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Diary of 8123 Fest

That feel when you travel miles away to meet one of your favorite bands…

Thursday January 19, 2017

Well, I made it. Welcome to Phoenix! When The Maine announced 8123 Fest in September, I knew I had to attend. I watched their live Facebook stream when they made the announcement, and cried when golden tickets sold out in ten seconds even though I was on the website at 7:59pm, and cried a second time when my sister bought GA tickets, and then spent two paychecks on our plane tickets, and now I’m here!

It’s not nearly as warm as I’ve been led to believe. Still warmer than Toronto, though. And no one told me there would be palm trees here! I feel like I’m on a movie set!

Phoenix is surprisingly small, but they have a magnificent light rail system. So cheap, so convenient. It came in handy when I found out The Maine was premiering a new song on the radio, and had to race back to our hotel for WiFi.

In retrospect, I could have found out where the radio station was, but maybe I shouldn’t go out stalking bands in a new city? Probably not the safest thing to do.

Bad Behavior” is soooo good. I can’t wait to hear it live! Speaking of: Lovely, Little, Lonely comes out the week before my birthday. The Maine comes to Toronto the week after my birthday. Guess I know what present I’m getting myself this year.

Also: A ROCKET TO THE MOON has been confirmed as the “special guest” for Saturday. I’ve suspected it since October, but that doesn’t make it any less exciting. I’m probably going to cry when they play “Like We Used To”.

Friday January 20, 2017

I will not think about how I’m missing the Pioneer show right now, I will not think about how I’m missing the Pioneer show right now…

My one non-The Maine related thing I wanted to do in Phoenix was visit the Desert Botanical Gardens, which is what we did this morning. So many cacti!!

Note to self: drinking from a cactus is actually toxic, contrary to what the movies show us. Also, avoid the cholla cactus at all costs, it will literally grow all over you.

After lunch at Counter Burger (10/10, would recommend), we went to the 8123 pop up shop, which was conveniently around the corner. It opened yesterday, but it looked like a lot of people had already ransacked the shelves. I’m not saying I spent a lot of money, but I don’t regret the sweatpants or t-shirt (or sweatshirt) at all. There weren’t a lot of sizes left, and there were still so many people milling around. Apparently they’ll have merch at the show too…I’m going to have to set a budget for myself.

We saw Pat as soon as we walked in! I think he was with his parents, and he looked a little precarious on his crutches, but he was still chatting with people, which was pretty cool. We also met Tim Kirch, who was running around refilling stock, but still taking the time to say hello to everybody.

For such a small space, it held a lot. One wall was covered in ads for Lovely, Little, Lonely ; another had giant “M”’s all over it; a corner was covered in posters of The Maine. There was also a backdrop of the 8123/M logos—I’m guessing for the meet & greet on Sunday?

I really liked the “art gallery”: it had two variations of the Pioneer cover (the one used for the Good Love EP, and the one used for the Pioneer/Good Love release), plus these fantastic portraits of each band member in their Forever Halloween makeup on a bed of leaves and flowers. Such vivid colors!

It’s been raining all day, and I’m a little worried tomorrow will be chilly. Can you believe I’ve had to wear a sweater and a jacket all day??

Saturday January 21, 2017 – 8123 Fest!!!

I’m an emotional mess, but what an incredible day!

Thankfully, it didn’t rain today, even though it was cloudy this morning. Why is it that everytime I go to an outdoor festival it rains (I’m looking at you, Warped Tour, four years in a row)???

Doors were at 1pm, and we got to the Crescent Ballroom around noon, which meant we had to line up about a block away. I did catch a glimpse of the billboard with the Lovely, Little, Lonely  ad—such an epic way to announce a new album! I’m pretty sure we heard John rehearsing, but I’m not sure if he was in the building beside us or the parking structure across the street.

When they finally opened the gates, it was a mini stampede to get into the parking lot—think Simba almost getting trampled by wildebeests except even more intense. Apparently there were 2700 people—I’m so impressed that The Maine managed to pull that many people into Phoenix on a random weekend in January, of all the months.

