Warped Tour Blog #9: Final Days and Final Thoughts Because I'm Tired

I’m proud of myself for making it through this tour.

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And I’m allowed to say that. I spoke a lot about humility in my last post, but I don’t like how our current culture has made “humble-bragging” a thing. I think if you’re proud of something, you should just say that. This tour was rough, and I almost tapped out several times. 

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While I do feel bad I promised you all two more blogs and will only be delivering one, I’m not going to apologize for the delay this time. I wanted some time to meditate on some things, but I’ll get into those things later. For now, we’ll go back to how amazed I am that I actually finished this damn tour.

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It can be easy to forget how inexperienced I am—this is my fourth tour ever, and my longest one before this was only three weeks long. So the stretch with no breaks was the same length as my longest tour. I’m 20 years old, I’m just a fucking kid. As much as I don’t think my age should prevent me from getting jobs, I haven’t experienced much of the world yet, and I had a harder time getting through this than people who were older than me. 

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We trudged through the last few days of the stretch, then had a day off in Atlanta, which we spent driving to Jacksonville. We got our first hotel of the tour—a term I use loosely as there was someone smoking crack in the stairwell and we parked with our trailer up against the nearest building to make the door inaccessible. Ah, Florida.

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The Jacksonville show actually got rained out completely (rather than evacuated for a few hours like the other shows), but none of us were that bummed. It was a really small show. The rest of the Florida dates are a bit of a blur, as it was so hot that I didn’t feel all that mentally present. The last day was really the only day I felt sad that that tour was ending, and I cried all day. I should be clear: I’m not all that sad the tour is over, I just miss my friends and crew dearly. I don’t think I could have done another week, as I’m just entirely burned out now. 

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I don’t want to come across as complaining, but part of the reason I write these is to portray what touring is actually like. I’m sure you guys just want to read stories about partying with rock stars, but that’s not my life. I’m fucking tired. I’m beyond tired. I’m feeling a kind of tired that reaches my bones and seems to have snapped something in my brain that makes me behave in a way I don’t like. Physically, I’m sore all the time. Tour has messed up my sleep schedule to the point where I can’t fall asleep before midnight or stay asleep past 8am, even though I have the time and desire to sleep much longer so I can recuperate. My wisdom teeth decided to come in during the last few days of tour (because why wouldn’t they?), and I feel like I’m constantly clenching my teeth, so my jaw and head hurt frequently. Mentally, I feel a little like a zombie, like I’m watching my life on a movie screen. I’ve been making spelling mistakes in my writing and my mom commented on my grammar when I speak because I don’t have the mental energy to police myself. I curse a lot more because I don’t have the energy to put into filtering my words. I’ve been getting irritated with people I would normally brush off or even feel compassionate toward, and I don’t display my usual friendliness toward strangers. I don’t respond well to being touched. And I don’t like this. It’s not how I want to behave or think. I’m hoping once I finish my move and get back to my normal schedule, I’ll get out of this funk. Because it sucks.

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I don’t feel any shame in admitting I wasn’t ready for this tour. I survived, and I made the best of it, but I wasn’t ready. That’s okay. Again, I’m just a kid. This tour kicked the ass of veterans, and I’m damn proud of myself for finishing it out.

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 Simple Plan

Simple Plan

And this isn’t at all to say I’m ungrateful for the opportunity, or that I don’t know I’m extremely lucky to have done it. I’m just tired. This is the hardest thing I’ve ever done and I don’t feel bad about speaking out about the things it’s done to my body and mind. 

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 Tonight Alive-- I've been wanting to see these guys since I was 12, so being on tour with them was very cool

Tonight Alive-- I've been wanting to see these guys since I was 12, so being on tour with them was very cool

Unfortunately, however, some people interpret speaking out about being tired or having mental health issues as a sign of unworthiness or ungratefulness. I don’t want to spin the whole saga or comment too heavily on it because the people involved have reconciled their differences, but there was some beef between two band members because one chose to speak out about mental health issues, and the other made unnecessary and damaging comments on Twitter. And while that was stressful for the Warped staff, I think it will prove to be an incredibly interesting facet to my thesis project (ICYMI: I’m also doing my thesis on the road about mental health among touring musicians and professionals, specifically looking at stigma and the way it’s discussed). To actually have an instance of someone being shamed for speaking out in writing is something I didn’t expect but am extremely excited to delve into.

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 As It Is

As It Is

I’m excited in general for my thesis. I meant to write more while I was in Florida, but wasn’t able to devote the time to it I think it deserves. I feel like I have a lot to say that I haven’t managed to put into words yet, but it’s definitely there.

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 The Maine

The Maine

Because touring is hard, and Warped tour is a tour on steroids that’s been thrown into a vat of toxic waste. Warped tour was the perfect tour to do this thesis on, purely because it’s so difficult and draining. The 20 day stretch followed by a not-so-relaxing day off then spending time outside in Florida has me stretched really thin—to the point where I’m behind on both thesis and Warped work. Things like showers and good nights of sleep that should leave me feeling like a new woman barely put a pep in my step. I miss my roommate and my boyfriend. I miss sleeping past 8am and good lord do I miss Chipotle.

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 Don Broco-- those thighs are a mood

Don Broco-- those thighs are a mood

Now  that I’ve sufficiently bitched, I should mention that there were some absolutely wonderful people and moments on Warped. To name a few so I don’t forget them as my memory fades (in no particular order): The Story Untold crew, of course, my OG van squad, Rocky, Cam, Alex, Jason, Michelle, Sophee, Chris, Carlos, London, Jessica, Lauren & Keith, Amber & Natalie, the Doll Skin crew, the Sharptooth crew, the Trashboat crew, the Dead Girls Academy crew, the As It Is crew, the With Confidence crew, the Sleep on It and Capstan crews, the Assuming We Survive crew, and dozens of others I’m forgetting (if you’re like, “hmm, I feel like I should be on that list, you’re on that list in my heart, my brain is just in a microwave.) 

 This is Rocky, I love her dearly

This is Rocky, I love her dearly

 This is Cam, I can't wait to see him again

This is Cam, I can't wait to see him again

Of course, I can't speak highly enough of my crew. Dakota was my buddy even when I wasn't a part of the Story Untold crew, and helped me navigate the tour without me even asking. Rather than keeping his tour managing secrets secrets, he shared with me and offered to help me out as a resource if (when, in his words) I'm given the opportunity to TM. The SU boys treated me like family, and I can't picture how my summer would've looked if they hadn't rescued my stranded ass. They're generous, hardworking, resilient, and treated me with nothing but respect and kindness. Don't get me wrong-- living in a van with a bunch of dudes who speak English as a second language is no walk in the park, but I can't think of a better group of people to take a lap with. I sincerely look forward to working with them again.

