Anam Merchant

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Road To Riot Fest Tour

It's been maybe 32 hours (it's 9pm on September 27th as I'm writing this) since I've been home and I haven't left the vicinity of my living room couch in that time, aside from taking a shower and sleeping in my own bed after what seems like forever. The Sleep On It boys drove straight through a 36 hour drive from our last Canada date in Edmonton, AB back to Chicago, IL and I don't remember 90% of it because I probably slept through it all.

Anyway, I just wanted to make this post since everything is relatively fresh in my memory. I can't really take you day by day in complete detail but my friend Alex Fucking Smith can with his very detailed and way more comprehensive tour journals. This is my fourth tour, the second/third in a van, so I'm still relatively new to this, and I realized this time around that I have been spoiled. I've never had to sleep in Walmart parking lots in a van with 6 other people before. It was cramped, it started to smell weird, and I got very little sleep, but the people I was around made it worth it. I've known Sleep On It for a few years (they printed one of my designs on a shirt around 2013/2014? when I was a lil baby designer) and they've been lovely to me since, but I've never actually spent a ton of time around them until now. I love them all very very much and am so grateful for trusting me and taking me on what I think has been one of my favorite tours to do so far. It's been incredible to see you guys grow from the first EP and to see where you are now. Thanks for letting me be part of it.

I was also hired to create a bit of content for State Champs on this tour (thank you Elliott (if you haven't seen Elliott's work before, what are you doing?!) as well as Ryan, Derek, Tyler, Tony, Evan, and Dave for having me!) and it was a blast.

I walked away with a few of my favorite photos I've ever taken. I'm very proud about that because the venues on this tour, for the most part, did not have barricades, which forced me to get out of my comfort zone and think differently about what I was shooting.

I met a lot of really great people on this tour in Bearings and State Champs, and I'm glad I was able to talk with and work a bit more with Homesafe who are also from Chicago (and a crazy fun band to watch). I also met some real cool internet pals like Hannah, who I'm convinced is one of the sweetest people in the whole world; Mo, who is an insanely talented designer and all around wonderful and very funny human being; Lily and Judy who are both crazy talented photographers (Judy also makes really really incredible food like a lasagna and cake that were the first things I had eaten that weren't fast food items); Kurt, who is an amazing photographer and also has a v cool band; Kat, who is just an all around super talented and wonderful human being; Brittney, who is also just such a great person to be around and takes great photos; and a whole slew of other people who I'm totally forgetting right now because I'm the worst but I will add in my lil blurbs!

I'll try to put little blurbs in each of the day's galleries but I can assure you I don't remember 70% of our days because they just blend together into one giant, smelly, sleep deprived, Tim Hortons-fueled mess. Also I never want to see a Tim Hortons again.

Thanks again to everyone who made this tour as wonderful as it was. Thank you Zech, TJ, AJ, Luka, Jake, and Alex for letting me into your world and trusting me to do the thing - I love you all.


SEPTEMBER 5TH

MONTREAL, QC

Everything. Was. In. French.

We arrived at the venue, met everyone, loaded all the gear in up a staircase, and then roamed around for a bit. I had poutine for the first time! It made me feel like death but it was good! I don't think I had poutine again after that day though, or ever will again, for that matter. I kinda struggled shooting this day because it was the first or second show I had shot since getting off Warped Tour in July. After the show, a few of us went to La Maison De L'Original Fairmount Bagel (according to the one blurry iPhone photo I have) and I had two of the best bagels I have ever eaten in my 22 years of life.

I also wasn't sure what State Champs shows I was supposed to be shooting, so I shot this one for fun and just in case. and then I shot the rest of them because I had so much fun kind of just blending in with everyone else while doing my photo thing. Annnd Tony's hair flips are great.

(Click the photos to enlarge!)


SEPTEMBER 6TH

TORONTO, ON

Like I said, I could not tell you what happened on this day. If you really wanna know, check out Alex's tour journals. They're super in-depth so you can read all about what happens on tour AND support his writing so go do the thing!