I had just enough time to stand in the merch line (I swear, I have an unhealthy addiction to 8123 merch) and scrawl a sappy message on their newly painted white van, which was parked in the far corner, before we scrambled towards the main stage for John the Ghost. I think I hurt my face smiling so hard when John ambled out and said “Boo” before starting “Everyone is a DJ” (get it? Because he’s a ghost!). It was also really sweet when he paused between songs to thank us for singing the words along with him. Halfway through their second song, the sun came out—it still wasn’t as hot as I thought it’d be, but at least I didn’t have to wear my jacket (until the sun went down and it got cold again).

I’ve never really listened to Brighton, but it was cool to see them live. They were a lot more mellow than I expected, but who doesn’t love a good band reunion?

Despite my dislike for drinking alcohol at festivals (I try not to use porta potties any more than absolutely necessary), I considered getting one of the themed drinks—Another Night on Margarita and Miserable Mule—just to get the plastic purple cup emblazoned with “ten years of The Maine” in bright orange, but by the time we decided to risk it, all the cups were gone.

It was no big deal, though, because then I’d have had to hold it during Beach Weather, and there was no way I wouldn’t have spilled half of it. Maybe I’m just a Nick Santino fangirl, but I love all of his projects, and Beach Weather is so addictive! “Sex, Drugs, Etc” might be my new favorite song, though I’ll admit I lost whatever cool I had when they closed their set with “Swoon”—that bass line speaks to my soul.

I didn’t realize until much later that the secondary stage was inside the Crescent Ballroom venue, so I unfortunately missed Joel Kanitz playing as Gorgeous War. Instead, we stood in the world’s longest food line (I swear we were there for two hours), but since it was right in the middle of the parking lot, we could still see/hear the main stage. Unpopular opinion: I’m not a huge fan of State Champs, but I respect Ryan Scott Graham’s side project Speak Low if You Speak Love. He was very mellow, but the crowd—those of us who weren’t waiting for food, anyway—seemed to be into it. A lot of band members were walking by: we saw Pat on his little scooter/walker, plus Jared, Garrett, and Kennedy (no John, probably because he would have been ambushed); I also spotted Jess Bowen and spent a minute freaking out because she’s actually my queen.

By the time we got to the food trucks, The Technicolors were on stage—I couldn’t see them because I was too busy waiting for my BBQ chicken fries and there was a fence in my way—but there were about a dozen girls around us who were flailing around to them.

Note to self: listen to The Technicolors. I’ve only ever heard them live and didn’t pay that much attention to them at the time.

I can’t even describe how I felt when Nick, Halvo, Justin, and Andrew got together on stage as A Rocket to the Moon for the first time in four years…even when Halvo ruined the special moment by requesting a bathroom break. Still, it was glorious. Most of their set was from On Your Side, but that was more than okay with me. I haven’t listened to that album in about a year, but as my sister is my witness, I remembered every word and shrieked along as loud as I could. And yes, I did tear up during “Like We Used To”, a song that makes me cry on a good day and, apparently, turns me into a complete wreck when I hear it live.

We had to book it to the other end of the parking lot and squeeze in with half the crowd to catch This Century’s short set. It was only Joel and Alex Silverman, but it was still awesome hearing them tiptoe through songs they haven’t played in years. They looked really emotional, too, and I think it really hit the crowd in the heart to see how grateful they were to play together again. I missed the last part of their set, though, because I wanted to get a good spot for The Summer Set.

Last year, TSS was one of my favorite concerts because of how high-energy it was, and they didn’t disappoint this time either. I know a lot of people were upset that they didn’t end with “Chelsea” (I mean, it was the song that made them, so it was pretty surprising that they didn’t even mention it) but I loved that they ended with “Lightning in a Bottle”. I didn’t give a fuck about tomorrow, I was too busy living in the moment, and I think they really captured that feeling.

In between TSS and The Maine, we ended up chatting with some of the girls around us. A couple of them were from Nevada, others were from Texas. They were impressed that we’d come all the way from Canada, but during John the Ghost’s set, he’d called out people from the UK and New Zealand, so I guess we really didn’t travel that far.

When The Maine opened their set with “We All Roll Along”, there was one breathtaking moment as all of us screamed the line “8123 means everything to me”. I wasn’t close enough to see the expressions on the band members’ faces, but I could feel how utterly delighted they were. I’m still not sure how they managed to play anything else after that…I know I lost my voice by the second song, but they kept it going for another two hours.

