Being in my third year of college, it makes it really hard to photograph as much as I would like too, but I do get some odd concerts and sometimes it works out that I can hop on tour for a few days with a band. That’s exactly what I did with my friends in August Burns Red last month on their North American tour with Blessthefall, Defeater and Beartooth. The tour was hitting Pontiac, Michigan on a Wednesday, Toronto the Thursday and then Montreal on the Friday. I have friends that live in Ottawa, Ontario which is just over an hour away from Montreal, so I planned it out that I would be out with August Burns Red for the three days, hang out in Ottawa for the weekend, and then take the train back home on the Sunday.
I first met the guys in August Burns Red in 2011. I had been friends with Texas In July for a year or so up until this point, so they invited me out for a weekend while out with Set Your Goals and August Burns Red. This was the first thing I did touring wise other than a weekend run with some friends to Quebec in high school, so I was really excited to go out even just for the weekend. The fact that ABR was headlining the tour was just a bonus for me as I’ve been a huge fan of their music I was a freshman in high school, and even getting the chance to meet them was really cool. Flash forward to 2012, Texas In July were coming through my area again during my study break, so I took the train to Chicago and met up with the guys for 8 days. August Burns Red happened to be headlining that tour as well, and the other bands were Silverstein and I The Breather. I would take photos of ABR live and send them to the guys in hopes that they would like them, and that is how I starting building a relationship with the band and their crew members.
This summer, I did the entire Vans Warped Tour working with all of Equal Vision Record’s bands and August Burns Red happened to be on that tour as well. I hung out with them quite often as I get along with the band and their crew quite well. There are a lot of gatherings/parties/BBQ’s on Warped Tour, and if I wasn’t with any of the EVR bands or crew, I found myself hanging out with Matt and the others a lot and Matt would introduce me to everyone he knew, which helped me meet a lot of new people. One of my favourite things to do is meet new people, whether I end up liking them or not, I just enjoy meeting new people from places I’ve never been and learn new things from that individual. I quickly became closer and closer with August Burns Red and I would even shoot their set from stage or in the pit on certain days that it worked with my schedule. Before the tour ended, I brought up to the guys that I really enjoy working with them both on and off the stage and if they ever wanted to have a photographer come out for a few days that I would love to do so, which brings us to now.
Day One: Pontiac, Michigan
I met up with the guys in Pontiac at a venue called the Crofoot Ballroom. Pontiac is a very small city with a small downtown core and the Crofoot is right on the main drag. I had to wait until roughly 3pm for my ride to the show, so I didn’t get there until around 4:30pm. When I got there, I went right to the bus to drop my stuff off and to see if anyone was on it. Kip, their merch guy, was just coming off the bus when I walked up to it, so he greeted me and then brought me on to put my stuff away. We hung out on the bus for a little bit and the guys would come and go, so I went inside the venue to say hey to the rest of the guys. I had been to the venue a few times, so I knew my way around quite well. It’s a really nice venue, not too big but also not too small, I feel like it’s the ideal size for a band like August Burns Red, but I am a big fan of intimate shows so that’s just my opinion! After seeing the guys, Aaron from Stheart Clothing came to the venue and he, Matt and I walked to a local pub to grab dinner. A few guys from the tour were already inside eating, so we grabbed a spot at the bar beside them and had some great food.
When we got back to the venue, it was almost time for doors to open. There was a good amount of kids waiting outside the venue for doors to open, which surprised me due to it being winter and fairly cold. The guys have a set time before each show that they offer a “Meet and Greet” so I hung out inside the venue while the guys met their fans and signed some posters for them.
Dustin and JB signing some posters.
Matt signing some metal prints that a lady had made herself.
August Burns Red’s current merchandise offerings.
Kip, the man responsible for all things merch.
After the guys finished their meet and greet, doors had finally opened and we headed downstairs where the green rooms were located.
Matt and Josh heading down the stairs.
Matt and JB.
JB warming up.
Brent doing some pre-show stretches.
Mason, drum tech for August Burns Red.
Matt relaxing before they play.