All I really remember is going across the street to the market and buying a Kinder egg just for the toy inside since they're illegal or something in the US of A (RIP Wonderball). We saw a bunch of dogs and a cat roaming around the venue. Alex, TJ and I went to find food and ended up going to this tiny stand kind of thing called PG Clucks. I thought it looked pretty sketchy because it only said "fried chicken sandwiches" on the sign and I was way more keen on the Thai food across the street with the not so stellar Yelp rating (only because I love Thai food more than anything on this planet). I got some anyway, and I am so glad I didn't get Thai food because this chicken sandwich was probably the greatest chicken sandwich I have ever had, honestly. Thanks PG Clucks, you were tight.

Later, we shot merch photos. I always feel kind of weird around new people, so I sat outside for a bit after by myself. My anxiety skyrockets when I meet new people because I'm a huge introvert and always have this fear in the back of my mind that I'm not good enough or not cool enough or like I don't really belong there with all of these people who know what they're doing and are immediately able to bond over something. I walked back toward the venue and Zech gave me a hug and it made me feel a lot better, as small of a gesture as it was.

I guess I do remember the day pretty well, my bad. Check out those tour journals anyway, they're worth it.


SEPTEMBER 7TH

LONDON, ON

It was AJ's birthday! We stopped at a Jiffy Lube in the morning and walked across the street to a mall. TJ and Jake went to a bookstore looking for SOI's feature in Alt Press but couldn't find the issue. We then walked over to a record store and browsed around for a bit until we had to meet up with everyone in the food court.

Later, someone brought the guys SOI cookies. After that, someone else brought them cookies. They were both really really good :~)

We ended up staying the night at a hotel, which was pretty nice.


SEPTEMBER 8TH

LONDON, ON TO BUFFALO, NY - OFF

We stayed the night at a hotel and then began a long drive back to the US for some shows on the east coast. Nothing really interesting.


SEPTEMBER 9TH

JERSEY CITY, NJ

SOI had a photoshoot in Brooklyn, NY on this day with the very talented Nick Karp. NIck let me use the light during their downtime so Alex and I had a little shoot of our own. We headed to Jersey City for the show after.

I was surprised that, for the first time in the three times I've been to NJ, it didn't smell AND I didn't almost get hit by a car. The day was still pretty frustrating to me because I was kind of just having a bad day and on top of that the venue staff literally wouldn't speak to me when I asked them a question. That was tight. BUT! Dieter was at the show and I briefly met Amanda and Brett so that was really cool. Zac Eisenstein played a few Man Overboard songs too. We headed to the holy land of Wawa after the show and that was the highlight of my day.


SEPTEMBER 10TH

PITTSBURGH, PA

This day was Four Chord Music Festival. We showed up pretty early in the morning, around 8 am I think for load in, but we didn't really need to be there until 1 pm. Jake and I walked around the venue for a bit, and then I went to a coffee shop to use their wifi to upload the stuff from the day before. I met up with Christmas and her friend Nick and we went to get breakfast. We walked around and I bought a $3 shirt about sports I don't watch.

Later, Nick took the band and I to Primanti Bros. I've heard a lot about it but never had it until now and it was pretty great.

I got to watch The Starting Line and The Dangerous Summer on this day as well and that was really tight.

THERE WAS A PHOTO PIT!! FOR THE FIRST TIME ON THIS TOUR!! I was stoked.. until it fell apart during State Champs' set. I guess that's a testament to how crazy their shows are.


SEPTEMBER 11TH

GRAND RAPIDS, MI

Apparently SOI has played here in the neighborhood of 7 times in the last year? I don't remember but it was a lot. We went to a coffeeshop where there's some sort of butter beer coffee? I'm not huge on Harry Potter (sorry) so I have no idea but Alex got one early in the day and then went back for another at night so I guess it was really good. 

A fan brought the guys artwork and it was all really cool!

After the show, TJ was hanging out in the van. As soon as it struck midnight, the whole tour package ran over, started shaking the van, and sang happy birthday to him.


SEPTEMBER 12TH

Cleveland, oh - OFF

We stayed with TJ's wonderful family and since it was the first time in a while that he'd been home on his birthday, there was a little celebration!

