I was never allowed to go to shows growing up, and I resented my parents for it until 2014 when everything changed for me. One of my favorite bands the Matches was playing “one reunion show” in San Francisco five years post-break-up, so I flew from Boston to see them. I thought it was my one and only shot, so I took it and haven’t looked back since.
Their manager, Pablo, joked with me that night that he wished I was his daughter and promised to take care of me. Three years later I’m now living in San Francisco and I’ve seen them live 12 times. A few weeks ago Pablo kissed me on the cheek, and made sure I didn’t face plant into the stage when a bar crammed full of 200 sweaty Matches fans surged forward. It’s crazy to think that this band I idolized at 14 years old is truly a family to me at 25, but they are.
They’re not the only ones. A lot has changed in those three years.
I had just started grad school, studying Publishing and Writing. I’d always wanted to be a writer, but saw no future in it, so I thought a publishing job would be a good alternative. When I landed in San Francisco, something changed in me, and I knew I was meant for more than this. I just had to find out what that meant.
A few short months later, it was announced that Green Day was going to be inducted into the Rock’n’Roll Hall of Fame. It was another once in a lifetime opportunity, this time to see my all-time favorite band honored in the most incredible way. There was no way I was missing this one, even if it meant skipping classes to go to Cleveland of all places.
Two days before the ceremony, they played a small show at the Cleveland House of Blues. At this point, the only other time I’d seen them was in a seat as far away from the stage as possible in a huge arena. I thought this would be the smallest venue I’d ever see them in, so I camped out for 23 hours to ensure myself a spot on the barricade.
(Spoilers: I’ve seen them in venues of comparable size six times since, and twice in even smaller.)
It was so cold that night, even bundled up in the blankets taken from the hotel room I should not have booked. I remember telling myself like a mantra, “It’s for Green Day,” every time the wind blew. I thought I wasn’t cut out to be homeless, and I’d probably never do anything that crazy again.
I met a girl in line for that show who had traveled all over both the states and Europe seeing the Foo Fighters. She was my first introduction to following a band on tour. I wanted to be her.
I spent that summer interning at two publishing houses in San Francisco. It seemed like a reasonable way to get my foot in the door of a city that was calling out for me, although I quickly realized I had no interest spending my days behind a computer. I got to know a few of the Matches and another band, I the Mighty, as people. I the Mighty was the first band I was given the opportunity to really follow, as neither Green Day nor the Matches toured these days. I went to any show I could on both coasts and occasionally tried to sell their merch.
By my second and final year of grad school, I knew classes didn’t matter anymore. A career didn’t matter anymore. I enjoyed what I was learning, but even my professors knew I prioritized tour schedules over all else, and they didn’t seem to mind as long as my projects got turned in on time. I even started a music blog chronicling my journeys as a project for a content strategies class. That professor not only didn’t bat an eye when I told him I had to take off to California for a week, or I’d be missing a presentation because I’d be in Denver, but he also loved the passion I exuded. I passed that class with flying colors. Oh, the beauty of art school.
I the Mighty was opening for Coheed and Cambria my last semester of school. Luckily for me, that tour started in Boston. I ran into a guy I had sold a shirt to in New York a few months prior who was coatchecking a onesie. We remembered each other and he introduced me to all his friends who had traveled from various places for the show. After dancing ourselves to exhaustion in the mosh pit, I hung out with the group in their hotel room chatting until 6am.
That Coheed tour took on a mind of its own. From Boston, I was convinced to go to New York, then from there Philly. I rode with strangers who offered to help pitch in to get me tickets to these last minute shows.
During Spring Break in Florida with my family, I added in more shows in Orlando and St. Pete. A girl I had never met before picked me up from my parents’ house and mistook me for a teenager she had to take care of. Naturally I got way too drunk and needed a large man with pink liberty spikes to rescue me while wandering the streets of St. Pete alone. He brought me to Waffle House where I acquired the nickname “Ms. Meats” for the remainder of the tour. Who doesn’t love bacon and sausage after a long night of dancing?
