The Trials and Tribulations of Bus 15
I’m a patient guy. I can roll with most any punches, and it takes a lot for me to get frustrated or angry to the point where I’m confrontational. But over the course of this tour, our (now former) bus driver pushed me and my bus mates to our limits of patience and understanding. For some background on the situation, we initially really enjoyed our driver. He seemed friendly, helpful, and caring. However, after the first week or so on the road things began to devolve- and quickly. It all started when our bathroom door (which is pneumatic) quit working. We repeatedly asked for it to be fixed, and we were repeatedly promised a speedy repair. But after almost a week of nothing happening, more things began to break than were getting repaired. The toilet itself quit working, and then the secondary privacy door into our bunk area broke. We continuously asked for repairs, but nothing ever changed. Things got so bad that our driver became hostile towards us, going as far as calling us liars about what was actually broken and then blaming us to our faces for every single flaw on the bus.
The natural course of action under these circumstances is to approach the team of Lisa and Julie, who work in the production office and coordinate all the drivers. So myself and a (now former) bus mate Mel went and did just that. Miraculously, the next day things started working properly and were beginning to be repaired. Yet, while some things got better, this did not stop problems from persisting. Eventually, our trash bay quit being emptied, our A/C stopped working, the doors broke again, our blue water tank quit being filled (so we couldn’t flush our toilet or wash our hands), and our grey water tank quit being emptied. Again, we went the patient route, and gave our driver about 3 weeks of persistent, professional reminders (including almost daily trips to production from our bus captain Karly) in order to give him time to make the necessary repairs and changes needed to live a comfortable life in our bus. Then he got sick. He was so sick that he was admitted to a hospital under extreme symptoms of exhaustion. He left the hospital later that day and actually drove us that night, while vomiting into other people’s towels and hallucinating images on Josh’s arm. Understandably, fear began to settle into the bus. How can this overly exhausted and hallucinating human drive us safely from point A to point B? How can I trust that when I go to sleep I’ll wake up alive in the morning?
This was all a big build up, as by this point our own mental fatigue was in full effect. We began to have less and less patience and understanding. Then the confrontation happened. Our driver had stopped for a much needed Wal-Mart stop, but he chose to do so at 5 AM, so understandably most people didn’t wake up to get off the bus. When we arrived at the venue, our diligent Kaptain Karly (as she’s saved in my phone) approached him, and asked if we could stop again after we left that night so that those who missed the stop could get the possessions they needed. He looked her in the eyes and promised we would make the stop, and so Karly informed the bus to be ready to stop at night. When bus call finally arrived and we were due to take off, Karly had gone to take a nap, and so as self-proclaimed “Bus Daddy” I decided to ask our driver if we were for sure stopping or not. Without so much as glancing up from his paperwork, he said, (direct quote here) “We’re not fucking stopping until the next town.” My jaw clenched, and I felt my temperature rising, but I knew I needed to handle this situation in a peaceful manner, so I responded by telling him, “Well, that’s understandable, but you made a promise to a large group of people who are waiting back there to stop. This is an issue, and you’re going to have to resolve it.”
Then the wheels came off. Our (now former) driver turned his head, looked into the seating area where 8 of us were chilling, and said, “Fuck this tour. Fuck this bus. I hate these kids.” I immediately saw red. I began feeling hurt and pain for my bus mates, some of which needed desperately to stop for medications that would help keep them from getting sick. I’m feeling fear for my own life because the man responsible for it every night just said he hated me. And most importantly, I felt anger. Anger for being lied to, anger for dealing with the fat sack of lard’s crap, and anger for trying to be a patient and peaceful human while this poor excuse of human gave no cares about me or my people. I was also slightly intoxicated, so my ability to control my mouth was almost non-existent. So non-existent that I immediately started yelling. I said some very colorful things, and hurled some really harsh, yet well-worded insults his way, and got so intense that others on my bus had to calm me down. But the damage was done. His boss made us pull over and yelled at Chris for being a liar and lazy. Then he yelled at me for yelling at our driver while he was driving, which was absolutely wrong of me. It’s never an okay idea to yell at the person who is driving you and seventeen others at high velocities. I made the wrong decision by confronting him in such a way, and I know that. But the end results of me standing up for our bus is that two days later, our old driver got fired. His replacement is the immaculate Kenny. In less than five days, Kenny has literally fixed every single broken issue on our bus. And it turns out, 95% of the issues were directly caused by our old driver’s laziness and lack of care. For example: the A/C went out because he never cleaned the air filters, which also explained why over half our bus has had a lingering, sad cough for weeks. Since then, Kenny has been a dream. He’s prompt, courteous, and thoughtful. I’ve spent a lot of time with Kenny in the passenger’s seat over the last week or so, and it’s been great. We listen to trucker songs and chain smoke cigarettes and talk about travel and life. It’s such a breath of fresh air, and exactly what Bus 15 needed heading into the last 10 days of tour.
