(The title of this post is a line from "Anomaly" by Angels & Airwaves; I think it's important to strive to be different, to march to the beat of your own drummer- to be an anomaly.)
On our last full day in Atlanta, I headed downtown to The Tabernacle, to photograph Vance Joy on the Fire and the Flood Tour. I've been a fan of his since seeing him open for Taylor Swift last summer, and it was such a pleasure to see him- as well as openers Jamie Lawson and Blind Pilot- play a full set. A few photos from the show are below; you can see my review and full photo-set of Jamie Lawson and Blind Pilot here, and my review and full photo-set of Vance Joy here.
Seeing Vance Joy headline to a sold-out room was so lovely; his songs tell such wonderful stories, and I loved hearing the anecdotes of the origins of his songs. I'm really looking forward to seeing what he does next in his musical career.
Our first school after spring break was the University of Georgia in Athens. It's always fun to have a change of pace, and on Monday we helped Speak Out for Species (a.k.a. "S.O.S.", the animal rights group on campus) with their Meat-Out event. Serving samples of vegan food (like Gardein "chicken" tenders, homemade mad and "cheese", and plenty of vegan cookies) was a great opportunity to talk to students about the benefits and importance of a vegan diet- and considering how delicious everything was, many seemed excited to try going vegan!
That day, we also met UGA graduate (and animal rights activist), Daylan, and after the Meat-Out was done, we all took their dog, Socks, for a walk in the woods. It was great to hear about Daylan's work as an activist (in addition to being a part of S.O.S., they toured with FARM); they're now in the Caribbean doing sea turtle conservation work (how cool is that?).
After one more day at UGA, we headed to Durham, North Carolina; we didn't have a school but we did have to pick up a shipment at the UPS Customer Center the following day. Once that was taken care of, we headed right to Boone, a smaller mountain town, where I was able to get in a quick workout before a late-night trip to Taco Bell with Emily and Karla. Fast food is everywhere on the road, and as a group of vegans, Taco Bell is our best bet (we're all fans of Crunchwraps and bean burritos).
We spent the following day at Appalachian State University, before making the long drive to Washington, D.C. It was late when we got in, but our digs for the next few nights- the PETA condo in town- were stellar. There was a Starbucks next door and with a full kitchen and a gorgeous view, I couldn't complain!
The condo wasn't far from George Washington University, where we set up the following day. We had a bit of rain and- as it was the Friday before Easter- many students had gone home early, but even on days like that, it's worth it for the conversations I am able to have that really have an impact. So many people are completely unaware of the environmental impacts of meat, dairy, and eggs, but since most of them do care about the environment, they're excited to learn that being vegan can make such a difference.
That night, we took advantage of the full kitchen in the condo and cooked dinner! Emily made a lasagna with mushrooms, spinach, and loads of vegan cheese, and I made apple spice cake that she and Karla both said was delicious.
The next day- after some gourmet buffalo wings at Smoke and Barrel and a fancy popsicle from Pleasant Pops in the Adams Morgan neighborhood- we made the short drive to College Park, Maryland. After getting settled in our hotel, I was able to meet up with my dear friend Clayton for dinner. Clayton is from New Jersey but he goes to school in Towson, Maryland (just outside of Baltimore), and it was so great to catch up at the local diner.
To celebrate Easter (none of us are Christian, but any reason to spend time with friends is a good one), Emily, Karla, and I met up with fellow peta2 tour crew members Matt and Alex (who are on the road educating students on elephants in the circus, and protesting Ringling Brothers performances) for brunch at NuVegan. Formerly known as Woodlands, I'd heard two things about the restaurant: that the food was great, and that Drake once ate there when he was in town. The food (tofu scramble, biscuits, waffles, vegan sausage patties, and more!) was all so good that we returned that evening for dinner (sadly, we didn't see Drake either time). It was great hanging out with Matt and Alex and hearing about their tour, and I loved having them join us for outreach at the University of Maryland the next day.
After a three-and-a-half hour drive to New Jersey, I was lucky enough to stay at home for the night! Seeing my parents, sister, dog (Dobby), and cat (Alice Cooper) was such a nice treat.
It had been windy at UMD, but that was nothing compared to how windy it got the next day at Rutgers University. It took several tries- and the help of some student volunteers- to get our tall column set up, but it was only up for a few minutes before the wind blew it straight over. For safety's sake we tore it down, and spent the rest of the day tabling and leafleting.
That night, Emily came to my house for dinner. My grandma- Grammy- came over, and my mom made my favorite pasta (with broccoli, olive oil, garlic, and vegan parmesan cheese- yum!). I was so grateful to be in the company of my loved ones for the evening, and after another day at Rutgers (where we were able to set up as normal), we headed to Emily's house in Connecticut for the evening. Her parents were so kind and welcoming to us (her mom had dinner- veggie burgers and mashed sweet potatoes- ready when we arrived), and her dog (Trixie, a.k.a. Nugget) and cats were all so cute.