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I’d also like to extend a huge thank you to everyone who stopped by to say hi and/or complement my work—some days were really rough, and interactions like that meant the world. A ton of friends also offered to bring me things, which also helped me out a ton. This tour in particular didn’t lend a lot of time for shopping excursions, so getting things like baby wipes and Orajel would’ve proved to be much more difficult without your help.

 This is my friend Amber, her work is really important!

This is my friend Amber, her work is really important!

 This is my pal Alex, I'm so glad I got to meet & hang with him

This is my pal Alex, I'm so glad I got to meet & hang with him

I also have to shout out my parents, who offered just about any type of support you could imagine. It was such a good feeling to know that no matter what happened, I would have them to fall back on. My boyfriend and other friends listened to me bitch and moan over the past two months, offering advice or just someone to lean on. My roommate, an absolute goddamn super hero, also moved all of my stuff from our apartment into a storage locker while we waited for our new apartment to be ready. She just put out a super rad new video project y’all need to check out—go follow @aloevinemedia on Insta. I’m surrounded with the most incredible, thoughtful, selfless circle of friends and family, and none of this would be possible without them.

 Hi, mom!

Hi, mom!

 This is Jessica, she's a straight up badass and I'm glad I got to search for outlets with her all summer

This is Jessica, she's a straight up badass and I'm glad I got to search for outlets with her all summer

I’m walking out of this tour with an amazing new group of friends, an absolutely insane line on my resume, several new favorite bands, a ton of free shit from vendors, phenomenal business connections, a new appreciation for bathroom counters (this was really major for me, okay guys?), some great work to put into my portfolio, and thousands of memories. I’m leaving this tour a profoundly different person, which I don’t consider to be a bad thing—assuming my crankiness fades soon. 

 This is Rocky-- if you're looking for an organizational system to these photos, there really isn't one

This is Rocky-- if you're looking for an organizational system to these photos, there really isn't one

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If you’ve enjoyed my writing, please keep up with my socials, as I’ll be producing a photo book from the tour that focuses on mental health among touring professionals and musicians. Part of the profits will be donated to mental health research/advocacy, and I’m very excited to get to work on it and unpack the awesome interviews I snagged on tour. 

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Thank you for the most intense summer of my life, to both readers and Warped Tour, I won’t be forgetting it soon. I don't want to remember this tour with rose-tinted glasses, but rather as the sweaty, messy, dirty, beautiful blur. I hope I've told my story warmly and honestly. I’m not sure what’s next on my horizon, but I’d love for you to stay tuned. Long live punk rock and goodnight.

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Warped Tour Blog #8: Oh God I'm Sorry I'm Late I'm Not Dead

Wow—huge, huge apology on the delay of this blog. I warned you guys it may be irregular posing during the 20 day stretch, but I didn’t think it would be this bad!

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The issue certainly wasn’t that nothing eventful has happened. Let me attempt to give you a run-down of the last 10 days, although I’m sure I’ll forget quite a few things.

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Alt Press followed me on Instagram, I dyed my hair in a green room (shout out to Paul Mitchell for saving me!), and my pants ripped completely up the side. I went to a water park, I went to an amusement park, and I did my work for a day in a bathroom so I could siphon power. I asked Cam to prom, Dakota asked Rocky to prom, and we witnessed an actual proposal during With Confidence. I visited home, I saw my boyfriend, parents, and other friends from home, and I went four days without a shower (ew is right). I went in my first mosh pit, I cracked my phone (yes, those two are related), and I cried into a plate of mashed potatoes (not related). I got caught in a torrential downpour, I had a tweet go viral, and I got a tattoo. I got to shoot in the pretty yellow lights, I saw a really cute bird, and I went to Warped prom in my old homecoming dress. I ruptured an ovarian cyst (again), I lost my phone charger, and I yelled at a security guard for being sexist.

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 Dakota's prom-posal involved popsicles and flowers from the Chase Atlantic tent

Dakota's prom-posal involved popsicles and flowers from the Chase Atlantic tent

While I’d like to think that’s everything, it isn’t.

I do apologize for being absent for so long! If I haven’t complained enough, finding power and wifi is extremely difficult out here, and truthfully, I’ve been having so much fun that it’s hard for me to take an hour out of my day to write. If you’re really missing my snark in your life, my Twitter is a way better way to keep up with my stream of consciousness.

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Speaking of social media, I’ve been receiving an outpouring of support for my work, which is so overwhelmingly kind and helpful as I trudge through my day on the tough ones. It’s put the concept of humility on my mind lately, as it’s something I struggle with. 

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It’s been difficult to grasp that I actually deserve to be here—my gut reaction is to chalk it up to luck or knowing the right people, which is indeed a huge factor. I’m shooting with people like Ryan Wantanabe, Ellie Mitchell, Chris Blockd, and Jar, and it’s so easy to compare my work to theirs and feel inadequate. I’ve really been grappling with the notion that My Work is Good and People Like It. 

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It’s certainly getting better, but of course I’m not all the way there yet. I’ve had several people tell me that I’m the reason they picked up photography again or that they want to be just like me, and that’s a hugely gratifying feeling as I was in that exact same position just three years ago. Even saying I inspire people seems so pretentious to me, but I’m so glad I’m able to do that (or something like that) for people because I don’t know where I’d be if someone hadn’t done it for me.

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And for those people, I’ll leave you with two pieces of advice. The first is from Anna Lee, who said making it is 50% craft, 50% connections. The second is from me, who says work hard and be kind.

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On the topic of kindness, I feel it’s necessary to once again shout out my boys. I was basically the World’s Worst Employee for several days as I visited family and ran a thousand errands, but they not only covered for me but encouraged me to ditch them and/or take time for myself. That’s what a crew does—they cover for each other and pick up the slack when they need to. I’m incredibly lucky that these guys snagged me, or else I’d be sitting at home.

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 I really never thought I'd have a photo of Josh from With Confidence on a moose in my possession-- is this the peak of my career?

I really never thought I'd have a photo of Josh from With Confidence on a moose in my possession-- is this the peak of my career?

I do try to take a few minutes every day to just feel profoundly grateful that I’m here. I recognize that my presence here means that another creative was excluded, and every time I’m feeling tired because I slept in a van, or upset that I haven’t showered, or miserable because I ruptured a cyst while shooting, I try to put the fact that people would kill to be where I am into perspective. I definitely allow myself to feel tired, upset, and miserable, but it’s important to me that I don’t take this experience for granted.

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And with that, I believe it’s time for me to get back to the experience! I’m hoping to crank out two more blogs in the remaining week, but I’ll need you all to hold me to that. Yell at me on Twitter, and stay tuned!

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 Look mom, I made friends at summer camp!

Look mom, I made friends at summer camp!