Back to the road: Scranton, PA was our next show after our stop at Gettysburg which concluded last week’s article. The show was mostly uneventful, save for the rain that slaughtered us mercilessly for two hours right before tear down. In fact, the only thing worth mentioning here is that I once again successfully turned Tinder into Uber, but in a really backwards way. The girl was actually the friend of a girl I matched with in Long Island, NY. The original match and I did not get along very well, but her friend and I hit it off, and she ended up surprising me by randomly strolling up to my tent around mid-day in Scranton. She took me to get Waffle House after tear down, and helped me get some supplies I needed at the store, and it was another example of how radical everyone I’ve run into on this tour is.
Scranton was followed up by one of the coolest and most amazing days I’ve ever had in my existence as a human. For the last two years, Vans Warped Tour has worked with the Alternative Press Music Awards to put on their show. This year, many of us on tour were hired on to escort various artists and celebrities down the red carpet, to their dressing rooms, to interview rooms, and on stage to perform. Thanks to the fantastic Kate Truscott, I was given the honor and pleasure of escorting Darryl McDaniels. For those of you who don’t know, that’s DMC of Run DMC. I definitely had an unforgettable experience. From walking down a red carpet, to getting a hard-style picture with DMC in the dressing room, to getting him and Sum 41 to sign my Adidas, and even meeting Rob and Sheri Moon Zombie, the day was basically flawless. I even got him to send a personalized video to my mom, who is a massive Run DMC fan. As far as surreal experiences go, this was one of the best. You can’t make this stuff up, nor could you ever predict it. But it’s the direct result of being myself, working hard, and having a damn good time. This is a recurring theme you’ll see throughout this tour. The people out here are given these great chances in life because we’re willing to seize every single opportunity given to us. We work hard, we play hard. When you handle your business in that manner, people notice. More importantly, people who matter notice. Those are the people who give you the opportunity to do things like escort a hip-hop legend around all day.
We played Cuyahoga Falls the next day, which is a gorgeous venue, but the show is hardly worth mentioning except for the fact that I did indeed find Waldo. We travelled onward to Auburn Hills, MI the next day and I had one of my best days in sales the whole tour. I had a great spot that day, on top of a hill, right by the main stages, facing the main entrance. You could see my booth easily a half mile away. Now, not everyone gets killer spots, and you don’t necessarily get killer spots every day. There are things you can do to help insure that you’ll be put in a prime location with lots of visibility and foot traffic. One of the simplest things you can do is help the set up crew unload the trucks and build the massive circus-sized tents they have to build every morning. I learned early on in tour that my things were going to come off the truck next-to-last and that I was going to be screwed out of good spots if I didn’t get tight with Jose and Mike (the proverbial Yoda and Obi-Wan of the set up crew) I wasn’t going to be placed in a good spot. Typically, I have to arrive on the grounds by 8 AM, but my things never get off the trucks until 9-930. That’s a lot of time to kill. In my mind, there was only one logical thing to do with that time- help the set up crew unload the trucks and build their tents. Since that time, the few times I have had bummer spots it always has more to do with the venue we’re at than the fact that I was placed in a crappy location. For instance, Scranton was such a tiny and awkward venue that I had to be moved to two fresh locations before finally being placed in my permanent spot for the day. Mike made sure I had help moving all of my equipment, ensured that I was placed in the best spot for the day that day, and then he and Jose gave me the absolute best spots for the next week. Because I was flexible and helpful, those set-up crew dudes took care of me all summer, and my sales and locations definitely reflected that. I cannot thank them enough for helping me and all of Warped Tour to be successful all summer long.
Chicago (Tinley Park) was up next, and things were starting to get strange. The morning started with my bus mate Jesus (pronounced like the Christ-child) toting around another bus mate of mine, Katie, on his dolly. They strolled through the grounds sipping iced coffee and smiling, a good omen for the rest of the day. I caught up with my boy Danny for an early morning “safety meeting,” and we climbed to the top of the amphitheater for one of the most stunning views I’d had all tour up to that point. I descended to my tent for my best day of sales the entire tour. I crushed it in Chicago, and I was working so hard I had to request the services of two local models to fan me off from the intense heat that was building in my tent. Things were going fabulously all day, and it seemed nothing could knock me down. However, this night was the night of my aforementioned confrontation with our (now former) bus driver, because things can’t be roses and daisies all the time.
