then receive the locations and dates/times of the shows, but sometimes aren’t even told who’s playing until they get there. It’s a really cool way to discover new music, so TNS value it very highly. Attendees usually sit on the floor, bring their own booze, and come ready to hear the stories behind the music. 

     This show was particularly difficult to shoot, because there wasn’t really a good place for me to stand. The light, while on the bright side to the naked eye, was not very intense. I ended up running halfway up the stairs and dangling my camera over the crowd to get some. The set was also only four to five songs, so I didn’t have much time to shoot. I do feel better prepared than last night moving forward, though. We have another Sofar in New York City tomorrow, so hopefully I’ll be able to get better content. 

     We then loaded up and went to the Weinstein’s. Their son, Will, has been one of my closest friends since I came to college. He often writes reviews for shows I shoot, and we co-deejay a radio show together every week. I mentioned to him that I was going to Philly, and his family graciously offered to host us for the night. I wish we’d had more time to visit with them, but we all passed out very quickly. 

     I’m starting to settle into the routine, but not necessarily in a bad way. It’s the same basic steps—load out, set up, sound check, play, shoot, merch, load in, edit, bed, wake up, load in, drive, load out, etc. etc., but each city is a new experience in some ways. It’s probably monotonous for the guys because they’ve done it so many times and they’ve been to most of these cities, but it’s really a new adventure for me every day. I wish I could spend more time in each city, but that’s just not how it works out, unfortunately. 

     Also, tour ate my phone charger. It’s not really relevant but I’m pretty sad about it. 

    I’m really looking forward to NYC tomorrow, it’ll be my first time in the city and we’ll be there for two days. Hopefully we’ll be able to get some cool promo shots and such around the city. Until next time, cheers!

    Tour Blog #3: Richmond, VA

    In case anyone was wondering, my Arizona-acclimated body did, indeed, freeze in Richmond. I think I’ve brought up the validity of a winter west coast tour at least three times daily. 

    I got great sleep at my cousin’s, so I was fairly alert when we began the nearly seven-hour trek to Richmond. If you weren’t aware, I’m not exactly a morning person, so these 8 a.m. alarms are really not doing me any favors, but I’m coping—mostly with naps. I am, however, glad that my parents took me on so many road trips as a child. Yesterday was our longest drive time, and it really didn’t bother me. 

    The trip was great, and I’m starting to get to know the guys a little better. We’d met back in July when I played a show with Shiny Penny, but that was my first time meeting SP, so I was definitely focused on getting acquainted with them. It’s amazing what spending 10+ hours in a van with the same people will do to your process of getting to know each other. My first impression was certainly not wrong; the guys are super nice and passionate about what they do. I think I can adequately give a general picture of what goes on in a tour van at this point:

    -       Napping

    -       Playing games we’ve found in the van (decades catchphrase, anyone?)

    -       Planning sets and details of shows for the night

    -       Business discussions

    -       Playing deejay 

    -       General work things—finishing promotional materials, managing social media, sending emails, scheduling, etc.

    It’s not as interesting as one would think. No animal sacrifices, no wild parties. It’s like a family road trip, but with people you elect to be around and surprisingly, with less singing than the movies. 

    We were stuck in traffic for a bit, so when we got to the venue, we assembled everything quickly. I’m slowly getting better at merch, in case anyone was interested. Cory made fun of my Tinder app when he had to get in my phone to use the Square app, and it was the first time I’ve told anyone in the band to fight me. So I’m glad we got that out of the way.

    We had an opener by the name of The Tide Rose, a duo from the area. The vocalist, Whitney, was our host for the night, so I’m glad I got to shoot their set a little.

    The room was definitely not as full as the band would’ve liked, but the guys took it gracefully and played like it was at capacity. I knew they were nervous after a less-than-ideal sound check, but you certainly couldn’t tell from their performance. 

    If you’ve ever had a doubt about true love existing, go to a New Schematics show and listen to Cory talk about his fiancé. His expression when he talks about her saying yes to his proposal on NYE is that of a kid on Christmas.