While TJ and Alex went to see TJ's grandma, we hung around the house until we had to meet back up with them to get food. We went to Melt, which is supposedly a better version of Cheesie's. I love Cheesie's a whole lot so I went in with real high expectations and came out realizing that Melt may not be Cheesie's, but it's pretty dang good. Later that night, we watched a few movies after we all came out of our food comas. Since Netflix wasn't working on the TV, I told Zech that he should watch Black Mirror on my laptop since he'd never seen it before, so he watched the first episode of the first season (I think it took away part of his soul honestly). I opened the back door to the garage to see two or three deer roaming around the street. Zech and AJ came outside and we played a lil basketball. I told them about the time I didn't make the 7th grade basketball team because I kept apologizing to everyone I bumped into and the coach told me that for that reason I wasn't aggressive enough. Coulda been in the WNBA, I tell you. We came back inside and Luka and I started watching the live action Death Note movie which was pretty terrible. He fell asleep in the middle of it in a weird position.


SEPTEMBER 13TH

COLUMBUS, OH

We got up, helped move some furniture, and headed out the door to the show in Columbus. Everyone was getting pretty sick at this point, and it was only two days until we got to go home for a few days for Riot Fest weekend. We made a Walmart run and I was told not to take any photos but since I can make my own decisions I did it anyway, sorry Walmart. After getting to the venue, we went to the market across the street and browsed around for food. I had Pho for the first time and I loved it. We had a lot of down time after, so we just hung out for a bit until the show started.

We stayed with Lily and Judy after the show, and AJ blew up an air mattress for me with a hairdryer which was weirdly funny so late in the night, but I think everything's funny pretty much all the time so it's really not saying much.


SEPTEMBER 14TH

INDIANAPOLIS, IN

The day is a complete blur to me. All I remember is that each band had their own green rooms in the basement of the venue, both bathroom doors weren't on their hinges and you had to lift them shut, AJ was able to play the game he had been downloading for a few days on his PS4 and Joe from Homesafe joined in, and State Champs ordered A LOT of pizza. AND ANOTHER PHOTO PIT!


SEPTEMBER 15TH

CHICAGO, IL

Home sweet home!

Riot Fest weekend is always a real special time of year. I normally shoot all three days, but since this tour was going to go through Riot Fest, I figured I'd just do my thing and just hang out for the rest of the time. Instead, I went for the first day, shot Sleep On It and State Champs, and then met up with the best human in the world, Penelope, and watched Mayday Parade and A Day To Remember, and then went home for the rest of the weekend. I was pretty sick and didn't feel like making the insanely long trek back to Douglas Park from my home. I did spend the weekend going to the movies with Penelope and seeing It and hanging out with some friends.

I'm getting ahead of myself - we got to Douglas Park, got our wristbands, parked, unloaded gear and merch, then waited until soundcheck. We visited Grayscale's set for a little bit, and it was a nice reunion for the band.

My favorite part of the day was seeing AJ so stoked on having so much space to move around. He moves around a lot on stage, but there's normally not enough space to do that. It was also just great to see SOI play in front of so many people, even though they were the opening slot of the Radicals stage. El Mercho Loco also made an appearance which made the set all the better.


SEPTEMBER 17TH

CHICAGO, IL

While there wasn't anything scheduled on this tour on this date, SOI had a Riot Fest after show with none other than Taking Back Sunday. I was stoked because it was going to be such a cool show for them as they were playing with people they had looked up to for years. It was cool to see TBS again too, it was just ridiculously late and all I wanted to do was sleep.


SEPTEMBER 19TH

FARGO, ND

There was supposed to be a storm on this day. Everyone seemed kinda down and the whole day just kinda felt weird. The layout of the venue was frustrating to me but there was a pool table in the bar on the floor below so I was looking forward to that. Alex and I got S'mores donuts too and they were really good. Witnessing Ryan from State Champs do karaoke, followed by a kid screaming to "Gives You Hell" By The All American Rejects was a good time.

I think this was the first day I was hoping the off day would come sooner, but we were headed back to Canada. I felt like crap mentally and physically, and didn't feel good about my work.