The next day in Shakopee, MN I was primarily dealing with the fall-out of the previous evening’s activities, but I as the day progressed I began to deal with another type of fall out. Earlier in the week, authorities found the body of former After the Burial guitarist Justin Lowe after an intense three day manhunt. For those of you unfamiliar with the story, here’s a good summation provided by Loudwire. Justin was a Twin Cities native, and his loss was very obviously being felt in his home town. All day I was bombarded with questions I did not know how to answer. Will they every play again? Are they still going to tour? Did you know Justin? I met one of his sister’s friends that day and she wept in my arms, as all I could offer her in that moment was a hug. The sales that day were great and all that, but I’m most proud of how human that day was. How suffering loss is a natural part of life and how that loss brings us closer together. It’s a concept I’m very familiar with, which allowed me to be there for people and empathize with their pain. Warped Tour is full of these random moments of deep connection, and I’m always left feeling inspired and encouraged.
I mentioned above my familiarity with the pain of loss, and its ability to scar and wound deeply. In October of 2012, my younger brother Ray died of a heroin overdose. It was the single most jarring thing I’ve experienced in my otherwise easy existence. I’ve struggled over the last few years coming to grips with what happened and with what I lost, and I can tell you now that while the pain lessens some, it never fully goes away. These days, I view the world around me as a portal to his spirit. For instance, the HerbSupport dudes and I decided to walk to the Hollywood Casino in Maryland Heights, MO after our show that day. We’d dealt with some strange weather already that day. The day started off with a heat index so outrageous it made Arizona look like a joke. Then the humidity kicked in and got so bad that I quite literally almost blacked out. At one point, it felt like I was literally wearing a shirt made out of sweat. Finally, around 5:30 PM, just before tear down, black storm clouds rolled in and dropped some of the heaviest rain of the whole tour on us. Fortunately, I’m a spider monkey when it comes to tear down, so I got my tent taken care of. But as I was preparing to walk to my bus, my buddy Lucas from Fearless Records let out a cry as one of his aluminum framed tents started lifting off the ground and trying to fly away. I sprinted over, jumped up and grabbed the center of the tent, drug it down, and held it there while four guys collapsed it so it wouldn’t blow away again. Once I knew my friends were taken care of, I headed back to the bus, where I stood soaking wet for almost 45 minutes.
As the weather cleared, the casino began to seem more and more inviting, and eventually Danny and I coaxed some of the homies into walking over there with us. The walk was longer than expected, and while we were on our way over there, the heavy clouds started sauntering in again. Some in the group started to grumble, “we’ll never make it in time, we’re gonna get rained on!” As the pessimistic pleas were being let out, I found myself looking west towards the sun. There were billowing clouds partially blocking the great celestial body, but through these clouds were the most stunning golden rays of sunlight bursting through. I took in a deep breath, smiled as I exhaled, and calmly turned to my friends and said, “We’re gonna make it to the casino before it starts to rain.” We quickened our steps just a little, not wanting to leave too much to chance, but it wasn’t necessary. My brother was watching out for us, holding back the torrents just long enough for us make it safely inside. I felt Ray again a few more times over the next week, most notably in Milwaukee, WI the next day where my first customer could have been Ray’s doppelganger. The kid looked so much like my brother that when he walked away I actually broke down in tears for a minute until I coaxed a supportive hug out of my bus mate, Katie. That’s the reality of losing someone important- they’re always a part of you, and they’ll never truly leave you so long as you’re alive.
On a more pleasant note, Milwaukee’s venue was phenomenally gorgeous. The Marcus Amphitheatre sat directly on the Milwaukee Bay of Lake Michigan, and featured a massive red light house directly behind it that we were able to explore and climb. Most people had the backs of their tents on the water, and with a cool breeze blowing in we experienced one of the most mild and pleasant days of the tour, which we needed sandwiched in between the hellish Maryland Heights and the swampy Noblesville, IN. I barely even care to mention the Noblesville show, but it served as an important first for me and my connections within HerbSupport. That morning, I was introduced to Neff, the stage manager for the Kevin Say’s Stage. I’d already met his front of house guy, Mason, and his sound guy, Chris, earlier in the tour on our day off in Little Rock, AR, but Neff was the man I needed to know. I don’t want to reveal too many secrets, but let’s just say that Neff and his team know how to run a stage for maximum efficiency and comfort. One secret I’m willing to share is their mastery of their porto-potties. Neff had the genius idea of padlocking his stage’s porto every day and pumping it full of citric or incense smells so it would be clean and pleasant for anyone using it. The trick was that padlock, though. Most people saw the lock and would walk away searching for an open (albeit more filthy) toilet because, hey, it’s Warped Tour and no one has time to find out why something is locked. However, upon my first meeting (a morning “safety meeting” with the guys and Danny) Neff revealed that anyone can use the toilet, just ask him for the key. I didn’t have to use a filthy porto-potty for the rest of tour. These connections were invaluable in other ways, but I’m so grateful to have had access to a clean toilet.
