Alesana’s Shawn Milke Says “Please. No Flash Photography of Any Kind. Thank You.”
Today Is: Thursday, July 1, 2010
Where I Am: San Antonio, Texas – Day Six of the Vans Warped Tour
Where I Am Actually: The kitchen table on my bus
Time: 2:30 p.m.
Listening to: “Cartoons and Macramé Wounds” by Mew
The kind folks at Revolvermag.com have asked me once again to write a weekly blog on their website for the duration of the Vans Warped Tour. I would like to thank them as well as you, the readers, for welcoming me back.
Since my last blog, I spent six weeks touring Europe, which was amazing. The languages are confusing, the food generally subpar, the time zone six hours off, the weather cloudy with a chance of rain nearly every day, and the money… well let’s just say I had to exchange six different currencies when I returned to the good old “You Ess’ of Ay.” In spite of it all, I loved every second of it. I saw things that even my wildest dreams could not conjure or create. I ate spaghetti carbonara’ one block away from the Roman Coliseum, dipped my feet in the bluest river in France, took a walking tour through the historic sites of Madrid, wandered the streets of Prague by myself under a full moon, took a picture in front of the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of Barcelona, and, most importantly, was blessed with the opportunity to play for our international fans at sold-out rock shows.
Taking a step back to see just how far Alesana’ has come can sometimes be difficult. The everyday hustle and grind of touring can really make time fly by, which, in turn, makes it increasingly important to slow myself down once in a while. Think of it like a picture that you take with your mind. I remember standing on a bridge in Prague around midnight, staring off into the beautiful night sky; and please believe when I say that it was one of the most breathtaking things I have ever witnessed in my life. I had my camera with me, but I chose not to take a picture. Instead, I just stood there and thought back to our very first show as Alesana’.
It was at a place called Martin Street Music Hall. There were five bands on the bill, and, without including friends and girlfriends, about 10 people there to see the show. As I stood on that ancient bridge reminiscing, the question that started to burn in the back of my mind was, How’ did I get here? If I could somehow talk to the Shawn playing that show nearly six years ago, would he believe me when I spoke of the adventures he had waiting ahead of him? That he would one day be standing above the city lights and sounds’ of Prague thinking back to the very moment that he was now experiencing? Even as I sit here writing this, I can still picture that bridge so perfectly; the water below, the stars above, the statues’ and monuments surrounding me. No one else but me will ever know exactly what that night looked like at the exact moment as I stood seemingly above the world. The only picture to document the view is stored deep inside my memory for no one but me to see.
Let us move on to the Warped Tour. Ahh’’, the Warped Tour.’ Sticky, sweaty, hot, amazing Warped Tour. Two months of the most grueling, exhausting, fast-paced touring there is: and as a touring musician, there is nowhere else I would rather be spending my summer. Picture it as a giant family reunion; bands we have toured with in the past, crew members’ we have worked with, friends we rarely see. It is the place to be for two months out of the year. But let us go back to how Alesana’ arrived at this year’s tour in the first place. We rented what is called a bandwagon. Essentially, it is a mini-bus. It has big, comfy bunks, a full working shower, two couches, satellite television, and a kitchen. Not too shabby.
New vehicle in place, we decided that we wanted to keep the experience new and fresh, which can be hard to do after touring the U.S. for five years straight. The decision was made to do a cross-country drive. North Carolina to California.’ Five days. wo thousand, five hundred, and sixty miles.’ To most, the task would seem daunting; but we were strangely excited. We had been on break for six weeks which meant the trip would give us a good chance to spend some time together and bond without having to play shows. And it gave us the chance to get our new guitarist, Alex Torres, acclimated to the ways of Alesana’. I wonder if he knows what he has gotten himself into.
Anyway, it was five of the best days of my life. It was just me, my boys, and the open road’. It was the kind of road trip they write movies about. Upon arriving to Carson, California, for rehearsal day, I excitedly removed cross-country road trip with friends off of my list of dreams to make come true. And again, no pictures.’ I can instantly be there again whenever I close my eyes and return to the memory.
Settling into Warped can sometimes take a few days, especially after a break from touring. Set times are entirely random creating the challenge of getting your body ready to play at any time from 11:00 a.m. – 8:00 p.m. The heat is another obvious obstacle to overcome. Club venues can get extremely hot, don’t get me wrong, but nothing can match the heat of the summer sun. On average, it generally takes us about four or five shows to get comfortably back into the habit and routine of Warped. This year, on the same day we found our stride, we were invited to join the Warped Tour documentary crew for some behind-the-scenes footage. It was exciting enough just to be a part of the film, but little did we know what we headed for.
The crew took us to White Sands National Monument, which, for anyone who does not know, is a gorgeous desert in the middle of nowhere outside of Las Cruces, New Mexico. They filmed us hanging out in their van on the drive there, throwing a Frisbee around the awe-inspiring sand dunes, jumping down the hills, and they conducted an interview: Hands down the most awesome location for an interview. Ever. Just before we boarded the van to return to Warped, we suggested to the photographer that he take some press photos of us in the desert with the setting sun behind us. No words can describe how mesmeric these photos turned out. Even after nearly six years of being in Alesana’, and over five years of touring, I still see and experience new things that take my breath away. Life is short, and, as they say, you have to soak up it up while you still can. I woke up that morning expecting to play a show, meet some fans, watch the Phillies, eat some dinner, maybe play some NFL Blitz, and then call it a night. Instead, I fell asleep with visions of the beauty I had been introduced to earlier that evening, the views etched in my memory forever. It got me thinking. While no photo can be as powerful as a treasured memory in your mind, some things in life are just too beautiful to not share with people. Having said that, I would like to show you a photo taken with my iPhone’ by my tour manager, Dougie’, while we were doing our press photos in the desert.
For my blogs this time around I am going to close with a question each week about something that has truly changed my (your) life. I am not talking about the simple things like a really hot shower after a long day at work, or finding twenty bucks on the sidewalk, or getting exactly what I (you) asked for at Christmas, although these things are pretty awesome. What I am asking is for you to share something that has affected your life in a positive way and has stuck with you ever since. Something that has helped mold’ you into the person that you are today. As always, I will do the same.
This week’s question?
What one record changed your life?
My answer: Destination Beautiful by Mae. I could explain but I am already working on one novel as it is. Until next time, stay safe, stay healthy, and go pick up one piece of recyclable trash off of the ground. A little bit goes a long way. PMA.