Warped Tour Blog #7: Consistency is Both Vital and Nonexistent

I keep thinking that I’ll run out of eventful things to talk about in these blogs, but I absolutely haven’t. I haven’t really had a period of time where things were super stable, and while that sounds overwhelming, I’m centered by my daily routine—it keeps me sane. And I’ve promised I’d take you all through it, so here goes!

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Depending on how long our drive was the night before, we either wake up on the sofas of friends of the band/crew, or in the van. We then either get ready at the house or in and outside of the van (I frequently brush my teeth in parking lots—in fact, I can’t recall the last time I brushed them in a sink), which usually involves getting changed in the van. This is one of the times where the disparity between male and female experience makes itself more clear. The guys will just strip in the middle of the parking lot, whereas I have to shut myself in the van and give the bird to anyone who tries to look in the windows.

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Next, we setup merch, which we’re pretty efficient at. I appreciate that the guys let me help, as it would’ve been really strange for me to transition from doing a ton of work every day to just sitting back and chilling. I’m frequently in the way, but I at least get to keep the illusion of productivity to make my brain happy.

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Once merch is ready and breakfast is eaten, doors open, and the routine switches up a little. We play at different times every day, so the time I spend shooting is kind of up in the air. When I’m not shooting, however, I usually run into production for a few hours to charge my gear, edit, and of course, write these tour blogs. Wifi, power, and AC are commodities that are hard to find but essential for me to get my job done, so I frequently disappear to take advantage of them. Snacks are also essential, but that’s less important to the story.

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After I accomplish some combination of food, shooting, editing, working merch, and hiding in the AC, my day is winding down. I unfortunately don’t get to watch a ton of bands every day, but I make it a point to watch at least one new band a day—plus Don Broco every day, of course. 

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At the end of the night, we very occasionally go to a barbecue, but we usually leave the venue as soon as we can. Because the boys are driving themselves, they want as much sleep as possible (and so do I), which leaves little time for partying. The guys rotate driving, and we end up at our hosts house sometime ungodly late at night. And, the cycle begins again.

 (Doll Skin got to play the main stage and that was very fricken cool)

(Doll Skin got to play the main stage and that was very fricken cool)

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The first few days after my last blog were rather uneventful, but our “relaxing day off” in New York turned out to be not-so-chill. Cameron (Doll Skin’s merch guy) and I both couldn’t go to Canada—he didn’t have a passport and I wasn’t put on a manifest in time—so we booked an Airbnb in Buffalo to spend the day there. Our morning was wonderful—we walked around to a little coffee shop, ate some poutine, and found a little walkway over water we sat at for awhile. Then when we returned home, a man walked past us as we were trying to do laundry, and the conversation went a little like this:

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Him: “Hi, are you guys friends with Elise?”

Us: “Oh, no, we’re her Airbnb guests!”

Him: “You’re her WHAT?”

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Turns out, our host had been listing her apartment without the landlord’s permission, and he was not happy about us being there. While he was initially trying to get us out immediately, he eventually allowed us to stay there until midnight, when our vans could come back to get us. We had to do our laundry at a laundromat, so while it definitely could’ve been worse, it was very stressful and not really what I wanted to deal with on my “day off.” Nevertheless, I was able to run a lot of errands and finish up a lot of things I was behind on.

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Warped is truly a roller coaster—from parking lot hangs to almost being homeless for a night, there’s no way to know what’s coming up around the corner. One of the few things keeping my feet on the ground has been the friends I’ve made along the way. Even if I only see them for a few minutes of the day, they’ve taken me under their wings and made me feel much more secure than I was at the beginning of tour.

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I’m not sure what I’ll cover in my next blog—especially because as illustrated above, I never know what’s about to happen! I guess you’ll just have to stay tuned.

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Warped Tour Blog #6: A Home Base and a Home

I’m not sure what kind of god I pleased to give us two beautiful days in a row, but maybe it’s the universe making up for damn near a whole week of rain.

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While the weather has been beautiful, my life has been a bit more tumultuous. You may know that I was working closely with Doll Skin’s merchandiser, Victoria, as almost a sort of assistant merch gal. While I can’t really go into what exactly happened, she’s no longer on the tour. I’m missing her really badly, as she was here for me since day one, and we grew really close. She was replaced with Cameron, who I wrote about in my previous blog, and while I miss her a ton, if I got to choose who filled in, it would be him.

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I also found out Rocky is coming back in just a few days, and I’m so excited!

Furthermore, many of you likely saw on social media that I’ll no longer be directly working with Doll Skin on this tour. The girls I spoke with agreed that it was the right move for me, and I hope to continue a positive relationship with them. All anyone needs to know is that I’m feeling a lot better in terms of my place on this tour, and I’m very excited to take on a larger role with the Story Untold boys.

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Speaking of which, I couldn’t be happier with these guys. They absolutely treat me like family, and they’re so appreciative of everything I do. Working your ass off for people who value you is so rewarding, and I honestly wish I could do more. But here’s the thing: I don’t have to. The guys load their gear and merch themselves, act as their own street team, cover for Dakota at merch, and still find time to check in on me. I have massive respect for them—there’s no room for ego out here, and they realize that the people who hustle the hardest will get the most out of this tour.

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I told you this blog would be a rundown of what I do on a daily basis, but within the last few days, that’s been changing a lot! I will say that the days are very repetitive in nature. Even if we play at different times every day, the tasks that need to be accomplished are basically the same. After this switch, I’ll have some more free time, so I want to get back in the swing of my interviews and thesis work.

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ICYMI: In addition to working warped, I’m also doing my thesis while on the road, with the topic being mental health among touring musicians and professionals. This is a really personal area for me, and the interviews I’ve been getting have been deeply personal and incredibly valuable. I’ve realized it’s a golden example of an ethnography—I’m reporting on these people, but I’m also one of them in every sense of the word.

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If any of my Warped friends (or people who know Warped staff) would like to get involved, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me! I’m especially interested in working with crew members like photographers, tour managers, merch slingers, etc., but I’m thrilled to speak with anyone.

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The first half of this tour was very stressful, and to tell the truth, I did want to leave. But now I feel incredibly inspired, and I feel as though I can channel my energy into my work rather than trying to just feel okay. I’ve fallen into a rhythm that allows me to be my best self, and I’m proud of the work I’m turning out.

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These blogs are a little bit like washing my hair on tour—I very rarely have time to take a long shower (sit down and write), but when I do, I’ve got to wash it (post it), even if it isn’t that dirty (I don’t have a lot to say). I promise next time, I’ll catalog my daily routine—so stay tuned!

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Warped Tour Blog #5: Guess What, I'm Not Leaving

So remember when I said I’d stop doing written blogs? Turns out I’m a big, fat liar. I finally feel like I’m in a better state, mentally, on this tour, and that’s because I’ve had some pretty big updates. Let me take you through them.

