I spent a lot of this spring networking and talking around, working hard to hopefully get on the entire Vans Warped Tour for this summer, but unfortunately that didn't happen for 2015 (I'm continuing to work hard to make it happen for 2016 though!). However, I did get to shoot five dates of the tour around the Northeast, and I had a blast doing so. I knew I'd be physically exhausted but with so many great bands on the tour, plus so many friends out working on the tour, it was sure to be a great time... and I was right on all accounts!
Day 1: Camden, N.J.- 7/10/15- Susquehanna Bank Center
My friend and fellow photographer Jenn Curtis (check out her work here- she's done some great shots of bands like Falling In Reverse, Black Veil Brides, Set It Off, and Handguns, as well as loads of country artists)- arrived at my house the night before Camden. We would be driving together for the next few days and I was walking around the kitchen eating a frozen enchilada when she pulled up... I hadn't even begun to pack for the next few days. Despite all my travels, I don't think I've ever packed sooner than the last minute.
When it finally came for the big day, Jenn and I stopped at Bagel Chateau... because what else would I eat to fuel myself before a festival? After picking up my friends Rebecca and Mallory Turner- another photographer, who'd taken the train in from New York- we were on our way, and despite the frustration of $30 parking and a bizarre layout of the venue (we were all confused on how to get to the guest list tent to pick up our passes...), it was all worth it when I was reunited with my dear friend Raeann, who was out on the tour working for Substream. We hadn't seen each other in two years, despite talking constantly, so it was a wonderful reunion... and it was like we'd never been apart.
I started my day by shooting M4SONIC and Le Castle Vania on the Beatport Stage. I don't think anyone thinks of Warped Tour as the place to go for EDM, but it was SUCH a cool way to start the day. Warped was M4SONIC's first U.S. tour but hopefully he'll be back soon- he jumped off the stage and shot waterguns at the crowd... a good thing, considering how hot it was.
In addition to all of my live photos, I wanted to set up a few portrait shoots at Warped Tour. After shooting Le Castle Vania, I sprinted over to the amphitheater to catch the end of Bebe Rexha's set before meeting her for portraits. I had seen Candy Hearts a few times before but since my friend Bobby was filling in for them on guitar I knew I had to shoot them at least once! I only shot a song or so, before running back to the Beatport Stage to shoot Black Boots. I had no idea what to expect from Black Boots, but they're an EDM duo that had so much energy and really engaged the crowd throughout their performance- definitely a lot of fun to shoot.
Handguns was playing in the amphitheater that day. The amphitheater always makes for a weird lighting situation during the day (it was super sunny out, but shady and murky under the roof) but with all of their constant jumping, these guys were a blast to shoot.
But I can't talk about Camden without talking about Major League, since this was their hometown show. I talk about this every time a band I've known for awhile plays Warped for the first time, but it really was cool to see Major League play Warped. They've definitely been working hard, and it's so great to see them getting opportunities like this. I love Transit, and I don't think on a normal basis I make enough of a point to see + shoot them. I should though, because they're always great live and enjoyable to shoot. After Transit, I met up with Trophy Eyes to take some portraits, before shooting Have Mercy's set. Considering I'd first met and shot Have Mercy when they toured with Major League, it was cool to see them playing the same stage on Warped!
After helping her break down her tent, Raeann showed me her tour bus. It was cool to see a bit of her world on the tour and meet some of her busmates (hi, PETA2!). We then both went to watch Silverstein. I shot four dates of Silverstein's headlining tour back in February, but this was my first time shooting them outside... and considering the light was a perfect, rich gold- the "golden hour" that precedes sunset- I knew it was going to be a great one (and oh, it was!). I never would've thought to photograph Asking Alexandria, but they happened to be going on when I was right by the main stages anyway, so I figured why not? While I wasn't familiar with their music at all they were a great shoot. Family Force 5 was WEIRD, but also a great shoot.
Camden was a great day, but what better way to end it than with seeing The Wonder Years play their hometown Warped date? They had a backdrop that featured the Philly skyline, but Soupy started their set by saying they'd thought of not flying the backdrop that day since they'd had the actual Philly skyline in their sight. Considering how great Camden was to them, I know I've got to see them in Philadephia proper some day.