It was time for the guys to play some tunes for the fine people of Michigan, so I headed upstairs and hung out on the side of the stage while the guys got ready to go on. I have always enjoyed ABR’s all around stage presence and they are probably one of my favourite bands to photograph live. I spent most of the show from side stage and also made my way beside Matt for a song or two. I thought that my spare battery was fully charged but it turns out I was wrong, so my only battery with juice died around the sixth song of their set. I was really bummed, but then I remembered that I had another two days with the guys so it wasn’t such a big deal. It actually gave me the chance to just watch the guys play and learn their set and the current production they had on this tour. They had a ton of awesome production on this tour, including Mesa cabs stacked on each side of Matt’s drum riser as well as a great amount of lighting around the stage.
Jake right before he ran out on stage.
After the guys finished their set, we hung out for a bit in the green room and then made our way to the bus. We had to stop at the border to get into Canada about a half hour after we left the venue, so everyone stayed up and hung out. I got my laptop out to get the photos from the night onto my hard drive and also to edit a few to send to the guys. Everything went smoothly getting into Canada and we all passed out for the night.
Day Two: Toronto, Ontario
I woke up in my bunk around 11a.m, which is a little bit later than what I would have liked but I had a hard time falling asleep the night before. It definitely takes time to adjust to sleeping on a moving vehicle and it isn’t something that just happens easily. I remember I had a hard time sleeping on the BandWagon for the first week of Warped Tour until my body got used it. If anyone is unaware as to what a Bandwagon is, it is essentially an RV that is 100% designed with bands in mind and has everything you could possibly need while on the road plus more. This was my first time riding overnight in an actual bus and I figured going in that I would just be sleeping on the couch, so having a bunk for the two nights was just a bonus!
Today was American Thanksgiving, so when I got up, the parade was on TV and then three football games in a row. Missing family events and gatherings like Thanksgiving is really hard for people who tour a lot, but I suppose that it comes with the job. A few of us watched a bit of the parade before they headed into the venue to set up their gear.
Matt and their Sound Engineer, Jade, having some breakfast and watching the parade.
Matt walking into the venue.
Matt enjoying a coffee and catching up on his emails.
Dustin also getting some work done as well as browsing some Black Friday specials online.
The venue that guys were playing in Toronto was Sound Academy, which is one of Toronto’s premier concert venues as well as one of my favourite venues I’ve been to (so far). Everything from the stage to the lighting, it’s just overall a great blend of elements that can make a concert great. I have done close to 10 shows there and I’ve almost never had any major issues while photographing there. I hung out while the guys and their crew set up the stage and did a sound check.
View of the stage from the soundboard.
Josh, Kevin and Ricky setting up the stage.
Matt posing with a piece of his beautiful DW kit.
Some more of Matt’s kit and his signature Vic Firth sticks.
Elliott, who plays guitar in Blessthefall, came and talked with Matt and I for a bit. I first met Elliott while on Warped Tour this summer and he was one of the nicest, most genuine people I met this summer. He and the rest of the Blessthefall guys are all awesome people and great musicians.
Elliott admiring Matt’s drum kit.
Matt teaching Elliott some basic drum techniques.
ABR’s guitar technician, Kevin, is from the Toronto area and was extremely happy to be on home soil. He set up a bunch of Canadian flags around his work station in celebration of being home.
Matt asked me to take a few photos of him setting up his kit as he doesn’t have many photos of him with his new DW kit.
Jade and Matt setting up the tom mic’s
Matt watching a funny video that his family sent him.
I went back to the bus to see what the others were up too. I found JB sorting and organizing the latest editions to his baseball card collection. Anyone who follows JB on Twitter or Instagram knows how much JB loves the sport of baseball (especially the Phillies!). Although most of the cards might not hold high monetary value, collecting them means a lot to him and that’s what matters most.
JB sorting his baseball cards.
JB and Jake making their way into the venue for soundcheck.
Matt getting ready to soundcheck.
Brett doing some tuning adjustments.
Jake and JB talking with Beartooth frontman Caleb.
Dustin checking some bass levels.
JB, Jake and Caleb. Caleb was going to come out during Composure and do guest vocals during the show, so they ran through the song a few times for practice.
Jade, ABR’s sound engineer, at front of house.
Jade making some adjustments.
Ricky, ABR’s Light/Production engineer, getting familiar with the in-house light console.
Jake enjoying some complimentary coffee.
Jake checking out the lighting from front of house while enjoying his coffee.
The band wrapping up their soundcheck.
After the guys were all finished and ready to go, most of them went out to the bus to watch football. Majority of the band and crew are sports fans, so having satellite on their bus definitely comes in handy on days like today when three consecutive football games were on TV.
Jake getting some work done at one of the desk seats while listening to the game.