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I was really quiet about which dates I was sticking around for, simply because everything was super up in the air. The non-profit van I was traveling in had to drop off after Nashville, but I didn’t have a ton of material for my thesis, so I was trying to figure out where I could stay for at least another week. Then, when I was about to give up, I got a text that someone was looking for me at merch, and I was surprised to see my good pal Dakota, who’s tour managing Story Untold. 

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We’d spoken a few times, and I was planning on interviewing him for my thesis. We went on a “walk and talk,” and he explained that things weren’t working out with their current photographer, but he saw that I was out here hustling and wanted to be here, so they offered me the position.

 (Hi, Melanie)

(Hi, Melanie)

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Essentially, I’ll be part of their crew (including lodging), doing behind the scenes and show photos. But these dudes are so nice that they’re allowing me to continue the exact same relationship with Doll Skin. I’ll still be helping them out with merch and such, while shooting their set, of course. 

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It’s finally come time for me to bid my van adieu, and while I’m pretty pumped to not wake up in Walmart parking lots drenched in my own sweat, I’ll miss these friends I’ve made deeply. I see huge potential in all of them and can’t thank them enough for helping me out by adopting me into their crew. I was so deeply satisfied telling people I was riding with a group that was preventing skin cancer and helping the flint water crisis—their work is so important and I sincerely hope our paths cross again.

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The Story Untold boys picked me up in Nashville, and we stayed with an old friend of Dakota’s. I’ve only been with the guys for a few hours, but it feels like I’m back in the van with The New Schematics boys again. We’re crashing on couches and floors, but they watch movies and talk for hours and play pranks on each other. It feels like I’m in a family again, and they’ve already offered to beat up anyone I need beaten.

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Something that’s actually been fun to navigate so far is the language barrier. The guys are French Canadian, so English is their second language (although they speak it very fluently). When they converse with each other, they usually speak French, which I thought would bother me, but it really doesn’t. They’re incredibly good at switching back and forth, and I know that when they aren’t speaking English, I don’t really need to listen because they aren’t speaking to me. I also like to play a game where I listen for words or phrases that sound like English (even though they likely mean TOTALLY different things) and make up what I think they may be talking about.

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I feel like a weight has been lifted off my shoulders, truly. I’m finally in a routine and have been making friends, so I feel like I can really do this, even if it isn’t going to be easy.

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I do want to say a few words about my friend Rocky, who left after Texas, and Cameron, who may be leaving after Nashville. They’re both incredibly hard-working, generous, hilarious, charismatic people who have been pillars of strength for me throughout the tour. I can’t thank them enough for their kindness and for the laughs—it isn’t easy out here, and they remind me why I can handle this.

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This blog is a little short, as many of them likely will be due to my limited time to sit down and write. In my next blog, I’m planning on taking you through my daily routine, so stay tuned for that!

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Warped Tour Blog #4

Hi friends!

Due to some mental health issues I've been having over the past week or so, I've decided not to do written blogs for the remainder of the tour. It isn't fair that my own personal struggles be associated with Doll Skin, and I don't want what I say to influence the way you see them..

That being said, I've changed the nature of my thesis to examine the mental health of touring professionals and musicians, and this photo book will be available for sale with part of the proceeds going to mental health research/advocacy groups. If you're curious about what I and your favorite bands (and crew!) have to say about it, please stay tuned for that sale.

 

Warped Tour Blog #3: The Transformative Properties of Trauma

Note: I've heard that the Doll Skin team has received some hate via this blog. I realized I wrote the pervious version out of anger and the blog has been updated to reflect my calmer state of mind.

San Francisco was absolutely NOT colder, but hey, we survived. Day three was when I started to get back into my groove, photo-wise. If you’ve followed my blogs in the past, you know I don’t have a great track record with SF—you tend to get negative ideas about a city after you’ve been robbed there. While I certainly didn't have a great day there, I made it out with all my belongings!

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I'm still adjusting to being separated from the girls every night, but that evening, they gave me some suggestions about how to better spend my time throughout the day. I spent the first few days feeling like I was walking on eggshells, but now I feel like I have a clearer direction.

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 3OH!3

3OH!3

 

Financially, I'm still not totally sure if the whole tour is doable, so I spend most of the next day talking to friends and family to figure out my options. I'll be sure to keep you all posted!

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Senses Fail

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Senses Fail

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Senses Fail

 

It was also during this time that I found out one of my dear friends on the tour, Ally, was planning on going home after the last California date. She’s been dealing with some mental health issues (you can read more about it on her blog) and has the full support of her crew. It made me a little bit more comfortable with the idea of leaving early, as her prioritization of her wellbeing over a dream (that turned out to not be so dreamy) was inspiring. I’ll miss her dearly and wish her a speedy recovery. She’s a tough cookie—she’s totally got this.

 We'll miss you, Ally!

We'll miss you, Ally!

 

I realize that these tour blogs are often fun—running around with rock stars, traveling the world, etc., all seem pretty amazing on paper. But touring is fucking hard. Warped tour is a regular tour on steroids and not everyone can handle it. I have absolutely no shame in admitting that I’m having trouble dealing with it. This lifestyle isn’t roses and sunshine.

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Doll Skin's set time for the night was different and so was the light (my lighting situation is entirely dependent on the sun), and I walked away feeling excited about the photos. I should probably say “ran away,” because our set time overlapped with All Time Low’s by five minutes, and I was NOT missing another opportunity to shoot them. I sprinted over and only ended up missing one song. 

 All Time Low

All Time Low

 All Time Low

All Time Low

 All Time Low

All Time Low

 All Time Low

All Time Low

 

My photos are by no means spectacular for their set, but it meant the world to me that I was able to cover it. They were one of my favorite bands when I was in middle school, and I’ve been trying to shoot them since I started. When I stood there in a literal ocean of photographers and Alex Gaskarth looked dead at me, it was a huge moment for me. I cried again, but happy tears this time.

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I managed to snag a ride home to Phoenix with Sydney’s mom (shout out to Temre, my actual lord and savior), and was feeling a lot better. After crashing at their house for the rest of the night/early morning, Victoria and I headed back to my apartment for the beginning of three days off.

 

[Warning: graphic description]

 

After I got out of the shower, we started hearing noises coming from outside—I live in student apartments so hearing screaming isn’t all that unusual, but Victoria realized before I did that these were not partying screams. She ran outside and I followed, and we saw that there was a horrible car accident involving a toddler right outside my gate. It was at this time I found out Victoria is an EMT, and she took charge of the situation. She was incredible, instructing each person on what to do while I (and other neighbors) called 911. I don’t want to be too descriptive, but I did have to hold the phone to the little girl’s father’s ear while he answered the dispatcher’s questions, and that image is going to be in my head for a long time. 

