(The title of this post is a reference to "To Be Free" by Tonight Alive.)
After we finished training, it was time to begin the 1400 mile trek from Los Angeles to Dallas. You might be wondering how we managed to fit a 20-by-30 foot tent, all of our gear, ten activists and all of their luggage in to one 15 passenger van and one smaller car. The answer is a real life game of Tetris, with the longest tent poles slid under the seats of the van, boxes and gear and luggage piled on top of that (a few suitcases stayed under our feet!). We left Los Angeles on June 19, and drove to Flagstaff, Ariz. that day, where we had dinner at Red Curry Vegan Kitchen.
Every time I drive through the desert, I'm blown away by how beautiful it was… this time I was also blown away by how hot it was- 118 degrees (I was grateful to be in an air conditioned car!). You can only imagine, then, how taken aback I was when I was when we went to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon after our pit stop in Flagstaff. It was so incredibly vast and quiet; I felt immediately calmed looking out over it. Seeing how deep it is- and realizing that the part we saw was only a very small portion- was incredibly humbling.
After stopping back in Flagstaff at Whyld Ass for coffee and food, we drove to Albuquerque that night, and on to Dallas the next.
We ended up having a full day in Dallas to run last-minute errands (dollar stores are the best place to hit up to stock up on socks, and for cheap snacks!) and grab dinner at Spiral Diner.
The following day was Pre-Production Day, basically a dress rehearsal for Warped Tour, when we got our laminates, settled on to the bus, got some free goodies from Vans, and set up our tent. It felt so good to be there, and I felt so ready and prepared. If I wasn't so ready it might've been overwhelming, but it was nice to say hi to so many friends and be surrounded by so many amazing, hardworking, and ever-so-slightly-crazy individuals (you've got to be a little crazy to spend your whole summer on Warped Tour). Climbing in to my middle bunk wasn't nearly as tricky as I'd imagined, and it was really cozy sleeping in there.
That first show in Dallas ended up being one of my favorites of the summer. On Warped Tour, our campaign involved talking to hundreds of people a day and asking them to activate with peta2 by following our Instagram or signing up for our text messages. I met my daily goal of activations that day, and got to work with a street teamer as her "buddy" for the day- working with young activists and seeing them make a difference ended up being one of my favorite parts of the summer.
After packing everything on to the trucks for the first time, and passing out a lot of leaflets and stickers, I went to shoot Too Close To Touch and Reel Big Fish before our first nightly meeting.
The next morning I woke up and we were in San Antonio! After doing tours where I was driving, it was a real trip to wake up in a completely different city than the one I had gone to bed in. I developed a routine that would become the norm: climb out of my bunk, get dressed and brush my hair on the bus, then venture off to find the venue restroom to brush my teeth (and, if they were set up, stop by catering to grab coffee and a bagel).
While I was on "open outreach" in Dallas (meaning I spent the day doing outreach anywhere and everywhere around the whole venue), in San Antonio, I worked our tent all afternoon. We had a "human skin" belt, bag, jacket, and pair of boots on display- they were made of rubber, but the designs were meant to help kids make the connection on why we shouldn't use animals for clothing. It was a lot of fun watching people try to figure out what we were doing; two guys came in and told me they'd "flipped the switch" in their brains after seeing our tent.
Touring has allowed me to meet so many "internet friends", and in San Antonio I got to meet Jackie Cular, a photographer and interviewer who runs In The Key Of Change, and Clark Terrell, a photographer. That night was the first barbecue of the tour, which felt like the first real chance to say hi to friends and socialize. It hit me how wild it is being 1800 miles from home with friends who are from different cities entirely, and realizing we'd be in a whole lot of other different cities together for the next seven weeks.
Our final Texas show was in Houston, where it was incredibly humid. I went to shoot Broadside on my lunch break and had a friendly reminder of how easily lenses fog up when you take them from air conditioning (tour buses are kept pretty chilly) to 90 degrees and peak humidity.
That night, after we packed up, I watched Falling In Reverse for the first time. I knew nothing about them before Warped Tour started but they played some of the catchiest songs of the tour and I couldn't get over how self-aware "Just Like You" is. Ronnie Radke's also got some pretty impressive stage presence.
Following the three Texas shows was New Orleans, a city that hadn't had a Warped Tour show in a few years. It was one of the smallest shows of the tour, both in crowd and venue; everything felt much closer together. My hometown show in Holmdel, N.J. is huge, so it was surprising seeing some shows that had so many fewer people.
New Orleans was our first "Roadie Friday" (the last show day before a day off). The rest of the tour would be spending the day off in Alabama but our bus needed repairs at a shop outside of Nashville, so Nashville it was for us! After a quick shower, we piled in two Ubers to Graze, a vegan bistro, for brunch, and then onwards to Whole Foods to stock up on snacks for the bus, and get ready for the all-vegan barbecue peta2 would be hosting after the Nashville show.