    I was super worried about the lights when we got there. There were basically eight small, pastel colored lights from the ceiling, which was just not going to be enough. The house, however, was filled with overhead fans with lights. I chatted up the bartenders and asked what their plans for the house lights were, and they offered to keep them on for me. They ended up dimming the ones in the back, but that didn’t really affect me. I was able to get some really good content, despite my concerns. That’s one of the benefits of small places like that—they’re sometimes allowed and willing to work with photographers. They don’t always do it, but every once in awhile, you can kindly ask.

    We loaded out, which is something I’m entirely useless at because I don’t know what 80% of the gear is. Maybe I’ll get there by the end. 

    We then stopped at a cute little burger place and headed to Whitney’s to crash. I’m pretty sure everyone was in bed less than ten minutes after we got there. 

    The guys are great about making me feel like I’m at home with them. I’ve never been to 2/3 of the cities we’ve been to so far, and I think I’d feel alienated if I were with a less swell group of people. 

    I really am loving every minute of this. My cheeks currently hurt from laughing and smiling so much. The documentary is going great, and so is everything else, honestly.

    We’re off to Philly now, wish me luck!

    Your Year Tour Blog #2: Nashville/Maryville

    After leaving the Phoenix airport just after the ass crack of dawn, my version of the Your Year Tour kicked off in Nashville, TN. And by that, I mean I was picked up at the airport, we loaded the van, and we headed out to Maryville, TN. 

    Because I was absolutely exhausted and took a two hour nap, I really can’t tell you what goes on in a tour van yet. I can tell you that all the guys in The New Schematics are sweethearts and let me have the bench to myself so I could stretch out. Much love for naps.

    We also negotiated what my limits are in terms of shooting, and I was excited to see that they were all comfortable with all my proposals. Shows in bars or other small venues can be really hard to shoot, so having freedom to use flash or shoot from the stage is a really great safety net when I can’t get good shots with traditional methods. 

    We got to the venue, and I was instantly brought up to speed on what they meant when they explained that this was hardly a bells-and-whistles tour. There wasn’t much in the way of accommodations, other than the barrel the guys laid their clothes on that we lovingly dubbed “the green room.” While it would certainly make things easier to live in the lap of luxury, it reminds me of how I started shooting shows. My first few (with the exception of one or two) were in really difficult venues with really difficult bands and really difficult lighting. Did it create my best work? Not at all. But when I started shooting shows that were better from a production standpoint, they were 100x easier because I was accustomed to shooting in pitch black rooms. Hopefully, roughing it on couches and such will better prepare me for larger-scale tours. Or, I can at least tell myself that when I’m running on four hours of sleep.

    I was pleasantly surprised with the lighting in our first venue. Smaller places like that are often severely lacking in light, but there were even a few times at Barley’s Taproom when the lighting was actually ideal. You can tell from some of them that the reds were slightly problematic, but again, that will likely only make me better (or drive me to insanity—we’ll see how I’m feeling on day 10). 

    Something that struck me was how much people genuinely love this band. This isn’t to say I don’t enjoy their music, but I was first acquainted with the guys as business contacts, so my relationship is a little different. But while I was shooting, I would occasionally hear a fan exclaim when the band started one of their favorite songs, or talk excitedly about how they wanted to get their albums signed. It reminded me so much of that time period before I started working in the industry. I would go to concerts where I would wait for my favorite songs and get my album signed, and I would look at the roadies, photographers, and crew in jealousy. It was a weird moment to realize I’m now the person I envied two years ago. 

    Beyond the super fans and even people who had heard TNS before they came, people who had clearly just shown up were engaged the second they got there. All the applause was genuine, the album sales eagerly anticipated, and the kind words said with sincerity. 

    Today should be quite a bit different. I stayed at my cousin’s house last night, so this will be my first night with the band. Hopefully for their sake, I’ve outgrown my horrendous snoring (joking) (mostly).

    I’m filled with an overwhelming sense of belonging while I’m out here. I’m currently grappling with the question of whether “your place” can be not a place, but rather a journey. It’s rather philosophical for noon, but again, we’ll see how I’m feeling in Cleveland. 

    Nothing too eventful has happened in the past 24 hours, although we did see a grown man walking around with a giant teddy bear. I honestly hope the rest of the trip continues to be uneventful, for sanity’s sake. I’m feeling blessed for my ability to sleep in strange places, and my borderline nocturnal schedule. They’re coming in quite handy.

    Hopefully my Arizona-acclimated body doesn’t freeze in Richmond. Until next time!