I missed Beartooth’s set in Pontiac, so I wanted to check them out tonight and see what they’re all about. I was really impressed by their set and overall energy. I took a few photos of their set from the stage for fun and a few turned out pretty cool!
After Beartooth played, I hung out with the ABR guys and watched football until they had to go inside and get ready to play. I took a few photos of the guys warming up and getting ready before they went out and rocked the packed Toronto crowd.
JB warming up in the green room.
Jake doing a quick pre-show grooming to his beard.
The guys doing their pre-show prayer mere seconds before going on.
The thing I love most about being on tour with a band is the freedom. Unlike shooting the show from the pit, where you are sanctioned inside the barricade for usually only three songs, being on the road with the band allows for people like myself to shoot the entire set, capturing moments as they occur. Having this freedom is a huge privilege, and some great moments can happen when this sort of freedom is in place.
After the show, Matt and Jake hung out at merch talking with some kids before they left the show. The ABR guys truly appreciate each and every last fan and are always more than happy to stick around and talk with their fans, which is what real musicianship is about. The fans are what makes more tours happen, so the fans definitely don’t go unappreciated. I headed to the bus to dump my memory cards onto my hard drive and edit a few images. I had almost a two-hour conversation with Matt that night about life and everything in between and it was a lot of fun talking with him. Once we got moving and making our way to Montreal, we decided to call it a night and get a good nights sleep.
Day Three: Montreal, Quebec
Because we had been up rather late the night before, most of the band and crew woke up between 11a.m and noon. Today’s show was earlier than usual and doors opened around 6p.m, so that meant the guys load-in and soundcheck was earlier as well. As soon as I woke up I headed into the venue with all of my gear to get some more editing done before soundcheck. Today’s venue was Metropolis, which is one of the largest concert venues in Montreal besides the Bell Centre and other arenas alike. It has to be one of the nicest venues I’ve seen and the overall set up of it is quite amazing. The stage is huge and they also have a really cool balcony that surrounds the back half of the venue and spiral staircases leading down to the floor level. After editing a bit, I headed upstairs to take a few photos of the guys checking sounds.
Some very notable acts have played this venue in the past, including Rammstein, Green Day, Radiohead, Primus, Styx, Frank Zappa and many more.
Jake waiting for the rest of the guys.
JB making some adjustments to his pedal board.
Jake and Dustin.
Matt’s kit all set up and ready to rock.
Jade relaxing at front of house before starting soundcheck.
View from the top of the balcony inside Metropolis.
After the guys finished up soundcheck, Jake, Matt and myself took a walk down the street to grab some much-needed food. We found a great local spot that offered poutine, burgers and much more, so we headed in and grabbed a bite to eat.
Matt and Jake.
Matt posing for the camera with his Starbucks in hand.
Jake while eating his meal.
After we finished eating, we headed back towards the venue as doors were almost open. The guys had a meet and greet again today, so while they talked with some fans I stayed downstairs in the green room and edited some photos. Once doors were open, the guys came back downstairs to hang out and get some work and online christmas shopping done.
Matt reading and replying to some emails.
Because it happened to be my last day on the road, I watched a bit of Beartooth, Defeater and Blessthefall’s sets from side stage. I really enjoy being at shows, let alone photographing them. It’s everything from kids flying over the barricade to the bands playing, it’s just overall a great vibe and the crowd was really into all of the bands. Sometimes you just have to watch bands play and not photograph the set. After watching Blessthefall for a few songs, I went back downstairs and the guys were getting warmed up and ready to play.
JB warming up before they play.
Dustin and Matt minutes before heading out on stage.
Being that the venue was absolutely incredible and huge, I tried to get as many angles of the guys set as I could. I ran around all set shooting everywhere from behind Matt to the top of the balcony. This was my last day out with the guys, so I wanted to make the best of it and shoot as many photos of their set that I possibly could.
After the show ended, I hung out with the guys for a little bit before saying my goodbyes to everyone. This show was such an amazing end to an incredible trip. I honestly cannot thank the guys in August Burns Red and their amazing crew for having me out for the three days and allowing me to document their lives on the road. I had such an awesome time hanging with everyone and I wish I could have stayed out longer, but other things like school can sometimes take priority. I hope that I get the opportunity to work with the guys again in the future.
Thank You to anyone who took the time to read this blog post and I hope you enjoyed stepping into what it’s like to be out on the road with August Burns Red.
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