Bonner Springs, KS was the last day on this 8 day stretch of shows, and I don’t know if the day could have gone any crazier than it did. My day began with my usual 7 am wake up call, but immediately took a turn. I walked to the front to start brewing coffee and lo and behold there were three sleeping bodies that I did not recognize. We were also still moving, which was an equally ominous sign, so I slid up to Kenny and asked what had happened. Their bus’s transmission went out the night before, so our convoy had to stop, their occupants had to be split onto other buses, and then they had to ensure the bus would be handled before we could hit the road again. This put us about two hours behind schedule, and we all suffered the consequences upon arrival at the venue. For me, the only real consequence was being in the best crappy spot I’ve ever had and only having 45 minutes to set up before doors opened. What I mean by “best crappy spot” is that I was in a place that looked great until the doors opened and I realized no one was going to walk by me all day. Fortunately, I was right next to the Kevin Say’s Stage and my new friends, so we stayed lifted and light-hearted all day until tear down. Then the day kicked into a whole new gear of awesome, and I had one of my favorite nights of the entire tour.
What made this night different? Not much, really. Most would have called it a fairly typical evening for Warped Tour (although, what does that even mean?), and maybe that’s why it stands out as my one of my favorites. I’ll attempt to describe my evening and let you, dear reader, draw your own conclusions as far as the night’s awesomeness is concerned. About an hour after tear down, Pvris played. Pvris is an up-and-coming band from Massachusetts, signed to Rise Records, and last year they released their first full-length album “White Noise.” They started the tour playing as a supporting band, but midway through the tour their buzz was growing so much that they got permanently moved to the main stages, where they frequently headlined for the remainder of tour. I’d honestly never even heard of Pvris before this tour, they’re just not the kind of music a hippie metalhead would seek out to jam. But damn do I regret not knowing them before now. Once they were moved to the main stages, I was able to hear them every single day for the rest of tour, and after the first three days or so I was asking any and everyone, “who is this amazing three-piece band with the powerhouse female vocalist?” I had to know, and eventually people started telling me, “it’s Pvris… duh” like I should have known all along. I know what they mean now, and if you don’t know them for yourself go grab a copy of “White Noise” or see them this fall when they’re on tour with Bring Me The Horizon. It’ll be worth every penny, I promise. As usual, I digress- Pvris played and that jazzed me and everyone else up to an explosive level. Every so often I get this massive desire to be a social butterfly, moving back and forth from group to group to group and seeing what everyone is doing. Pvris put me in that mentality, and as soon as their set ended I took off for my evening.
I started with a “safety meeting” with my bus mates and a few others. Midway through a blunt, I just turned and walked away to seek out anyone I might possibly recognize. I ran into my homie Justin, who was walking with Crossfaith to Beartooth’s bandwagon. As I caught he stride, he handed me a massive bottle of Jameson and I took a few large gulps. We stepped onto Beartooth’s bandwagon and were greeted by the growls of Texas legends Pantera. Several shots were had in Dimebag Darryl’s honor and I loved watching the guys from Crossfaith (who are all native Japanese speakers) try to scream along with the lyrics, but my beer soon ran out and I needed to go find some more. I wound up at catering where they were hosting a wine and cheese party, so I grabbed a plateful of tasty snacks and had a couple of glasses of wine to hold me over until more beer could be procured. I ran into my HerbSupport homies whilst consuming my cheesy delights, and we soon found a nice little corner in order to have an impromptu “safety meeting,” which left my mouth dry enough to require more beer. So I took off again, and headed back to my bus where I ran into a slightly inebriated Larry, who encouraged me to grab a fresh beer and some blunts and head with him to Miss May I’s bus. Naturally, I followed him there, and upon arrival we proceeded to roll two fatties and sit with their drummer Jerod and their bassist Ryan for the next hour. I chose to take this opportunity to pick their brains about music, and learned some interesting tidbits of information. For example, they’re main influence as a band was As I Lay Dying and their musical tastes are far more eclectic than just pure metal. We had a most thrilling conversation about the state of their band, what they were hoping to accomplish in the coming months and years, and how they feel about other bands on the tour. It was thrilling, but I was once again running low on my party supplies (a.k.a. beer) and needed to run back to my bus and grab some. On my way back, I ran into my homie Steven who shoots film for Sumerian Records and he invited me back to Asking Alexandria’s bus where we had a few shots with the rhythm guitarist, Cameron, before deciding it was time for a cigarette. As I lit up outside the bus, a large Samoan approached me. It was the singer of Splitbreed, a band that fuses hip-hop, metal, and EDM together, and he requested to bum Newport off me. I obliged, and he immediately clapped his hands together and said “holy shit, we need to do a shot together!” One shot quickly turned into five, and I found myself stumbling off his bus, ready to end my night. But it was not yet meant to be. I was legitimately heading back to my bus, when I was stopped by one of the hippiest voices I’ve ever heard. “Hey man, has anyone ever told you we look the same?” It was the touring keyboardist for Never Shout Never, who quite legitimately looks like me. And the honest answer to his question was yes, because all summer long people would approach me thinking I was him, and apparently all summer long people would approach him thinking he was me. This discovery of course called for many shots, a few bowls, and a beer handed to me by the incomparable Christofer Drew (front man and driving force behind Never Shout Never) as we laughed and jammed for an uncountable amount of time.