Yale University was our first Ivy League school, and wow, what a pretty campus! I was so impressed by how smart the students were; everyone seemed eager to learn and they all had great questions. To make the day even better, I grabbed a vegan quesadilla for lunch at Clare's Corner
We had been to some prestigious schools, but Yale University in New Haven was the first time we were at an Ivy League school. It was such a pretty campus, and I was so impressed with the students I met; I could tell how eager they were to learn and they all had great questions. To make the day even better, I grabbed a vegan quesadilla at Clare's Corner Copia- just across the street from campus, it's a well-known, long-standing vegetarian restaurant with everything from soups to sandwiches to burritos!
That week concluded with our second day at Yale, and after a stop at Whole Foods, we headed to Ithaca, New York. Though our hotel was pretty far from downtown, we couldn't resist stopping at Purity, a local favorite, for vegan milkshakes, before getting some much-needed rest. We made the trip into town again on Saturday morning, for vegan waffles and ice cream at Waffle Frolic and some exploring. By the time it was Sunday evening, I didn't feel like driving all the way back to downtown Ithaca, so instead I headed to Wegman's to pick up something I could heat up in the microwave. I'd heard from many people that Wegman's is amazing, and it really is! They have such a wide variety of products, and the staff were all so friendly and helpful.
I was excited to set up at Cornell University on Monday- I knew the campus was beautiful and the students would have some great questions- but definitely nervous, since they're the only Ivy League school with an agriculture school. But the agriculture students weren't the toughest part of the day- the weather was! It started snowing when we left our hotel in the morning, and continued snowing all day. To combat the weather, we set up a tent over our table (so pamphlets wouldn't get covered in snow) and took turns going inside to warm up.
After a long drive to Morgantown, West Virginia and a good night's sleep at a super nice hotel that was located on a golf course, we headed to West Virginia University. Our campus rep was so helpful in telling us where to set up to get the highest foot traffic, and she spent most of the day helping us do outreach. We all grabbed food at the co-op in town at the end of the day, and Emily and I headed to Millvale, Pennsylvania (near Pittsburgh; about an hour and a half away) to see The Wonder Years. We're both big fans of the band, and getting to catch the final night of their tour together was such a great surprise! There was no photo pit, so I stood up against the stage all night, but with all the end-of-tour shenanigans happening onstage, there were plenty of good opportunities for photos.
I had never seen letlive, but everything I'd heard about them- that frontman Jason Aalon Butler was a maniac on stage, that they had insane energy and an undeniable intensity- turned out to be totally true. If you ever get the chance to see letlive, do it!
I've seen The Wonder Years a dozen or so times by now, but I really don't think I could ever get sick of seeing them perform. Their songs are so honest and real; they tell stories that so many people can relate to and they're all such great performers. There's a reason so many of their shows are sold-out; The Wonder Years are so many kids' favorite band.
There was one more day at WVU before we headed to Ohio. I graduated from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland in 2013, and haven't been back to Ohio in almost two years. Our first Ohio school was Kent State University. Unfortunately for us, it was freezing and pouring rain all day- and the wind kept moving the tent that we'd put up to protect the table and our supplies. But despite that, it was such a great day for outreach, and I was so excited to see some of my old stomping grounds in downtown Kent, like Euro Gyro, where I'd go see my favorite local bands play shows while eating delicious pizza.
It was chilly and drizzled a bit at Ohio State University in Columbus the next day, but after packing up we headed to one of my favorite restaurants ever, Melt Bar & Grilled, for (vegan) grilled cheese! I went with the Wet Hot Buffalo Chicken (with vegan cheese and tofu), but so many of their sandwiches can be made vegan, you really can't go wrong. That evening, I had coffee with my friend Logan White- he runs a blog called Heart State Review, and we met a few years ago while doing interviews at a Bowling For Soup show. It was so great to catch up!
The following afternoon, I met up with another very good friend of mine, Alexandra, who I had met while going to shows around Northeast Ohio (the area that encompasses Cleveland, Akron, Kent, etc.). We stopped at a deli, Cornerstone, for lunch, but instead of sandwiches or bagels, we got Chinese food. I wouldn't have expected a deli to have such good General Tso's tofu, but man, it was delicious.
After stopping at nearby Pattycake Bakery- an all-vegan bakery with many gluten-free options, too- for treats, we headed back to my hotel. Though we'd always kept in touch through social media and our smart phones, Alex and I hadn't seen each other since before I'd graduated from Case. Her boyfriend Zach- who had joined us for lunch- stepped out in the snow to take this picture of us.