 

Victoria is having a harder time with it than I am, which is totally understandable as she had much more contact with the scene while I did my best to comfort the girl’s mother. If you see her on the rest of the tour, make sure to give her a hug. We’ve spent most of the day refreshing news articles to find out her condition—all we know is that she’s been described as “extremely critical.”

 

Our hearts are absolutely broken for the family, and I’m so glad Victoria was here to stabilize her. She’s inspired me to take first aide classes when I return from tour so I can help if I ever end up in a similar situation again. 

 

I don’t intend to make this tragedy about me by any means, but this pain has helped to put things into perspective. I never really believed that things happen for a reason, but Victoria has a damn good point that she was in my apartment today because that little girl needed her to be there. And I’m here for a reason too. I may be feeling some discomfort, but ultimately I owe it to all the people who have been touched by Warped to tell this story.

I’m turning the hurt and trauma I’ve been through into something empowering because hey, that’s what women do.

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I can’t thank you all enough for the support and kind words that you’ve passed along my way throughout the past few days. Space is a weird thing to navigate, and it helps tremendously to know that I have so many of you lovely people here with me. Things aren’t exactly peachy right now, but I hope you’ll stay tuned.

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Warped Tour Blog #2: Production, Pomona, & San Diego

Summer has sprung and work has begun and I’m feeling alive! 

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The first unofficial day of Warped is called production day, where everyone meets and gets on the same page in terms of logistics, organization, rules, etc. That day also featured my favorite hobby of all: collecting free stuff from sponsors. If I’ve learned anything from my mother, it’s that you don’t pass up free things when they’re offered.

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I’ve made a ton of new friends (God, this sounds like I’m writing home from summer camp. Does that make all of you my new moms?), including people Doll Skin has worked with in the past, as well as some new friendly faces. Lauren from Sharptooth is an absolute delight, and Jar, a photographer on the tour, is a ton of fun.

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The non-profit I’m riding with didn’t go to production day, so I spent the night in Doll Skin’s bus. I ended up passing out at around 10:30—anyone who knows me knows that my usual time bedtime is around 2, so this was certainly different for me. I’m glad I “stocked up” on sleep, because it looks like our day will usually start around 7—again, very out of character for me.

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The first day was super wild, as we had our street team leaders from both the U.S. and the U.K. there, along with some other social media friends. It was so, so, so cool to see everyone come together and form a physical version of the amazing community Doll Skin has online. 

 Melanie, Chloe, & Aria

Melanie, Chloe, & Aria

 

I was finally able to hook up with my non-profit that day, and they’re just as kind and generous as I expected them to be. While I do miss the girls in the evening, it’s great to be surrounded by one wonderful group or the other every day. I’ve settled into my “bunk” well—I use the term “nesting” to describe it, which basically means piling all my belongings around me until there’s barely enough room for my body. It’s not a great habit when you’re in, say, an apartment, but on a month-and-a-half-long road trip, it can actually save a lot of time.

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The NPO and I were planning on dropping by the first-day barbecue, but we were told it really starts picking up around midnight, and we all agreed we were too tired to stick around. Instead, we dropped by In N Out and started the very short drive to San Diego.

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Day two involved what I call “growing pains,” and it’s inevitable on any tour. It’s the frustration, anxiety, and confusion that come with trying to establish a schedule, delegate tasks, and figure out your relationship with your crew. I try to keep these tour blogs honest, and truthfully, I’m feeling these growing pains more than I have on any other tour. Then again, this is a totally different ballgame than any other tour I’ve been on, so this isn’t surprising at all. On the bright side, I have a month and a half to get in the rhythm!

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I’ve been trying not to push myself too hard, so my goal every day is to shoot one or two other bands on the tour, not including Doll Skin. I also make it a priority to take at least an hour for myself to charge my electronics, keep up with my family and friends, and recharge myself. It means I probably won’t be able to cover everyone, but it also means I won’t work myself to the bone.

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The first day, I caught Don Broco, who I just got into recently. Their set was great, although it was unfortunately cut short so I only got to shoot for one song. On day two, I shot Sharptooth, which was a ton of fun. They’re super energetic, and their message is super powerful. I actually started tearing up when Lauren gave her speech. I work with women a lot, so to hear one say into a microphone in front of hundreds of people that she was raped was incredibly powerful. I found her vulnerability hugely inspiring.

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Obviously, Doll Skin has had amazing sets, although I feel like I don’t really need to say that. I think I’ve seen them perform somewhere around 20 times, and they never fail to make my jaw drop. It can be easy to lose perspective that I get to hang out with rock stars every day, but every time they step on stage, I’m incredibly humbled.

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Day three is supposed to be much cooler, and it’s a sold out show! I’m definitely excited to see what the rest of the tour holds—growing pains and all—so I hope you’ll stay tuned.  

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Warped Tour Blog #1: The Pro-Blogue

Hi! Welcome back to my favorite part of my site to update.

I’ve said I’ll keep up with blogs as much as I can on Warped, but I’m sure it’s evident that the tour can be kind of nuts. My plan is to do more photo-based blogs about twice a week with text describing the highlights.

But as we’ve clearly seen in the past month or so, things in my life have a tendency to veer off plan.

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If you haven’t been keeping up with my social media, I had a bit of a catastrophe recently. Doll Skin doesn’t have room for me on their tour bus, so I’d planned on renting a bunk from another band on the tour. About a month away from the tour, however, they had to drop out. This put me in a really tough spot, as most busses were finalized at that point and those that weren’t were asking for obscene amounts of money (naturally, this happened right after I upgraded quite a bit of gear). I was not doing well mentally as having the summer “off” gave me a lot of time to meditate on how this wasn’t going to work and how much this sucked and how terrible I felt.

And then something I hoped for but certainly didn’t expect happened. You all came out of the GD woodwork to help me. People sent me money for no reason, and bought stacks of coloring books and mystery packs, and ordered custom prints. Even if your contribution was just spreading the word of my shit predicament or sending kind words my way, I appreciate it from the bottom of my heart. I don’t deserve any of you.

Nicole S, our tour manager (as opposed to Nicole R, our bassist) knew some gals over at a nonprofit called Drop off Threads, and they offered me a spot in their van after hearing about what happened! Not only are they my salvation, they’re also some of the most generous people I’ve ever met. They had originally only signed up to set up booths during the first half of the tour, but decided they wanted to do the whole thing when I came into the picture. We’re still waiting to hear back from Warped officials on whether they can do the full run, but my contact has offered to stay on the full tour even if they have to work catering or can only set up their booth a few days a week. They’re wonderful people, and I owe them hugely. 

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Those are the major updates in my life! Since you last heard from me in March, all that’s really happened have been some cool gigs, finishing up my Sophomore year of college, and trying to get ready to move out of my apartment, which will happen while I’m on the road (shout out to my roommate for being a literal angel).