I could list all the songs that I wish they’d play (seriously, no “Miles Away”???), but I really can’t complain. Let’s be real: they could play every song they’ve ever written, and I’d still want more. I can’t really describe the feeling of standing in that crowd, listening to their set, and knowing that I was one of the lucky ones to be witnessing it in real time. I can’t describe it without sounding like a complete sap and possibly crying (again), but it was a night I’ll never forget.

Some of my favorite parts:

  • “Bad Behavior”, which is just as good live as it sounded through my phone in our hotel room on Thursday.
  • When John’s acoustic guitar stopped working before “Take Me Dancing” and he panicked, not knowing what to do with his arms while Garrett joked that even after ten years, they still mess up.
  • During “Girls Do What They Want”, they pulled this one kid from the audience, Andrew, who I guess they’ve met before because they were all stoked to see him. He did a great job and after he was done, John announced that his band (1000 Miles of Fire) would open for their Denver show this spring. I can’t even imagine standing on stage with The Maine (pretty sure I’d forget the lyrics), nevermind what it must have felt like to have them openly support your dreams in front of 3000 people. How many other bands take time out of their own anniversary show to give their fans a chance to shine?
  • Probably my favorite story though, was the one John told near the end about how Tim Kirch used to literally kick him in the butt when they were in middle school, but now he’s such a huge influence on everything the band does. I’m surprised they didn’t bring him out on stage to really embarrass him, but I love how The Maine always makes sure to give people their due.

If I had a choice, I’d have stood in that parking lot for hours under the stars, listening to The Maine and screaming along. Unfortunately, they had to end at some point, but they made sure to go out with a bang. As if to gently remind us as to why we were all gathered together in the parking lot in the first place, The Maine closed out the show with a condensed version of “Another Night on Mars” and a rendition of “We’ll All Be”, reinforcing the idea that we’re in this together whether we’re best friends or complete strangers.

The “Make America Emo Again” after party started almost immediately after they left the stage, but we had to line up to get into the Crescent Ballroom. At first, nothing was going on—just lots of people standing around drinking—but then Gunz came out (idobi represent!) and played a set of pop-punk favorites: All Time Low, Good Charlotte, Fall Out Boy…all the greats. And then Halvo came out as his DJ-ing alter-ego Ted Lavender and played a whole lot of disco, I think…we left shortly thereafter, so who knows how the rest of the night went down!

I’m equal parts exhausted and exhilarated. I can’t believe the show is over, but I’m so glad I came out for it.

Sunday January 22, 2017

Oh my gosh, so this morning we went to Matt’s Big Breakfast for brunch (which is about a block away from where the “M” wall used to be), and Reeve and Austin from Beach Weather were sitting at the table across from us!!! I was too frazzled to say hello, but really, I’m just glad Nick wasn’t there, or I wouldn’t have been able to eat my steak & eggs.

The former “M” wall

Then we stood in our second long line of the weekend—this time, for the free meet & greet. When we got to the pop-up shop, the line was already wrapped around the block, and there was still an hour to go before the meet & greet would even start! I’d guess that there were at least 1000 people in line by the time the doors opened.

By the time we got to the front, we’d be in line for nearly three hours. Admittedly, there isn’t a whole lot to do in Phoenix (why are half their stores closed on Sundays? And the ones that are open…why do they close at five?). But I desperately wished there had been a Starbucks nearby so I could have stolen their WiFi—it’s tragic, not being able to use the internet when I’m traveling.

Unfortunately, since it had been several hours, once inside we had to move quickly. We were put into groups of 4-6, and then had approximately twenty seconds to talk to each band member before posing for a group photo (I was right, that one banner was reserved for the meet & greet photos).

It wasn’t much time to have a conversation, but each band member gave us free hugs and thanked us for coming. Typical me, I panicked right as we got to the front of the line, so I made my sister go first, which meant she got to pose with John. I did, however, get to show him my “Miles Away” tattoo, and he told us to “enjoy Monday” (after we told him that we were flying back home on Tuesday).

It was over so fast after waiting for hours, but it was worth it to share such a milestone experience with one of my favorite bands.

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