I finally stumbled back to my bus around 2:30 AM and immediately displayed the emotional side of my drinking to Larry and Jarrod. As I teetered in the aisle and attempted to sloppily get my bunk ready for sleep, I began to cry about girls I liked, how sad I was tour was ending soon, how much I loved Bus 15, and how much I missed my dog, Hogan. They diligently stayed with me and encouraged me, and honestly had I not been so emotional and schwasted I would have taken some of the things the boys said to me to heart. I don’t remember much, but I do remember them loving me and supporting me, and that’s exactly what I needed. If you ask me, it was just further proof of Bus 15’s awesomeness. I drifted to sleep, excited for our day off in Cheyenne, WY the next day. I was excited for one particular reason- Wyoming is my favorite state in the entire United States and I’d convinced 12 of my tour mates to join me on an excursion to the coolest place I’ve ever been to, Saratoga. We arrived in Cheyenne a couple hours late, so things started a little hectic. But we soon were checking out our rental SUVs and loading up and heading west on I80. I took us through the Medicine Bow National Forest, which contains the phenomenally gorgeous Medicine Bow Mountains. Once we’d reached the highest point that the road would allow (a place called Libby Flats), we stopped briefly. There was a massive look out post built a few hundred feet from the road, so we took the opportunity to snap some group and landscape photos. This brief mountain top stop was the moment everyone realized why I brought them on this little excursion. The silence and majesty of the location was unmatched by anything we’d experienced all summer. Warped Tour is full of noises and people and buildings, to be in a place of solitude, nature, and mountains was equally humbling and comforting for all of us. Our arms were covered in goose bumps, and we couldn’t stop smiling or hugging each other as we headed back to the cars for our final descent towards the tiny town of Saratoga. Saratoga, WY is a magical place nestled in the foothills of the Medicine Bow Mountains, and its home to one of the most exclusive hot springs you’ll find… and the best part is they’re free! After a challenging two and a half hour drive, and countless days of work before that, hot springs were what many of us needed. Shortly after arriving, I guided our group back behind some shrubs to an even more secluded pool of hot springs where we proceeded to have numerous “safety meetings,” while some of us napped and soaked off and on in the warm, soothing sulfur springs.
The sun was beginning to set, and our bus call was mere hours away, so we climbed into our cars (weary, but refreshed nonetheless) and headed back to Cheyenne. Upon our return, we stopped and Jimmy John’s for a freaky, fast sub and then my dear friend Tatiana (who made all of this possible by offering up her credit card as collateral for the entire excursion) and I returned the rentals. Our taxi from the rental place dropped us back at the buses with barely 10 minutes before bus call, which was the perfect amount of time to have one final “safety meeting” before heading off for our last week of shows. It would become one of the more interesting weeks of the whole tour, and the one where I personally gained the most exposure. But its story will have to wait until next week. For now, marinate in the goodness of this week’s “The Warped Perspective” and prepare for all good things to come to a sad, somewhat bitter, end.
[ PHOTO GALLERY ]
Looking Forward to Next Week’s “The Warped Perspective”
Waka Flocka Flame for President (or- Sam dances with the stars)
The glory and wonder of Colorado
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (Version 2.0)
What it means to make and keep friends
Warped Tour, a Year in Review
The almighty Come Down (a.k.a. how hard it is to return to the ‘real world’)