Now, I’m driving through the California desert, reflecting on the fact that I’ve made it here. I have a bit of a strange relationship with the tour—I always wanted to go as a kid, but was never allowed. I watched from afar, just feeling jealous and separated from the community. So it was huge for me to get approved to shoot the Indiana date back in 2016, and it’s impossible for me to believe that I’m really, truly on the tour now. Once it was announced that this was the last year for Warped, I kind of accepted the fact that I was likely never going to end up on the tour. Needless to say, I’m honored and SO PUMPED.

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Not only do I get to go on this incredible journey, I get to do it with some of the kindest, most hard-working people I’ve ever met. The Doll Skin girls are wonderful and we’ve actually spent time together in the time between tours, plus our TM is an actual superhero and our merch slinger is a veteran who has been showing us all the ropes.

I’ve never been in the van I’ll be living in for at least the next three weeks, but I already know it’ll feel like home. Touring always does. Prepping for the road is basically hyperventilating, but hitting it is like a deep, cleansing breath that purifies my soul. So far, I have three goals for this tour:

1.)  Smell good (last tour this was downgraded to “smell decent” so we’ll see on this one)

2.)  Be helpful/do my job

3.)  Make a ton of friends (hopefully the first two will help with this one)

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I hope these blogs make you feel more connected to me and the girls as we embark on this insane journey. It’s been so cool to hear about how much you all love these, and I hope they’ll be just as fun as the last ones! It’s still super wild to me that Doll Skin fans actually know who I am/care what I do.

We have some wild times coming up—trust me, you’ll want to stay tuned.

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Tour Blog #9: Travel Days and Final Reflections

As sad as it is to say, this is unfortunately my last blog for the Manic Pixie Dream Girl Tour. This tour was transformative, and it seems wrong somehow to try to sum it up in just a few hundred words. But that’s what writers do—we take things that were never supposed to be words, and try to make other people feel what we felt. I hope that’s what I’ve been able to do with these blogs.

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My last two days with the girls were travel days, so I’ll skip over the boring driving and get to the places we stayed, which were in a word… special.

We once again stayed in France, in an Airbnb this time. We got the place for a steal, and it soon became apparent why—the place was beautiful, but not-so-functional. It looked like a castle, with stone walls and winding staircases, but we quickly realized that ancient homes also have ancient features. Our very kind host explained to us that we were the first guests to stay there after the winter, and because there wasn’t a lot of notice, 48 hours wasn’t enough time to get the heaters to actually heat up the home. She also told us that sometimes, when it gets really cold, the power will go out, and told us how to turn it back on.

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What we weren’t expecting was the power to immediately go out as soon as we started trying to make dinner. Embarrassingly, it took us a few times of being plunged into darkness to realize that we were overloading the circuit by using the oven and microwave, which were plugged into the same outlet, simultaneously. So, we moved the microwave to the living room and finished making our frozen dinners.

In order to prevent more power-outages, we decided turning off the lights may prevent the overloading. We started by burning candles for light, and then our driver volunteered to make a fire for us. Even though everything we own now smells like wood smoke, the fire was lovely, and we drank our wine and spun our tales until late in the night.

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During this time, we also whipped out Nicole’s hand-fashioned tattoo gun, and Petr gave her a stick and poke tattoo on her ankle. Never being one to miss out on the fun, I also decided to get a tiny X on my ankle (sorry mom). I look at it now and it reminds me of the way my heart grew three times on that tour. But more on that later. Alex also got an ass tattoo.

After another long drive the next day, we had to take a ferry to London. We weren’t really sure what to expect, but the boat ended up being similar to a cruise ship, with a full food court, casino, and several lounges. Most of us ate dinner, but with the wind whipping, the ship ended up being quite bouncy. I spent most of the ride fighting a headache!

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Finally, we made it to shore, and embarked on our hour-long ride to the flat for the night. I certainly wish I could’ve had more time to explore London, but the pieces I got to see at night were gorgeous!

We actually stayed at a flat the leader of the U.K. street team booked for us, which was lovely. I’m so glad I got to meet Chloe—she’s an absolute sweetheart and has shown me and the girls nothing but support on this whole tour. She also did a very cool interview/carpool karaoke with the girls you should be looking out for!

 Prague, CZ

Prague, CZ

6am rolled around, and it was finally time for me to leave the girls. Chloe had explained to me how to use the train to get to the airport, but when I arrived at the train station, none of my credit cards worked, and I didn’t have any cash. I panicked and ran back to the flat, where Dora helped me decide that taking an Uber—even for $100—was the best course of action. This was unfortunate, but less problematic than missing my flight. Things like this are why I did the print sale! You never know what’s going to happen on the road.

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I made my flight, and I’d planned on spending my 19 hour layover in Toronto camped out at the airport, working. Unfortunately, I had to actually exit the airport, and I couldn’t check in until the day of my flight. I called my mom, stressed to the max over the prospect of being homeless for the night, and she saved my ass by booking me a hotel. I’m so, so thankful she did that, as I got to shower and de-stress until my early flight the next morning.

And now I write this on my couch, back home in Phoenix. My life is currently kicking my ass after I neglected it for three weeks, so I’m not sure I’ve had time to really reflect and absorb the fact that it’s really over.

 Somewhere in France

Somewhere in France

It really feels like I put my life on a literal pause. I didn’t stay in regular contact with many people in the states, and although I did some work and homework, my world was completely engulfed in the tour. It feels like an entirely separate and disconnected part of my life—which wasn’t necessarily a bad thing.

I wanted to feel present during this tour. I think I often got wrapped up in the day-to-day routine and didn’t spend enough time with my head up to fully enjoy the magnitude of where I was, but for the first time in probably 5 years, I actually chilled out. I let go of my need to know and control exactly what was going on all the time, and just went along for the ride. I hope when things slow down, I can get back to that version of me. She’s pretty cool.

 Switzerland 

Switzerland 

I started writing these tour blogs as a way to let my family know I wasn’t dead on tour. Then, I realized that not only people who care about my work were reading them—fans of the band were, too. I started putting more heart into them, and people really responded to it, especially on this tour. But these blogs are also sentimental for me. Sometimes I just read through them when I lose sight of where I’m going or want to remind myself why all the bad news pays off in the end.

  Parma, Italy


Parma, Italy

But I also just like the stories, both good and bad. I’ll remember the French sunsets and hearing “Happy Birthday” from 200 Italian strangers, but I’ll also remember trying to find a hotel at 5am and the airline losing guitars and cymbals. Just as memories of drinking margaritas in Spain will be accompanied by remembering the sneezing and sniffling all around, memories of the beauty of Prague are inseparable from the bitter cold. Tour is amazing, and it’s my favorite thing to do, but it isn’t just driving through the mountains and hanging out with rock stars.