That was the night I knew this tour specifically couldn’t end for me just yet. Sitting around those tables at Waffle House, some of us decided this wasn’t the last time we’d see each other. The Northeast crew agreed. We made a pact to finish the tour together in Denver. Those people are still some of my best friends today.
When I graduated, I went back to San Francisco. It had been home since that first Matches show and the magic was still very much alive for me. Yet the wanderlust was stronger, so I signed up to be a rideshare driver for my full-time work. It allowed me the freedom to continue traveling and seeing shows, and I could keep up with my music families all across the country.
It’s different now that I know what I’m doing. The Matches announce a six show tour, and I scoop tickets for every city. Green Day or Coheed, I consult with my tour families about which shows we should attend. I go to as many as I can without breaking the bank in one run, and only go to cities where I know I’ll have a free place to sleep. Sometimes that still means sleeping on planes, buses, or in front of venues. But that’s just part of the fun.
I’ve traveled to 21 states, and even once left the country, for concerts. I’ve seen Green Day 20 times, Coheed and Cambria 19 times, I the Mighty 19 times, and the Matches 12 times. And those are just the four I’ve seen the most.
“Lindsay, you have no excuse not to come see me in Alabama.”
“When’s the next time you’ll be in New York?”
“I’ll see you at the Tampa show, right?”
“Let’s go to Seattle!”
It’s hard to say no, and in all honesty, I love that so many people want me in their cities. I’ve never felt so loved until touring became my life.
My credit card is constantly maxed out. I live on ramen, rice, and hot dogs when I’m not bothering friends to feed me. I never take a day off from rideshare driving while I’m home. My schedule has made it impossible to even think about dating, yet somehow I manage to find it in me to crush on dudes in cities nowhere near me, basically solidifying the fact that I’ll be single until I’m in my 30s. But I wouldn’t trade my crazy chaotic life for anything.
I love the bruises on the underside of my arms from the barricade. I love the stress of running through an airport without my shoes on in order to catch a flight on time. I love learning to navigate new cities, and leaving with the knowledge of the best and worst venues.
But most of all I love floating on top of a crowd, getting lost in the music, and screaming lyrics along with so many others all feeling the same things as me. More recent nicknames I’ve been given are “Road Warrior,” courtesy of I the Mighty, and my personal favorite, “Concert Fairy,” courtesy of The Matches. I fly from venue to venue, sometimes leaving glitter in my wake, and always leaving any cares I have in the pit.
I’ve had a few publishing related job interviews since graduating a year and a half ago. I’ve left every interview knowing full well I wouldn’t get a second because it’s hard to hide my disappointment at the thought of having somewhere to be nine-to-five, five days a week. I’m not ready to give up my freedom. I’m not ready to give up the tour life.
I traded stability for adventure. I found independence in traveling alone. I found confidence in making friends at every tour stop, dancing onstage with the band, and diving back into the crowd. I found bravery and an ability to trust people by accepting help in doing a handstand on top of a crowd. I found strength in holding my own in a mosh pit, refusing to lose a spot on the barricade, and preventing a crowd from crushing a girl awaiting medical assistance on the floor.
I learned that planning isn’t always necessary. Everything always works out one way or another, and it’s often not in the way you’d expect. Flights get delayed. Lodging falls through. Snags happen. Touring has taught me to go with the wind and not stress the small stuff.
And somehow that degree I stopped caring about doesn’t seem worthless, because here I am, a writer with stories to tell. Stories I wouldn’t have if I got the safe, traditional nine-to-five job. Sometimes I wonder if I made the wrong choice and screwed up my life like some people seem to believe I have, but then I remember what Ernest Hemingway once said: “In order to write about life, first you must live it.” If nothing else, I most certainly am living life to the fullest.
Photo credit: Loni Lonzo