In Nashville I finally felt like I was in the swing of things, and really felt like I was a part of the Warped Tour crew. I hit well over my goal that day for campaign activations, and finally felt like I'd hit my rhythm of managing my time to hit that goal. Other things like finding catering in the morning to grab a cup of coffee, or what gear went on to what truck at the end of tear down (tent poles on one truck, everything else on another) finally felt routine.
Rise Above Fitness hosted daily workouts for bands and crew on the tour, and in Nashville, I tried it for myself. We started by running up and down a huge hill, and then proceeded to do multiple rounds of bodyweight and free weight exercises (lunges, squats, crunches, etc.). I stuck with the lightest weights they had but it was still one of the hardest workouts I've ever done.
I didn't take much time to cool down post-workout, and instead went right to the barbecue. Tofurky was sponsoring it and donated plenty of veggie dogs (we had leftovers on the bus for days). I had a blast documenting the night, and everyone who came (there were a lot of people there!) seemed to love the food.
The next day found us in Atlanta. Every morning, we would have a "morning meeting" at 8am and then head out to find where kids were lining up. On most days, I would get half of my numbers for the day in lines; the lines were pretty confusing in Atlanta (which line was general admission? Do the kids line up in this spot or all the way over there?) but I had some pretty great conversations, so the day was off to a good start.
I shot Broadside that evening and I'm so glad I did. They were the last band on the Full Sail University stage and it was raining (two things that you'd think would lead to a small crowd), but they had one of the most excited, enthusiastic crowds I've ever seen. I had seen them play DIY shows at a VFW and an art space, so it was very cool to see their hard work pay off at Warped Tour.
When I woke up in St. Petersburg, Fla. the following morning, I saw that we were located directly on the Tampa Bay. With palm trees lining the walkway behind where all of the tents would be set up, I just knew it would be a good day (and it was!). It was also incredibly hot and humid, so I was ready to take a shower and get in to some clean clothes at the end of the night. While most Warped Tour venues had showers onsite, in St. Petersburg we had two options: walk a few minutes to an outdoor beach shower, or hop in a shuttle to a hotel shower. I went with the beach shower and it was really refreshing.
The next day in Orlando, we had another rainstorm. I was working the tent, and took it upon myself to make up some dance moves to Falling In Reverse, who were playing while the rain was coming down. The dance moves were a win-win- I had fun doing it and kids saw me dancing and came over to the tent to learn about our campaign!
I'm a big fan of shooting bands in their home state, so it was a natural for me to shoot We The Kings that night, but with some time to spare beforehand I found myself at the Monster Energy North Stage for Crown The Empire's set. I'm so glad I did; they were a really entertaining shoot!
I stopped by Avion Roe's set after We The Kings. I wasn't familiar with their music but they had some great stage presence and showed a lot of emotion while performing.
The next show was in West Palm Beach, our last show in Florida. It was another smaller show, and while I didn't hit goal, I came pretty close! Emily, one of my tour mates from the spring college tour, was there, and it was so great to catch up and do some outreach together. That night I photographed Issues- a band I never would've thought to check out, had I not seen them open for All Time Low last spring (but holy shit, they're so much fun- and let's talk about how great the Pokemon stage set-up is!).
West Palm Beach was another Roadie Friday; the following day was the Fourth of July and we were in Savannah, Ga. When we woke up our hotel room wasn't ready yet so Audrey, Rick, and I took an Uber to a Laundromat so we could wash our clothes. Once they were clean we walked a few minutes to Whole Foods (can you tell I love Whole Foods?).
Because we wouldn't be staying in the hotel rooms overnight, we just had "shower rooms": one room for all of the women on the bus and one for all of the men, to shower, relax, and hang out before bus call. We were right on the river in downtown Savannah- the perfect vantage point to watch the fireworks go off!
The next day we were in one of my favorite cities, Charlotte. I'm not sure what it is I like about it so much but whenever I am in Charlotte, things just feel right. Things did feel right at that show, at least until mid-afternoon when we were hit by a thunderstorm! The kids took shelter under the amphitheater, while Audrey and I held down the fort (literally) at the tent, packing up the more fragile, easily damaged parts of our display. But when the storm got too strong we took shelter in a truck. Tearing down the tent- with some very heavy winds- was quite an adventure, but luckily things cleared up quickly.
Falling In Reverse played late that day, and right after them was Tonight Alive- I was so excited to shoot both of them! The two main stages were right next to each other under the amphitheater, so I didn't have far to walk in between. A lot of my tour mates are also fans of Tonight Alive, so watching their whole set was a really fun way to bond.
In Virginia Beach, I worked with not one, but two, street teamers! One of them was a long-time vegetarian and had long been aware of animal rights issues; the other was her best friend who was newer to it all but knowledgeable about the campaign and ready and willing to work hard.
Virginia Beach was a show where I felt like I had to work extra hard to get things done, but I knew that my work was needed. It rained again in the afternoon but once it cleared we were greeted by a [double] rainbow! I caught the rainbow on my way to go shoot Like Pacific- where I also met my friends Liam and Rachel. I'd connected with both of them online over some of our favorite bands, so being able to meet up in person was really cool.