 Somewhere else in France

Somewhere else in France

When life and tour do punch you in the gut, however, it makes a world of difference to be with the right people. I’ve found that touring with your peers is an entirely different experience. The girls are the sweetest, and they accepted me like family from the first day. We bonded over everything in the sun, and even when drama cropped up, their love for their jobs and each other always prevailed.

Meghan has been my personal champion and worked crazy hard to get me on this tour. She’s like a sweet, tiny teddy bear that will sometimes throw something entirely shocking into the conversation.

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Alex is so immensely talented that she constantly blows my mind. Every time I had the pleasure of seeing her play, my jaw dropped. She’s 100% the last person to stress out about any situation, and usually works to calm us the hell down.

 Milan, Italy

Milan, Italy

Sydney was the first to take me out of my comfort zone, which is so helpful for me, as I’m often stuck in my ways. It takes her about four seconds to open up to you, and her fun-loving personality is utterly contagious.

 Madrid, Spain

Madrid, Spain

Nicole made it her personal mission to make me feel welcome, and helped immensely in the planning to get me on Warped tour. She’s hilarious but organized, and stepped right into the role of TM seamlessly.

 Milan, Italy

Milan, Italy

Even before I left, I’d been struggling with the notion of what “home” means. All my bios on social media and my website say I’m “between Indy and Phoenix,” and I think that’s a fair way to put where I am mentally as well. Neither one of those places have struck me as home, but over the past year, I’ve found a place that does, and that’s tour. I wrote a letter to the girls before I left, and I wasn’t planning on revealing any of it, but I think it expresses what I mean:

 Stuttgart, Germany

Stuttgart, Germany

“To pull out a cliché, home is supposedly where the heart is. But just as a home can be a brick and mortar building, I also think home can be an idea, a person, a family—even a van. Whether that van is teal or gold, full of twenty something dudes or teenage girls, heading to Kansas City or London, or is actually an RV, I’ve been able to find a home there. More importantly, I’ve been able to find a family here. Thank you for supporting me, and thank you for being wonderful people. Thank you for accepting me. Thank you for taking me home.”

But I have some thank-you’s for you all as well.

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Děkuji to my threadbare suitcase for not bursting at the seams.

Danke to all the people in shops and venues who stayed patient with us, even though we didn’t speak your language.

Merci to our driver and our wonderful promoters, who helped us navigate and get the most out of each foreign land.

 Barcelona, Spain

Barcelona, Spain

Grazie to the fans and strangers who came out every night to fill tiny, sticky bars, and our tiny, punk-rock hearts.

Gracias to my friends and family, who helped me stay sane and financially stable throughout this whirlwind.

 Somewhere in Switzerland 

Somewhere in Switzerland 

Thank you, dear reader, for making this possible. It doesn’t make any sense for a band to bring a photographer with them if they don’t have fans to give the photos to. If you didn’t support the band, and didn’t support me, this couldn’t have happened. Thank you for buying prints, and reading all 11,000 words (yes, that’s right) of these blogs, and sending all your support, and being splendid human beings. I appreciate each and every one of you, even if I’m terrible at replying to your tweets.

 Parma, Italy

Parma, Italy

The hard part about leaving tours is when there’s nothing else planned—when I don’t know when I’ll have my butt in a van next. That isn’t the case here—I have so much to look forward to! While I’m so sad this tour has come to an end, I’m immensely excited about the incredible opportunity I have to go on Warped Tour.

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I’ll remember the Manic Pixie Dream Tour as the beautiful, imperfect marvel that it was. The girls, the people, and the places were wonderful, and I couldn’t have asked for a better experience—I didn’t even lose my phone charger. It will be a hot minute until you hear from this part of my website, but when you do, it will be another incredible adventure. Of course, you don’t want to miss it, so as always, stay tuned.

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Tour Blog #8: Tacos, Toplessness, and Venue Dogs

We left Barcelona early to get on the road to Madrid, and after stopping at a little café for coffee and croissants, we hit the road! It was about a six hour drive, and I did not accomplish nearly as much work stuff as I should’ve, but that’s life. We snacked a bit on the road, but by the time we got to our hotel, we were starving.

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I was a little nervous about staying in anything called a “hostal” after hearing horror stories of hostels, but our little place the venue hooked us up with was very clean and private. Although it was pouring rain, we ventured outside to hit up a taco joint that was recommended to us by a woman at the show in Barcelona. That woman is my new best friend (I think she follows me on Instagram, hey gurl) because the food was divine. Most of us chowed down on tacos with cooked cactus (similar texture to a cooked pepper) and queso, and got some margaritas, which we enjoyed back at our hotel. 

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Finally, it was time for us to load in, which I weaseled my way out of. Despite a maze of doors at the entrance of the building, everything went smoothly. We had the same promoter for the Madrid show as we did in Barcelona, and he was super helpful in carrying some of our heavier things in, like Meghan’s drum stuff.

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Before the show started, most of us ran BACK over to the taco place for dinner, and it was still just as good. The line was out the door but totally worth it, even in the pouring rain.

We had an opener for the night, a local band called Upside Down. They were great performers and wonderful people. And no, boys, if you’re reading this, I don’t remember your names, even though you introduced yourselves twice. Yes, I am the worst. Though the crowd was sparse when they took the stage, many people trickled in during their set.

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Finally, the girls went on, and crushed the show. The audience was super into it, with many singing along. Sydney had no problems running out into the crowd, and the lights were so hot that nearly everyone ended up topless by the end (I’m sure Nicole would’ve participated, but she had gone braless).

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Once the girls had mingled and we loaded out, we went across the street for some late-night pizza. One of the coolest parts of Madrid was how close everything is—the hotel was maybe a block from the taco place, the venue was about a two minute walk, and the pizza place was just across the street. Even though it was raining, it was so nice to not have to hop in the van every time we wanted to go somewhere. Finally, full, tipsy, and sleepy, we headed to bed for the night.

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We had to get up all too early the next morning, because we had such a long drive to Bilbao. We survived most of the day by nibbling on gas station food, but by the time we got to the hotel, we were starving. Our accommodations for the night were insane—they looked like apartments, with a full kitchen and washing machine. The hallways were filled with art that made the whole thing feel like a castle. Everyone got their own beds, and many chose to have their own rooms by pulling down an additional bed in the living room. 

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I bunked with Meghan, who unfortunately was feeling super sick. Alex is in recovery for the most part, and Nicole also seems to be feeling better. Dora and I are a little worse, and Sydney still somehow hasn’t gotten sick (witchcraft?).

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I didn’t really know what to expect from Bilbao, considering I’d never heard of it before the trip. It wildly exceeded my nonexistent expectations—the city and the venue were clean and super fancy. Although I still have a few travel days with the girls, Bilbao is unfortunately the last show I have with them. I fully plan on getting sappy with my last blog, so for now I’ll just sum it up by saying I’m incredibly grateful to have been able to join this tour, and I’m so sad to leave it. But I have school and a boyfriend and a job and a family that I’ve put on pause to be here, and it’s time to attend to the needs of my everyday life.