I got my start in photography and music journalism covering shows in Ohio, and it felt full-circle to come photograph X Ambassadors at the Newport Music Hall in Columbus with five years of hard work and a handful of tours under my belt.
Savoir Adore were up first; a cool indie-rock band that describes their genre as "Adventure Wave", I was not surprised to learn that they're from Brooklyn.
Seinabo Sey and her band had come all the way from Stockholm, Sweden, and wow- what a voice she has.
Finally, X Ambassadors came on, but as I was entering the photo pit, I tripped and missed the last stair, twisting my ankle! An EMT was standing right there when it happened, and after he made sure I was okay, I went over shoot X Ambassadors' set. Their music has a way of energizing you while making you feel emotions so deeply; after a great run supporting their debut album VHS, there's definitely exciting things ahead for them.
We slept in the next morning, and after grabbing brunch at Whole Foods, it was off to Allendale, Michigan. When we arrived at our hotel we were all hungry, so we headed to the nearest supermarket, Family Fare, to pick up dinner. Their selection of vegan products was much smaller than your typical Whole Foods', but that being said, we had no problem finding something to eat (I went with frozen "fried" rice from P.F. Chang's) in a small midwestern town.
The next day, we set up at Grand Valley State University. It was pretty windy, and our sign- once again!- fell down, the inflatable columns getting tossed around in the wind as well. It was just a short drive to Kalamazoo, where we next set up at Western Michigan University. The rep at WMU, Tori, is a peta2 tour veteran- it was great to hang out with her all day (she's so great at doing outreach!) and I'm excited to be doing Warped Tour with her this summer.
It was another quick drive to Notre Dame, Indiana, and we were lucky enough to get a hotel just down the road from the University of Notre Dame. We have to be on campus by 9am every day (sometimes earlier, if we're not sure where we'll be setting up), and when our hotel is close to the school, we get to sleep in a bit instead of driving up to an hour to get there! The weather was lovely and our campus rep, Rosie, was so friendly and helpful during outreach.
The following day we were at Purdue University in Lafayette, Indiana. While we all enjoyed the continued pleasant weather- a welcomed break from the previous week's freezing cold, rain, and snow!- it was a tough crowd: many of the students we met were studying agriculture and/or had grown up on farms. Sometimes it's hard to connect with people who have directly opposing views, but I found that for the most part, the students at Purdue were just curious what we were doing.
We concluded last week at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign on Friday. Fridays are usually our slowest day, since many students don't have classes and aren't around campus on Friday, but UI was busy all day. We were outside the student union, on the quad, near many other student groups giving out info and free food, and in addition to tons of students lounging on the grass, plenty of people were walking around.
A couple hours after tearing down, we were in Chicago, where we got to stop at another favorite restaurant of mine, the Chicago Diner. Proudly proclaimed "Meat-Free since '83", their menu is almost entirely vegan, and their buffalo wings are some of my favorite in the country (tied for first place with Blackbird Pizzeria in Philadelphia and Watercourse Foods in Denver). I had a curried sweet potato burger with chimicurri sauce and Teese vegan mozzarella; Teese isn't available in grocery stores, but I love the taste and texture, so couldn't pass it up!
Yesterday we grabbed breakfast at Whole Foods (General Tso's mock chicken might not be a typical breakfast food, but it was delicious- and so was the chocolate chip muffin I had), where we met a man named Robert who had been vegan for over 20 years! Most of the vegans I know are around my age and have been vegan for a few years, so it's really cool to see people who have been vegan for such a long time. By a stroke of luck (by that I mean Emily saw a flyer), we found out about a VegFest happening just down the road from our hotel! Smaller than the one I'd been to in New York City a few years ago, it was still a very cool opportunity to try food from some of the best local restaurants and creators. The most exciting part of VegFest was getting to hear Dr. Terry Mason speak about the health benefits of a vegan diet (I'd seen him in the very informative film Forks Over Knives- he's such a great speaker).
After I worked out to some Blogilates videos (they're perfect for doing on the road- quick, fun, and a full-body workout you can do with no equipment), Emily and I cooked dinner in the hotel room. She made a stir-fry with Tofurkey sausages, veggies, and peanut sauce, and I served the cheese course and dessert. Fresh mozzarella was one of the things I missed most when I went vegan, and the Fresh VeganMozz from Miyoko's Kitchen was pretty incredible with a fresh baguette. For dessert? Brownies, heated up in the microwave, with So Delicious cashew milk ice cream.
Today has been a day to relax, and I'm thinking I'll wrap up my weekend with some vegan mac and cheese from Daiya (and another brownie a la mode) for dinner this evening (who said vegans have to give up comfort food?).