“Wanna go to Alaska June 22nd?”
That’s the text message I received back in January from my old bandmate, Tim Waters. He and Stephen Goldstein, our bass player from Someone Like You, rose from the ashes of our defunct easycore band to form We Are The Movies, an alternative pop-punk band based out of Columbus, Ohio.
Without hesitation, I immediately committed; because all I’d been hearing about for the past eight years was Alaska. Tim’s old band, Nothing Less, was a mainstay of the early 2000s Alaskan pop-punk scene, performing at the Alaska State Fair, Sullivan Arena, and the University of Alaska – Anchorage and Fairbanks campuses. Nothing Less went global in 2005 performing with the Vans Warped Tour across the United States and Canada and performing at such famed venues as the Whisky a Go Go in Hollywood and CBGB in New York.
I met Tim back in 2008 through a craigslist ad seeking a pop-punk drummer. Before I knew it, we had recorded an EP, had a couple of our songs on the soundtrack of the Best Documentary at the 2012 Mountain Film Awards, and were performing at America’s Longest Continually Running Music Venue, the Newport Music Hall. By the time 2010 rolled around, Stephen and I hit the road working for a magazine on Vans Warped Tour, working on the tour during the day and performing acoustic songs and promoting our album in the early mornings and late, late evenings. That summer took us everywhere from Boston, Massachusetts to the Mexican border in San Diego, California. We learned a lot about hard work that year, and that experience would come into play as we set off to Alaska to kick-off Vans Warped Tour 2016 at the Sullivan Arena in Anchorage.
Day 1 – A Formal Introduction
- Anger Management, the entity behind Road to Warped Tour, books us on radio station KWHL 106.5 FM to perform live and interview with Bob & Chad on the morning show.
- The boys perform “Happy EX-Mas” while I film and photograph.
- The reality of having to be somewhere at 9:00 A.M. reminds us that being on the road is no different than having a day job back home.
Day 2 – The Warm-Up
- Anger Management books us another show, this time at the Covenant House, a safe refuge which provides shelter for homeless youth in Alaska.
- GCI, Alaska’s premier telecommunications provider, co-sponsors the event and provides 50 free tickets to the Road to Warped Tour. This will be the first time many of these kids have ever seen a concert.
- I join the band on tambourine and we perform an acoustic set between speeches from GCI representatives and Covenant House.
- Afterward, the boys do a signing and photo op while I give away free merchandise and coordinate with GCI. The kids go wild.
Day 2.5 – Wicked Wanda
- We hop in the van and head over to Chilkoot Charlie’s, or simply “Koot’s,” a world famous bar and music venue where the band will headline the Warped Tour pre-party. Catering is served and we have dinner and watch the newest Game of Thrones with a band from New York called Behind the Façade. Good times.
- The boys take the stage around midnight while the sun still blazes overhead. I sell merch and take photographs. We meet a girl who offers to sell merch for us at the festival the next day and we acquiesce.
- Everyone is surprised to see the band Sleeping With Sirens in our audience, only to realize that they are only there to shoot pool and probably didn’t even notice us performing. Stephen and I laugh about the time we got into a fight with some of their members in Los Angeles in 2010.
- We head off into the night to stir up some trouble in a brand new city.
Day 3 – The Big Day
- The sound of an alarm clock buzzing near my head is the worst possible thing I could hear after passing out a few hours earlier on a stranger’s floor.
- We arrive early at Sullivan Arena and begin setting up the merch tent. The band performs soundcheck while I coordinate a professional photographer, catering, and freebies from the vendors.
- We Are The Movies perform on the main stage. They are the first band to perform at the first Vans Warped Tour event in 2016. I poorly livestream the event over facebook and try to maintain the appearance of professionalism.
- We spend the rest of the day hanging backstage with our favorite bands, hustling for enough money to get home, and making new friends from all over the world. Our merch girl turns out to be the best damn merch girl any of us have ever seen. She promises to show us around the city later and again, we acquiesce.
Day 4 – Nature Beckons
- The next day is spent exploring Independence Mine State Historical Park in Wasilla. The views are breathtaking. We have a snowball fight in June. We drink water right out of the stream. We experience Alaska.
- Later that night, Tim and Mike perform an acoustic set to raise money for an organization that teaches teens how to use multimedia. At this point, the band has made five appearances in four days. We eat our free pizza and drink our free wine as we have become accustomed to do.
- The next several hours are spent moving from bar to restaurant to another stranger’s floor. It’s daylight before we blissfully drift off to sleep. We are beginning to get used to this.
Days 5 & 6 – The Tour Guide
- Our merch girl turns out to actually be a legitimate tour guide with some serious expertise. We visit Earthquake Park, eat Thai food, see a moose, mistake a pod of Beluga whales for white caps, and spend the evening around a campfire singing Red Jumpsuit Apparatus songs on ukulele.
Day 7 – Home
- Eventually we make our way to the airport. I have a layover in Phoenix while everyone else is at LAX. They see Charlie Day, while I see a desert. My girlfriend picks me up and I go back to normal life. Happy ex-mas, the war is over.
**Special thanks to Chris and everyone at Road to Warped Tour, Pat for his hospitality, Chloe for her skills and company, and Rosie for her food, drinks, and floor to sleep on. I will never forget you, Alaska.**