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During sound check, I sat on the floor with the venue manager’s dog, Murphy, and did some homework. Murphy is 14 years old and he’s my new best friend.

Most of us had dinner at a place that I can only describe as Spanish Chipotle. And although it was great, it did kind of remind me how much I miss American Chipotle.

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The show went great, as it always does. The girls have been playing and touring together for so long, they’d have to TRY to have an-off show. Although the crowd wasn’t the moshing type, the girls did get invited back for an encore. They also pulled me on stage to explain that it was my last show of the tour, and I did promise about 30 Spaniards that I was going to drop out of college, so I guess I kind of have to do it now.

We made it back to the hotel pretty early, so of course I stayed up to make a sappy twitter thread because I like to make self-destructive choices. I went to bed with a smile on my face, but a heavy heart.

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My last blog will cover our two travel days plus my reflections on the tour, and fair warning: I’ll likely cry while writing it. But for now, I’ll leave you with this: I feel like one of the luckiest people on the planet to be where I am now, even though that place is leaving some of the coolest people and places I’ve ever had the pleasure to encounter. If you’re really in the mood to cry, definitely stay tuned!

Also, y’all have GOT to stop asking me, “wait, so why are you still in school?” because the answer is increasingly becoming I DON’T KNOW.

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Tour Blog #7: Illness, French Grocery Stores, and Tattooing Boobs

We had another free breakfast at our hotel in Parma, but I was so tired that I wasn’t able to take much advantage of it. I ended up going back to bed until we had to leave at 11, then sleeping for almost all of the three hour drive to Milan. It’s my birthday and I’ll sleep for 12 hours if I want to, okay?

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Originally, we’d planned to get to Milan early, drop our stuff off at the accommodation, and walk around for a little bit, but our host wasn’t ready for us. These plans were also complicated by rain that lasted nearly all day. We ducked into a little restaurant that looked like it was run by a family—there were older men playing pool, and collections of Barbie clothes on one of the dining tables. As someone who grew up with my family running a business, the scene was very familiar to me.

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We had wonderful pizza that left us stuffed, and we headed to the venue. Unfortunately, we had to load in the rain, and through giant puddles. At least it was warm!

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Club Legend is currently tied with Keller Klub for my favorite venue on this tour. Club Legend had a great green room, a killer food spread, and arguably most importantly: a barricade. I truly couldn’t ask for a better birthday present. While it can be very fun to spend time with the lovely people in the crowd as I try to shoot, sneaking between the barricade and stage means my gear is safe and I don’t have to worry about being in the way of people trying to mosh. If the venue had working WiFi, I would’ve stayed there forever. They also served us a massive plate of pasta for dinner, which needless to say, I was really into.

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There weren’t 200 people at the show, but the girls prefer to play to smaller crowds if they’re more engaged, which Milan was. The venue also took the initiative to change the lights around after each song, which really helps my photos have more variety. It’s a simply luxury I’m not usually afforded.

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As if barricades and nice lights weren’t birthday presents enough, Doll Skin pulled me up on stage (or, perhaps “over the stage” is a better term as I was already hiding behind Meghan’s drums to shoot) to have the crowd say “happy birthday.” I think she would’ve had them sing, but we weren’t sure what the birthday song in Italian sounds like, so she kept it simple.

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We loaded out to the van with no rain but sizeable puddles. Our accommodations for the night were a little strange—we think our host was a friend of the promoter, and we were mostly on air mattresses on the floor. We aren’t ones to complain, but it just gave off some weird vibes.

Our next day was kind of a day off, but we spent pretty much all day driving. We managed to stop at a pharmacy—the headcount of the ill includes Meghan, Alex, and Nicole, with Dora and I having scratchy throats. We’re loaded up on Sudafed and cough drops, at the moment.

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One of the coolest culture shock moments was visiting a French supermarket—it was about the size of an American Walmart, but only food. There were fish markets and massive produce sections, and it took us about 20 minutes just to figure out what we wanted for dinner! There was also a miscommunication about who was buying wine for the night, so we ended up with four bottles.

After a long day of sitting in the car, we arrived at our Air bnb, which was hosted by a very nice French man who tried his very best to speak English. There was more than enough space, and we all got our own beds. Many got their own rooms.

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We made a simple dinner of spaghetti and roasted broccoli, and attempted to make a dent in our wine supply. A little while after dinner, the girls surprised me with a belated birthday cake and song (I’d like to mention that Meghan lured me upstairs, looked me in the eye, laughed, and said “I was told to keep you up here.” Do not tell Meg secrets). I was so touched—with all the chaos of the day before, it didn’t 100% feel like a birthday. I can’t wait to celebrate with my friends and family when I’m back in the states, but the little party made me feel so appreciated.

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After a couple more glasses of wine, Nicole actually fulfilled a running joke we’d had on the tour—she’d been offering to give our driver a stick and poke tattoo, and by god, they actually did it. Petr now has “IWM” over a pair of boobs on the back of his arm—signifying two of the inside jokes we’ve had on this tour.

After a simultaneously exhausting and restful day, we called it a night and headed to bed.

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We awoke the next morning to sunlight streaming from the balcony, and left our air bnb. Despite the long drive yesterday, we still had a long way to go to get to Barcelona. Petr was raving about Spanish gas stations, and our lunch was worth the hype. The food in truck stops is insane—fresh pizza, fruit, parfaits, tarts, salads, and pasta, plus everything you’d find at American gas stations.

We arrived in Barcelona with some time to spare, so we headed to the hotel to drop off our stuff and take a breather for an hour or two. The venue for the night was just a few blocks away, but we drove over to unload the gear. After sound check, we ran over to a sports bar nearby, where the food was surprisingly tasty.

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When we came back from dinner, we found a line of people sitting outside the venue before doors open. This was really touching for the girls, as that hasn’t happened for them a lot while they’re so far from home. The crowd still ended up being small, but they were happy to see people in the audience singing along.

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The set went well, and was a little more casual than most, with Sydney taking a little more time between songs to chat. The stage was pretty tiny, so I struggled to shoot a little, but I’m happy with how the photos turned out nonetheless. I’m still impressed that the girls can shred like they do even while they’re sick.

Finally, we loaded up and ended up walking the quarter mile to the hotel. Alex even took her guitar all the way back with us because we’re all kind of nervous about getting robbed.

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The tour is winding down! I’m so sad that I only have two shows left with the girls, but the magic hasn’t faded yet—I still feel star struck to be here, even though I consider myself to be friends with the girls. Thank you all for the birthday wishes, and stay tuned!

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