Day 2: Mansfield, M.A..- 7/14/15- Xfinity Center
Originally, I was supposed to shoot the Long Island date of Warped on July 11, but I ended up getting approved to shoot Taylor Swift at Metlife Stadium that day... which was a wild experience of its own! So, my next date of Warped was Mansfield, Mass. a few days later.
Mansfield was off to a crazy start- Jenn and I got stuck in traffic on the way (though thanks to our power strip in the car, I was able to use that time to edit while she drove). We both laughed at a sign near the venue that said "Break Down Lane". It was an incredibly hot day, too, and super humid. The layout of the venue meant having to push through tight crowds to get anywhere, which got frustrating, but I ended up getting some shots I really loved.
The first band I shot in Mansfield was Major League- I was really happy with how my photos of them in Camden had turned out so I knew I'd have to kick butt with my shots of them at the remaining dates- and I ended up with some of my favorite shots of them yet. Although the first time I saw Man Overboard was at an outdoor festival (Bamboozle 2011), this was the first time I'd photographed them outside! I've seen them a handful of times since then but was pleasantly surprised by the energy they had at Mansfield Warped.
I should give a big thank you to Raeann's friend Sam, who was on the tour working for Sumerian Records, who let me sit in his tent while I'd edit between sets- and who shared some waters. After spending a ridiculous amount of time being hopelessly lost in the parking lot trying to find my car (it was so bad), Raeann and I went off for errands which included a stop at Qdoba for a soda and a very large bag of chips. I had no interest in getting a burrito but those chips were the best thing I'd ever tasted.
It turns out the humidity was a warning sign or something, because in the evening it started pouring! Jenn and I sat in the car to wait it out, but luckily it had let up before it was time for Set It Off to go on. I've seen Set It Off a decent amount of times now, and i love seeing how passionate, yet theatrical, cody always is in their performances- it makes for some great photos.
After Set It Off, I caught up with a few other friends that were out on the tour, and my friend Andrew Wendowski- who was out on the tour as Metro Station's photographer- helped us snag some Peace Tea, which is honestly the best stuff ever. We might've made off with a 24-pack that we kept in my trunk for the rest of the time...
But we couldn't stay forever, and soon enough Jenn and I got in the car and I drove back to Albany to pick up her friend Rachel, and then drive up to her friend Taylor's house to stay the night a little closer to the following date. We wanted to stop at Taco Bell, but couldn't find one that was open- I think we just ended up at Burger King. Taylor's cat and dog greeted us when we got to her house.
Day 3: Darien Center, N.Y..- 7/15/15- Darien Lake P.A.C.
Looking back, Darien was probably my favorite day of Warped Tour this year. After getting in late, we had to wake up early, but I was excited. I had never been to this venue so it was a new place to explore, and I just had a good vibe about the day.
It turns out I was right. The weather was pleasant- sunny enough but not too hot- and everyone was in a good mood the whole day. I ran in to a few familiar faces in the photo pit which was nice too!
The first band I shot was Silverstein, and as great as it was to see them in Camden, it was even cooler to see them play on the main stage. I love shooting from stage when I am able to because seeing that perspective of the whole crowd that's watching is amazing. A ton of people definitely showed up for Silverstein's set that day. I don't think I could ever get sick of watching them. Later on while at Raeann's tent, I heard part of their acoustic set in the Acoustic Basement, and it was unreal. I shot Neck Deep a little later that day on the main stage- I knew I had to catch them at least once and they were a fun shoot!
Nick (M4SONIC) was super excited to do portraits, so we had a lot of fun exploring the grounds to get our shots. Some of my favorites were seeing him stretch his arms out between two tour buses.
I caught Seaway in Darien. I enjoyed them the first few times I had seen them, but considering how much I LOVED their 2014 EP All In My Head I was so excited to shoot them again. Their music is honestly so catchy and it's impossible not to have fun seeing them live- hopefully they'll continue to get bigger crowds at their shows. I caught Le Castle Vania and M4SONIC again on the Beatport Stage. They've both got such a cool energy. I know next year I'll definitely explore the DJs and rappers playing Warped again- a lot of people dismiss that stuff entirely at Warped but it was so cool.
I took some of my favorite photos of Have Mercy that day, after which I shot The Wonder Years again. Once of my goals for Warped was to shoot them from stage, and I was really thankful that they gave me permission to do so in Darien! The first time I saw The Wonder Years, they opened for New Found Glory (the Pop-Punk's Not Dead Tour in 2011), and it's so cool to see how much they've grown. They've definitely worked hard for all of their success.
Just minutes after I had helped Raeann finish her tear-down (we rolled her tent through the thick of Attila's crowd, which was an experience), I caught Major League's set. They were playing during the golden hour right before sunset which made for absolutely perfect lighting, as well as good vibes all around- Jimmy from Trophy Eyes joined them on stage and they all seemed in a good mood. When you've shot a band so many times, you certainly learn where are the best places to stand, who will do what and when, and when shooting Major League I really worked at getting shots that had some consistency to them, but also getting different shots of them each time. After their set they met and signed and took photos with fans at their merch tent, and following that I grabbed the whole band for portraits. They goofed around a bit but we got some serious shots, too.
I caught the very end of Handguns' set before we all went to hang with them. Sure, we could've kept hanging out at the venue... but why wouldn't we take advantage of the amusement park that was literally right there? I'm not a fan of roller coasters so I watched but didn't partake, but it was definitely fun to hang out in a relaxed environment at the end of a great day. I have to admit though, it was weird seeing people like Pierce The Veil just hanging out at the park... there were some Warped fans there, but the park patrons who hadn't been at the show were probably so confused at us all!
I think the original plan was trivia night at Applebee's, but there were no Applebee's in the area, so we ended up grabbing late night food at a Denny's twenty-five minutes out. I don't think any of us realized just how far from civilization Darien was! The Denny's ended up being packed with fellow Warped-goers. After my usual veggie burger, I had to order a side of hashbrowns, which I drowned in syrup. I don't know if that's at all normal, but it's the only way I eat hashbrowns and tater tots!
Day 4: Holmdel, N.J.- 7/19/15- PNC Bank Arts Center
Holmdel is my "hometown" Warped show, and so naturally I was looking forward to it! Rachel, Taylor, Jenn, and a few other friends had stayed over at my house the night before- we got home late from being up in Clifton Park, N.Y. for State Champs' hometown show the night before (which was so, so much fun!) and we probably should've gone right to bed, but we stayed up talking for a bit before we did. It was definitely nice to be able to sleep a bit later than we had been, and while we hit major traffic once near the venue, it was, comparatively, a rather short drive. When we got there, I spent a few minutes applying sunscreen which was definitely a good decision... the heat was brutal that day, and the sun was out allll day, and there was a long walk from the car to the venue. This year, the two main stages were set up on complete opposite sides of the venue, and the Kevin Says Stage was off in an almost hidden area. The amphitheater also didn't really have a photo pit.
The first band I shot in Holmdel was Mallory Knox- I didn't know much about them, other than that they'd been on tour with Pierce The Veil, Sleeping With Sirens, and PVRIS earlier this year, but they were great. I only stayed for a song or two though, before escaping to the shade- Sam let me hang out in his tent for a bit. I was excited to shoot Handguns again, since I'd missed their set in Mansfield and Darien Center; since there was no photo pit, I shot from stage the whole time. Some of Brandon's family was there- the Paganos are always supportive of him and the scene in general, so it was cool to see them there watching. Jake Langley was not only watching their set that day but jumped in on guitar for a song- it was definitely wild to see him play with Handguns again.
Neck Deep played the main stage again so I didn't want to miss that! I got to catch up with some friends after shooting them too which was nice. Have Mercy was great again as well. I definitely love to see that they have soo much serious emotion in their songs, but off stage they're such goofy guys.
Even though Camden is more of their hometown, North and Central Jersey have always showed Major League a ton of love, so it was so cool to see them play Holmdel! Woody- Handguns' former drummer- walked on stage right before their set and I loved seeing how stoked Brian and Kyle were to see him and being able to capture that moment. They were playing during the golden hour again which was great.
But I think the highlight of Holmdel was being able to shoot Simple Plan right after Major League. I was able to watch Simple Plan from sidestage in 2011 but this was the first time I'd actually shot their set- and it most definitely felt like I'd come full-circle. Finally hearing "Jet Lag" live was great, and honestly I would've been stoked to just see them at all- shooting just made it even better. I posted a jump shot of Pierre before they'd finished their set, and right after they got off stage, David walked by me and I handed him my business card. I posted a few more shots over the next day, and definitely flipped out when Pierre reposted one of my photos of him! I'd had a few other bands repost my photos from Warped but to be recognized by Pierre from Simple Plan was just the coolest thing, and a huge accomplishment.
Jenn has shot Black Veil Brides a ton of times, and while they hadn't been a priority for me before then, it worked out perfectly to shoot their set in Holmdel. I didn't know their music at all but she was right- they were a great shoot! BVB was really one of the only bands- if not the only band- on Warped that had real production for their set, and they were super theatrical performers. I'd definitely like to shoot them again some time.
I hung out on Raeann's bus a bit that day- her busmates were all super nice, and it was cool chatting with them and bonding over vegan things! That night, we all went to the barbecue to hang out. While Warped is very social, everyone is in work-mode during the day, so the barbecue is a nice chance to actually catch up. I was able to chat with a few other friends on the tour and that had just come out for the day and it was really nice to catch up, as well as meet some new people and take goofy pictures.
Day 5: Scranton, P.A.- 7/21/15- The Pavilion at Montage Mountain
Scranton was my last day of Warped this year, and as always, I was sad to say goodbye! I had made a load of pancakes on the day off after Holmdel, so I nibbled on those on the way to the venue. Once we got off the highway... the view was insane. We were literally up in the mountains, which was pretty crazy. I've always been- and always will be- so overwhelmed and amazed by mountains!
We had to park off-site and take a shuttle (a school bus) to the venue entrance. That would've been fine, but the bus got stuck in traffic on the way up the mountain. The driver refused to let us off for half an hour, but eventually listened when we said we needed to get to the venue because we were working. Have you ever hiked 2.5 miles uphill with a backpack full of camera gear, carrying four Starbucks drinks, in the heat and sun? Yeah... it wasn't the easiest start to the day, but that kind of thing happens on Warped. It was definitely an inspiration for me to work out more though!
I helped Raeann set up her tent and table when I got there, and then I was super excited to finally get to catch Our Last Night. The last time I shot them was at Stanhope House... so Warped was a nice improvement! Because it's on a mountain, there was a LOT of running back and forth and up and down hills that day. After OLN I shot Have Mercy on Kevin Says. I'd brought Andrew a frappuccino from Starbucks, but by the time I got to their merch tent it was completely melted. When I saw him after their set though, he didn't seem to mind.
I was really excited to get to shoot Senses Fail. I'd shot them a few times before but I had heard that they were one of the best shoots on Warped... Buddy kept jumping and totally goofing off so they definitely were a blast to shoot, and totally kept me on my toes while behind the camera. I was also stoked to finally catch Jule Vera. I only heard of them when they first signed to Pure Noise but I really liked their EP, and oh my god, they were so good live. Ansley even got out in to the crowd, which made for a really cool shoot.
There were storm warnings all day, and I was anxious that it would hit before Simple Plan went on. I managed to find Pierre and introduced myself- he complimented my work again, which was awesome to hear! They were, again, a GREAT shoot, and I was so, SO ridiculously excited that the fourth song- which played as I was walking back to Raeann's tent- was "Loser Of The Year", one of my favorite Simple Plan songs ever.
Of course... we weren't in the clear yet... just as I had gotten back to Raeann's tent, the storm had arrived, so we immediately packed up and took shelter in her bus. She caught up on emails and I caught up on editing.
Finally the storm let up. I helped Raeann finish loading out and putting gear in trucks and trailers, chatted with a few friends, and then headed to the amphitheater to see Handguns. They would be playing at the same time as The Wonder Years on the complete opposite side of the venue... which is less than ideal for a pop-punk band. As a continuation of their string of bad luck on Warped, they were without a drummer that day, so they played acoustic... and since they were the last band on the stage that day, the stage crew tore down the equipment while Handguns played acoustic on the floor of the amphitheater! I wasn't sure how it would go over, but everyone who had come to watch their set was so excited to be there- it was really cool to see them all singing along, and to see all of the heart that Taylor and Brandon put in to the performance.
Right after Handguns finished, Jenn, Andrew, and I left the venue for a bit to do some errands, which included a stop at a pizza place, where I got what might've been the best eggplant sandwich I've ever had! When we came back to the venue, it was time for barbecue. I was sad that Warped was over for me, but glad I'd have a chance to hang out and have fun before going back to normal life.
Saying goodbye to Raeann was definitely emotional! We hugged for a super long time, but being that we are- as we refer to ourselves- "soulmates", we of course talk allll the time.
Shooting the Vans Warped Tour was definitely the highlight of my summer- I'm already looking forward to Warped 2016!